Join me for a Screening and Discussion of "Demolition Dreaming" and Downtown Minneapolis History on November 11th

[People walking the Minneapolis sidewalks with the Metropolitan Building looming.]
I'm excited to be part of a panel discussion coming up that will focus on the history of the downtown Minneapolis "Gateway" area and the Metropolitan Building. Filmmaker and artist John Akre will be screening his film "Demolition Dreaming" over at the Traffic Zone gallery in Minneapolis' Warehouse District.

I wrote an article about Akre's film in Minnpost a while back, talking about its origins and what I think it says about Minneapolis' urban landscape.

[Razing buildings in the Gateway, 1953.]
Here's a highlight:
The plot of Akre’s film traces the story of a nameless Minneapolis sign painter who watched the Gateway’s massive stone buildings being constructed as a child, spent most of his life raising a family in the middle of the neighborhood, and ends his days living in a forgotten house on the edge of a northeast strip mall, dreaming of his lost past. The bulk of the film recounts the decade surrounding the Gateway’s demolition, telling tales of imaginary neighborhood characters like Stomps McGee, the Gateway barber, or Heavy Steve, a popular drifter with a regular room at a skid row flophouse. It’s framed as a flashback, narrated by the maybe-magical daughter of the old sign painter, a young girl who had disappeared into the walls of a condemned building to re-emerge as a modern-day librarian.
As Akre explains it, his story is intended to complicate the typical skid row image of the old Gateway.
“I’m not a historian, and my story isn’t based on historic research,” Akre said. “But all the stories of that area are the stories of the down and out men. That’s part of the story, but there were whole communities there too, in the rooming houses and the other people who lived there, people who supported that. There were many small businesses there. So I have a down and out itinerant worker who goes out on the rails and comes back, but I also have a barber and a whole family that runs one of those Gateway hotels.”

I'll be joined by a bunch of other Minneapolis urban architecture, planning, and history experts and this should be a great conversation about one of my favorite topics. Plust a rare chance to see a unique and compelling film about a forgotten slice of Minneapolis history.

What: Screening of "Demolition Dreaming" and panel discussion of Minneapolis' Gateway history
When: 11/11 6:30 to 8:30
Who: Anyone! Free of charge
Where: Traffic Zone Art Gallery (in the North Loop)
Why: Because it's not there

Hope to see you there!

[The Metropolitan Building on the left in the 1940s, and the same site today.]
[See also: Stuck with the Skyways, Finding Occupyable Public Space Ain't Easy!, Common Room Tour Recap, and Noteworthy Dive Bars of Downtown Minneapolis.]


Twin City Lamp Posts #10

 [State fairgrounds, Falcon Heights.]

 [State fairgrounds, Falcon Heights.]

 [Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]

[Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]

 [Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Red Wing.]

 [Red Wing.]
[Winnipeg, Manitoba.]


Signs of the Times #131


[Lake Street, Minneapolis.]


[Chain. West Side, Saint Paul.]


[Fence. Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis.]


[Window. Rice Street, Saint Paul.]


[Wall. River Falls, WI.]


[Yard. Seward, Minneapolis.]


[Sidewalk. Seward, Minneapolis.]


[Bus shelter. Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis.]


Twin City Message Boards #14

[Boston, MA.]



[Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]

[Location forgotten. Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis. [Ed. Duh! Thanks John!]]

[Memphis, TN.]

[New Orleans, LA.]

[New Orleans, LA.]


Reading the Highland Villager #192

[The last Villager in the skyway liquor store.]
[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: Council OKs Ford site plan despite deep divisions [Especially considering the mayoral stakes, a 5-2 vote is not that “deep”, considering even Bostom voted with the majority here.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved a zoning and public realm plan for the old car and truck factory after ten years of working on it. CMs Prince and Thao voted against. People talked a lot before they voted. [See last fortnight’s Villager re-cap for my fuller take on all of this.] Article includes lots of overview of the [long] debate over the issue, and the competing lawn signs. [Fact: Green YES signs have been taken down, while many / most red NO signs have remained in people’s yards.] Neighbors are concerned about traffic and apocalypse. Quote from testifier: “it almost feels like you’re taking our neighborhood away from us.” Article describes the CM Thao-sponsored affordable housing amendment, which passed.

Headline: City delays vote on restricting menthol tobacco stales
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council decided to lay over restrictions on menthol tobacco sales, with CM Prince voting against. [Curiously, she testified that the matter did not need “more process.”] CM Brendmoen wanted to have further study to make sure the restriction was done properly, and wouldn’t increase the number of “tobacco stores” [that are not regulated by this rule]. Article includes a picture of a guy buying Newports at Cooper’s. [A Villager first!]

Headline: City may let the air out of short-term bnb’s
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Council is going to put regulations on airBnB and other short term rentals. Article lists the terms of the policy, which will try to shape nuisance, taxes, and size of the regulations. BnB owners are concerned about unfair competition. [It passed.]

Headline: St. Paul to wrap up new regulations on carryout packaging
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Council was going to put regulations on non-recyclilable food packaging. [It did not.] Business people complained, while environmentalists really wanted the policy. [It did not pass. All hail the all-powerful food packaging and plastic bag lobby! If only the bicycle lobby was half as all-powerful…]

Headline: Davanni’s could lose use of St. Thomas lot
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A pizza place with a parking lot was leasing another parking lot but might not be able to for much longer. Neighbors want on-campus housing in the space where the parking lot is. [Some Grand Avenue parking meters could really help right here.] Neighbors are concerned about parking.

Headline: Property taxpayers will feel the pain with big gains in levies
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Taxes are going up and also property values are going up so that means that what you pay will go up even more because it is a combination of the two. [That is all I know about property taxes! See also this streets.mn piece.]

Headline: Apartments, commercial properties are facing double-digit tax hikes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [See above, only with bigger buildings.]

Headline: St. Paul continues review of organized trash collection
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: City staff are still herding [alley cats] garbage haulers. Maybe they will be done by November. [I am guessing the garbage people are hoping Goldstein gets elected or something, and they will not have to do what the City wants after all.]

Headline: City delays work until spring on Snelling Avenue medians
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City is still going to build medians on Snelling that will make it easier to cross the street, but not until Spring. There will be parking bays in three places. [These cost a lot.]

Headline: Zoning study of Marshall Ave. west of Hamline moves ahead
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is going to study zoning on Marshall Avenue. Some homes may be “architecturally significant.” CM Stark is sponsoring it,. Thee will also be a zoning moratorium that would “block any changes” in the xis blocks in question. [Check out this article in the Pioneer Press on the topic. This seems exactly like the Grand Avenue moratorium and subsequent zoning changes, sort of a restricting student housing playbook at this point.]

Headline: Bad Weather seeks sound level variance for Halloween party
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A brewery wants to have an outdoor event with music. Neighbors are concerned about noise. The brewery wants to have a DJ until 10pm.

Headline: City’s battle against ash borer aided with $1.5M state grant
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is getting some state money to cut down its ash trees. [In Celtic mythology the ash tree symbolizes healing and the well-being of children.]

Headline: Highland Village roadwork is about to get even noisier
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Ford Parkway is under construction and there will be milling, grinding, and jackhammering during the daytime.

Headline: Goodrich Avenue home saved from wrecking ball, for now
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A dilapidated but old house may or may not be torn down. Neighbors are concerned about the loss of historic properties.

Headline: Mendota Heights seeks name for new pedestrian underpass
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There’s a tunnel under the freeway in the suburbs now! Whoever names it will get a gift certificate to a nearby restaurant. [“Mendota depths?”]

Headline: Riverview advisory recommends modern streetcar line on West 7th
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The group that makes decisions about the Riverview transit project made a decision to go with a “locally preferred alternative” of having a modern streetcar that would go from downtown to the airport. [Key details: it may or may not go on Smith Avenue, may or may not go its own lane or in a shared lane depending, may or may not go on the CP rail spur, and will probably definitely go under the Fort Snelling in a tunnel-type thing.] There will be a public hearing. [If you go, please make suggestions about what the key details should look like.]


What Should We Make of Star Tribune Endorsements?

[The bike lobby takes on the newspapers.]
Sometime soon, the Star Tribune will start publishing its endorsements for mayor and city council. (The Pioneer Press, which has all the same issues mentioned here, did this last weekend.)

Here’s the thing that progressive Minneapolis voters should remember when reading these endorsements: the Star Tribune is now clearly a conservative, Republican-owned, Republican-leaning paper.

This challenges the paper’s reputation. I'm often out chatting with people, and occasionally a semi-talk-radio type will refer to it as "The Red Star", as if the Star Tribune is some sort of left-wing journalistic bastion.

(For the record, the star is clearly green.) 

Journalism fans, don't get me wrong! The Strib is a great paper. I am super-duper glad that it's thriving, and that so many good reporters are paid a decent wage (I hope!) to cover local, regional, and state stories and politics. We should not take that for granted, and especially in this age of media attrition. As a Saint Paulite, and someone who has watched our paper get "harvested" until almost every reporter is under the age of 25, I am extremely happy the Star Tribune has maintained its excellence seventeen years into the 21st century. 

(Maybe local ownership has something to do with that? I don't know. That's certainly NOT true for locally-owned KSTP.)

But the "rep" that the Star Tribune has built up over years as having a center-left editorial stance? That's not really the case any more.

Here's some evidence supporting my claim.

Who Owns the Strib?

[The owner of the Strib.]
The paper has had a long history of being more center than left. They endorsed Meg Tuthill in 2013 against DFL-endorsed Lisa Bender, for example. But they also endorsed Betsy Hodges, calling on her to do a few big things: support transit, follow through with her “Cradle-to-K Cabinet” proposal, and work for equity. They called for a “fully developed transit system, a birth-to-graduation emphasis on academic achievement for all youths, and housing and job opportunities for young and old, regardless of the color of their skin or the neighborhood in which they live.”

What changed?

Well, it’s important for everyone to know that in mid-2014, Glen Taylor bought the Star Tribune

Who is Glen Taylor? He’s a billionaire business owner, who made his fortune with the Fastenal company, a big Minnesota corporation that makes something to do with plastic shipping stuff. 

[Ed. Whoopsies! Something completely wrong in there. Turns out I was thinking about a different 80s Minnesota Republican, Bob Kierlin. Taylor Corp has something to do with printing, and is like the biggest company in Mankato.] (Dunno!)

Anyway, he also owns the Timberwolves and Lynx. And he’s also a former Republican state senator who served as Minority Leader of the Republican caucus in the 1980s. The rightward lurch of the paper post-2014 becomes clearer when you know who owns it.

The Strib loves stadium subsidies

[Totally not falling apart already!]
This sort of makes sense once you consider the fact that sports are one the few remaining cash cows in the media sphere. The Vikings stadium, which is still killing birds at the very same time that it's falling apart, is a great example.

Ironically enough, the one the thing that didn’t change when the Star Tribune was purchased by a billionaire sports team owner was the paper’s stance on subsidizing stadiums for privately-owned sports teams. The Star Tribune has supported that for years. They opined in favor of the Vikings stadium deal more than a few times

It’s clear that at least one of their motivations was that the Star Tribune itself stood to gain from the deal, as part of their land sale. And that’s exactly what happened

That’s not the only stadium subsidy the Strib has supported. They also thought that giving tax-exempt status to a new soccer stadium - part owned by Glen Taylor, of course - was a great idea in 2015. 

(Of course, the United stadium, which has no actual tax dollars invested in it, is a far better deal than the Vikings, Timberwolves, or even Twin stadium... But the point remains.)

The Strib’s pro-business stance is also anti-working class

[City Hall when it was new.]
The story that came out today about how the Downtown Council and Minneapolis business interests are trying hard to influence the City Council races is a great example of this point. Since Taylor bought the paper, the Star Tribune has come out against nearly every piece of progress for working people that the City has made in the last four years. In a Trump age, when cities are one of the only places where progressive policy can happen, that's a big deal. And on no set of issues is the Strib's editorial stance clearer than on Minneapolis' efforts to support working families.

Let's look at some examples. The paper came out hard against the local minimum wage. They advocated for watering down the minimum wage ordinance, if we had to have one. That included advocating for a tip penalty (which was, thankfully, not included in the final ordinance), and for the definition of “large business” to be 250 employees or more. (The definition the Council adopted was 100.) 

The Star Tribune editorial page then called on the Legislature to preempt all local action on wages and employees’ rights generally, to kill not just the City’s recent pro-worker ordinances but any it could adopt in the future. They vehemently opposed all aspects of the Working Families Agenda, including calling for the Fair Scheduling ordinance to be “buried.” They took a strong position against adopting the Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance which passed the Council unanimously.

And as with the correlation between direct financial benefit to the Star Tribune from the stadium deals its editorial board supports, it’s clear that at least some of their opposition to bettering the lives of Minneapolis workers stemmed directly from their own self-interest. Nowhere was this clearer than with the letter the Publisher and CEO sent opposing the Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance. It’s worth a read. They opposed an Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance because they don’t want to give sick and safe time benefits to their employees.

They’ve come out against a lot of other progress

[Tumblebags in Minneapolis: one of the city symbols.]
The list of conservative positions taken by the Star Tribune editorial board extends well beyond workplace policies. They’ve staked out conservative, “law and order” positions on public safety. They came out against repealing low-level “livability” crimes like “lurking” and spitting (this effort passed the Council 12-1). They publicly defended Mike Freeman’s decision not to charge the officers who killed Jamar Clark.

They took a mostly positive view of the purely symbolic move to cut the property tax levy in 2014, dubbed the “latte levy”, because it would save the average Minneapolis property taxpayer enough to buy one cup of coffee per year. They noted without comment that the levy reduction was accomplished by “cutting funds for a neighborhood organizing program, the city’s convention center, its new Clean Energy Initiative, a disparity study planned for the Civil Rights Department, and on counseling and outreach programs for new homeowners.” And the paper positively glowed about $1 million in new funding for Bob Kroll's MPD.

On the environment, their stances have called for the City to apply the brakes. “Proceed with caution” was their ambiguously unsupportive advice on single-use disposable bags. They were clearer about energy: Xcel and Centerpoint are fine, leave this issue alone. And when Council Members started the process to try to hold Wells Fargo accountable for supporting pipelines and taking advantage of customers, the Star Tribune predictably came to the big bank’s aid.

They have a pattern of supporting conservative candidates and positions

[A vote for Mills was a vote for Trump.]

The Star Tribune endorsed Republican Stuart Mills over Rick Nolan in 2014. Oh, and Republican John Kline. And Republicans Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen in 2016. If you think that Republican control of the House of Representatives is a good thing, than this shouldn't bother you... (Also, you should move to Wisconsin.)

And then there are the columnists. All of the above examples are of formal positions by the Star Tribune Editorial Board itself. There are also the regular columnists like Jon Tevlin, for example, who really likes criticizing bike lanes, and does it often. And need I even mention Katherine Kersten

(My own mother asked me about her the other day. I had to sigh audibly, and attempt to apologize for my favorite newspaper.)

Three key takeaways:

  1. This isn’t the Star Tribune you remember. Since it was purchased by wealthy Republican sports-team owner Glen Taylor, its positions have lurched to the right.

  1. The Star Tribune takes editorial opinions connected to the perceived economic best interest of the company itself and its owners. The clearest examples are the Vikings stadium deal and opposition to protections for their own employees.a [I updated and rephrased this a bit below.]
  1.  If you support any of the progress the City of Minneapolis has made over the last four years, you should know that the Star Tribune probably disagrees with you on that policy. More likely than not, they opposed it.


[Rybak, c. 1985, the downtown development reporter.]
Just wanted to clarify the second point there.  I feel like a lot of the editorial page position is loosely conservative, and supportive of a general pro-business, Downtown Council  / Chamber of Commerce / Minneapolis Club platform. It's literally conventional in the "convention center" sense of the term, the position of "civic booster" business Minneapolis. In old-school urban geography terms, this is called the "local growth coalition."

It used to be that wasn't a huge deal, as someone like R.T. Rybak perfectly illustrates. Former Star Tribune reporter becomes Downtown Council media guy becomes popular centrist liberal mayor. (And then pushes the Vikings stadium deal.) He's really the perfect example of how those three worlds and roles overlap and in many ways are sides of the same coin.

But these days, cities and city politics have become the new battle ground. The case in point is pre-emption bills, like the recent state plastic bag ban ban. (Surprisingly powerful lobby right there: the Progressive Bag Alliance.) That's the tip of a larger anti-urban power grab that, if the right-wing had their druthers, might ban just about every progressive urban movement.

Anyways... I saw this on Twitter and absolutely believe it:


Point is that the "interests of the paper" are almost always more vague than specific. The two recent exceptions were the actual ownership of the parking lot land next to the Vikings stadium, which was an obvious case of private interest, and the sick-time situation. But that aside, typically the "interests" are a lot less tangible, and more about reinforcing the interests of the city's general business class. In that way, it's almost exactly like the Chamber of Commerce. Thus the stance against sick time referenced above.

Then there's sports. The Star Tribune editorial board is and was always going to be in favor of a Vikings stadium and in fact every stadium because #1) it's the perfect local oriented pro-business subsidy, and #2) as I said, sports are pretty much the one revenue stream that local media has going for it that hasn't sort-of collapsed. E.g., if things continue as-is, the Pioneer Press will eventually just be a sports page, crossword puzzle, and the "bulletin board," with an occasional auto-generated Soucheray column ranting about straws on the top. Let's hope we can avoid that fate!

Join me at the East Side Freedom Library on November 10th for a Dive Bar Discussion and Reading

When I first discovered the East Side Freedom Library, as part of a Minnpost piece I was writing, I was pretty excited. It's a great re-use of a fantastic historic building, an impressive archive, and much-needed example of organizing across social and cultural divides.

While I was there, talking to the library's founder, Peter Rachleff, he mentioned he'd like to help have an event in honor of my Payne/Arcade Dive Bar booklet. Well, that day has finally arrived!

We're going to have the first ever Dive Bar Booklet Release Reading on November 10th at the Library. I'll give a short presentation on Twin Cities dive bars, some of the history of liquor and bars in the area, and focus on place of the East Side within this historical landscape.

I'll also do a quick reading of some of the booklet's better bits, and I am hoping for a lively Q&A at the end!

Best of all, we'll do a mini-recreation of the Payne/Arcade dive bar walking tour from a year ago. That turned out to be one of my favorite of all the dive bar tours, and I see no reason why we shouldn't head right back to the Arcade Bar after the library event for a beer.

I hope to see you there! This should be great fun.

Event promo:
Just what is a “dive bar”?

It’s hard to say, but you can be sure the East Side has a lot of them.

The great dive bar debate has no easy answers, but that hasn’t stopped local geography writer Bill Lindeke from publishing a guide booklet called Noteworthy Dive Bars of Payne and Arcade. In it, Lindeke defines a quintessential dive bar as “more than the sum of its parts, a compound of qualities that seem singly inconsequential but, when considered together, come together for better or worse, for a moment or an evening, as delicate as rare jazz.”

Join us for a reading and discussion of where East Side dive bars fall in the pantheon of the Twin Cities historical liquor landscape. Lindeke will share anecodtes about the history of booze and liquor laws in the Twin Cities, talk about why old bars represent a special place within our urban and social landscape, and share some of the best parts of his most recent booklet about Payne and Arcade Streets.

Following his presentation, Bill will lead willing participants on a short walking tour and some site visits.

Bill holds a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Minnesota and has been a frequent contributor to local historical studies and journals, such as MinnPost and streets.mn, and has taught at the University of Minnesota and Metropolitan State University.