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Minnesota’s Mill City, plus the Capital City, and the surrounding MSA.

2011 Looking Up. Or Down.

Local TV news has a story of economic optimism:

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, a trip to Mall of America showed empty stores and struggling businesses. This year, they’re packed with people ready to spend, even after the holidays.

The 2010 holiday season was the best since 2006. Shoppers spent $584 billion in the 50 days leading up to Christmas – up 5.5 percent from 2009. And economists believe the trend will continue into the new year.

Doing what Big Media does so well, the reporter interviews a handful of shoppers and store managers who say they’re seeing more traffic and more spending at the malls. But as I am so often reminded, the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.


Stuck on Stupid

Residents of Minneapolis are looking at a property tax increase approaching 20% next year.

The proposed tax increase is the city’s response to growing pension obligations, cuts to Local Government Aid (LGA) and recertification of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts that fund neighborhoods and pay Target Center debt. The hike is based on a 7.5-percent, $20 million levy increase, which translates to an actual tax increase of roughly 10 percent to 20 percent for most Minneapolis property owners.

As much a the Mayor and the City Council want to blame the State Legislature for not providing enough aid (LGA), this problem is the product of years of poor fiscal management.


Delusion and Denial in Powderhorn

A south Minneapolis neighborhood’s namesake park was the scene of two rapes last Wednesday:

The four boys in custody — two are 14, while the others are 15 and 16 — could face felony charges of robbery and criminal sexual conduct, though charges are still pending, [police spokesman] Garcia said.

The first assault occurred about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis. It began as a robbery and escalated to rape, according to police.

A mother was cross country skiing through the snowy park with her 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son when a group of juvenile males accosted them.

One had a handgun, police said.


Minneapolis Biking Sharing a Success

Much to my surprise, the first season of taxpayer-subsidized bike rental in Minneapolis did not result in massive theft and vandalism:

In Minneapolis, again, theft and vandalism simply haven’t materialized as problems. The operators expected to lose around ten percent of their bikes to crime in the first year, but so far, that figure has only turned out to be 0.3 percent.

With 700 bikes on the streets since June, said Dossett, only two bikes have disappeared. Vandalism has been minimal: There have been a few bikes that were graffitied, a few tires slashed, and one incident in which a motorist hit a bike-sharing station and shattered some glass.

Pickett’s Vote

From what I hear, the righties are giddy and frothing about their predicted victories tomorrow. I understand that this is the moment for enthusiasm to peak, riding the emotion to help carry all the voters to their polling places. But it strikes me as a perfect example of a flawed political system.

We’re rooting for teams, not ideas. And certainly not policy. Sure, there is value in doing something—anything—to inhibit the lefty steamroller. I think many of the people going to vote righty or TEA Party tomorrow genuinely believe they can stop the national collapse.

I say the battle is already lost. The righties are gearing up for their version of Pickett’s Charge:


The Root of the Crime Problem

This reflection on the crime problem in New Orleans is relevant to Minneapolis. At least some parts, anyway. And probably to a neighborhood near you.

A terrible, horrible crime occurs. The city gets up in arms. March on City Hall. Demand change. We're mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore! Editorials bray against the madness. Politicians bloviate. Time passes. Nothing changes.

When — and how — do we really change? When do we stop frantically looking for answers under the same sofa cushions we've looked under hundreds of times before? Schools. Playgrounds. Jobs.


Parks for Pensions

The Federal government is broke. Minnesota government and the City of Minneapolis can’t be broke in the same way because they lack the ability to run perpetual deficits. But I say they’re functionally broke because of their inability to set spending priorities. There’s always enough for fun projects. $30 million here, $7.7 million there, and yet there’s not enough money to keep up the roads or pay firefighters.

Anyone who works to provide a core government service is always first on the budget chopping block.


Rover’s Dream Denied

Another instance of the failed promise of a post-racial America under President Barry “The Mutt” Obama:

After an emotional meeting Thursday night where neighbors split along racial lines over whether an off-leash dog site should be built at Martin Luther King Memorial Park in south Minneapolis, the Park Board president said other options should be sought.

…much of the debate centered on whether the dog park would dishonor King, the slain civil rights leader.

It’s just an amenity in a City park, not a political statement. And dogs set the standard for judging each other not by the color of their fur, but by the content of their…um, “character”.


Local Bike Nut Meets the Real World

Censorship in the Name of Tolerance

A U.S. Judge has upheld an anti-gay activist’s right to participate in this weekend’s Gay Pride celebration in Minneapolis. Pride leases a downtown park as the center of their festival. They thought they should have exclusive control over who can be there. The Minneapolis Park Board, surprisingly, sided with the activist.

The Park Board figured that it is still a public park, and anyone who wants to be there should be allowed to show up. The activist, a Christian evangelist, had been a regular at Pride for a decade without causing a ruckus. Maybe his message wasn’t well received, but the gays did at least tolerate him. Now the gay community is getting more exclusive. According to their lawyer:


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?


Ellison to Face Primary Challenge from White

Barb Davis White has filed as a DFL candidate in CD5:

Barb Davis White campaign photoBy filing as a Democrat just moments before the deadline, Davis White set in motion the requirement for a primary election to determine whether or not Ellison will have the opportunity to be on the ballot in the general election this November. The primary, to be held in early August, will give Minnesota’s 5th district a choice of which Democratic candidate will be listed on the ballot, and Davis White’s belief is that it will be hers.


Minneapolis Ready to Launch Bike-Stealing Program

Minneapolis is ten days from launch its bike-sharing program, now branded Nice Ride. I called this to your attention about a year ago, noting that Paris was having some problems pedaling its way to utopia:

As it approaches its second anniversary, the Paris Vélib' bicycle-sharing program is proving as popular with thieves and vandals as it is with commuters.

Since the program started in July, 2007, 8,000 of the bicycles have been stolen, and nearly 1,400 people were arrested for Vélib' theft just last year.



The City Assessor is photographing every property in Minneapolis:

The purpose of this project is to help improve the overall quality and accuracy of property appraisals in Minneapolis and to allow the Assessor’s Office to fine tune its property data, by confirming property addresses and other information about the structure/s on a given property.

Additionally, these photographs will have a number of public safety purposes including:


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.

Pharaoh -> Caesar -> Obama -> Pawlenty -> Rybak

Arnold Kling goes Old Testament:

Pharoah created jobs for us. Moses led us away from those jobs. Even though those jobs helped to complete public infrastructure. Even though they were green jobs, where we used our muscles and our backs instead of fossil fuels.

Moses could have been part of the ruling class in Egypt. He chose freedom instead. Those of us who followed Moses also chose freedom. Freedom brings risks. But we preferred the risks of freedom to the security of bondage.

Do not confuse government with G-d. Government cannot miraculously provide us with manna--or health care. When we look at government, we should not see G-d. We should see Pharoah. Government-worship is Pharoah-worship.


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.

Football Special

As a service to local sports fans, the NRR offers an excursion analyzing the Minnesota Vikings loss to the New Orleans Saints:

The fumbles were infuriating, but they weren't the reason the Vikes lost. They were the reason the Vikes didn't win by 17.

The Saints played on a short field all game, and the Vikings fumbled away points. Favre played tough, and his last INT was set up by mistakes not made by him:


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.



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