29.10.05

mpls: "room to run"

Sometimes its nice to get some perspective. There's a few week old article in the New York Times magazine about corporately-owned development. The amount of money that's at stake is mindboggling:

You can see how it adds up in the end: the stealthy land acquisition, the aggressive legal positioning, the mandering street designs, the furiously gabled architecture, the fungible options and home facades, the demograhic targets -- an entire vertically integrated, highly methodological luxury system. Not long ago, Fortune magazine estimated that the company would make around $100 million on the Estates at Princeton Junction.

The article quotes some wonk named Robert Lang:

The Los Angeles metro area is not far behind [in becoming fully developed, or "built out."] Again, the distinction between these areas and Minneapolis or Phoenix -- "places that still have a lot of room to run," according to Lang -- is that not every field of wildflowers will be paved into parking lots or built into bungalows for empty nesters.

What does this even mean? When is Wirth Park going to be paved, again?

mpls: 2626 West Lake Street development

I was talking to someone from CARAG, the Calhoun NRP, and apparently the controversial Lander development has been rejected by the Planning Comission.

Go here to read what "urban warrior" Michael Lander's company has to say about it.

Here's the Southwest Journal article.

Apparently there are two issues. 1) building height. The proposed height is way over the 2.5 story height limits set by long-time policy. The Shore Overlay policy is meant to keep buildings from sticking over the treeline, and turning the lakes into "chicago-style waterfront," as the community member told me.

2) there' a problem with area coverage. In order to build it as currently planned, they'd have to take down a bunch of trees curently running between the street and the buildings.

It certainly seems like a vastly different setting than the 13-now-10 story Ackenberg condo on Lagoon Avenue... Like, for example, here there's a lake.

mpls: city elections rigged?

The City Pages blotter has a great bit with a secret source revealing the inside story of the new Ward map being used this year:

The source, who was not on the redistricting commission and spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirms the oft-repeated belief among critics of the redistricting: Namely that much of the shenanigans revolved around the DFL party wanting to gain an upper hand against what was then a burgeoning Green Party.

"The Dems wanted the Greens worked on," the source says.

G.R. Anderson continues:

Even so, the process in Minneapolis was twofold: 1) Ensure that the DFL stays in some kind of predominate power; and 2) Make everybody else skew to the right, poor communities of color be damned.

This kind of Tom Delay bullshit goes on all the time. Every state, every party. Of course, some places are better than others, and I would have thought that Minneapolis would be one of them.

Neighborhood groups should collectively demand changes to the city charter in forming the redistricting commission. Is anyone working on this?

mpls: Lake & Chicago global market

I should mention that someone told me that the federal government granted $700,000 in funding for a "global market" in the Lake Street Sears building.

I guess that's good.

stp: CVS turns its back on the street


The new CVS/pharmacy pharmacy on Snelling and University is almost open, and is as bad as expected. Community people complained at the time, when the design specifications came out, that the company was turning its back on the street.

As I recall, the neighborhood group wanted a door on University or Snelling, which happens to be not only the busiest bus stop in town, but where a light rail train is scheduled to go sometime in the far distant future.

I also remember hearing something about a "compromise" where the store agreed to make some changes, but clearly nothing really happened. There's a big brick wall where an entrance should be.

It's not as if companies can't design interesting, pedestrian friendly storefronts. THey can, and do, if they're forced into it.

The latest issue of New Urban News has this to say about a Walgreens in Ohio:

Unless a community has regulations requireing a change from the stock design, America's largest drugstore chain "won't go along." Developer Richard Erganian tried to use a version of Mastrian's [unique Ohio] design in Fresno, California, but Walgreens rejected it ther on the grounds of not wanting to set a precedent. For now, it appears that municipal codes and community resistance are the key to locally sensitive designs.

Maybe the new CVS is just trying to match the "bathroom tile" ugly across the street: the forsaken Spruce Tree Center...

mpls: big box archictecture

The latest issue of New Urban News also has a report Target's use of unorthodox architecture. Apparently the company has created a few dozen "unique" (on the outside) stores to be slotted into dense, urban areas. Specifically, the article mentions the Nicollet Mall store as an example of a corporate building fitting into its neighborhood.

They didn't mention the controversial nature of the store's funding, and how it was a big reason so many incumbents lost their jobs in the 2001 Mpls city elections.

Also, the article kind of buries this comment:

"In general Target is not doing these kinds of stores unless they have to, says Charles Bohl, director of the University of Miami's Knight Program in Community building ... They are building these stores where higher land costs and constrained sites in urban areas require it.

It sounds to me like they're just trying to make more money, and corner a market they haven't reached yet. If you ask me, big box retail is all alike. Why does everyone give Target a pass?

26.10.05

stp: Grand Avenue formula moratorium


Grand avenue made headlines a few weeks ago when Councilmember Dave Thune started publically advocating for a moratorium on new building permits on Grand Avenue, Saint Paul's most self-promotional main street. The recent debate centers around corporate development, and is particularly spurred by a number of new developments:

1) The mixed-use condo one block east of Grand and Lexington... it includes an outlet of bad-boy chain pharmacy CVS, right across the street from longtime neighborhood fixture Bober Drug. Will they survive? It’s doubtful.

2) An application for parking requirement exemption by Best Buy experiment in yuppie retail, EqLife, which moved into the vacated Bound To Be Read space at Grand and Victoria.

3) The closing of the bookstore formerly known as The Hungry Mind, which has been replaced by a Patagonia outlet.

With their proposal, Thune, along with the typically pro-business Summit Avenue Association, have set a new standard for Minnesotan up-to-dateness. They advocated for a moratorium on what is called "formula retail," that would theoretically run from Summit Hill to Ayd Mill Road.

At first glance, it seems like a proposal to end chain store development. It begs the question of what is and is not a chain. For example, is Kowalski's a chain, even though it's local? Is the Dunn Brothers coffee shop a chain, even though its the first store of its chain? No matter how you define it, separating formula retail from non-forumla retail seems difficult.

The PiPress said as much in an editorial:

We heard that neighbors of the Great Harvest bread store complained when "their" bakery relocated from Grand Avenue, even though Great Harvest is a chain with stores across the country. Kowalski's grocery is part of a locally owned chain, but seems to pass muster with the "no-chain stores" contingent. At what point does a cluster of stores with the same name become a chain? If a new zoning ordinance prohibited "chain" grocery stores, would that include Lunds, Byerlys and Kowalski's?

Arguments on the nature of chain stores become inconsistent. How can anyone argue that Restoration Hardware passes the chain smell test because its products are upscale, whereas a Radio Shack fails?

It's not the job of the Planning Commission and City Council to pass judgment on the quality of goods offered on Grand Avenue.

But, actually, Saint Paul is following in the footsteps of San Francisco. According to the latest issue of New Urban News, last year San Francisco initiated a series of formula retail laws. They involve a number of regulations:
A formula business is defined as one that has at least 11 locations (worldwide) and "maintains two or more of the following features: a standardized array of merchandise, a standardized facade, a standardized decor and color scheme, uniform apparel, standardized signage, a trademark or a servicemark."

This is one approach that concerned neighborhoods can take to limit the spread of chai stores. Alternately, can limit the size of new stores. The tourist town of Bristol, Rhode Island, limits each new chain store to a miximum of 2,500 sq. ft. and a width of 65 ft.

The issue is really that a neighborhood ought to be able to exert some control over what kinds of businesses move in. Whatever Grand Avenue decides to do, it had better act fast, before Caffe Latte turns into a Wal-Mart.

25.10.05

mpls: redistricting shenanigans

Let Tom Delay be the proof that the redistricting is one of the prime ways the political parties rig the election system. But the pitfalls of redistricting aren't just a federal problem. Drawing partisan boundary lines happens at the state and local levels, too, and the Democrats are probably just as guilty as the Republicans on this one.

For example, back in 1991 after the census, the DFL-controlled legislature passed a clearly-partisan redistricting plan that pitted a great many incumbent IR's against each other. At the time, the DFL electoral scientists (led young Rep. Rodosovich), correctly assumed that new Republican governor, Arne Carlson, would veto the plan, sending the task of redistricting to a vastly less-partisan judge.

But Carlson was fresh off the boat, and somehow one of his staff members was a day late in vetoing the redistricting plan. That night, realizing that their districting plan had gone through and become law, DFL'ers threw one hell of a party. It's safe to say that this one mistake, as much as any other one factor, led to the DFL maintaining their tenuous hold on the state house for as long as they did...

And at the local level, the current elections in the city of Minneapolis are all about redistricting. A multiple-party panel, consisting of three DFL'ers, three Republicans, two Independence Party members, and one Green, set the district boundaries back in 2002. Now we're seeing the results...

A recent City Pages article that somehow slipped by me says this:

"This race was determined the day ward boundaries were drawn," says Sean Wherley, Hayden's campaign manager, referring to the new city precinct maps that were approved in 2002. "One of the more striking things about it is that this is the first time [in 20 years] that a white person will represent what has become a 'majority-minority' ward."

It's increasingly evident that redistricting--by which Minneapolis redraws its ward boundaries every 10 years from census data--is the real "spoiler" story of the 2005 Minneapolis elections. The effects of redrawn boundaries in the Eighth Ward (one of two districts in the city where black voters have historically dominated at the polls) are subtle, but still smack of political shenanigans. In 1984, Sharon Sayles Belton, an African American, was elected to the Minneapolis City Council from the Eighth.The ward was teetering toward being one of the few areas of Minneapolis where whites were a minority. In 1993, Sayles Belton became the first black and first woman to be elected mayor of the city. Her successor in the Eighth Ward, Brian Herron, was also African American. Never before had Minneapolis seen such black representation in City Hall.

They're talking about Ward 8, where minority voters were diluted to the extent that they'll be represented by one of two white philanthropists... While that's not that bad per se, it reflects a continuing problem in the Democratic party: lack of minority engagement. As CP mentions, voter turnout in the minority sections of the ward were absolutely abysmal.

Other parts of the story:

1) 6th Ward Councilmember Dean Zimmermann was redistricted out of his ward, and into the Gary Schiff's 9th Ward. Coincidentally, the lead architect of the redistricting plan ran the unsuccessful campaign of Zimmermann's opponent in the '01 election. (Perhaps he had forgotten where Zimmermann lived?)

2) Natalie Johnson Lee's 5th Ward was packed. It was shifted northward, creating a conservative downtown (and Lake of the Isles) ward and an 80% minority Northside ward.

I guess these sorts of things are inevitable. There's always a trade-off between concentrating minorities to ensure representation, and diluting minority voices by reducing their presence in adjacent areas.

But the real shame of the redistricting issue is that it was decided by such an unrepresentative panel. Why should Green Party members get only one vote on the commission, when Republicans and Independence Party members (who probably represent less than 5% of Minneapolis voters) get five seats?

If the Green Party and minorities got hosed with the redistricting, there ought to be some sort of anti-DFL backlash in this election. And, from what I've seen reported on this issue, there won't be...

24.10.05

mpls: Franklin street calming channels Jekyl, Hyde

If you're after a lesson in street-scape management, drive down Franklin Avenue from Hiawatha to 35W. You'll see how much difference traffic calming can make to a dense urban street.

A few years ago, the city removed a lane of traffic, expanded the sidewalks, and threw in some flowerpots and streetlamps. This, plus the some TIF developement boosting $ at the corner of 11th Avenue S (the Franklin Bakery) and the Maria's Cafe building, have turned what used to be a drug mecca into a walkable (relatively safe) street.

Then, just after you hit Chicago Avenue, everything disappears. The street reverts back into a two-lane with narrow sidewalks, and the drivers immediately start behaving badly. For a good time, just sit there and experience the like tranformation from passive to aggressive, as the Minnesota nice become big-city assholes.

Does street calming help? Can it change a neighborhood, or does it merely follow in the wake of healthy businesses like the tail of a comet that goes past the Earth every 47 years?

Plus

The same thing is true in Saint Paul on Selby Ave. b/w the cathedral and Victoria Ave. The cathedral hill stretch is calmed, with bumpouts and newly paved walks. The rest of Selby, while still only one lane, has the wide feel of 60's street design. What do you think... does it make a difference?

Also plus

Yes, it's true that the Franklin Bakery busted their worker's union. Should that be allowed for a business getting city money? Well, any regulations ought to be uniformly applied. That business, unlike the Northside Cub Foods, the Nicollet Mall Target, or the downtown St Paul Marshall Fields, features street-level windows and urban design.

Even so, the city councils of both towns should establish a liveable wage ordinance for TIF recepients, pronto. What is urban revitalization for if it doesn't help the middle class?

mpls: 2nd ward city council

Today the strib endorsed Cam Gordon for Ward 2 City Councilmember, choosing the Green Party loyalist over DFL hopeful, Cara Letofsky. Gordon has his work cut out for him if he wants to beat the well-funded, well-organized, and hard-working Letofsky, but I think anyone who knows both of them will agree with the paper's editorial board on this one.

Gordon is the most articulate Green Party member in the city, and would serve his ward well if elected. Plus, he has taken an oath not to accept campaign contributions from real estate developers, which is no small statement in today's booming Minneapolis market.

As a "Green moderate," Gordon offers a departure from the DFL template that dominates City Hall. Gordon has a long history of civic service, a strong ethical sense and a collaborative personality.

DFLer Cara Letofsky has a stellar record in affordable housing and community development. Her views are similar to Gordon's. Our concern is that she would bring lock-step allegiance to unions and to the orthodox DFL line on a council that needs the flexibility and independent thinking that Gordon could deliver.


I saw both of them at a recent forum at the U of M, and policy-wise, there's not a whole lot separating Gordon from Letofsky. Both came out in favor of liveability issues, both are grassroots environmentalists. Like Lilligren and Zimmermann in the 6th, the main difference involves the party structure behind the candidates. While the appetite for city government reform might not be as strong as it was in 2001, if Gordon knocks on enough doors, and channels voter unease, he might win this race.

21.10.05

stp: phalen corridor opens up

I went for lunch the other day at Serlin’s CafĂ©, a classic restaurant on old Payne Avenue on Saint Paul’s East Side. Their pie is as good as ever, and I was talking with the one of the owner-family as I left about the any progress in improving the neighborhood. Right after I walked out the door, he came running out after me, and at first I thought I’d forgotten to pay or something.

“The street’s changing. It’s getting a lot more Mexican,” he said instead, and pointed to where an old community staple, a danish bakery, had become a mexican panderia.

I don’t think he had many people to talk to about ways to cope with the kinds of change happening on the East Side, because he really wanted to tell me about his perspective. Just next door, the man who owns the second-generation family-run Linoleum store had had his window smashed the week before by errant youths and errant bricks.

Crouched next to the Serlin’s man was the blue sidewalk PiPress box, touting above the fold the completion of the new Phalen Boulevard project. The brand new street runs past Payne Ave about twelve blocks away, at the bottom of the hill.

You article's disappeared into their archive, but some highlights:

After a decade of imagining, lobbying, politicking, fundraising, hand-wringing, negotiating and soul-searching, the middle (and last) stretch of the 2½-mile span will open Saturday to anything other than construction crews.

"This can change perceptions; it should change perceptions," says Brian Dahl, president of Capital Wood Products, a tenant of the Williams Hill Business Center, just off the boulevard's western end. Dahl grew up on the East Side, where much of his family still lives, and moved his business there in 2001.

The corridor's promise butts up against the area's past and present at the intersection of Phalen Boulevard and Payne Avenue. Just north of the crisp, brick townhomes under construction for senior living are blocks of modest restaurants, bedraggled storefronts, check-cashing and "We Buy Houses!" services and a handful of social service centers.

Among people disconnected from the corridor's formal process, it's hard to find anyone with a clear sense of how the corridor will affect longtime locals.

The “corridor,” a four lane 40 mph road running alongside the railroad tracks, is a far cry from the sort of walkable streetscape project that has been so instrumental in igniting development elsewhere in the TC. Payne Avenue would be perfect for one of those types of initiaves. But, because one of the main problems with the East Side is its remoteness, Phalen Blvd will help connect the neighborhood to downtown.

The true benefit of this kind of road, though, is the many small developments that come along with it. Hopefully, this will spur building along the previously empty industrial land along the railroad tracks. Hopefully the train tracks will cease being such a dramatic border between the wonderful, dense landscape of the Payne/Arcade area (it was built along the streetcar line in a classic case of Transit Oriented Development) and Dayton’s Bluff, which is doing much better than the rest of the near East Side in terms of retaining some of it’s middle-class (white) residents.

Actually, my dentist used to have an office on Payne Avenue... I always thought that was questionable...

Update

The strib chimes in…


18.10.05

strib: The New Coke moment

Yes, folks, New Coke is back, complete with the OTT ad campaign fanfare. This time, though, the less carbonated, sweetened, redesigned consumer good isn’t a soda pop at all, it’s a newpaper.

As the redesign guide will tell you, the changes at the strib go beyond the superficial. They’ve juggled some of the content, adding a “world” section, making most of the columns shorter, and adding internet-y leads and infographics.

I first heard mention of the redesign when ex-PiPress columnist Brian Lambert talked it down in his article in this months’ The Rake, which is fast becoming the premier venue for good local writing. In his lengthy scribble, Lambert rather unusually pillories the mainstream media for demanding excessive profit margins.


Even so, despite consistent-to-precipitous circulation and ratings declines, media empires like Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Viacom, GE, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation are still providing their shareholders with a satisfactory return on investment. To paraphrase Molly Ivins, their profit margins have been pushed from merely excessive to obscene. They are floating the margins in part by denuding their labor-intensive news operations to squeeze out more cash for shareholders, a form of self-cannibalism.
...

But [former Strib editor Tim] McGuire said, “I think Len is right. He’s also correct when he says one of the impediments to that adaptation is excessive newspaper profits. Len says fifteen percent profit margins would be plenty.” McGuire then added, “I do believe it is crucial that newspaper executives face up to the fact that they are milking their industry for profits and failing to invest in the long-term health of the news-gathering and the advertising franchise.” He mentioned The Vanishing Newspaper, a new book by Philip Meyer, in which the author describes the current corporate news media dynamic as one of “harvesting the assets.”

Talk all you want about Fox News and the current state of journalism, but Lambert is right on target. It’s the drive for profit that’s eating away at the mainstream media. The basic dilemma: muckraking is expensive; puppies, kittens and crime are cheap.

But, why mess with a good thing? I liked the Strib as it was, and I wasn’t alone. Amongst all the major dailies, I’m pretty sure the Strib was the only one to post recent circulation growth. (Despite the impending circulation padding accusations.) I was a big fan of the Op-Ex section, which has been annoyingly renamed “OpinionExchange.”

Why did a successful newspaper feel the need to remake their image? The answer they most often cite is that they’re trying to attract young readers.

My favorite local sports blogger and young reader, Aaron Gleeman, had this to say:

This broad subject is always in the back of my mind, but I began really thinking about it again once I saw the Star Tribune's re-design. It strikes me that the two things the newspaper business has focused their attention on of late are playing down the quality of non-traditional forms of media and re-designing their product in largely superficial ways.

In the Star Tribune's case they've changed the look of their paper, from the fonts and headlines to the pictures and sections. They've also added additional content, of course, but for the most part it is a re-shuffling of sorts. While I'm sure tons of money and man hours went into the paper's new look, in the end it is little more than putting a fresh coat of paint on a rusty car.

I don't read the Star Tribune because it looks good. I don't care what font they use, what size the headlines are, or how big the pictures of the columnists are next to their columns. I don't care if they fill each page with a whole bunch of boxes and sidebars or plaster gigantic, full-color pictures next to each article. In fact, the truth is that I barely read the Star Tribune at all.

The beauty of living in 2005 is that you can read whatever you want from wherever you want. The hold newspapers had on people is all but gone and no one has to settle for what falls on their doorstep each morning. Meanwhile, newspapers like the Star Tribune continue to think it is about something other than the content. You can re-design as much as you want and make the paper look like an extraordinary work of art, but you've still got to offer me something I want to read.

I just read Robert Putnam’s sociological groundbreaker Bowling Alone, and he talks about how newspaper readership trends are part of very broad, nationwide cultural change. Each consecutive generation feels more independent, and less publically oriented, than the one before. And each consecutive generation is less likely to read the newspaper.

However, many of the kids today do appreciate good writing. The free weeklies, The Onion, The Daily Show, and a thousand blogs all get young readership. If the strib really wanted to increase its relevance, they’d go in this direction, and start filling the page with more unusual, personal, and local stories.

Of course, they can’t really change their content, partly because of the dictates of corporate ownership, but also because of the journalists union. The Strib had an incident a few months ago where they sued McLatchy because the paper had published some sort of non-guild article. And, north of the border, journalists at the CBC just ended a months long strike where they'd protested against the encroaching presence of temporary and part-time employees.

Much as I support the unions generally, they’re standing in the way of making the mainstream media relevant to young readers. The Strib ought to branch out and start performing the service that many blogs perform: filtering information from diverse sources. That would mean granting column space to non-guild writers, increasing access for regular people, and publishing a lot more local, personal journalism.

The news business changes constantly. When radio first emerged during the 20’s, it saturated the country in a matter of years. TV did the same in the 50’s, and the only way the Strib is going to be the hub of news reporting twenty years from now is if their journalists open the door and let everyone else onto the page.


Update:

I just ran into a Strib reporter, and I was surprised to get a candid discussion of problems at the paper. Apparently the folks in the newsroom feel understaffed, which I guess is no surprise. S/he complained that the paper had just hired a new fashion reporter, and that s/he thinks they really skimp on local coverage. They've only got one person, Rochelle Olson, covering all the mpls elections. Let me tell you, with the complex, horizontal city structure, that's a tall order. And though she's doing a good job, the Strib's desire to cater to some abstract suburban ideal soccer mom type is a real problem for anyone who wants to see better quality writing in the newspaper.

11.10.05

mpls: 6th ward city council, and the need for decentralized power

I was at the Whittier Allaince meeting and city council candidate forum in Ward 6 last night, at the school complex at 26th and Grand Ave. S. The forum/debate between the two incumbents Robert Lilligren (DFL) and Dean Zimmermann (Green) was quite informative, and a study in contrasts. Both candidates handled themselves very well, as you’d expect from two progressive white councilmembers before a progressive white audience. However, from the get go they outlined some stylistic and philosophical differences. When asked to identify the most important issue, Zimmermann said global warming while Lilligren said crime. Other key splits:

  • the MPD’s STOP program -- Lilligren doesn’t like it, Zimmermann likes it
  • the 35W/Lake St. ramp expansion -- Lilligren says no way, Zimmermann had a crypic answer about the need for transit
  • the Franklin Ave. Wendy’s -- Lilligren says he coulda stopped it, Zimmermann says it was inevitable

Surpsingly, there was no mention of the FBI raid on Zimmermann’s house, though there was a rather awkward question about their respective relationships with notorious developer Basam Sabri.

---------------------------

All these things are rather minor. Instead, the real difference between these two candidates is that Lilligren is DFL, and Zimmermann belongs to the Green party. (In fact, that these two incumbents are running against each other is due to the decidedly shady redistricting plan from last year… ) While the issue of party dominance wasn’t mentioned in the forum, it did come up rather obliquely.

The Whittier neighborhood meeting kicked off with a controversy regarding access to the press. The Mpls Observer has a report on it, but there was a conflict surrounding the Whittier Alliance’s year-old policy banning recording of meetings. Local public radio station, KFAI, wanted to tape the forum for broadcast. Given the amount of public money involved and at stake, there's a rather convincing case for open access to neighborhood meetings.

Eventually, after a pair of speeches by Society of Professional Jouralists representative (and MPR reporter) Art Hughes and KFAI News Director Ann Alquist about the reasons for a free press, the two candidates involved agreed to be taped, and the Whittier people backed off their microphone ban.

This sort of power politics has become fairly common at the Neighborhood Group level, where the city NRP money is doled out. What’s concerns me about an incident like this is how much it resembles censorhip. Sure, there might be a matter of degree, but what’s the real difference between enforcing a microphone ban and the Bush campaign’s rigid control over the media? What’s the real difference between the Prospect Park Neighborhood Association’s rules forbidding dorm students from voting and Georgia’s recent strict I.D. requirements? For that matter, what’s the real difference between the DFL's last rediscricting plan and Tom Delay’s redistricting plan?

From what I saw and heard, the executive director of the Whittier Allaince, Marianne, didn’t feel comfortable making the decision on whether or not to allow the recording of the debate. She insisted on getting back to the reporters, and, I’m guessing now, went off to call somebody about enforcing the policy. Who did she call? Who's in charge?

Robert Lilligren made a big show out of his love for the “horizontal structure” of Minneapolis politics, which is infamously composed of many independent boards and organizations. He touted the importance of community involvement and grassroots access to the system.

However, if each of the various boards and groups are being told what to do by the Minneapolis DFL, then all these independent organizations are no more than window dressing. From what I’ve seen, most neighborhood meetings are attended by a small fraction of their communities (white, well-to-do). There's a real problem with minority involvement at the Neighborhood level.

At the very least, a vote for Zimmermann, or any of the Green candidates, puts some check on possible power politics by the Minneapolis DFL, and that was the real undercurrent of last night’s Ward 6 forum.

9.10.05

mpls: photo-cop flack

The strib had an article about how the three month-old photo-cop experiment (called "Stop on Red") is playing out on the streets.

This just in:

One source of frustration for drivers is that the ticket is issued to the first person listed on the title, said Brenda Langfellow, court operations manager for the violations bureau and hearing office. That can cause problems if the car has been sold but the title hasn't been transferred, or another family member is driving.

Langfellow also is concerned about cases where the driver does not speak English. She said she has been trying to get written materials in other languages.


This last seems not a bit stupid, considering that a few of the traffic cameras are placed right in the heart of ESL communities. I’m sure the myriad photo-cops in the U.K. are able to speak mutiple languages. How hard can it be to teach a computer to speak spanish? Is this another sign of the MPD’s allergy to multiculturalism?

Still, you have to give mpls props for putting this into effect. Now, if only they'd get rid of that damn speed trap on the Hennepin Avenue bridge...

8.10.05

Yet Another Blog

The purpose of this blog is to report what's happening on the Twin City streets. I'm primarily concerned with politics, urban infrastrucutre, media infrastructure, and neighborhood life here in the TC.

Our cities are changing fast. Are we getting enough information about how and why this development is happening?

Enjoy.

Wm