Reading the Highland Villager #141

[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: St. Paul nets Major League Soccer team with Midway stadium site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A soccer stadium will be built at Snelling and I-94 for the local soccer team, which will be upgraded to MLS status. Article includes quotes from the press conference. The stadium will cost $120 of private dollars. [And an open question about the public side of the ledger, depending on a lot of things like parking, roads, etc.] The Port Authority is involved [for some reason]. It requires legislative approval for the tax abatement and Federal Transit Administration approval for the land deal. The lease length is undetermined. There might be soil pollution. There will be an advisory committee of members of the public. The shopping center may be redeveloped. [We can only hope, though the underground bowling alley is kind of special to me, if problematic for its own reasons.]

Headline: Mac-Grove releases report on organized trash collection: Study indicates residents would be open to system under certain conditions
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Mac-Grove neighborhood group did a study about [the destructive practice of] non-organized trash collection in Saint Paul. They got a grant. There are laws and precedents for the city to organize trash hauling, which would, according to supporters, reduce costs and have fewer trucks in alleys. Others disagree citing the way that small businesses get "muscled out" by big or national companies. [Well, garbage collection is a famously mob-run activity, it's true.] CM Stark is a fan of the idea of organized trash collection. Article includes quotes. There was a survey about how people like saving money. There are 19 trash companies in the city. Article includes quote from a small one about how it would kill his business. Saint Paul used to have city-run trash collection 40 years ago. [I did not know that. Thanks Highland Villager! I've always been dumbfounded by the fact that Saint Paul cannot have organized trash collection. My #1 reason why it's a good idea has to do with street maintenance. Each garbage trucks weighs a crapload, and if you multiply all the extra trips by all the extra weight and do the math about how many more potholes and pavement destruction occur, I'd bet it's a pretty large number.] A CM in the late 90s tried to organize trash collection but the trash men stopped him.

Headline: Parking meter debate revs up on Grand; Anti-meter sentiments resound at packed meeting with mayor
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [There was a meeting. I transcribed the first half of it. Either there is a "parking problem" on Grand Avenue or there isn't. Apparently there isn't. Which is one reason why I'm expecting to hear no complaints about parking on Grand Avenue for the next decade. It's great, easy to park, and go ahead and build infill apartments or open new businesses because it's all just fine as it is. No parking complaints. Phew, what a relief!]

Headline:  St. Paul extends downtown meters along W. Seventh St.; Other meters, longer hours, higher rates during events also go in place this January
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is finally going to extend enforcement and raise rates for on-street parking downtown, especially during events. They are also expanding the meters into the very congested area along West 7th Street by the Xcel Center. [You know, by Cossetta's. This is about as much news coverage as parking meters should be worth, because they're not a big deal at all, simply a solution for how to make on-street parking as useful and efficient for businesses and residents as possible. Getting upset about parking meters is like getting upset about a thermostat. They're both very simple devices that provide feedback.]

Headline: Veteran pols of St. Paul STRONG seek return to the city's tradition of citizen participation
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: [Old people that used to be making decisions in the back room, but aren't any more, are now upset about the existence of back rooms. They have an acronymn. There is a list of "grievances" that is straight out of the Costanza family home at Festivus: some fair points, but mostly seem to be upset about parking and traffic. Also really dislike the mayor and stadia.]

Headline: Liquor licenses, TIF aid sought for Schmidt site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The tax-increment financing district at the old industrial site where Victoria Park is along West 7th will now be used for the Schmidt Brewery nearby. [Especially the rathskellar, I hope, which has just been sitting there but has a lot of potential to be a bona fide public place.] The city would also like to expand liquor licenses, because there's an [archaic, weird] system that limits licenses by Ward.

Headline: City considering lifting limits on restaurant liquor licenses
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City is reviewing an amendment to the charter that would exempt restaurants from the existing limits on liquor licenses, [allocated by ward]. Ward 3 [home of the Highland Villager] has the fewest.

Headline: Dispute over public sidewalk painting is laid over 'til spring
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The owner of a magic shop / headshop painted cute footprints on the sidewalk in front of his store but the city is charging him with vandalism. Owner says its street art. [What do I think? Um, I guess I'll have to check it out. Why not use chalk?] Someone once demanded a City art sidewalk poem  be removed from in front of their house. [I want to know where!]

Headline: City adopts new sanctions for owners of abandoned pools
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: If you abandon a swimming pool and it fills with garbage and kids fall into it, you can be cited. [Asking for a friend.]

Headline: Trees felled, bluff graded as Victoria Park is landscaped
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is making a big park on the site of the old oil storage facility along the river bluff. It involves cutting down trees. "I was flabbergasted," says one neighbor. There will be something called a "moist soil cell" which is like a wetland-related thing. [Could be where Ramsey County keeps their inmates now that the old jail is being demo'd.]

Headline: StuartCo is building 53 studio apartments off West 7th Street
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An apartment building is going up in a vacant lot in Highland Park. There's a lot of demand for studios, which apparently appeal to young people. [Article fails to mention traffic or parking.]

Headline: Clear skies ahead; Bad Weather Brewing brings spirit of seasons to West 7th
Author: Loren Green

Short short version: A new brewery has opened up at the base of the high bridge. "Parking has been a bone of contention." Apparently rules will be enforced by "police" who will issue something called "tickets." [Saint Paul is breaking new ground!] Best quote from the brewer: "We're not super into weather puns."

Headline: Icon of Ramsey Hill hospitality is reborn; After 30 years, Rupp reopens a restored Commodore restaurant
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Commodore [where Baudrillard once drank in Minneapolis] is open again. [I've already been. Very nice, and apps are affordable.] There are two articles on it, with tons of history details.

Headline: BZA grants variances for new Grand condo
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An apartment building that was denied approval by the Planning Commission because of concerns about size, traffic, and parking [even though its almost exactly the same size as the two older buildings on either side, and has off-street parking, unlike its historic neighbors] might be approved after all thanks to a vote by the Board of Zoning Appeals.


Six Outdoor Pop Machines

It’s not usual for these large metal machines to exist out of doors. They belong in beige hallways, airports, fluorescent cubicle nooks. But rarely somehow they escape, set up shop on the sidewalks to numbly lure passing strangers with Siren sugar. Let’s meet some of these rogue exposed mechanical pop purveyors.

 #1 - The Pepsi Machine on 35th Street

This one lurks outside a laundromat, as if guarding the back entrance. Nobody knows when it got out, but nobody has been able to talk it into going back in. As if it’s on an eternal smoke break, chatting with the rain gutter about how messed it got last weekend and how it plans on quitting its job at the laundromat ASAP.

In truth, it’s just an act. This pop machine is no rebel, and will be working at the South Minneapolis laundromat for years to come. And it’s not such a bad place to be, watching the traffic go by, hearing the bubble of Kingfield conversation, the sweet odor of drying clothes wafting by in the summertime.

It likes playing with the children. It enjoys the falling leaves in autumn. And in the wintertime, then the temperature outside is even colder than the temperature inside, it’s quite a relief to know that it can take it easy for a change.

#2 - The Pepsi Machine on Myrtle Avenue

This pop machine is punk as fuck. It’s not even sporting logos on its front. It just says COLD DRINKS like a boss, with some graffiti tattoo’d around its neck for good measure.

It hangs out on the edge of the Midway, in the apartments between the industrial buildings that nobody knows about unless they’re cool. Even the ivy covered walls are a little out of control, out of sight and out of mind.

This pop machine in a punk band, though of course it’s pop-punk, which is still too pop-py for a lot of people’s tastes. Songs like, “Coke sucks”, “Drink me”, “Cold inside”, and their biggest hit, “So many bubbles rising up,” the chorus of which is pretty addicting once it gets stuck inside your head.   

Sometimes this pop machine gets a little baked and starts talking about how beautiful flowers are for a long time. At that point, you’re better off just dumping out the rest of the can and finding something else to drink.

#3 - The four pop machines outside Widmer’s

These machines are old friends. They meet up every day on Saint Clair Avenue and hang out, passing time, sharing stories about real sugar or the days before aluminum. (Don’t even mention plastic bottles around these machines, or you’ll regret it. They can’t stop talking about it.)

These pop machines all went to high school together. They used to sing for fun, old pop songs of course, and they’re always talking about who’s driving down the street, who’s parking right now, and how the kids playing in the park across the street sure don’t look like they used to.

“For one thing, they’re so chubby! They need to get outside more often. When I was a young pop, we’d play all day.”

(If only they could connect the dots between their own unhealthy habits and the state of the world today.)

If you want to know the secret recipe, just hang out here for a few days.

#4 - The Pepsi machine off Front Avenue

This pop machine lost its job a long time go. “You’re obsolete,” they said, and pretty much left it for scrap in Saint Paul’s North End. It was looking for work for a while, but nobody was interested.

“Your buttons are too big,” they said. “Where’s your dollar bill slot?” they asked. 

Quarters work just fine, if you ask this pop machine.

These days, it hangs around an old house that it’s slowly fixing up, though “the city” keeps coming by to inspect whatever the hell it is they inspect. It likes listening to talk radio, often late into the night, just standing there in the entryway watching the sun go down over the railroad tracks.

Where’s that leak coming from? There’s nothing wrong with Pepsi. Who doesn’t like Pepsi?

#5 - The Coke and Pepsi machines on Wabasha

They say “opposites attract,” and these two have been married for years. They’re out there on the street just about every day, greeting people or trying to attract customers. They’re very nice, as far as it goes, but most people don’t even make eye contact, just stare down at the their shoes and shuffle South.

The problem is that tastes are changing, and pop just isn’t what it used to be. Nobody wants all that fake sweetness.

Late at night, it’s a bit different, when the wind blows along the blank walls downtown, whipping its invisible weight, these machines just stand there holding hands, staring off at the empty streets.

Occasionally a bedraggled individual reaches into their coin slot, just to check for quarters.

The next day they do it again, when the office workers appear and their buttons seem to light up refreshed. If only they sold coffee.

#6 - The pop machines on University

These pop machines had to raise their prices because of the Green Line. The peanut M&M machine doesn’t work any more. Everything’s going to hell.


TC Sidewalks Live: Packer Bars of Saint Paul Bike Tour

[A Vikings bar in Kentucky.]
First off, I'm not particularly fond of football. It's terribly violent, promotes militaristic hierarchy, and has the worst stadiums. Like most sports, it's a mindless distraction.

Yet the good thing about football in particular, and sports in general, is that it provides easy access to connection, community, and shared affect of victory or defeat. And this is doubly so if you're an expatriate living far from home, a foreign land or new city.

Witness Louisville, Kentucky, where Gerstle's Place, a Vikings bar, thrives in a first ring suburb. Here's my friend Andy's description of a its origins:
I am referred to a fellow in a purple Santa Claus hat named Dan McGowan. McGowan has been involved with the Derby City Norsemen for many years. In the past, that's meant handing out gear, collecting donations for charity, and arranging fundraising raffles (though not meat raffles, surprisingly!). They’d brought in many Vikings over the years, including Carl Eller and Chuck Foreman. Dan was born in Owatonna – “I tell people here I’m also from the south, because I grew up south of the Twin Cities” – and came to Louisville by way of the Army and nearby Fort Knox. He points out the other Minnesotans in the room, and explains that in the global economy, there are in fact some obvious Minnesota-Kentucky connections I’d not considered: UPS’ hub is in Louisville, bringing in people from all over, and it’s also the home to a large Ford assembly plant. About half the room seems to be Minnesotans brought to Louisville by work.

There's a similar story from the slightly-above-average sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, an episode where one of the characters is plays an expatriate Minnesotan who gets homesick and hangs out at a New York City Vikings bar. The episode has a few good scenes of NYC Vikings fans cursing the name of Gary Anderson

Of course, like most coastal representations  of Minnesota, many details are off (e.g. Bemidji Pale Ale's, "Twin Cities" high fives). But the principle of the thing is sound! For an ex-pat, there's nothing like a hometown bar in a strange land. And more than anything else, football can bring ex-pats together.

[The Packers/Vikings state line is the only wholly contiguous allegiance fracture outside of New England.]

That brings us to the Green Bay Packers. I wish it was easy to forget that 'sconnies live among us, but it's not. Of all the nearby sports watersheds, the Packers are the closest to the Twin Cities. And Saint Paul, because it's closer to Wisconsin, has the greater number of Packer bars. (In other words, Saint Paul is the "Wisconsin" of the Twin Cities.)

To that end, we'll be stopping at three Saint Paul Packer bars during the Green Bay/Carolina game, meeting up before kickoff and wending through the city during the game.

Along the way, I'll tell you the "origin story" of the different Packer bars, and we can talk about rivalry, why football sucks, Aaron Rodgers, or anything else you like. We will witness strange Wisconsin camouflage and hear their wistful cheers. And we will watch the Packers (hopefully) defeat the Carolina Panthers.

What: Bicycle tour of three Saint Paul Packer bars
When: Sunday November 8th, 11:45 AM
Where: Tiffany's Sports Lounge in Highland Park
Distance: 7 miles
Why: To witness Packer fans in their non-native habitat

We'll meet up at Tiffany's, watch the kickoff and about a quarter of the game, head to Billy's for the middle, and end up at Gabe's for the inevitable Packer victory. Come along for all or part of the tour. Wear anything you like.

[Sconnies somehow in their element in Saint Paul.]


[Packer fans throwing a football in Saint Paul.]
Little known fact. Though I'm from Minnesota, I became an official Green Bay Packer fan many years back, after another playoff loss by the Vikings.

I thought about it for a long time. Here are the top 8 reasons to root for the Packers:

#8. Their season ticket waiting list.
#7. The Super Bowl trophy is named after their first coach.
#6. They don't have official cheerleaders.
#5. They're nicknamed after a working class profession, not an ethnicity, bird, or animal.
#4. They play in the smallest city of any major US sport: Green Bay, Wisconsin (pop 104,000).
#3. They play outside, which is hard-core and awesome.
#2. They are the only major US sports team to at least pretend to be community owned.
#1. They have actually won the Super Bowl. Multiple times.

Note that you don't have to be a Packer fan to come on this ride. I only ask that you be slightly intrigued by the concept of Saint Paul Packer bars. Feel free to gawk at the Wisconsin weirdness in all its glory.


Sidewalk Dogs #11

[Stockholm, Sweden.]

[28th Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Location forgotten.]

[Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]

[Location forgotten. 38th Street, Minneapolis.]

Twin City Bike Parking #18

[Seward, Minneapolis.]

[West Side, Saint Paul.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Seward?, Minneapolis.]

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Stadium Village, Minneapolis.]

[Stadium Village, Minneapolis.]

[West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]


Saint Paul Flags are so "IN" Right Now

Last year, I got my first Saint Paul flag. I'd never even knew that Saint Paul had a flag  of it until a friend of mine wrote a column about historical vexilolology in my town, and I grew intrigued. I had to get my hands on one.

The backstory of the Saint Paul flag is pretty sparse. There was a contest, and a St. Kate's student won with an above-average design Here's the official word on the flag, straight from the Mayor's office:

Saint Paul had a flag contest back in 1932 and Gladys Mittle was chosen as the winner of the best design of the Saint Paul flag on November 22, 1932. Her prize for the best design was $150.00. Gladys was an art student at the College of St. Kate’s.

[Presumably, one of these women is Gladys Mittle. Image from MNHS.]

[Some Saint Paul flag locations.]
Well, since I got my hands on my flag, and shared the wealth with a couple dozen other folks through a group order, the Saint Paul flag is sweeping the nation. (If by "nation" you mean the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, a.k.a. the "flag district", and/or the center field wall at the new Saints stadium.) I've even sold Saint Paul flags to folks in Minneapolis, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook. 

If you want one of your very own, now is your chance. There really isn't any other place to get them.
Large (3' x 5') = $50
Medium (2' x 3') = $36

Note: It's totally worth it; flags fly forever.

Please order by Paypal, specify your desired size.
(If absolutely necessary, I will take a check. Please email me...)

If you live in Saint Paul, I offer bicycle flag delivery to your address. Otherwise, you'll have to pick it up from me.

I'm going to finalize the order around November 9th, so please let me know before then! (Note: that leaves plenty of time before Christmas. The Saint Paul Flag makes an ideal holiday gift.)

[See also: The Case for the Saint Paul Flag.]

Here are some examples of the Saint Paul flag flying proud:

[Saint Paul flag in Minneapolis.]

[Saint Paul flag in an apartment.]

[Saint Paul flag in Hamline-Midway.]
[Saint Paul flag in the Midway.]

[Saint Paul flag on the East Side.]

[Saint Paul flag downtown.]

[Saint Paul flag in Lex-Ham.]

[Saint Paul flag on the wall at Mancinis.]

[Saint Paul flag in the West End.]

[Saint Paul flag over CHS field.]


Sidewalk Poetry #47: Coming Into New York

After Providence, Connecticut --
the green defiant landscape, unrelieved
except by ordered cities, smart and smug,
in spirit villages, too full of life
to be so called, to small to seem sincere.
And then like Death it comes upon us:
the plain of steaming trash, the tinge of brown
that colors now the trees and grass as thought
exposed to rays sent from the core of heat --
these are the signs we see in retrospect.
But we look up amazed and wonder that the green is gone out of our window, that
horizon on all sides is segmented
into so many tiny lines that we mistake it for the profile of a wooded
hill against the sky, or that as far
as mind can go are buildings, paving, streets.
The tall ones rise into the mist like gods
serene and watchful, yet we fear, for we
have witnessed from this train the struggle to
complexity: the leaf has turned to stone.

[Subway in the Bronx, 70s or 80s.]


The Best of the Mayor's Forum on Parking Meters

[Saint Paulites gathering to protest racism parking meters.]
 [Note: I have left this semi-rough transcript largely unedited and uneditorialized. Though they completely fail to capture the angry intensity of the room, hopefully the words speak for themselves.]

Mayor Chris Coleman: Welcome. I'm happy to talk about issues around Grand Avenue and the future of parking meters on Grand, or the lack thereof.

[cheering and clapping]

Mayor: [making calm down gesture] This meeting can go until 8:30. We can have that...

[some cheers and jeers] 

With the opportunity for people to weigh in and have a conversation. I respect that people's emotions are high but the more you all scream, the less people will have a chance to talk and have an opportunity for people to talk, if that's OK. We're going to start with three presentations: from GABA, the Summit Hill Association (SHA), and a rep from Transit for Livable Communities (TLC). We want to hear from people with different perspectives on this issue, so what I'd like to do before without further ado, is turn it over to the representative from the Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) for a presentation. Jon?


[People lined up to testify against fossil fuels parking meters.]
Jon Perrone, Executive Director of GABA: There's quite a few more people than I expected. As you all know, I'm not a great public speaker, so I'll apologize in the beginning.

This morning the members of GABA, SHA, their board of directors, and also residents of Summit Hill, met with Mayor Coleman and his staff to discuss the concerns raised regarding the proposed parking meters.

I wish I could say that this meeting went well, but it didn't. It was more of the same. They heard us but are not listening to to our concerns. It was the same excuses, with a few new ones added in. This is why we're having the problem with the city, now. City Hall has given us plenty of reasons, but none of them have ever checked out as to why meters are beneficial for businesses on Grand Avenue.

As soon as a business or resident starts using facts to support our opposition, their reasons change. When the meters were first proposed, it was stated that the meters were being done for the businesses, and that the businesses wanted them.

This was wrong. Once we started showing the data that 88% of businesses were recently polled opposed, they changed their reason.

The next reason stated was the at the meters were to help with turnover. This information came from a 2006 parking study.

Once we started to point out that the study was old, and that the facts of the study were inconclusive and that it was never determined by the members participating in the committee that the meters would help Grand Avenue, the reasons changed again.

[Shouts of "of course"]

Once it was turns to us [sic] from the City Council president Russ Starks [sic] was that the meters were to help with the budget. Now we believe this reason as its the only one that's been sticking.

[pause, fumbling with paper. big cheer from crowd]

The question we raise from this: Why are we taxing only one area of Saint Paul to make up for a city-wide budget problem?

[clapping, cheering]

The administration is spending money on pet projects like the Riverwalk or the renovation of the Palace Theater, or the soccer stadium that they'd like to get. We have a budget problem period.

Most recently the mayor said that this proposal would help fight greenhouse gases and pollution...

[loud groans, boos]

When this was mentioned, all of us started to laugh a little to be honest. But representing the businesses, we asked the mayor: How much do those jets you're flying on cost and pollute? Are the cars that are going to be removed from the Avenue going to make less of a difference than those trips you're taking to Germany, Japan, and France this year?

The only consistent reason for the parking meters is the 2016 budget. This is why the vote has to take place before the end of the year. This is why there's been no process. This is why we're all upset.

The $400K in net revenue that will come from the parking meters in 2016 is 1/7 of 100th of 1 percent of the overall [inaudible from clapping] and in my opinion is a cheap gimmick by Mayor Coleman and city leaders to help fix a much larger problem.

This issue has not only united the Summit Hill Association and its residents, the GABA and its members, it has also united several other business associations. [lists a few] All of them have come out in opposition because they fear they will be next.

[some more more about petitions, loud clapping]

On behalf of the GABA, its board, our businesses, and the community, I am asking the mayor, city staff, and City Council Members not to install meters on Grand. It is sending a very loud and clear message to the citizens and the city that they as elected officials think government knows best, and does not need to listen to the majority. It's also sending a loud and clear message to all the other neighborhoods who may be affected by the projects they're working on, such as the soccer stadium, that government officials do not listen. GABA is keeping all its options open as to stop the installation of the meters on grand avenue.

One more thing; today the city has been wasting taxpayer dollars today emailing people to get them out here to speak pro-meter.


I would like to point out one thing. We didn't need to do that.

[calls for shows of hands, etc. lynch mob vibe.]

Mayor: Now we'll hear from Mark, rep of SHA

Mark from Summit Hill Association (SHA): I'm here to speak on behalf of SHA and its members which include all the residents of Summit hill which are renters and home owners, prop owners, and business owners. I'm here on behalf of SHA not for myself.

When SHA learned about that the parking meter pilot project was going to be Grand Ave and only Grand Avenue, we decided we needed to take the temperature on this issue. So we held a meeting on Sept. 29th and had a turnout of 140 people, which pales by comparison to tonight, but we thought it was a good turnout.

The mood in the room was similar to tonight overwhelming opposition to meters. We did allow about 20 people to get up to speak, and they were unanimous in opposition. That's not to say the room did not have people in favor.

We received emails and people left comment cards, and the percentages were 82% opposed and 18% in favor, which exceeds Mayor Coleman's percentage int he last election, which was a landslide.

Afterward, we met as a board to decide what our response would be, so we took a vote and sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council to express overwhelming opposition to the parking meter proposal and frustration with the lack of transparency with the process.

On that issue, district councils have been around for 40 years, and the purpose of the district councils is to allow citizen participation in helping to shape Saint Paul  neighborhoods. The city and district councils are supposed to work in collaboration as partners. For example, if a business or homeowner wants a variance, they come to the SHA first and we take a vote, and forward that to the city.

That should have been the process here, where as a district council we take a vote. And that didn't happen and it was frustrating for us. We felt we should have been included but were excluded.


And assuming no representation by our elected officials. As long we're on the issue of transparency in the spirit of full disclosure, if someone were to ask me, I'd probably raise my hand and say, "ah, parking meters might not be such a bad thing."


I'm not here to speak for myself, I'm here to speak for the SHA, and on behalf of the SHA we're against parking meters and overwhelmingly against them, and we want our elected officials to hear that. Thank you.


Mayor Coleman: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Next we're going to hear from Barb Thoman from Transit for Livable Communities. I know that most of you don't agree with her position, but in the Saint Paul tradition, I would hope you listen to her with the same respect as you listened to the first two speakers, and give her a chance to explain some of the thinking behind it. Then I'm going to have a chance to say a few words. Then we'll open it up for conversation.

[Barb Thoman before a crowd of anti-poverty anti-parking meter advocates.]
Barb Thoman, former director of Transit for Livable Communities (TLC): Good evening. I guess I'm a brave soul, as a lot of you out there... I am the former Executive Director of Transit for Liveable Communities, and I'm also the author of a report entitled "the myth of free parking."

Like many of you I'm also a longtime resident of St Paul, and someone who shops and dines on Grand Avenue fairly often. I'm not here to defend the city's process for the pilot project, but I want to talk about the merits of paid parking, of metered parking.

In the last decade, there's been a great deal of study about the topic of metered parking, and the impacts of not charging for parking on communities. If you go to the website of the Transportation Research Board, or the American Planning Association, you will find dozens, if not hundreds of articles, about parking and its impacts on community. There's even a popular book by an author named Donald Shoup called "The High Cost of Free Parking."

And that's the topic that I'd like to address first. The curb parking along Grand Avenue, which is provided to drivers free of charge, isn't free. It's subsidized. The city incurs costs to build and repair that parking lane, to provide winter maintenance, to maintain the signage, and to enforce the parking requirements.

[loud shouts and murmurs from crowd. no no no, etc.]

Just a minute. I'd like to have my time. The vast majority of these costs are paid for with property taxes and the city's right of way assessment.


I just got my bill for $230 for next year for my right of way assessment. Neither of these revenue sources have anything to do with how much people drive, or how much they use on-street parking. So people who drive less, and car-pool, bike, and bus more often, pay the exact same amount as people who drive more and use on-street parking more frequently. That isn't fair.

[loud groans and boos]

There are also indirect costs of driving and parking. Vehicles cause traffic congestion, noise and air pollution. In the case of Grand Avenue, motorists access Grand Avenue using many of our collector streets -- Cretin, Cleveland, Lexington, and Dale -- and contribute to traffic and noise in many neighborhoods including mine. I live 3 houses off of Cretin, and 27,000 cars a day pass very close to my house.

[derisive laughter, murmurs]

Installing parking meters on Grand Avenue and other commercial corridors will help level the playing field and contribute directly to the costs of parking. Alternatives like taking the bus and biking, or sharing a ride with family and friends, will be more competitive options. Today with subsidized parking and bus fare at $2 round trip, there is an incentive to drive in our city. Grand Avenue has really good bus service with the 63 bus, and in our city we have good North-South connecting service on Dale and Cleveland and some service on Lexington. Starting in 2016, Snelling will be served with the best bus in the region.

People who can't get to Grand Avenue on bus or transit are going to pay for it. Grand Avenue has statewide appeal, similar to other commercial corridors in the region, and in other states where people pay to park: Uptown Minneapolis, Lake Street or Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis, Michigan Avenue in Chicago...

[loud gasps, boos, derisive laughter, more boos]

Most noteworthy are the number of places in California where a percentage of parking meter revenue is returned to the Commercial Corridor. In those cases, money is used to promote the district, plant trees, install sidewalks, install bike parking, and cover those costs that are priorities of the businesses. That concept is called a parking benefit district, and is something I believe should be considered if this proposed Grand Avenue pilot is considered. Thank you.

[People spending their evening fighting for affordable health care free parking.]
Mayor Coleman: Thank you. I appreciate everybody giving a chance to hear from her perspective. We have other city officials here, if there are are questions I can't answer. The fact of the matter is we've had many opportunities lot of emails and calls on this issue. I understand the concern. Let me just tell you a little bit about the process that led to this proposal.

First off, there have been no less than 8 studies since 1985 that have studies the issue of parking on Grand Avenue. In 2006, a study was conducted that identified some options and goals associated with managing traffic on Grand Avenue.

A couple things that were noted. Almost 70% of businesses identified parking on grand ave and the crowded parking on grand as specific problem. second, it was stated as a goal that one of the things that people wanted to see, was an increased use of alternatives to cars to go to Grand Avenue, to take buses, to bike, to walk, whatever it might be.

There was a stated desire to have people find alternative means to get to Grand Avenue. So if you were in a neighborhood where you were close enough to walk, you would choose that, as opposed to driving your car up there and parking on the street. Or if you had a opportunity to take the bus up, you would choose that route as opposed to driving there as well.

The third goal, I'm sure there were others, but this is the one that stuck out in my mind. And this has been a goal since I was a City Council member representing the Avenue, is to try to get employees of businesses to park further away so that those parking spots on Grand Avenue were freed up for customers. Very specifically, it was identified as a major problem that people would park on grand avenue work at a business all day long taking away a valuable spot for a customer, reducing the opportunity for people to come in and patronize businesses.

[loud murmurs from the crowd]

So one of the specific things ... [tries to quiet crowd] I'd like to have the opportunity to tell you why we got to this decision....

[more loud murmurs]

In spite of eight studies, in spite of all the people that have looked at this problem, no one has been willing to advance a specific way to deal with the challenges that we saw on Grand Avenue.

It's unfortunate that the Director said that people were laughing at the environmental impact of parking and the use of free parking, because the fact of the matter, and the very scientific evidence, is that there is a very direct and very dramatic cost of having people circling the block looking for a free parking space over and over and over again.

[groans, loud boos]

Barb referenced Donald Shoup's book, and you don't have to believe me on this...

[crowd boos]

This is an opportunity for people to take a look, and look at some of the reports that have been made. In 1935 the first parking meters were installed in Oklahoma City. When meters were installed, the businesses that benefited from that were looked at with envy, and surrounding businesses said, "we want parking meters."

That was the beginning of parking meters in this country and you go across the county and go to various cities of all shapes and size. I don't know if you didn't like Chicago, or Michigan Avenue... [referencing the mocking of Barb Thoman's earlier example.]

The fact of the matter is it doesn't have be a city the size of Chicago. It can be cities large and small, urban and rural, across the country in every way, shape, and form. The fact of the matter is parking meters have been looked as a way to solve a parking problem. They have been specifically identified

Take the example of Vail, which you can argue is different. Obviously its a unique town. Vail had a major parking problem, and so the city responded by building an expensive parking ramp.

[Lady next to me who has definitely gotten pissed off parking her car in Vail before, shouts loudly "It costs twenty bucks to park there!"]

It cost $1.25 a day to parking in the parking ramp in Vail, but no one was using it. And the reason no one was using it was that people would circle around and look for a free parking spot. So instead of paying $1.25 to park all day in Vail, they chose to continue to circle the block.

[loud boos]

The fact of the matter... it is true... but the fact of the matter is that when they started putting in parking meters their parking challenges were dramatically reduced. Their traffic problems were reduced.  I want people to understand that I'm not doing this simply, just to have a way of somehow making money...

[loud boos, derisive jeering]

There are better ways to do that if I wanted to. Specifically this proposal was advanced this year because of the developments downtown. There was a parking study conducted in Downtown. I'm not comparing downtown to Grand Avenue, but that was the conversation. One of things the study identified was that there were plenty of parking spaces but people weren't using them very efficiently.

Particularly, people that were parking for an extended period of time that should have been using the parking ramps downtown, were parking on the street, and as result of that, poorly managing traffic. The consequences of that was two-fold: one of them was, How do we deal with parking in downtown better and what are the budgetary implications of that?

I know people are upset that we're putting this into the general fund, and we can have a conversation about that. But the fact of the matter is I know that all of you, particularly if you live in Crocus Hill, have concerns about the rising costs of property taxes.

[some sporadic clapping]

I tried to be as cautious as I could to try to keep the property tax levy as low as I could. And to do it in such a way to have opportunities to collect money from people that are using city services in the city of Saint Paul, but that didn't necessarily have a stake in the game, as it were, because they weren't property tax payers.

Because we looked at every opportunity and everything we could, we were able to keep the property tax levy below 2% this year, which was a real challenge to do while continuing to maintain the quality of services we have -- parks, police, fire, and whatever -- it continues to be a challenge, and we continue to be pressed on it. We're continuing to look for different ways, so that we can not put all the burden of the challenges we have in our city on home owners and business owners in the form of property taxes.

So the conversation came up as we extended the conversation about parking ramps in downtown, someone mentioned the fact that there have been numerous studies about parking on Grand Avenue, and one the things we should look at is what would happen if we extended the parking district from downtown.

Now. other communities have begged for parking meters...

[groans, shouts]

I'm not sensing that you're begging for parking meters on Grand, but the fact of the matter is that other businesses that have had problems with traffic and problems with parking have asked for it and it has been successfully implemented. Parking meter strategies that have made a huge difference.

One of the things we hear is that installing parking meters would reduce the number of parking spots on Grand Avenue. If you put meters in, and define a spot, the loss will be minimal.

[groans, shouts]

I feel like I'm in a Republican debate. I'm just giving the evidence...

[shouts, boos]

The fact of the matter is, if you have a spot instead of turning over once or twice a day, it turns over four, five, or six times, that's four or five or six spots available because people aren't going in and parking their car and hanging out all day.

[Scattered shouts about time limits]

Some of them are two hours, some are 15 minutes... There's a whole patchwork quilt of how long you can park on the Avenue at different times. The fact of the matter is that enforcement alone, when I talk to people, they say, "I can't believe I got a parking ticket, I parked for 5 extra minutes."

Well, one of the things we can try coming out of this meeting, I will ask the police chief to enforce to the letter of the law parking on grand avenue, but..

[Cheers, though that last sentence seemed rather like a threat to me.]

As part of this conversation, we'll look at that whether its having the same effect as people circling the block constantly. etc.

Those are the conversations we will have. I appreciate having an opportunity.

[Mayor introduces the "rules" for the rest of the back-and-forth. I take the opportunity to get the hell out of there. As I leave, CM Thune says something about Cupcake. The crowd howls.]

[Young people getting their first political experience in the fight against unjust war parking meters.]


Reading the Highland Villager #140

[Highland Villager: Special Boomer Edition, comes with free parking protest flier.]
[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: Opposition grows over city's plan for parking meters on Grand Avenue
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article begins "time may be running out for those who are opposed to installing parking meters..." [which is kind of witty; if only they had a way to "buy" more time somehow, in small flexible increments]. There might be a vote on the 21st. There are signs and there was a meeting where "city officials were booed and hissed at times." [I like how in Minneapolis, they're having a big public push and debate over whether to have "fair scheduling," a $15/hour minimum wage, and paid sick leave for low-wage workers; and in Saint Paul, we have people hissing at parking meters.] Neighborhood groups are concerned about a lack of process. "A petition in support of the meters had 37 signatures." Quote from city official saying, "for 35 years we've looked at parking issues on Grand," and "there is no free parking; everyone who benefits from parking should pay for it." [I imagine myself going to tonight's public meeting with a sign saying, "THIS WHOLE CONVERSATION IS IDIOTIC," and to have folks come up to me thinking I'm agreeing them, only I'm not. Actually my sign would simply say: "PARKING METERS MAKE CENTS".] Most bizarre quote: "Others say they sometimes make multiple trips to Grand to shop in a single day and having to plug meter after meter would be a hassle." [There's an app for that. No, I'm serious; there is.] Mentioned in the very last paragraph: the city is extending hours and raising "event" prices for meters downtown. [The only silver lining of the Grand situation is that nobody is paying attention to the meters downtown, which are much more important. Also, the one talking point that I'm surprised I've never seen: the high cost of enforcement of existing parking rules on Grand. Parking meters were initially invented to make enforcement of time restrictions easier for cops. That's exactly what they'd be doing here.]

Headline: Other merchants also oppose parking meters
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [I can't even read this one. I'm telling my eyes to look at the page, commanding them with my brain to identify the letters and form them into words, but nothing seems to be working. I can't do it. They will not respond. I think I've reached some critical limit case of automobile intransigence. They just look like shapes, little black specks on the white page, the vague word BANK floating in a speckled sea of newsprint.]

Headline: Glut of recent street projects drives St. Paul to rethink process
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A lot of streets were and are under construction. Road construction planning might be rolled into the existing CIB process. Last year the mayor's office approved an emergency reconstruction plan for 20 arterial streets.  [That money came from the residential street fund, so neighborhoods are upset about that, IIRC.] Best quote: "The city has switched from using pea gravel and bituminous material to granite chips, which hold up longer." Time keeps on passing. Temporary repairs are time consuming and don't solve the problem. [Things fall apart. People are upset when roads aren't fixed; people are upset when roads are fixed; the earth spins ever on its axis; sic transit gloria.]

Headline: Property taxes on the rise in St. Paul; West End, downtown may see steepest increases
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Taxes will rise for some people, particularly those with money: schools, county, and city.

Headline: Randolph road work resumes in 2016; $7M project moves east of Syndicate St.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Even before construction on Randolph is done this year, the county is "already planning" construction on Randolph for next year. [The gall!] Some property owners are replacing their sewer pipes. There will be safer pedestrian ramps. The intersection at Lexington won't be widened, but a bus stop will be moved farther away [from the corner, where people want to go] and a turn lane will be added. Best quote: "long-buried remnants of the Randoph Avenue streetcar line will be unearthed along with the old brick pavers." Neighbors are concerned about traffic. Everything costs money.

Headline: Variance allows reuse of historic stone house
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: And old building made of limestone from the 1850s will be preserved, protected, and turned into a place serving beer.

Headline: Street sweeping begins, which means plowing is close behind
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking, into the future.

Headline: St. Paul police gear up for trial run of body cameras
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some cops will wear tiny cameras on their shirts.

Headline: Cleveland Ave. still in running for a north-south bike route
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [A task force, which I am on, which was formed to determine where the ideal route for a North-South bike route in the city's Southwestern quadrant should be, has been meeting.] There will be an "open house." Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.

Headline: Council approves funding to repair Irvine Avenue wall
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wil spend $800K to fix a retaining wall on Ramsey Hill.

Headline: St. Paul Public Schools prepares next Facilities Master Plan; District's most pressing space need appears to be middle schools
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Saint Paul schools need more money for their buildings. They are at 95% capacity.

Headline: City may lift limits on on-sale liquor licenses
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There has long been a limit on the number of restaurants in the "western third of Saint Paul" that could serve booze. Ward 4 only has 16; there will be a lottery. Because Champp's closed in Ward 3, which only has 7 licenses, lots of other businesses are clamoring to get their hands on it. CMs Tolbert and Stark would like to see restrictions eased. Apparently nobody is really upset about the idea.There's also a 60/40 rule on the books that some restaurants would like to see changed. [As long as Tommies are banned from all of these places, everything should be fine.]

Headline: St. Thomas drafting new master plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The University of St. Thomas is going to plan "every square foot of space on both campuses." Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.