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Up and Down are Relative

Australia is “down under”. But that’s only an artifact of where the ancient mapmakers lived. This view is equally valid in the geographic and astronomical senses:

Politcal map of the world with Australia at the top

H/T: Theo Spark


The Cost of Community Organizing

The Minneapolis Mirror does a little investigating and calculating of a northside neighborhood group:

The cost of having 3 staff for the Hawthorne Community Council is $183,852 or $61,284 each.

$61,284 divided by 1715 (actual working hours total) = $35.73/hr

So what did the residents of Hawthorne receive for their $35.73/hr on June 2nd 2010?


Imagineering for Central Avenue

The City of Minneapolis has an array of programs aimed at invigorating weak commercial districts. Central Avenue—mostly within the 55418—has been awarded its second subsidy under one of these initiatives, The Great Streets Program:

In 2007, the Minneapolis City Council approved the Great Streets Neighborhood Business District program, a coordinated effort to help businesses develop and succeed along commercial corridors and at commercial nodes throughout the city.

City resources are available for business loans, real estate development gap financing, and business district assistance such as façade improvement programs, market studies, and retail recruitment efforts.

It May Come, But They Do Not Ride

I observed the Northstar commuter rail service make its 4:40pm outbound stop at the Fridley station. I did not see anyone get off the train. There ten vehicles in the park-and-ride lot.

The locomotive was in the livery of FrontRunner, a commuter rail service in Utah. Perhaps there were no riders there, thus freeing a power unit to pull our empty trains.

Post Style: 

The Enemy Within

The greatest threat to any living organism or nation is not to recognize danger in time.

Quoted from: Benjamin Netanyahu

via Dr. Sanity

Post Style: 

Detroit Mayor Plans to Downsize City

Mayor Dave Bing deserves some credit for acknowledging economic reality:

The city plans to save some neighborhoods and encourage residents to move from others, he said.

"If we don't do it, you know this whole city is going to go down. I'm hopeful people will understand that," Bing said. "If we can incentivize some of those folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation."

"If they stay where they are I absolutely cannot give them all the services they require."

Cities exist because the benefits of having people close together outweigh the costs of crowding. In today’s Detroit, there is not so much crowding:


No Art for the Arts District

Our Mylar Mayor’s plan for $50,000 water spewers is bumping against budget realities:

The plan for the controversial $50,000 fountains would be pared from 10 fountains to six under a staff recommendation that's up for debate Monday by a City Council committee. That's after the city has made turtle-like progress in moving ahead with the program, for which Rybak proposed earmarking money back in 2007.

Activists Against History

Some Minneapolis activists held a protest march against a proposed commuter rail project. I imagine they normally love commuter rail, except when it interferes with their NIMBY utopia:

Organizers of the march warned that Hennepin County’s proposal to use a 13-acre parcel in Bryn Mawr for train storage would jeopardize long-term redevelopment plans for Bassett Creek Valley. The largely industrial valley west of Downtown is divided between Bryn Mawr and Harrison, and residents from both neighborhoods have contributed to a decade of redevelopment planning.

In February, the City Council is expected to consider a city staff recommendation to negotiate a sale of the parcel, known as Linden Yards East, to Hennepin County by the end of the year.

Park Expansion Higher Priority than Basic Services

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has authorized $400,000 in earnest money toward the purchase of a swath of Mississippi riverfront just north of downtown. A sale price will be negotiated in secret:

Peter Scherer [the seller] would not discuss specifics of the proposed sale price, but noted that the Minneapolis property has been appraised at more than $8 million.

Judd Rietkerk, park board planning director, said the purchase price will be made public once a purchase agreement has been signed, which could happen as soon as the end of this week. Until then, Rietkerk said he is keeping the figure confidential to avoid the prospect of another potential buyer swooping in with a higher bid.


The Green Economy Runs on Rails

Coyote has a great post about rail transport as an example of government foolishness:

High speed rail is a terrible investment, a black hole for pouring away money, that has little net impact on efficiency or pollution. But rail is a powerful example because it demonstrates exactly how this bias for high-profile triumphal projects causes people to miss the obvious.

The US rail system, unlike nearly every other system in the world, was built (mostly) by private individuals with private capital. It is operated privately, and runs without taxpayer subsidies. And, it is by far the greatest rail system in the world. It has by far the cheapest rates in the world (1/2 of China’s, 1/8 of Germany’s). But here is the real key:  it is almost all freight.

City-Funded Development a Necessary Failure

Minneapolis City Hall has recieved a partial repayment of loans made to a failed developer for a failed downtown retail project. The $29.4 million was:

a far cry from the more than $66 million the city once expected to collect in principal and interest on the three loans. Brookfield defaulted in 2002 on two loans involving the first phase of Gaviidae that included Saks, and the city took over the Saks property.

"This is an example where the public-private partnership has created something positive," said David Sternberg, who heads Brookfield's Minneapolis office.

“Positive” must have a different meaning in the subsidized development world:


Going Green in the Motor City

In summer, the ghosts of Detroit come alive:

Among the abandoned houses of Detroit, the lucky ones aren't burned completely or bulldozed, but allowed to be consumed by the foliage once meant to beautify them.

Overgrown house in Detroit MI

NRR’s previous excursion to the ghosts of Detroit

The Public Includes Everybody

Minneapolis government is about to vaporize 1.75 million dollars in the name of bicycle transportation:

The Minneapolis Bike Share Program will create the nation’s largest municipal bike-share system right here in Minneapolis. Plans call for a thousand bikes to be available in the areas of Downtown, Uptown, and the University of Minnesota campus.


Landlords Unite!

Neighborhood activists like to trumpet how they engage and empower communities. Quite often, in my experience, it’s a lie. The organizers hoard whatever power they can collect, shut out dissent, and still claim to be selfless representatives of the broader population. Over in Dinkytown, landlords have called the organizers’ bluff:


Shocking Ignorance

I first heard it from a landscape architect in a meeting about land use planning in the 55418. We were discussing the projected need for parking in commercial districts. The conclusion was that auto technology would evolve so that personal autos would always be a significant and vital means of transport, no matter the price of oil. As sort of an off-hand comment about electric cars, the architect said something like, “And I hear the cars will even sell power back to the electric company.”


Visions for Detroit

CNN has a pair of stories casting Detroit as a place of opportunity. First, Anderson Cooper reports housing has become so cheap that artists are finding they can afford to live there:


Ghosts of Detroit

Abandoned house in Detroit MI

(click picture to visit a Detroit photographer’s gallery of 100 Abandoned Houses)

Via: Maggie’s Farm

Temple of Knowledge Booby-trapped

The downtown Minneapolis Hennepin County library is attacking patrons again:

The Minneapolis Central Library has closed most of its Nicollet Mall entrance because of icicles forming and falling from the building’s distinctive “wing.”

Many people think the design of the building and wing is to blame, and someone should have foreseen this problem.


The Slogan for Our Age

When I hear buzzwords like sprawl and McMansion and hyperconsumption and unsustainability and so forth, they are universally used as pretexts to allow the author to hate his fellow citizens without seeming snobby. No one needs what I don't want is the slogan of the age.


New Suburbanism

Town planners are in the vanguard of the continued attack on our prosperous lifestyle. We are told our detached houses on large lots that extend ever-farther from the urban core are unsustainable. The auto dependency of such arrangements is killing both the planet and our underlying human social network.



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