Syndicate content

Community NewsCommunity News

There's no way that we can possibly cover everything happening around bicycling, walking, and transportation in the Twin Cities region. That's why we started a blog network: a one-stop shop to get read all of the bicycling and walking blogs in the area. If you'd like to add your blog to this network, send an email to tlc@tlcminnesota.org. 

Twin City Doorways #26

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 07/27/2016 - 3:15pm
[West Bank, Minneapolis.]
[Northeast, Minneapolis.]
[Northeast, Minneapolis.]
[South Saint Paul.]
[Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]
[Saint Anthony.]
[Northeast, Minneapolis.]

Reading the Highland Villager #160

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 12:34pm
[A Highland Villager adopting a transient lifestyle.][Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]  


Headline:  Midway redesign faulted for being overly optimistic; Shopping center owner criticizes redevelopment plan for lacking flexibility
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Pity the poor dingy strip mall owner from New York for he is oft misunderstood, what with all these fanciful notions of “multi-story” buildings, “sidewalks,” and “green trees.”] The owner of the strip mall is pushing back on the city’s / Billionaire soccer team owner’s plans to redevelop the strip mall and adjacent vacant lot into a soccer stadium and mixed-use urban development. Among his complaints are “standards for redevelopment” and requirements that the “minimum floor area ratio” are too high. [He does not like that the FAR might be required to be 2, which is greater than 1. For those of you scoring at home, that would be an average of two stories per square foot, which is not that much really, and much less than the original vision plans.] City staff would like more density. Article includes some historical context of the site and its current situation. Article includes a quote from a Planning Commissioner: “it seems like RK Midway helped develop the master plan, but now its backpedaling.” [I had the same thought. During the Planning Commission hearing, the strip mall owner and team owner sat side-by-side and presented a united front in support of this plan and the density goals. And now the strip mall owner is saying that a 2.0 FAR is unrealistic? Seems like very shoddy behavior.] There was an extended discussion of the parking lot next to the liquor store. Most of the new parking lots will be temporary but one will be “permanent.” [Scroll down for further of this concept.]


Headline: Stadium city criticized for rosy forecast on transit use [I’ve had it with all this optimism. I didn’t move to this city to be optimistic! And since when has transit ridership exceeded forecasts? Name one time that happened.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The planning study for the soccer stadium and surrounding site has high goals for transit ridership. A grassroots anti-stadium group is stating that the projections are “not credible” and that traffic congestion will occur. [It’s funny to me how ostensibly environmentalist activists are now against idealistic transit projections and defending a car-dominated planning scenario.] Article includes details about parking and projections. [I assume the plan here, since actually stopping the stadium is highly unlikely, is to force the city or someone to spend millions subsidizing more parking lots. Nice job everyone.] Interesting quote: “there are about 2,500 more off-street parking spaces within a mile of the stadium.” [Actually I’m pretty sure this is a low estimate. University Avenue is well over half pavement.] Most ridiculous quote: MnDOT has called for careful planning of pedestrian crossings near I-94 and Snelling so that there are no traffic backups on game days. [Um, maybe should have thought about this before abandoning a pedestrian and bike friendly plan when reconstructing the entire area a year ago? I am predicting traffic backups on game days.] Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking, and would like some bike lanes. [If you don’t build high-quality bike lanes to and from the stadium in all directions, especially when crossing the auto-heavy streets and areas, you’ll only make all these other problems even worse.]


Headline: Another summer of road work is wearing on Randolph shops; Businesses are hanging in there, but the project can’t end soon enough
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [When roads and other things underneath roads get old they need to be fixed and you can’t drive on them for a while.] Some businesses have fewer customers when the road is closed because people only drive to them. Article details all the infrastructure being repaired like sewers, water mains, gutters, and something called “bituminous pavement.” [Sounds sexy!] Some parts of the road will open sooner than others. Randolph Avenue will not be widened, but “it will reconfigure the traffic lanes, revise signal timing and relocated a bus stop to improve traffic flow.” [Moving that pesky bus stop, thank goodness. The last thing we need is for those greedy transit-riding people to be dropped off close to the corner where the grocery store is located.] Detours “aren’t helping.”


Headline: Eye of the beholder; Neighbors fail to take a shine to city’s new LED streetlights
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The old street lights had older “sodium” bulbs from the 80s but new street lights have LED bulbs that use less energy but are brighter and also a different shade of light, more blue and less yellow. In the 80s, the less bright bulbs were criticized for being less bright. Today these brighter bulbs are criticized for being brighter. There are 38,000 streetlights in the city, and 5,500 of them have been replaced. Engineers are trying to figure out what to do. Quote from neighbor: “I could do surgery in my living room now.” [Hm.]


Headline: Federation seeks extension for Riverside School proposals
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: It will probably take longer to redevelop an abandoned school building than people thought at first.


Headline: Commission favors 128 Café’s request for full liquor license
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You will be able to order a cocktail at the restaurant.


Headline: St. Paul grants expanded use of City House along the river
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An historic grain elevator that was supposed to become an event space but didn’t because it sometimes floods will now have temporary “food truck”-style food and beverage service in it. [Hooray. Otherwise it’s such a waste. The “beer by the river” test front-runner is here! And finally there will be something to actually do in the otherwise really lovely Upper Landing area. Not much parking, though. You’ll have to bike or walk to get there.]


Headline: Environmental study done on Hill District porch renovation
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Someone wants to tear down part of a house to build a larger porch. It’s in an historic district so a study is required. [There goes the neighborhood.]


Headline: Public comments sought on updated plan for Union Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Union Park neighborhood is going to make a plan.


Headline: City Council seeks grants for local developments projects
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is applying for Met Council funding for investing in affordable housing and walkable neighborhoods.


Headline: State receives grant to update Fort Snelling Historic District
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The historical society is getting money to re-think its historic designation for Fort Snelling [which is historically important but not always in good ways, you know].


Headline: Study aims to alleviate parking crunch in Ramsey Hill
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. And so there was a meeting to talk about traffic and parking in an area of the city that is popular and has many restaurants. [In the 1970s, Selby and Western were a destitute wasteland. In the 1870s, there was a brothel there, but cars weren’t invented yet so parking wasn’t an issue.] There is a study by a consultant to recommend solutions to parking. [I have one idea. It turns out when you ask smart expert people who have studied problems just like this in other cities on the planet about how to solve parking problems they say things like “parking meters.”] Article quotes CM Thao: “with vibrancy comes challenges.” [Like too much vibrancy, when things start vibrating so quickly you can’t see straight any more. Or when you know people have to walk two blocks to their car.] Best quote: “past efforts to resolve parking problems have been criticized for lacking factual information.” [Yep. Factual information sure is helpful sometimes. I prefer it to the visions from my nightmares almost all of the time. Much prefer factual information. Except you know factual information about climate change. That just terrifies me and I completely ignore it, much preferring to think about how to make it easier to drive around.] Ideas on the table include permit parking. [But not parking meters, which you know, would make it easy to park if you paid a tiny bit of money but harder if you didn't?] Another quote: people really want to see more facts.” [I rather doubt it.] [Sort of funny] description of the meeting goes like this [and which is so good and well-written that I have to quote it at length]: “residents greatly outnumbered business owners… those who attended pored over neighborhood maps, stuck sticky dots and notes onto boards, and buttonholed city staff and consultants to make their opinions known. As dots accumulated on posters, several issues became clear. Most people at the meeting drive cars to get around. Fewer walk and even fewer bike.” ["As dots accumulated...." that's just really well written, even poetic.] Quote from neighbor: "how many more businesses are coming in?” [Because you know, having lots of shops, restaurants, cafés is bad news for a walkable city like Saint Paul. And it wouldn't be historically accurate to the area's period of historic significance, which is apparently the early 1980s and not any of the other dozens of decades when there were tons of shops in this area.] One guy who owns an apartment building with no parking tried to get the city to ban other people from parking on his street but was rejected by the city. [Classic Yogi Berra “nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded” moment here, which will henceforth be known by its acronym NGTAMITC. How elegant!]

Headline: Residents hold court over plans to redesign McQuillan Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A park is being remodeled. Neighbors want to keep the tennis court but that will come at the expense of remodeling playground equipment. [Won’t somebody think of the children?] It’s in a historic district and will require the preservationists input. [How about a bigger porch?] City plans call for the removal of single tennis courts, but lots of people still play on it.There was a debate about whether the playground should be “traditional” or “more sculptural.” Neighbors are concerned about overgrown basswood trees, a lack of a grill, and flying tennis balls.


Headline: [And buried deep within the Villager bowels] Pedestrian safety upgrades outlined for West 7th intersections
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: West 7th Street will get some changes to corner curbs and sidewalks that will make it less dangerous for people walking around, including a bumpout, narrower turning areas, crosswalks, restricted turns, and small one-way street designations. [This is long past long overdue as the street has been a dangerous often uncrossable speeding car barrier for generations.] There might be some temporary bollards but neighbors are concerned about traffic. Two people have been killed in seven years. [But for each of those people there were likely hundreds of other crashes or near-misses.] Article includes a brief history of the street, which runs at an angle.


Headline: St. Paul considers imposing new regulations on short-term rentals
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People use the internet to rent out rooms in their houses sometimes. The city is planning to at making some rules about it. Best quote: “[CM] Tolbert who has used such services in other cities, said that while short-term rentals provide a convenience for travelers, they also raise concerns about public safety, tax-free commerce and the promotion of transient lifestyles in residential neighborhoods.” [What the heck is a “transient lifestyle”? No seriously, did anyone really utter those words?] Only CM Noecker voted against the plan to study these. The intent of the study is to draft zoning and licensing rules. Short-term rentals are trendy. B&B’s want to protect their brand. There are taxes on the line. [Gosh I can’t stop thinking about transient lifestyles. The problem is that I don’t know what a transient lifestyle is or what it has to do with AirBnB. The dictionary defines “transient” as meaning “lasting for a short time, impermanent.” This has potential to reach into some seriously ontological and/or theological terrain. If only God is permanent, then surely all our lives are transient, i.e. fleeting, no? Yet what does permanence mean for human being? Perhaps Bergson’s notion of durée is useful here, the overlapping presence of the past and its contraction into a point of immediacy does not preclude the existence of that past. The overlapping co-existence of life in all its forms suggest that transience and permanence have different durations for each of us. Is a river permanent or transient? And yet it moves, as Galileo once said. … Then again, “lifestyle” is something  else altogether. Perhaps this is a critique of taste, and Tolbert’s notion is aimed at forming an essentialist concept of aesthetics based on Kant’s definition of art. If that were so, when confronted with the nature of the sublime, Tolbert is arguing that one must adopt a posture of reverence and even terror in the face of nature's infinitude, and that’s what’s wrong with these kids today, of which Tolbert is one apparently because he uses AirBnB too and is my age more or less I’m pretty sure. BTW I've never used Air BnB but I read about it on the internet.]


Headline: City trims CVS’s signs down to size
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A chain drug store wants two big signs but the Board of zoning Appeals will only let them have one. According to the corporate drug store signage consultant from Indiana, “larger signs were sought for reasons of visibility.” [Ah, that explains it.] Article quotes a neighborhood guy: “In an era of GPS and MapQuest, a sign like this seems very 1990s.” [Saint Paul sometimes seems very 1990s, especially with all this Trump, Clinton, Ninja Turtles, and Ghostbusters stuff lately. And, you know, the whole traffic and parking thing.] Sign guy also said, “we understand that people don’t want a CVS pharmacy on the site, but we’re here.” [At least we stopped their drive-thru.]



PS: This Highland Villager re-cap composed while listening to Wagner's Siegfried, which probably explains the Kant.

[Siegfried does a parking study.]

End of the Line for The Terminal Bar's Flem Shows how Dives Are Precious

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 1:38pm
I was sad to hear of the death of Flem, who had owned and run The Terminal Bar in Northeast Minneapolis for over fifty years.

Think about that for a second.

[Flem.]Here’s the first half of the obituary:

Fleming, Clarence G. "Flem" 10 year veteran, United States Marine Corps On May 14, 2016, God needed a cribbage partner and he chose the BEST. Flem spent 79 years perfecting the art of telling jokes and becoming a master storyteller. Flem was a faithful son, remarkable brother, devoted husband, proud father, adored grandfather, warm-hearted uncle, helpful neighbor, and valued friend. Flem was also larger than life with his booming voice, infectious laugh, and generous heart. Flem was the ultimate family man, a selfless community supporter, a strong promoter for upcoming musicians, and a contributor to rugby clubs. As owner and bartender extraordinaire at the Terminal Bar for 51 years, he loved to enliven, captivate, and entertain the customers with his sense of humor and joyful hospitality. Flem's passing holds a special place in my heart because he was synonymous with one of the purest examples of the "dive bar" genre in the Twin Cities. After the tour in January, I recently published a guide booklet that included some stuff about Flem and his bar. Here's an excerpt:
[Flem's back nook.]The Terminal Bar is Kryptonite to progress, so resistant to change that the walls reflexively tighten with each smart phrase unsheathed. Its timelessness is to the dicey credit of its owner, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of owning the place. 
Flem bought the bar in ‘65 coming out of the Marines and unable to find a straightforward job. For the next half-century, he and his wife have run The Terminal, which he calls a “working man’s and families bar”, though he admits it’s a dive. Annette opens it up around 4:30 and Flem gets there at 7:00 to keep it going until nobody remains. 

The bar itself is 84 years old. I assume Flem is around the same age. I also assume the name comes from its proximity to the old Great Northern Depot. These days it has the feel of last legs: piles of strange objects stacked in corners, forgotten walls, a broken scale. It’s a reminder of mortality and, because of that, it’s one of the purest examples of the dive bar genre you’ll find in the Twin Cities. Wandering here resembles exploring the basement of an old uncle’s house, decades of accumulated entropy. Unfulfilled intentions, good ideas at the time, areas of taste and gathered acquaintance piled up and fill rooms claustrophobically like spiderwebs. Across the wall from the bar, a display case half-full of classic car models, small plaques, the remnants of long ago trends. In the back past the stage, a large green scale, glass display cracked, a masterpiece of an era when weight was a novelty. Objects settle like calcium marking time, and it reminds me of nothing more than memories of a childhood home, complete with aging humans. But like Grandma’s, there’s something sad about The Terminal, meaning endpoint.
Say what you will about the atmosphere, hours, or stand-up comedy at The Terminal (and I have), owning and running a Northeast bar for fifty years is one hell of an accomplishment. These are not philately shops, and keeping them running requires constant effort. As the years go on, dives reflect their stewards and owners reflect their dives. Walking into The Terminal was like getting to know Flem himself. And half the time, he’d be sitting at the end of the bar anyway with a friendly word.

[So... don't go to The Terminal for fine dining, then?]

Dive Bar Habitat Loss

Thinking about Flem and the Terminal, both of whom were clearly on their last legs for years, makes me think about dive bar mortality. At root, dive bars are overlooked and under appreciated. You rarely see dive bars appear in the newspaper, apart from those periodic lists which typically focus on former dives, hipster magnets, or some of the most famous and/or played out examples like the CC Club, Grumpy’s, or Palmer’s.

Yet few will people speak for dives. There is no dive bar Lorax, and you almost never see politicians say anything nice about them, let alone spend much time in one. Dive bar ownership, and especially the clientele, have few connections to influence, and it’s safe to say that dive bar regulars don’t often vote.

Instead, dive bars become targets, scapegoats for urban problems. When Eric’s Bar on Saint Paul’s East Side was demolished, the mayor was there celebrating. Ramsey County transportation officials seem to delight in destroying corner dive bars like Diva’s Overtime Lounge in the North End, was torn down to add a turn lane to the Maryland Avenue (four-lane death road). When Lake Street dives like Champions or (the original) Country Bar closed down, you could feel deep pockets breathing sighs of relief, because their disappearance represented a cleansing of the neighborhood, pushing crime or poverty out of sight.

[Newspaper at the Sunrise Inn.]It’s somewhat surprising because, if you hang out in dive bars for long enough, you realize that the people there pay attention to the news and have strong opinions. There are often newspapers laying around, which men pass around and sometimes read out loud. At many dive bars, people actually watch the local TV news and talk about it. And (unfortunately) there’s almost always a few guys who listen to talk radio all day and are chomping at the bit to deliver a tirade about “tree huggers” at the drop of a hat.

This is to say that the urban dive bar is an endangered species. Dives do not make money and are often for sale. Owners and barkeeps work long hours, forced to be both servant and guardian, breaking up arguments, putting up with stress, and world-wearily bouncing rabble. These are marginal businesses caught between the rock of improving tastes and the hard place of the erosion of the working class. A dive must balance on the fine line between the two great threats: remodeling and real estate.

In other words, when a dive bar is gone, it’s gone forever. Precious few are created, because what kind of fool would intentionally set out to open a dive bar? (As with housing, the vast majority of new bars and restaurants are aimed at the wealthy.) And the loss of the dive is a loss for society, because these places offer experiences you cannot find elsewhere, meat raffles and pull tabs and tasteless jokes and all kinds of music. Dives form a foundation for working-class relaxation and do underappreciated work to bring neighborhoods together and grant them rare identity.  

But dives disappear. Ten years ago, my old North End neighborhood had twice as many dive bars as it does today. And places like The Terminal, planted in blistering real estate soil, are fated to change.

I predict a similar fate to Bonnie's Café over in the Midway, which lasted for about a year after the death of its eponymous owner. For a while, relatives or friends might carry on the tradition in honor of the departed. But eventually, someone makes a deal and moves on. And the place is never the same again. Once a dive bar dies, it never comes back.


[The Terminal doorway: open or closed?]
PS. You can purchase the Noteworthy Dive Bars of Outer Northeast booklet in the new store!

PPS. Check out Chris Strouth,'s great 2013 City Pages essay on The Terminal's music scene:
The hipster movement has taken a lot of the ol- time bars and made them if not posh, a comfortable mix of the old and new. For example, the 1029 Bar whose ceiling is literally covered in brassieres, and walls with shot up police car doors (rumored to have been done by Country kitchener Toby Keith). Yet there you can get the best lobster roll this side of Maine. Anyhow, the part of town where my mom didn't like me hanging out has become a foodie paradise that's written about in pull-out sections of newspapers.

The saying goes, evolve or die, and that seems to be the way of most of the bars in Nordeast. This is what makes the Terminal Bar weirdly special: It has done neither. The interior is much the same as I remember it from when I went in as a dare in college. I imagine it's much the same as it was in 1964, when the current owners, the Flemings, took over from the previous owner who happened to be the parents. They had owned it since 1935. Prior to that it was -- you guessed it -- a bar.

For about four years I shared a wall with the Terminal Bar. The shop that I owned with my wife was next door, and my studio above it, which later became my home as well. The Terminal is a dedicated music venue. They have a band playing almost every night. Cover bands, original bands, good ones, bad ones, really really bad ones, metal ones, even hip-hop ones. It is sort of hilarious watching someone go on stage and talk about what a player he is while drinking a 3 dollar Mich Golden.

The booking and the bartending are all handled by Flem. He's a former Marine, owner, bartender, and just all-around good guy. He also has been sober since 1968, which given that he is behind the bar six days a week, eight hours a day is saying quite a bit. Flem is in his 70s, yet spry as a 60-year-old.

While most bars have a strong curative sense, trying to get a specific vibe or groove that sets them apart from the rest, the Terminal tends to roll with anyone that gets butts in the seats, and in doing so is sort of the ultimate bar of the proletariat. Anyone can play.
Read the rest, a lovely piece of dive bar writing.


New and Improved Twin City Sidewalks Store

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 11:34am

[Button in the sidebar.]I have upgraded the “store” using Big Cartel, which seems like a pretty slick way to sell stuff online without many fees. Now you can actually click on a button and buy the different guide booklets and (eventually) flags, maps, and photo books.

Right now, though, only booklets. I have five different guides for sale currently: #2, Noteworthy Dive Bars of South Minneapolis, #3 Noteworthy Dive Bars of the Midway, #4 Noteworthy Dive Bars of Old Fort Road; #5, Noteworthy Parking Lots of Minneapolis; and #6, Noteworthy Dive Bars of Outer Northeast.


(#1, Noteworthy Bowling Alleys of Minneapolis and Saint Paul is currently out of print.)

Check it out. Feel free to buy one or seventeen of these fine products.


[Store link is here.]

Sidewalk Poetry #54: Waiting for a Cyclo in the Hood

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 07/20/2016 - 10:41am
Waiting for a Cyclo in the Hood

Twenty-sixth street, a one-way,
flows by my house, keeps going right
out of the hood before spilling into
Uptown: fertile delta of the young,
disturbingly hip, rich by no fault of their own,
nothing to do on a Saturday night but be beautiful.
I sit on the curb, far from lovely,
empty pocket's distance from rich,
wishing I knew
which way to go.
Back in Viet Nam I could
shout for a cyclo, hold up a fist of small dong
peel each dollar form the tension of my hand
and let them fly away to the Dopplar Effect,
one by one,
scream the words to Prince's 1999 in two languages
and not once look behind me to see
if the driver was whispering:
this street is one way, I can't take you back
to where you came from, no matter how many American
dollar bills you give up
to the wind.

[Bao Phi, from Sông I Sing.]

[Uptown at night.]

Signs of the Times #118

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 07/19/2016 - 2:27pm
 MUSEUM ENTRANCE
[Fence. Downtown, Saint Paul.]
Where is BillJones? Pleasereturn WilliamJones to hisloved ones.
[Alley wall. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

JERKALERTFlowers Are For ALLNeighbors to Enjoy
[Yard. Sent in by a reader.]

 START SEEINGGENTRIFICATION!
[Window. Lowertown, Saint Paul.]
ONCE AGAINWE WILL BE CLOSEDON SUNDAYS
[Window. Sent in by a reader.] 
The Hennpin Ave Bridgewas the first permanentfixed crossing of theentire Mississippi River.
[Boulevard. Nicollet Island, Minneapolis.]
WAITINGfor the world toChange!
[Mailbox. Location forgotten.]
Immigrant(im-grent) n. 1. A person orpersons that move from theircountry of origin to settle inanother country permanently.
[Fence. Downtown, Minneapolis.]

Talking about Saint Anthony Policing and Housing on KFAI

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 07/18/2016 - 2:11pm
[Kids sitting in the KFAI parking lot, on Minneapolis' West Bank.]Last week, I was lucky enough to be the co-host of Truth to Tell on KFAI Radio. Years ago I volunteered regularly at KFAI helping with the news programming. I also volunteered with Truth To Tell, a weekly public affairs talk show, running their "board" and doing the sometimes complicated engineering the talk show.

You can listen to the whole program here. My friend, the retired political science professor and labor historian an Tom O'Connell has taken over as a co-host from program founder Andy Driscoll, who passed away a few years ago.

The program covers a bunch of interesting topics, all relevant today. We discussed my interview with the Saint Anthony police chief, published here. Tom interviewed Dr. Christopher Lehman, a Saint Cloud-based historian researching the history of race in Minnesota. Finally, we interviewed two people trying to save the Lowry Grove manufactured home community, also located in Saint Anthony.

You can listen to the whole program here:



Is It OK to Protest on a Freeway?

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:31am
The I-94 Demonstration.
The last weeks have seen two high-profile freeway protests, the first on Saturday night on I-94 and the second Wednesday morning on I-35W.

This article is not about whether these are smart political tactics, or about the violence that took place during the I-94 demonstration. To me, debates about what happened, who is at fault, and the nature of the charges are a separate issue from the question I want to focus on here.
Rather, here's the rub of this article: Is there a difference between a civil disobedience demonstration on a city street (e.g., Summit Avenue, Plymouth Avenue, or downtown), a light rail station (e.g., the Green Line at Snelling and University), and a freeway like I-94? Are they the same thing or are they different?
"Taking it To the Street"
Protests on Minneapolis' Washington Avenue in 1972

First off, all these examples are equal in one sense because, technically, all roads are public space. (Exceptions for gated communities such as North Oaks, with private roads, prove the rule.) So the right of the public to use these taxpayer-funded government-owned spaces should be relatively equal.
And in another sense, all these cases are equal because they're all equally prohibited. Technically speaking, any gathering or demonstration that blocks a road is illegal. This is true for sidewalks, streets, light rail tracks, and freeways, all of which have ordinances or laws protecting their mobility function. For example, the Minneapolis city code says this (385.65) [emphasis mine]:No person, in any public or private place, shall use offensive, obscene or abusive language, or grab, follow or engage in conduct which reasonably tends to arouse alarm or anger in others, or walk, stand, sit, lie, or place an object in such a manner as to block passage by another person or a vehicle.Light rail tracks and city streets in general have the same rules prohibiting people from blocking traffic flow. So a demonstration is illegal in all these situations.
(For more on public space and protest, check out the streets.mn podcast conversation with Dr. Nathan Clough.)
The I-94 demonstration.

Is a Freeway Different?
The press conference after the late-night demonstrations on I-94 featured the Mayor of Saint Paul, the Police Chief, and Colonel Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol describing what happened. Here's the quote:There are many places people can gather to exercise their first amendment rights, but the freeway is not one of those places. Closing freeways endangers the people that are on the freeway, endangers the motoring public, prevents emergency services from occurring and prevents people from doing their jobs and taking care of business in the state of Minnesota by those freeways being closed. Being on the freeway is illegal. It’s illegal always to be there on foot including these protest events. We do our best to prevent these protests from being on the freeway and most of the time we are successful in working with these groups and preventing and keeping that from occurring.As you can see, Colonel Langer focuses on two things in his argument against freeway demonstrations: safety and economics.
Let's take safety first. Technically speaking, the main difference between a freeway and other types of roads revolves around speed and access. Freeways have much higher speeds and far more limited access than other roads, or even light rail tracks.
But what if you could make freeway protests safe for both the drivers and demonstrators?While stopping at the Governor’s mansion demonstration the other day, I spoke with one person who was working with the Black Lives Matter demonstrators at the beginning of the protest. Her job was to drive a car at a specific time down I-94, and to slow down in tandem with other demonstrators in other lanes. The plan was to reduce speeds slowly over time on the freeway while not allowing cars to pass. The goal was to make space for demonstrators to safely get onto the road.
To me, it sounded difficult. And according to the woman I spoke with, her Westbound contingent of volunteers had difficulty keeping their line in tact. (Eastbound volunteers managed to pull it off.)  But what was interesting was that the demonstrators had planned ahead, thinking about the safety concerns about demonstrating on a freeway.
If you take the safety issue out of the picture, the argument against protesting on a freeway rests on economic impact. At that level, it seems little different than the argument against protesting in any of the other contested sites that we have seen over the past year or two. The arguments used by Colonel Langer seem a lot like the ones used by the Bloomington prosecutor at the Mall of America: demonstrations are illegal and the disrupt the economy. (You could say the same thing about the demonstrations at the State Fair or the airport.)
And in both cases, it seems the prosecutors are trying to discourage demonstrations in these spaces by throwing the book at activists.
Who is the Audience for a Demonstration?
Demonstrators on Summit Avenue in Saint Paul, the Governor's Mansion in the background.

Last week, I found myself with a flat tire on my bicycle, needing to get back to Saint Paul from downtown Minneapolis. Glancing at Twitter, I saw that the Green Line had been shut down by a demonstration march in Saint Paul in support of Philando Castile, and decided to take the #3 bus (my old friend) instead.
While riding the bus, there were two young black men sitting up at the front, talking with the bus driver. It turned out that they were trying to get to the demonstration, but because the Green Line was shut down, they couldn’t get there. The bus driver gave them directions to get to the #16, but I don’t think they ever made it in time. (The bus is slow, after all!) Still, it seemed to me to be a tragic irony.
To me, the main difference between demonstrating on a freeway and demonstrating on a street like Summit Avenue is a matter of degree, not of kind. By moving on to a freeway, the scale and stakes of a demonstration are raised. Instead of primarily affecting people in the central cities, you’re primarily affecting people in the suburbs.
Civil disobedience is always breaking a rule, whether it’s “whites only” or “no stopping on the street.” I-94 between the downtowns carries 200,000 cars a day and is the most heavily used part of our road system. If the goal is to raise awareness of an issue, by changing the geography of the demonstration from a local street to a freeway, you’re turning up the volume so that everyone in the entire Twin Cities has to pay attention, for better or worse.
The violence, tear gas, and concrete-throwing are one thing. What happened on I-94 was unfortunate and I wish it could have been prevented. (The 35W demonstration seemed entirely peaceful by contrast.) But the point I want to make here is that whether or not people have a right to demonstrate on the road has little do with what kind of road it is. A freeway is not a special place where, as Colonel Langer seems to suggest, your "civil rights disappear." It's just a road with higher speeds, wider lanes, reduced access, and a special state-wide police force. And just as much as any other street, it’s still a public space.

Reading the Highland Villager #159

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 5:12pm
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.] 


Headline: Ford says pollution won't stop it from cleaning up plant as city envisioned
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The old Ford auto plant was demolished a while ago and the dirt underneath it isn't too polluted to prevent anyone from building housing on the site. [That's what happened in the Victoria Park area, where the city had to build park land on half the site instead of buildings.] There was a meeting at a church about it. It's going to take years to clean up the site. They will have to take dirty dirt away and put clean dirt back. [For "clean dirt," see also, scroll down.] Article includes brief history of the site. One parking lot has a lot of petroleum contamination. Another has solvents and heavy metals. There are mines under the bedrock. [I might or might not have been in these tunnels. There might or might not be an abandoned haunted house in there.] 


Headline: Axtell's selection as St. Paul's new police chief is roundly applauded
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: Saint Paul has a new police chief. [Jeez, what a way to start the job.]


Headline: Seeking new direction, School Board ousts Silva
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: Saint Paul will have a new schools superintendent, after paying the old one $700,000 to leave. [About the same price as they paid David Glass to leave.]


Headline: Six-story building planned for Snelling-St. Clair corner; Luxury apartments would replace six small businesses [Note: Headline is a bit misleading as it will be apartments AND commercial space, in which there will be businesses, one assumes, some of which might even be the same businesses, at least in theory.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are plans to tear down a one-story strip mall and build a large apartment building instead. The 33-space parking lot will also be replaced. The property will need to be rezoned. [Presumably to Traditional Neighborhood zoning, which it should be already? Not sure why it isn't.] Article includes the sentence: "tenants would likely be local professionals or people who no longer want to maintain a single-family home." [But not young people, thank goodness.] Article quotes local neighborhood group guy saying "that area cries out for redevelopment." Neighbors concerned about parking are hoping that the new building owners will allow them to lease some of the new spaces. But article also quotes neighborhood guy saying "We don't have a solution to the parking issues as we're standing here." [Where is the solution to the parking issues to be found? Navel gazing gets us nowhere. We need a quest.] Article includes the following sentence: "Some committee members suggested marketing the new apartments to tenants who want a car-free lifestyle and offering incentives for renters who do not own a car. [And at this point the Villager ceased to exist.]


Headline: St. Paul may require all employers to offer paid sick time; Business owners don't like one-size-fits-all approach
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some people want businesses to pay people when they're sick so they don't come to work sick and get healthy faster, but some businesses don't like the idea.


Headline: City approves new five-year recycling contract with Eureka
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city will keep the same recycling comapny for the net five years. There will be new lidded carts. Fees will go up.Some new things may or may not get recycled, including organics like compost. The old blue bins make good garden baskets. [See more on this situation in my Park Bugle story.]


Headline: St. Paul set to take final vote on rules for protecting river; Comments on planned revisions due by July 6
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The DNR is going to decide how to regulate areas around the river, a lot of which is in Saint Paul. This might affect the Shepard-Davern, Island Station, and Ford plant areas. [And also hugely affect the West Side, but that's outside of the Villager coverage area so... crickets.] Slope and bluff regulations are particularly ornery.


Headline: Planning Commission to rule on liquor license for 128 Cafe
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A restaurant [in a three-story apartment building] by a college wants a liquor license for which they needed a change of a zoning permit. [The Planning Commission, of which I am a member, granted it.]


Headline: Parking congestion in Ramsey Hill addressed in July 11 forum
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There will be a meeting to talk about parking. Data will be used. [That's unusual!] There are more restaurants by the Cathedral now. [Oh my. The next thing you know, people will be walking around on the sidewalks!]


Headline: BZA grants distance variance so Midway Smokes can move
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A vape store will be allowed to move across the street from a strip mall, even though the new location is already close to an existing tobacco store. The smoke shop has been around for almost 20 years.


Headline: Snelling-Dayton used car lot is being eyed for new parking lot
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A used car lot "burned down." Now the guy who owns it wants to park 18 cars and 6 bikes there. Some neighbors like the idea [because parking]. Others asked if a building could be there instead, but the owner says it's too small for a building. [Maybe if they built a small building? It's like a large building but smaller.]


Headline: Market-rate micro apartments planned for Territorial Road
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Micro apartments! See, that's like what I meant by "small building." One thing you can do is make things smaller. It's like the difference between a large coffee and a small coffee, for instance.] Warehouse property will be replaced with 80-unit apartment building. They will only be 400 square feet. [First the whole thing about renters without cars, and now this? What is this Villager coming to?]


Headline: Planning Commission considers expanding the use of City House
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old grain elevator that is owned currently used as a history museum space might be run by the Parks Department so that they can do [crazy] things like sell food and beverages there in the future. [Note: this is easily the front-runner for winner of the Saint Paul "beer by the river" test. Also note: This passed unanimaoulsy at the Planning Commission, of which I am a member.] There might be food trucks there in the future. [Hopefully with electric hook-ups.] The building has a fascinating history as being a grain co-op [aimed at destroying the Minneapolis grain monopoly]. There had been plans to make a restaurant there but they fell through for some reason.


Headline: Rondo Land Trust proposes mixed-use buildings on Selby
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Three lots that have been vacant forever [in a prime location] on Selby Avenue might finally get buildings. It will be mixed-use commercial and 34 senior apartments. They might be done by 2018. Funding is complicated. It will be "land trust," which means that the people won't own them but they will stay affordable. Article explains the concept. [Land trust is really interesting.]


Headline: Six-story apartment building eyed for vacant Lexington-University lot; Public subsidies sought for $40M building's 243 affordable housing units
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Affordable housing developers want to build on a parcel just South of University Avenue. Funding is complicated. Article includes details about architecture including building materials and landscaping "to maintain its parkway feel." [Parkway feel = freeway speeds.] One neighbor says there's already enough affordable housing in the area. [There's a whole debate about this.] There are no off-street parking minimums for the building because it's close to the light rail, but the developer will build 82 spaces anyway. The site once was the spot of Lexington Ballpark, where the Saints played. [Like everything else] they might open in 2018.


Headline: BZA allows Beechwood lot split for new two-story home
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The owners of a home in Highland will be allowed to tear their house down and build two houses on the land instead. Neighbors are concerned about what it will look like.


Headline: Water tower tour offers view from the top
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [The Eye of Mordor will be open to the public this weekend.]


Note:

This fortnight's Highland Villager was read to the dramatic tones of Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.




Sidewalk Poetry #53: Traffic Light

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 12:57pm
Traffic Light

The traffic light simply would not turn green
So the people stopped to wait
As the traffic rolled and the wind blew cold
And the hour grew dark and late.

Zoom-varoom, trucks, trailers
Bikes and limousines,
Clatterin' by -- me oh my!
Won't that light turn green?

But the days turned weeks, and the weeks turned months,
And there on the corner they stood.
Twiddlin' their thumbs til the changin' comes
The way good people should.

And if you walk by the corner now,
You may think it's rather strange
To see them there as they hopefully gaze
With the very same smile on their very same face
As they patiently stand in the very same place
And wait for the light to change.

[Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends.]
[California stoplight.]

Signs of the Times #117

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 12:41pm
 _ __ A - L - A - - - - 
__ TH__ -_____
[Fence. Downtown East, Minneapolis.]

Dear Friend(aka Our Patient)-Parking meters are now25¢ per 15 minutes.Please BE GENEROUSto protect yourself.WE CAN HELP YOU
with our quarters.
[Window. Location forgotten.]

SIDEWALK[arrow]
[Sidewalk closed sign. Downtown, Minneapolis.]

Coyote
[Door. Downtown, Minneapolis.]

HYPOTHETICALLYSPEAKINGBANS GUNS INTHESE PREMISES
[Wall. Downtown, Minneapolis.]

TREES FOR SALEMAKE AN OFFER
[Grass. Sent in by a reader.]

WATCH OUTBIKES ABOUT
[Pole. Sent in by a reader.]

Guitar Lessons
[Farm field. Sent in by a reader.]

Saint Paul as Westeros

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 9:36am
[The banner of House Stark flying in Saint Paul.]A while back, after a conversation about the Saint Paul "welcome hat," I created a "Saint Paul as Hogwarts" map mash-up. To this day, people will invite me to barbecues in "Slytherin" (e.g. Ward 3).

Well it’s time to up the ante.

Biking down Summit Avenue yesterday, I happened across the banner from House Stark flying from a mansion just West of Dale Street. That’s far out of Council President Stark’s Ward 4 territory, so there must have been some kind of invasion.

The rest is Westerosi/Saint Paul history.

Caveat: If you're a Game of Thrones fan, do not read too much into this fictional list. Almost any resemblance between living people and the actual plots of the books or TV show is entirely coincidental.





The Great Houses of Saint Paul


House Stark
- This one’s the easiest, because of the aforementioned name of the City Council President. Everything from Hamline-Midway along to the city border (except the islands of House Greyjoy) are the Stark lands of the North. Highway 280 is the wall. Winterfell is Groundswell, the castle (coffee shop) where you’ll often find the King of the North or other Stark bannermen holding court.

House Greyjoy - Of all the Saint Paul neighborhoods, Saint Anthony Park is most like the Iron Islands. Originally a separate city, intended to be a bourgeois enclave, its curving streets and quaint village atmosphere make these lands an isolated refuge amidst a sea of industrial concrete. These days, the Iron Islanders do not spend much time raiding their neighbors. But who knows, that could always change. Pyke can be found at the Como/Carter intersection at the castle Muffaletta.

House Lannister - Highland, of course, a very wealthy house at the West edge of Westeros. They are almost always in the center of the political scrum at King’s Landing (downtown). The “Village” is a thriving city that relishes its pastoral facade. Casterly Rock is the Highland Theater. The Highland Villager always pays its debts.

House Tyrell - This house is Summit-University, also wealthy. Highgarden is one of the Summit Avenue mansions, like the James J. Hill house or maybe up on Crocus Hill. Grand Avenue supplies wine to the Saint Paul lands. House Tyrell are also in the thick of the striving for the iron throne, and their armies are a fulcrum of power. It’s difficult to get downtown without going through Tyrell lands.

House Martell - There was a recent coup by a young woman in House Martell, which lies across the Sea of Dorne (a.k.a. the Mississippi River) to the south of King’s Landing. People sometimes think the people from Dorne are foreign because they have accents. Actually it's just the Southernmost part of Westeros, though many people remain confused. The District del Sol is how you say “Sunspear" in Spanish. The airport and marina offers ships and trade links to distant lands across the Narrow Sea.

House Baratheon - King’s Landing is Downtown. Here is where the high court meets. The Mayor’s office is the Iron Throne, and the High Council Small Council consults with whoever sits on it, though the power remains with the king. (So far it’s always been a man, but that might change someday.) King’s Landing is a dense city full of intrigue, wealth and poverty, and the whispers of little birds are everywhere. The Cathedral is the Red Keep the Sept of the Blessed Baelor, City hall is the Red Keep, Lowertown is Flea Bottom, and the surrounding lands form the terrain of House Baratheon, excellent hunting grounds.

House Targaryen
- A formerly ruling house that has been exiled to the East after "the mad king" (a.k.a. Randy Kelly) was deposed. House Targaryen has a special relationship with dragons (i.e. industrial labor), though dragons are believed to have disappeared from the land. Dragonstone is the Hamm’s Brewery, a somewhat abandoned impenetrable fortress.

House Arryn - Mounds Park and Highwood, an isolated part of the realm. The mountains of the Vale can be found around Mounds Park and Battle Creek. The Eyrie sits high atop Dayton’s Bluff at the Swede Hollow Café. Currently ruled by a woman, it takes some convincing to get the Knights of the Vale to march into the wars of kings.

House Tully - Lake Como is the river lands. Because of the railroads of Saint Paul, crossing the river lands at the middle of Westeros challenges every army, and one must convince the rulers at Riverrun (the Como Pavilion) to allow for safe passage. The struggle for power here is fierce. Harrenhall is Bandana Square, a failed attempt to build a massive castle that is all but forgotten today.


Other Lands


Other neighborhoods are lesser houses. Mac-Grove is likely House Frey, pledged to House Lannister. (No offense meant, Mac-Grove friends!) The North End is House Mormont. The West End is Tarth.

Beyond the wall is Minneapolis. Saint Paulites look down upon these gods-less people with bizarre notions of democracy. Though we also fear them, and try everything in our power to keep them out. It’s never enough, and Winter Carnival is Coming.

Across the narrow sea lie the suburbs. Braavos is Maplewood, where the Iron Bank of 3M rules. Woodbury is Pentos, a great trading center, though the goods are odd. Slaver’s Bay is White Bear Lake, and Lake Elmo is Yunkai, one of its "independent city-states" in the midst of chaos these days. Whatever you do, don't get bogged down in politics here!

And last but not least, the Dothraki horde are Wisconsinites. They routinely invade the land with their barbaric-seeming rituals. If you find yourself in their way, pray for a quick death.

[The House Stark banner flying near Dale Street with a direwolf in the foreground.]

Introducing a New Way to Support this Blog

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 3:58pm

That's right. For every order of mozzarella sticks at a Twin Cities Applebee's location, I will be receiving .5 cents of the profit!

So do your part and get down to your local Applebee's today.

Just kidding...

Actually I'm launching a Patreon page for Twin City Sidewalks to help support my work doing writing, blogging, and tours of our urban landscape.

As you might have noticed, I've been writing this blog for a long time. Over 10 years actually, for a grand total of 1,625 posts of varying quality. For example, here are some of "The Best Blog Posts of 2015", or you can check out my "10 Year Bloggaversary Post" for some background on how this blog got started and where I'm at now with it.

The point is, though, that barring that one time I found $100 while walking along Lyndale Avenue, I haven't made any money off of it. And that's fine.A lot of great things have come my way via friends and colleagues that I've met through the blog. Absolutely!

But it's still a challenge to pay the bills, and I could use support from people who enjoy or appreciate what I do here.

Thus...

Become a Patreon "Patron"

[The page looks like this.]Following the suggestion of a few of my most trusted friends, I've spent some time setting up a  Patreon account. By becoming one of my "patrons", you make sure that I can keep making this blog.

Here's what I'm promising:

The little bit of money you can spare will make a big difference in my everyday life. And as is the Patreon way, I have added a few little perks for people who become patrons at different levels

at least $5 / month ... Advance notice of every bicycling or walking tour by postcard.

at least $10 / month ... Free copy of every new Tour Guide booklet delivered via postal mail directly after they are written.

at least $20 / month ... One private tour per year of your choosing, for a group of up to 12. These can be custom designed or a repeat of one of the previous tours I have done in the past.

Those are nice, but the real reason to be a Patreon patron is to keep supporting my writing and blogging work here on the site. I'd love to keep doing this forever, and I keep having tons of ideas. You'd think after ten years of blogging about sidewalks, I'd start to run out of sidewalk-related stuff to say.

But no. Such is the beauty of sidewalks.

Thanks for reading this!

Interview with John Ohl, Recently Retired Police Chief of Saint Anthony

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 9:46am
Two months ago, working on a story for a community newspaper, I interviewed John Ohl, the retiring police chief of Saint Anthony. Saint Anthony is a first-ring Minneapolis suburb, and its police force also serves as the force for two neighboring smaller Saint Paul suburbs, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights. The story was about Ohl's retirement back in May after 30 years of working at the Saint Anthony Police Department.

Entering into the interview, I hadn't intended to discuss police reform debates, racial profiling, or #blacklivesmatter, and I was surprised when Chief Ohl brought it up. During our interview Ohl shared his frank opinions about these issues, and seemed eager to defend the Saint Anthony Police records on issues like community policing, video evidence, and the use of force.

I'm sure that last night's killing of Philando Castile is Chief Ohl's worst nightmare come true. But during our interview Ohl repeatedly insisted that the media, not the structural or institutional problems, were to blame for what he called "hyper-vigilance" and "white hot light" shined on the police.

To me, that's a big part of the problem. I find it impossible to believe that police culture completely changed after Chief Ohl left. Whatever was in the officer's head during the traffic stop of Philando Castile was poison, and I believe that Police Department cultures that are hostile to change play a large role.

The horrific killing of Philando Castile last night can never be un-done. The shooting, and others like it, made it clear again that our problems with policing run far deeper.

[Transcript begins. At this point, we'd been talking for about fifteen minutes about Ohl's background, career, education, and the "community oriented policing" strategy that he endorsed.]
[Saint Anthony Police Department press release.]Bill Lindeke (BL): How many cops do you have here anyway?

Recently Retired Chief John Ohl (CJO): Twenty-three. We have twenty-three sworn, 14 reserve officers, a SCO full time and 3 support staff.

BL: What are you planning on doing after? How many days do you have left? Is it a clock thing, you get your pension and then you're done?

CJO: Well it's partially that. It's partially timing with the Police Department right now, it's set up well to take the next transition. We’ve done a good job with succession planning. And it feels right. I’m not angry, I’m not burned up. I’m not bitter. I don't have any union people taking votes of no confidence on me. I have great relationships with all three councils. I feel good.

This job is tough on people. It's tough on the Patrol Officer and tough on the upper administration. Everything’s my fault, and I'm on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I have been for 25 years.

BL: Well you're responsible for a lot of people's well-being and livelihoods.

CJO: When I'm in Mexico... When you're in Mexico vacationing, you're thinking about your next margarita. I'm in Mexico thinking, god I hope somebody doesn't get hurt here, a cop doesn't get shot, doesn't kill somebody, because I'd have to leave. I'd have to leave Mexico.

And that's the way my life has been run for... Well, I was a street cop for 6 years. I went into investigations. And then I was promoted to Lieutenant, and then Captain, and then Chief.

BL: What does investigations mean?

CJO: I was a detective. When I got put into investigations, as a detective, after 6 years on the street, I became a 24-hour, 365 call. I started my 24 hours a day, no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing.

And that's been 25 years. And that's long enough. Thirty-three years, and my family doesn’t deserve it any more. I'm not angry and not bitter. I've had a great career and I'm very very fortunate, but I’m tired of the constant on-call, the constant vigilance.

BL: Understandable.

CJO: And all my friends own small businesses. All the high school guys run small businesses, and there's a lot of opportunity to help them out. I'm interested in doing some volunteer work, where I'm just in charge. If I do a good job it's because I did a good job. Not because someone works for me, but because of something I did. So I'm interested in that too.

BL: But nothing specific?

CJO: No. no. not right now. I'm kind of in the infancy of this whole thing. 

[Here our conversation went off the record. I discussed my mom's retirement, and then we discussed nursing in general and nurses in our family. Ohl discussed the nature of shift work and how it impacts family life. We discussed people we know in medical school and how they have to deal with difficult subjects.]

BL: Well, it's hard to recruit cops too.

CJO:  Now it is. It used to be that it was a profession that people saw as a highly sought after. And thanks to some extremely negative and biased news media reporting -- not to throw you under the bus -- but, the news media wants to report the minutiae, and society will pay the price.

BL: There's always been a tendency to report on crime and make it seem out of control

CJO: Yup. But here's the problem with that. On years when crime went down... Of course, "if it bleeds, it leads"... that whole thing. So when you report on crime, and people's idea in their heads is that that crime is out of control, even in years where we can show that crime is down significantly, people when they’re polled, they think that crime is up.

BL: Yeah, like the dropping murder rates in US cities across the country, well except Chicago, for some reason. If you look at the difference between media reporting on murders and actual numbers of murders, you think, "Why is that happening?'

CJO: Exactly. The point is that because the news media has a platform. and it it puts it in your face. You have a bias, and your bias is that you think murder is out of control, even on years that it goes down significantly.

So now what has the news media done? So what’s the end result of me thinking that crime is out of control? What’s the societal cost of that? Now you’ve taken hyper-vigilance and white hot light and shined it on guys that are trying to do their job as best they can, and plucked out the minutiae. And focused on it, like they could for news reporters, or lawyers, or politicians, or anybody else. They chose to dig deep and find the worst possible scenario, and shine it like a light, and report on it every day.

So what do you think people's bias is now? Cops are gun crazy shooting nutbags that need to be reeled in. It's not the case. Not even close to the case. Yet...

What's the societal price we're going to pay? I'm already hearing that schools that are teaching law enforcement are having declining enrollment rates. Bright young people who should be cops, who we want as a society to be cops, are choosing different professions. Why wouldn't they?

Why would you be a cop today? You’re treated like a piece of crap. And I'm not saying by society in general. Our city loves us, our Council supports us, and we are greatly appreciative of that citizen and council support. But geez! National news media and local media are making it tough on us. And it's tough to recruit new cops, good high quality cops! And you're seeing declining rates right now, but societal costs are coming, Bill. It's coming, when bright young people no longer choose this career because of biased, unfair, and undeserved reporting...

BL: That's kind of why we're doing this story. Because it's not about anything negative recently.

CJO: And that's great. I think if I'm going to leave a legacy, I take every opportunity with every person, especially people in your position, to try to get you to see... What a great deal to write a story on biased reporting and law enforcement.

You want to hear some statistics? We arrest about 12 million people every year. In the United States of America we arrested about 12 million people every year. A half of... 500,000 of those … the FBI has got the stats very easily. About 500,000 arrests are for violent criminal offense. We use deadly force in effecting arrests about 400 times a year. We kill about 400 people a year in effecting arrests. In the same time period, 100 to 200 cops are killed, and 100,000 are assaulted.

What's the story line? Do the math. 400 into 12 million. We use deadly force about .00028% of the time. But that’s the story? What do people believe presently today? It's just an amazing... The news media is amazing tool…

BL: So why do think it's gotten so intense lately?

CJO: Because news media makes money on the pain of others.  That's what happens. "If it bleeds, it leads"... There’s a reason for that. Because people want to see that. So the news media shows it. And what sells better than a bad cop?

BL: It's a different story for a different paper and I haven't finished it yet, but it's about challenges in Saint Paul and Minneapolis police departments in recruiting diverse candidates. [Note: the article was finally published last week.] So that's one of the things people complain about a lot. I was trying to think about how can I write a story about police and trying to reform police departments without focusing on a lot of what you're talking about. I want to see what are solutions we can come up with.

CJO: You mean for diversifying law enforcement?

BL: Yeah.

CJO: Well we're talking about one right now. So if you think it's distasteful for your white suburban high school kid to choose law enforcement as a career, based on what we're doing to them in the news media today, what does it do to your urban city minority? They are twice as affected by it.

BL: The two officers I spoke with one in Minneapolis and one in Saint Paul were really frustrated, I could tell, about what's happened in the last year or two.

CJO: Bill, I ... I don't know. You can tell I'm getting a little animated about it.

BL: I appreciate your honesty.

CJO: It's just so unfair, and we have no platform. We have no platform to tell the truth.

Hey, let me tell you the truth about these statistics? What do we hear about cops on any single day? What we hear about cops every single day... You want to shine the white hot light on anybody? Contractors... mechanics... Priests...

BL: Journalists.

CJO: Journalists! Anybody you want to put on the list. But it's not this whole, this "21st century policing" from the President, and all the executive research forums. When that came out...

BL: Can you tell me what "21st century policing" is...

CJO: Yeah, President Obama. Just google "President Obama's 21st century policing," Here’s what we should be doing in law enforcement to solve the problems that we think we have. And I go down that list and well, 90% of what’s on that list, we’re already doing.

I just read it and go, yeah, doing, doing... You mean some people don't do that? Doing, doing, doing.

Because nothing’s significantly broken in law enforcement now. We are better trained, better selected, better educated, held to more standards, higher accountable, and with better policies than ever before in the United States of America's history. Yet we’re in the toilet right now. Why?

Why why are we in the toilet? There’s only one reason.

And it just drives me crazy, and it's unfair. And like I said, it's too bad, because you’re going to pay the price, I'm going to pay the price.

BL: As a society, you mean.

CJO: Society is going to pay the price. Because there'll be people to fill those positions, but are they be who you want. is the good question.

BL: Well that's probably not the angle my editor was looking for. But I will try to mention some of this stuff because it's important to you and it's interesting to me. And like you said, it's crucial to get other narratives out there besides "everything's down the toilet and the cops hate the community and vice versa," because that's not always the case.

CJO: Never has been the case. It's not, this system is not broken. It’s not perfect, but its not broken.

BL: Well, what would you do to fix anything? The media is one thing, right...

CJO: What would I do? We take care of our house. All I would say is  What would I do? Look at what we’ve done. You can read about it in our annual reports.

[Chief Ohl down a binder from the shelf behind him of annual reports and reads from it.]
"A clear mission improves the quality of our service. Most would agree that the way law enforcement conducts business has never been under more scrutiny. This despite the fact that we have become more technologically sound, are more restrained in the use of force, are more integrated, are more carefully trained, and are more selectively chosen than ever before."

Now that's not my opinion. You and I cannot argue about that. That is a fact. That is an absolute fact.

So what more do you want me to do? We are moving forward constantly. What more is it that I'm  supposed to do?

I said that, "The perception that Police Officers are out of control is not supported with the good work that's done every day. People who have never seen cops everyday reality can easily overlook how difficult it can be to act humanely, as cops must, even with the dregs of our society, the schemers, the violent people, and those who prey on the weak."

BL: That's actually pretty well written, John.

CJO: Well, you're welcome to it off the website. It just continues.

In our business, perception is reality. And the most effective weapon we have is cooperation. So how do I... my Council knows what kind of cop I am, what kind of cop shop I run.

So how do we get Channel 11 News to write good stories? To write about the fact that we are more selectively employing? Nobody cares. They don’t care.

They say to themselves, can I make money by reporting the good things that are happening in the city of Saint Anthony or around our metropolitan area? Or can I make more money by finding that one cop and putting it on the news for seven days in a row? Which one makes me more money?

The muckrakers of the 20s are gone. They provided a service to the population. Your peers, your counterparts in that day and age helped shape America to being a better place. What we're doing now in the news media is making money. And that's it.

We don't report the news with a non-biased slant. If they did, we would say: oh, so there’s a cop that shot an unarmed guy in the back, and its on video. And holy shit, that’s the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.

We can report on that, and we're gonna report on that, and we should report on that. But when we report on that, let’s balance that. Is that happening all across America? And to what degree?

Oh, let's do the quick math, and we just did. .0028% of the time. Do we want to report on that? Will that make us money?

And now you're asking me what am I going to do? We're more selectively trained, we're better educated...

BL: Well what do you think about, for example, there's a debate at the legislature right now about the body camera thing.

CJO: Full of issues. Full of problems, I'm sure you've read all about them. There are pros and cons behind everything. I can show you a video tape that clearly shows in one view of a guy a police officer executing a guy.

BL: And you look at another angle...

CJO: One other angle and you see a gun in his hand. In the bad guy's hand. That the cop didn't shoot him, he must not have seen the gun. You see two cops go up to a crazy guy and from the one video camera, the guy, you see the cop get out of the car and start to engage with this guy. And I'm thinking, he can't see the gun in his hand. And his partner comes out of the car and shoots him four times in the back.

And you just go, "Oh. Oh my god." From one view, his partner just executed him. From another view, he just probably saved his partners' life. And, by the way, a bunch of bystanders that were standing by this store.

So video isn’t going to be a solve all, do all. We think it is because we're having this knee-jerk reaction. I haven’t had a sustained I.A. [internal affairs investigation] in five years because of video cameras in squad cars. In five years, because of what I think is very likely video cameras in squad cars, that's where 90% of it happens.

BL: So that was a good change, then?

CJO: It was. It's the public view. Cops resisted it at first. It's not perfect, because like I just told you it definitely is not forward but it was a step in the right direction  for some clarity. But if we’re doing the body cam thing, so that this tape is going to be the only thing that's you know discussed, I think people have too high of an expectation, just a little too high of an expectation for what that’s gonna solve.

And let's not forget. Is it solving a systemic problem in law enforcement in our society today?  I don’t think that there is a systemic problem around law enforcement in our society today.

I think the statistics, anybody who wants to be rational, not emotional, You don't need to take my word for it, go do the math. See the good that's going around. Walk around to Joe Blow Citizen, and ask him if the cops are doing a shitty job? And that they're gun happy...

BL: In Saint Paul, I think people that I talk to, most people are pretty happy with the police force there. And I know the politicians are... the chief's retiring over there too, I don't know if you know him. It's really context dependent, and it depends on the person.

CJO: It does. If you just got a speeding ticket, you maybe think the cops ...

BL: So it just depends. Hopefully it makes a difference, the personal relationships that you're building.

CJO: It does. And it's happening all across this country, what I'm talking about. This isn't specific to Saint Anthony. It's happening all across the country. And it has been happening, nothing changed. We've been working that direction for twenty years. Twenty years, we've been working that community oriented policing direction.

BL: How many days do you have left? From what you've been saying it's not like you're going to sit around knitting...

CJO: Well, everything that you and I have been talking about I would be held accountable for in the public forum. I've said it a million times that what we have here isn't broken. That what we have here is a lack of a platform. So none of this is something I, because I think you're a nice guy and you seem to care about writing and your work...

BL: I don't write about police stuff very much. And I'm glad I don't. I do mostly urban policy things like transportation and development and so... There are contentious issues there too, but it's not so much life and death as you guys have to deal with.

CJO: From thirty-three years now, I've been reflecting on things, and this is the topic of the day.

BL: Yeah, it sure is.

CJO: This is the topic of the day. And so I’m animated about it, because this is the end of my career. And I’ve seen a turn that is simply sad to me. And its sad because it's not being balanced. At so at the end of my career, that is disappointing. Very disappointing.

 [Transcript ends]

Update
An earlier version of this transcript had a typo. Chief Ohl said that "it's tough to recruit new cops," not "it's tough to recruit new crops." Apologies for the error.

Twin City Bike Parking #22

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 07/06/2016 - 11:22am
[Lowertown, Saint Paul.]
[Warehouse District, Minneapolis.]
 [Saint Anthony Park, Saint Paul.]
[Downtown, Minneapolis.]
[Downtown, Saint Paul.]
[Northeast, Minneapolis.]
[Downtown, Saint Paul.]
[North End, Saint Paul.]

Noteworthy Dive Bars of the North End Biking Tour -- July 21st

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 07/05/2016 - 12:04pm
[Link to map is here.]The North End... you probably haven't heard of it. It's easily one of Saint Paul's most overlooked neighborhoods, and doubly so because it's centrally located.

Roughly speaking, the North End is the area north of train tracks that define downtown and Frogtown, but West of the Trout Brook valley (and Interstate 35) that defines the East Side. It's home to the city's oldest cemeteries, that once lay along the Saint Paul's borders.

For a hundred years, the North End has been a working class neighborhood, tough but fair, full of light industrial shops pushed up against hand-built hundred-year-old houses. The houses becomes fancier as you approach the Victorian parkland surrounding Lake Como, before turning into cozy 1940s-era homes in the neighborhoods to the North. Walking around the Lake offers an an unparalleled slice of Saint Paul.

I lived in the North End for seven years, and know the terrain. When I moved there in the early 2000s, there were still a bunch of old dive bars in the neighborhood, tucked on corners. Twelve years later, some of them are gone, and one of them has become a bit fancier. But a few of them have remained almost entirely unchanged, despite the tough economic times. They're all interesting, even the sites of dives gone by.

Note: We will not be stopping at any dive bars on Rice Street, which might seem strange because Rice Street, the commercial heart of the North End, is also one of Saint Paul's two or three old streetcar streets that remains chock full of dive bars. But this is by design. Rice Street will be the subject of an extra-special tour, possibly sometime in the fall.

The tour will include stories of fire, neglect, cemeteries, movie stars, parking on sidewalks, a short prostitution anecdote, underground bocce, a unique charitable gambling setup, square dancing reminiscence, a hypothesis featuring postal workers, and more!

Hope to see you then.

[Zoltar and a stamp machine offer everything you need.]

What: A relaxed-pace six-mile (6 mi.) bike ride including four (4) current and three (3) former dive bars in Saint Paul's North End neighborhood
When: Thursday July 21st, leaving at 6:30
Why: Because it's there
Where: Meet at Hoover's Pub on Jackson Street
Who: Anyone -- free of charge, tips appreciated

[Facebook invite here.]
[The Half Time Rec on Front Avenue, with a cemetery on the horizon.]
[Read about other dive bar tours here: Payne and ArcadeOuter Northeast, Inner Northeast, The MidwaySouth Minneapolis, and Old Fort Road.]

Re-Re-Re-Blog: Fireworks Are What Cities Feel Like

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 07/01/2016 - 12:14pm
You can't explain fireworks. There's something deep about how they mesmerize, about how a hundred exploding lights in the sky enthrall. It's that same feeling you have watching a campfire, but exploded outward so the campfire becomes the entire big bang universe. Somehow giant booming lights streaking through the dark sky never gets old.

Well, this much we know. The mysterious appeal of explosions and power and fire and light. But there's something else that I really like about fireworks. I love how they light up their neighborhoods.

Fireworks quite literally bring people together. They surprise you. You stop and wonder and stare. The boom reminds you that you share your city with so many others in so many homes with so many festivals and ballgames and holidays.

Fireworks startle and rush and people creep like zombies from their houses, drifting about in search of a good precipice. They're equal opportunity, the most democratic language. You don't need any cultural literacy in order to enjoy them. You don't need any books to understand them. And the whole neighborhood comes together for free entertainment.

Fireworks are always local. You can't watch them on TV. You can't download them. The only way is to get out on your feet and walk down to the very center of town to join the crowd of people. Everyone rings around the water or roosts on rooftops or balances on balconies or bridges or bluffs and all of a sudden we all look up and for a half an hour time seems to slow to a crawl and our minds normally overstuffed with worries and pressures and lists to do turn off and our child eyes take over, and no matter how old there's that gentle feeling of awe and joy wrapped in togetherness, the whole town lit by the glow of something both impossibly large and intimate, one of the very few things in our instant magic media age where you actually “had to be there.”

Bang! and then they're over. The echo rings your ears. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air and the yellow smoke slides along the street, slow drifting along the tops of houses and everyone gets up off their chairs and blankets and off the grass and slowly sinks back into homes and cars and wherever they came from.

But when you shut your eyes there is still that faint image of light, that far away sense of being together, the memory of a feeling just beyond words, something living all around you like a city.




[No photo will ever capture the feeling of a firework.]

PS:
Midway Stadium, R.I.P.

Saint Paul in 1989 Revisited

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 06/30/2016 - 12:55pm
[The 1989 Downtown Saint Paul landscape.]
Here's an illustration that I found in my dad's wall-hanging collection, an illustration of downtown Saint Paul from 1989 drawn by an artist named Sheryl Alex Getman. It's fun to look back at what downtown was like 25 years ago.

It's full of some amazing retro stuff like this:

[Some cool stuff from the center of the illustration.]
What's happened to 1989 Saint Paul? What's there, what's gone now? 

Here's my best attempt to figure that out. Please post corrections in the comments. You can expand the full image but I've also put in a few close-ups.

Close-up of the top left quadrant:



Close-up of the bottom right quadrant:


Twin City Doorways #25

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 06/29/2016 - 11:03am
 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]
[Downtown, Saint Paul.]
[Lowertown, Saint Paul.]
 [Frogtown, Saint Paul.]
[West Bank, Minneapolis.]
[Downtown, Saint Paul.]
[Grand Avenue, Saint Paul.]
[Delano.]

Reading the Highland Villager #158

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 06/28/2016 - 1:50pm
[Highland Villagers out on the town in Longfellow.][Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.] 


Headline: Getting a handle on trash collection; Small haulers draft a plan for organized collection that maintains their market share
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: In an effort to prevent the organization of city garbage hauling, a group of garbage haulers are organizing. [Yep you read that right. It's kind of like the people sitting on the North Minneapolis greenway protesting the North Minneapolis greenway, or the "bicyclists against bicycling" advocates that seem to pop up from time to time.] Not everyone though. Article includes detail about public policy studies about organized trash collection and externalities. Garbage haulers are concerned about "one national hauler" [read "Waste Management"] getting the city-wide contract. [Pretty sure nobody in Saint Paul is advocating for that. This kind of reminds me of the liquor distributors against the very popular and sensical Sunday Sales policies, out of slippery slope fears that it will lead to other changes.]


Headline: City review of Midway stadium plan begins in earnest
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A soccer stadium is planned for a vacant lot and strip mall on a key corner. The process is rushed. There was a public hearing at the Planning Commission. [I was surprised how few people testified, to be honest. Only about 5 that weren't millionaires.] Lots of people want more details. Article quotes people who have been on a [largely symbolic] committee. The neighborhood group is forming a task force, and is concerned about "open space, pedestrian safety, design and density." Neighbors are concerned about construction noise and parking. Hearing included famous anti-government former politiican [and former anti-sidewalk poetry editorialist] who [rightly] claimed that stadiums do not catalyze economic development [very much]. Article quotes strip mall owner who claimed he would not make money unless he developed the land along the lines of the proposed plan.


Headline: Game for pro soccer; City officials say expected increases in traffic with stadium are manageable
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: While city staff and stadium planning consultants are concerned about traffic parking, the study also says that traffic and parking are solvable problems, though there might be gridlock in 2035 if all goes well. [And there might not. It all depends on transportation trends which could go many different directions locally, regionally, and globally.] Article quotes city planning head saying that the study confirms "the viability of a soccer stadium." The study called the AUAR is full of details, some of which are included in the article, such as the fact that 80% of the fans would have to get to the stadium in ways that are not private cars, including by shuttle bus. [I call this the "magic bus" theory.] People might have to wait to exit the stadium site area because of crowds. Some traffic signals will need to be changed to accommodate more cars. [The basic facts are that there these streets have been designed to handle large amounts of cars already, and because of induced demand will always be congested as long as they're free-flowing... if that makes sense to you. The other fact on the ground is that there is tons of parking on the ground in this area, which will become more valuable with the increased demand from developing this site. Meanwhile the land will also become more valuable. The final fact is that there is tons of transit here, more than anywhere outside of the two downtowns and maybe the Mall of America. It will work out, though I'm sure it will become harder to park in nearby neighborhoods some of the time. That was always going to be true in this area, however, and will be a basic fact of living in a desirable and walkable part of the city, which I hope this will become. I'm more worried about the too-narrow sidewalks, and the complete lack of North-South bike access. There needs to be high quality bike connections from the stadium site North across University to Charles, Minnehaha, and Como, and South across the Freeway to Marshall and Summit. That needs to happen along with the stadium construction, or else I fear that Saint Paul's dreams of millennial revolution made clear in the latest Adele video will come to naught.]


Headline: Meeting to address next steps in preparing Ford site for new use
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting at a church in Highland where the Ford Motor Company released its results of the environmental study which determines how developable the land of the old factory can be. The company was conducting an intensive and long study of existing pollution on the site, which can really shape the value and use of the land. [I have heard that the meeting was "very good news." Many people were worried that it would be too polluted and that the future developer would be unable to build residential on the site. But there was only one area that was too polluted for residential, but it's on the corner by the River Road and Ford Parkway, which is where plans called for commercial development anyway. If all goes well, there will be thousands of units of residential here along with good high quality transit of the Snelling/University type. The ETA on all of this is a ways off, though. Ford is going to clean up the site itself, instead of contracting it out to someone like the Port Authority. They won't be marketing it to a developer until later in 2017 at the earliest.]


Headline: City delays vote on accessory dwellings
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The council delayed its vote to approve ADUs for a week to let neighbors comment more and to review building codes. [I think they should loosen up requirements especially around external staircases. The idea is to make ADUs affordable enough so that some can actually be built.]


Headline: Zoning board OKs small expansion of 128 Café's parking lot
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A café on the ground floor of an older apartment by a University got a setback variance to expand its parking lot from 6 to 10 spaces. The street by the building will have bike lanes sometime later this summer or fall. The owner is concerned that people won't walk in the winter. [People will walk in the winter.] They also are seeking an on-sale liquor license. [Parking lots and liquor licenses, a match made in heaven.]


Headline: Resident-only parking in Merriam Park opened to others
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some areas of the city that where on-street parking is restricted to people with a sticker [but using rules which are very hard to enforce] are going to be changed to allow one-hour parking for people without a sticker [in ways that are impossible to enforce]. The street by the areas will have bike lanes sometime later this summer or fall. [The sooner the better. Let's rip off the band-aid, please!] Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. There was a discussion of whether Area 16 was or was not more congested than Area 17. [Hunger Games: Saint Paul.] A man with a disability will get a handicapped-parking sign.


Headline: City wrestles with ways to make Jefferson safer for pedestrians
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group is trying to get the city to improve safety on a [half-assed] bike boulevard in Saint Paul that runs past day care centers and schools. Ideas include painting a center line and "fog lines" [what are those?] and re-painting the sharrows. [This project, on Jefferson Avenue, is legendary for its half-assedness and political shenanigan levels, if you recall, eclipsing even the Cleveland Bike Lane situation in terms of Saint Paul craziness.] Article includes a brief history. Article quotes one resident saying :"the street isn't safe and traffic is moving way too fast." [I can confirm this from personal experience of course. Bicycle boulevards live and die by their traffic counts and speeds, and both here remain waaaaawaaaaaaay too high to make this the kind of project that it was intended to be. The only solution is to install a diverter at a key intersection like Jefferson and Hamline, like the ones they have on the Riverlake Greenway in Minneapolis at two or three key intersections. It might cost a few hundred thousands dollars but it might save lives and actually make this project start to barely live up to its initial vision. Anything less will be lipstick on a pig driving an SUV too fast next to a school.] Article mentions bright orange ["surrender"] flags According to the article, Public Works isn't interested in touching this with a ten foot pole.

Headline: CIB committee objects to selling public safety annex to developer; Says it doesn't fit longstanding plans for Pedro Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A committee that funds stuff got upset when city staff suggested selling a downtown building to a developer. The building had initially been slated for a public park as part of a land donation to the city. The park would cost a lot, and the building is worth a lot too. [There's a temporary park on the part of the site that was donated, a very cool public art project done at minimal budget.] The building is currently holding a "police annex." [... whatever that means. I don't know this seems like a chance for Saint Paul to be flexible, keep a cool already-half-existing park, make some money for the taxpayers, and increase density downtown. Just my reaction. People tend to really idolize open space in ways that aren't always helpful. I kind of like Flower Field as it is, though it could use a real budget to make it even better. Certainly though the decision should be made in the public eye and with some discussion.]


Headline: Norths contend liquor license delay could close curtain on Garden Theater
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A couple who are trying to restore an old theater on West 7th Street want a liquor license ASAP. Neighbors are concerned about parking and "patron problems." A bank loan vs. a 45-day waiting period is the main issue. Article quotes building owner: "I think that some of the neighbors will never be happy." [Well that's glum! Certainly true, unless you stop to think about the question "just what is happiness anyway?" Maybe some people are happiest when they're complaining about parking? So are they happy or not happy? That is the great noumenal question of parking-itself.]


Headline: For sale: Seven-room Highland school building on a 5.4-acre lot
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The school district is selling an old school that closed in the 70s. It will likely be mixed-use.


Headline: Cooks of Croscus Hill resolves dispute with fire inspectors
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A fancy cooking item store on Grand Avenue will not have to install a "fire suppression system" over the demonstration countertop that it's been using for many years.


Headline: Ramsey County Board will get 2.5% pay hike in 2017
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: It was a 4-2 vote, Huffman and Rettman voting against. They will make $90K.


Headline: St. Paul seeks state funds to rehab historic Lilydale bridge
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A small limestone bridge in a park by the river might get some state money to get fixed up.


Headline: Historic Randolph Ave. fire station to be for sale soon
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old semi-abandoned fire station from 1885 will be for sale. It might get "some level" of historic designation. [No, it's not the same old semi-abandoned fire station as the other one.]

Bonus:

This Highland Villager re-cap written to the dulcet tones of Verdi's opera Don Carlos.