Saint Paul Flag 2017 Update with Maps and Charts

[See also: 2016 Saint Paul Update with Maps and Charts, and all Saint Paul Flag content.]

[Saint Paul Flag and gopher pirate flag.]
Well, friends, 2017 was the biggest year yet for the Saint Paul Flag, that long-lost occasionally-maligned hard-to-find symbol of civic pride, DIY derring-do, and reform-minded stolidity. Thanks to the magic of flapping, an occasional symbolically-charged debate, sporting events, the incessant buzz of word-of-mouth, and a little bit of elbow grease, word of the Saint Paul flag has been spreading to the three corners of our fair city. From far and wide, people have been acquiring and occasionally putting on public display the red-yellow-and-blue ("the ol' cabin and wheel") of the Saint Paul flag.

Thanks to everyone who bought one, flew or flapped one, or spread the word about the metro's finest two-dimensional civic icon.

Updating my report from last year, I have complied some basic data about flag distribution and trends.

As you can see, there have been some big developments when it comes to geographic distribution of Saint Paul Flags.

The executive summary:
  • Ward 4 is still #1!
  • Ward 3 is on the rise!
  • Ward 2 shows continuing flag growth!
  • Saint Paul Flags are more popular than ever!

Full data visualization follows below.


Twin City Doorways #35

[Durand, WI.]

[Durand, WI.]

[Winnipeg, Manitoba.]

[West Como, Saint Paul.]

[Location forgotten.]





The Soup / Housing Metaphor

[Seventh in the highly unpopular "metaphor series." See also: New Orleans, Bicycling/DancingVikings stadium/Star Wars, bikes/guns, gas/pop, and NIMBY/Amtrak.]

[A booya.]
1. The soup is the entire region’s housing stock

Imagine you have just woken from a deep sleep. When you wake, it’s the middle of the morning, and you are a chef cooking a great pot of soup.

Imagine that you are in charge of the largest pot of soup you have ever seen, a pot to feed a crowd gathering in a vast room. You can tell that the people are very hungry, but your cauldron is very large, so you have hope. In a few hours the people must be fed, but the soup is before you in a huge iron cauldron, cooking on top of a giant fire. The soup is full of veggies (and/or delicious chunks of meat, depending on your dietary preferences). The soup stock is rich and tasty, and a savory smell wafts from its bubbling surface.

2. The cooking fire is the real estate market

You’re in charge of the stew, but surprisingly, you’re not in charge of the fire underneath the soup pot. Instead, the giant steaming cauldron sits on a great pile of wood and coals that have formed an impossibly hot, glowing bed of flame, flickering and gleaming in mesmerizing ways.

Meanwhile, all around you, a constantly changing energetic mix of people in sharp fashionable uniforms feed wood into the fire. They poke at it with long tongs, toss in new logs, and fan the flames. Your toes seem to be melting, yet they work at a frenzied pace that never ceases.

None of them seem speak your language, or at least, they ignore you whenever you speak. 

“The fire is fine! It’s hot enough! Leave it be!” you shout. 

One of the uniformed crew turns to you with a quizzical look. She hesitates for only a moment, before turning her back and retrieving another log for the roaring fire.

The fire gets hotter, and the stew madly boils.

3. Housing displacement is burning the bottom of the stew

The stew bubbling before you is thick and full of chunks, but they constantly sink to the bottom of the giant iron pot. The tender vegetables (and/or meat) end up resting on the bottom of the cauldron, but as the fire gets ever hotter, you smell burning. 

You imagine the bottom, the food burning into a blackening crust. With the fire growing hotter all the time, it happens more and more quickly.

4. Affordable housing policy is your giant wooden spoon

To stop the stew from burning, you stir the pot. You madly stir the pot.

The only problem? You don’t have the large wooden spatula that might be ideal for the job.

Instead, all you have is a thin wooden rod. It’s a thin stick, just long enough to reach the burning roux at the bottom of the stew, but only if you lean over the hot and steaming cauldron.

The bottom of the pot is burning. The thick stew and chunks keep burning. The smell won’t go away. It gets more intense with every passing minute. 

You grab your wooden rod, lean over the pot, and scrape the bottom again and again. You scrape it furiously in small and large circles, keeping the ingredients mixing, keeping the bottom of the pot from scalding into a black mess. 

You're failing. If only you had a better tool for the job, this would be so much easier.

5. New housing developments are the fresh food

The people are clearly hungry. You want there to be enough stew for everyone. The pot is huge, but so is the hungry crowd.

So you pour more ingredients into the stew. Behind you on a wooden platform, bags of fresh veggies are stacked. Carrots, potatoes, onions, celery (and maybe meat depending on your preferences). Every once in a while you take a break from stirring the pot, grab a bag, and pour it into the bubbling stew.

If you have time, on top of the new ingredients, you’ll add some new stock and thicken it up with some fresh gravy. But you don't have time.

6. Complicated governance is the other cooks and their recipes

As you cook the stew, you realize you’re not alone. At your left elbow, an intense woman closes in. With a serious face, she reaches out a thick arm, and adds spices and red onions into a part of the pot.

At your right elbow, a thin man appears and drops in some thyme and a big heap of pepper.

All around the stew pot, a dozen people are working around the brim. Each wears a special chef hat or color-coordinated witty apron. “New Hope Soup Squad.” “Edina Excellent Eaters.” Each of them treats a tiny portion of the soup pot as if it’s their own, adding spices but rarely anything more substantial.

Surprised, you make small talk.

“What are you doing?” you ask.

“Oh, this is an old family recipe. It was my grandmother’s favorite stew,” says the woman on your left, as adding a some sort of sauce into their part of the pot. She reaches into her apron pocket and pulls out a jar of salt, pouring it in.

“Actually, this is a low-sodium stew,” says the man on your right, stroking his beard. “Scientifically proven to be good for you. Believe me, I’ve been eating it for years and it’s kept me alive”

All around them a dozen people consult notebooks or talk to themselves, adding spices or garlic or different kinds of liquid. It’s all going into the same pot, but nobody seems to notice.

Meanwhile, you keep stirring with your puny wooden stick, failing to keep the bottom from burning over the intense fire.

7. The metro population are the hungry people

Behind you, the great room gets more crowded. You can tell, just from the sound of voices in the air, that people are hungry.

“When can we eat?” is the recurring refrain, spoken in a dozen languages.

You look up and see a family of five, a mother holding the hands of two of the children.  

“Just a bit longer, just wait a bit longer,” she says.

Next to her, a father bounces a baby up and down in his arms. Next to him, an old man quietly pounds his frail fist on a counter.

“I’ve been waiting here all day,” he says to nobody.

Next to him, an man in a hat chimes in.

“When I was a kid, you got your food right away, when you were hungry!” he agrees loudly.

The whole room is full of people.

“Excuse me, my child has not eaten since yesterday,” a quiet man says to you. “Can we get a little bit of soup while we wait?”

“I’m sorry,” you say. “That’s not allowed.”

The quiet man turns away.

There are dozens or hundreds or thousands of people in the room behind you, it’s hard to tell. They stand in groups or lean on the railing or camp out on the floor in the corner. A mother tucks a baby in the crook of her arm, and bounces up and down gently.

“Just a bit longer,” she says. “The soup’s almost done.”

A thousand voices fill the air. People seem patient, but you can feel the energy filling up the room, charging the spaces between the walls and coats and people.

All the while, more people are coming in through the big double doors along the far wall.

“Smells good,” says a man entering the room. “When do we eat?”

The folks who have been waiting look up. Some glare. Others return their gaze to their shoestrings.

8. Inequality is the soup line

You keep stirring, scraping and scraping the bottom of the pot with your thin stick. You manage to get a bit off each time, but you’re losing ground. There’s always more charred and burning chunks of vegetables and roux.

You stop and taste a bit of the stew. “Seems OK,” you say.

“I think it’s as good as it’ll get for now,” agrees the aproned woman to your left. “But it’s not like my grandmother made it. I don’t know what went wrong.”

“OK, let’s dish it out!” you say. Suddenly a group of people appears behind you. A team of uniformed men and women carry a big rack of bowls, spoons, and napkins. They must have been waiting for just this moment.

A woman with braids stands on a chair, and all at once the people in the room look up. She takes a deep breath and shouts in a clear, direct voice.


Along the wall, a door you didn’t see opens up. A new group of people appear, chatting and laughing with each other.

“Perfect,” says one of the new men man to the woman next to him. “I love the flavor, it’s such a deal.” 

“I don’t know, we had better soup last year," she says. “I remember when you’d get a much bigger bowl for the price.”

The people keep coming through the door, almost all of them white and well dressed. They line up and grab bowls from the table. You hear a murmuring mix of complaints and praise.

All around them, the others that have been waiting in the large room have quieted down. They watch the new line thinned lips.

“It’s OK honey, we’ll be up soon,” says the mom bouncing the baby.

The team with the bowls are using a large ladle, and each time they fill a bowl they scoop up a big helping of vegetables and spice in the broth. After about a half hour, the line starts to slow. Soon the pot is half the size.

The woman with braids gets back up on the chair.

“OK! LISTEN UP. ANYONE WITH A REGULAR TICKET, FORM A LINE TO THE LEFT.” The people seem to know what she is about to say.


The woman dismounts the chair, and makes a gesture to a young man a few feet away. He is standing by an easel along  the railing. On the easel is a big pad of paper, and flips the page to reveals a big letter “A”.

You stir the pot, as the fire roars by your feet. The soup is getting thinner, as each new bowl is filled with the vegetables (and maybe meat). It continues to burn.

You watch as a thousand people look down at once. Each is examining a piece of paper they are holding. Groans drift through the room, sinking into the floorboards. Feet shuffle.

An hour goes by. The soup is going fast. 

A hundred more people come into the room. They look hopeful.

"NOW SERVING THE LETTER C," shouts the woman.


Reading the Highland Villager #199

[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: Commission OKs plan for five-story apartment bldg. on Marshall Ave.; Neighbors say they will appeal the decision to the City Council
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the site plan for a new apartment building. It did not require any variances, rezoning, or conditional use permits. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, parking, students, and the character of the neighborhood. They will appeal the site plan decision to the City Council. Article includes details of the proposal and history of the homes that might be torn down. The neighborhood group disagreed with the city staff who recommended the site plan approval, due to its conformity with existing plans.  Some neighbors argue the existing homes have historic value that might make the designated for protection. [Speaking personally, as a member of the Zoning Committee, this was an open-and-shut case because the facts about its setbacks, height, and zoning were not challenged by any of the evidence. There were no good reasons to overturn the staff recommendation, which is why the case was approved unanimously by both the Zoning Committee and the full Planning Commission. I highly doubt the City Council will overturn the decision and set themselves up for legal action, because at least to my thinking, the legal grounds would be very shaky.]

Headline: St. Paul debates increase in minimum wage; Restaurant employees argue for the inclusion of tip credit
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city's minimum wage will probably go up. It might go up for everyone, or just everyone who does not work as tipped staff at a restaurant. There was a meeting at a bar where people talked about tips. CM Brendmoen used to wait tables and bartend. [That's why she's so good at taking crap from people without losing her sh*t.] Lots of people are talking about what happened in Minneapolis. People who work for tips have different opinions. Article includes data on wages and minimum wages in different places.

Headline: City still seeking manager of former Highland bathhouse
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: And old building in the golf course that used to be a bath house but has been abandoned is still abandoned. There is a group that wants it to be used for food or events. [Kind of like the wildly successful Como Dockside that just lost its vendor? J/k it actually is successful, if perhaps not wildly so.] The building went out of business in 1979 and the roof leaks It needs a lot of renovation. [Using it in a Tin Fish fashion is not a terrible idea, but it's not next to a lake or anything so I doubt it would have the same appeal. Perhaps a northern franchise of the Duluth Family Sauna?]

Headline: Board delays picking proposal to lease Highland reservoir
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version:There's some land that used to hold water on Snelling Avenue and nobody knows quite what to do with it yet. There are a lot of ideas, and the City and Mayor would like some say in what happens next. The City and County parks departments have separate ideas, but CM Tolbert want them to agree instead of disagreeing. [They are quite far apart, in that there's a wide gap between a "park" and a "parking lot," at least if you're not in Northeast Minneapolis.] CM Noecker wants to keep all options on the table. The Water Board is involved. [Who are they? Is it the same as the Soil and Water board, or is this a different board?] Quote from one guy on the Water Board: "There's no obligation that we do anything." [That's Saint Paul for ya! Boy this seems like quite the alleycat fight. I personally would go with either the Hy-Vee development or the recreation fields, depending on how people felt about groceries versus kids playing soccer.]

Headline: Safe Routes projects surface in Highland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There's a bit of money to help kids be safer when they go to and from school. For example, building sidewalks near schools. [Given the cliché that Highland is all about tradition and 1950s ideas about what community means, you'd think having kids be able to walk to school would be central to that vision. After all, those scenes are in every single Leave it to Beaver episode. Really every street in Highland should have sidewalks on both sides, and this includes streets next to golf courses or up hills, and it's hard to believe that neighbors are even having this conversation.]

Headline: Collaborative wants St. Paul to make preschool education available to all
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A group of people want to have city fund or help fund pre-K programs. CM Noecker says that "I think the stars are really aligning on this one." [Seems expensive but important! If only there were ways to raise money in policy-appropriate ways.]

Headline: St Paul invests $240K in staff training on mental health issues; Social worker will be hired to handle the public library's growing problem with homeless patrons
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [The library is one of the last remaining truly public spaces in the city, along with some parks, where people are allowed to be there even if they don't have homes. It's a critical service.] Quote from outgoing library director: "These are very difficult issues, we have to do something." There have been fights or other incidents at libraries, especially downtown. There will be a new smartphone app that police will use.

Headline: Area rec centers are recommended for capital improvements in '18-19; $3M budget finances 46 projects across St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is some money in the CIB (capital improvement budget) to pay for things. There were many more projects rejected than approved, but some of the non-rejected projects include electrical work, fire and security upgrades, a new roof for a rec center, and a new system for brining the streets. [To keep from using salt, which is a good thing.] Not approved were the new doors for the animal control facility. [So, the animals are escaping? The barn door's open and the horses are getting out? That is the only possible conclusion, cats and dogs running wild in the streets, etc.] Nothing is finalized yet.

Headline: St. Paul to update rules governing installation of large solar gardens
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There will be a meeting to see if the rules for solar projects will change. Solar tech is progressing quickly. People will probably be able to build community solar projects, with many people, instead of doing it all individually. One neighbor is worried about tall buildings blocking the sun. [Beacuse that is a huge problem in Saint Paul Manhattan.]

Headline: 'Unity' and 'Peace' emerge as favorite names for new park on Griggs Street
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People are trying to pick a name for a park being built in a vacant lot / parking lot behind a school. There was a vote, and the neighborhood group opted to go with Peace and Unity park as the names. [Design by committee.]

Headline: Work on The Capp expected to start soon at 46th & Hiawatha
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A large market-rate apartment building is being built with a grocery store in Minneapolis. [Not in Saint Paul.]

Headline: Site prepared for apartment complex in Mendota Heights
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Despite a lawsuit, a market-rate apartment building complex is being built in Mendota Heights by a freeway. [Not in Saint Paul.]

Headline: Hearing set on improvements to make Grand Avenue safer
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting to discuss a plan to add bumpouts and maybe medians to Grand Avenue to keep people from driving so quickly there and to help people cross the street. Funding is already in place.

Headline: Transformation continues for Midway Center, soccer stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Most of the strip mall is getting torn down and a soccer stadium is being constructed at University and Snelling. The bank has been demolished, but nobody knows if or when a building will be built in its place.The soccer team wants a sign variance.

Headline: Dixie's expansion plan to be topic of hearing on January 23
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A restaurant building on Grand Avenue might get larger and may or may not include a parking  lot and may or may not need a zoning change.


Noteworthy Dive Bars of Downtown Saint Paul Walking Tour, 1/25

The time has come once again to sally forth and wend our way through the streets of the city in search of the marginal.

This time, our gaze turns to the oldest part of the Twin City core, downtown Saint Paul, once home to the riverboats, gamblers, drunks, refugees, and traders who gave Pig's Eye its unsavory reputation.

Here's a quote to whet your appetite, describing (downtown) Saint Paul in 1846:

Almost every house is either a shop or a grocery [a euphemism for tavern] and certainly a grocery keeper cannot complain that he has had no patronage, for drinking whisky seems to occupy at least half the time of the worthy citizens of St Paul’s while the balance of their time is employed in cheating each other or imposing upon strangers.

Since it's very first days, downtown Saint Paul has been ground zero for booze and ill repute, a home for the homeless, a refuge for the shady. And yet, since Father Galtier first planted his boulder, built his church, and re-christened the city to honor of the saintly, downtown has proved a bitter contest. Old saloons have given way to the new offices, the swank hotels, the civilized parks. The downtown dives have moved around and replaced themselves, continually thorns in the sides of the realtors, the police, the building inspectors

Things are mostly different today, mostly "cleaned up" in today's downtown, with its heated real estate market and burgeoning craft culture. All the more reason to search for the dives, lost and found, forgotten and clinging on. We will walk less then two (2) miles, stopping along the way at four (4) actual bars and countless ghosts to experience the few remaining holes in the historic or modern walls of the center city.

Plus, it'll be the first day of winter carnival. We won't be going on the official "Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade", which ends at 6:15, but we'll be making our own version, trying to glean what the moon was like a century back, when dives were prolific in the streets of the city.

[A downtown Saint Paul saloon in 1910.]

What: Guided walking tour of dive bars of Saint Paul, past and present
When: Thursday 1/25, departing at 6:30
Where: Leaving from Kelly's Depot Bar
Who: Anyone of proper age and ability
Why: Because some of it is still there

See you then!

[The carpeted wall of the Hat Trick, decorated for Christmas.]


Sidewalk Poetry #56: Walking

Walking, I am listening
to a deeper way. Suddenly all my
ancestors are behind me.
Be still, they say. Watch and
listen. You are the result
of the love of thousands.

[Pincher, Oklahoma in the 1960s.]


Sidewalk Flotsam #7

 [Whiskey. Northeast, Minneapolis.]

 [Boot. Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]

 [Box of strawberries. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Pumpkin. West Side, Saint Paul.]

 [Paintbrush. West Side, Saint Paul.]

 [Box of rocks. West Side, Saint Paul.]

 [Fork in the road. Location forgotten. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Ramen. Northeast, Minneapolis.]


Reading the Highland Villager #198

[A cold Villager.]
[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: For sale: 144 acres of prime riverside property in heart of a metropolis: Ford Motor puts former assembly plant on market
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Huh. Why haven’t I heard about this before?] Apparently there’s a public hearing on zoning [for some reason?] on 1/17.

Headline: McNally Smith College closes; students complete semester with help of unpaid faculty
Author: Kasey McKee

Short short version: The music school closed without warning. Article includes details of how it all played out, and the email sent by the founders. Also includes some history of the school and some quotes about how much things were change and the progress that was made. Article includes story about how students were kicked out of their dorms with little notice. [The staff were screwed, yes, but the students were especially screwed. The two founders / owners, by the way, have not been seen around. There had been a plan to make the school a non-profit institution with a governing board. That was about to happen but hadn’t happened yet. Also, the building was originally sold to the school for $1 and $1.5M in city financing. Today the property is worth at least ten times that, I was told. Also the end of the fall semester is the worst time to close a school. Summer would have been much much better for all involved, and given people a chance to maybe “save” the school. This really stinks and there are some clear heroes and villains here. Hopefully we learn more about what happened, but regardless, an excellent piece of reporting in the Villager! You might even call it a scoop.]

Headline: Coleman bows out on night note; mayor leaves behind a more vibrant St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Chris Coleman is running for governor and isn’t mayor any more. Melvin Carter is mayor now. Article includes list of Coleman’s accomplishments during his 12 years, and also quotes.

Headline: City foresters will be cutting down 2,192 ash trees in 2018
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The trees are sick or will be sick and need to be cut down. Areas includes Highland, Summit-University, Merriam Park, and other places. It’s expensive, and will be on the regular property tax levy. People can treat the trees if they get a permit and pay for it themselves.

Headline: Site plan for Marshall-Moore apartments reviewed Jan. 4
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to build an apartment building on the site of two homes. No variances or conditional use permits are required. Neighbors are concerned about teardowns, the building’s size, noise, parking, and student behavior. [The site plan was approved unanimously.]

Headline: Developer drops plan to raze Iglehart homes amid public outcry
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer [same guy as above] had planned to tear down two homes to build an apartment building. Article includes lots of details about the two homes’ history, which are at least a hundred years old it seems. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, parking, historic preservation, and students.

Headline: Rezoning supported for Morning Star site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A church and its large parking lot will be rezoned to allow for a new building to be built that will have lots of apartments for old people and a new church space. Quote from developer: “we know resources are slim and want to do this without city assistance.” [That is quite the noble gesture, IMO.]

Headline: Committee set to review St. Kate’s plan to remove trees for new parking lot
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A university wants to cut down a bunch of trees to build a surface parking lot with 250 spaces.Neighbors are concerned about the loss of the woods. Quote from administrator: “I understand the controversy, nobody wants to see trees taken down.” [Apparently university administrators DO in fact want to see this, which is why they are doing it.] Another quote from the person: “we are all parked up.” [They should have a strong transportation demand management plan that encourages things besides “everyone drive”. This is basic university campus planning stuff.]

Headline: Public hearing set on noise exemption for soccer stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: the soccer team building the stadium wants to get an exception from the city’s noise limit ordinances.

Headline: Council is poised to increase tax on charitable gambling
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wants to raise the tax from 2.5 to 3%. Nobody spoke for or against it. We are talking about pull tabs here. [This is where my inner Republican comes out: keep yer damn hands off the pull tabs.] 

Headline: City Council awards $250,000 for revitalization of Rice Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: 250K in STAR and CIB funds are going for some improvements in the park. [Meanwhile they just cut down some trees in the park  to make a one-month-long ice palace.]

Headline: UPDC to vote on a name for new Griggs Street park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There’s a new park in an old parking / vacant lot  and it needs a name. Choices include: Peace Park, Midway Park, Mosaic Park, Unity Park, and Tiwahe Park, which means “family” in Dakota. [My vote is for Tiwahe; everything else here is super boring.] Article includes brief history of the park.

Headline: Changes proposed for St. Paul’s two-year CIB funding cycle
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city’s process for funding capital projects will be changed, probably, so that projects that are similar compete against each other. [See my old article on this.] Big city projects would be on a one year cycle, and smaller neighborhood projects would be on the other year. Lots have people have been working on the change for a while now. [What will the balance between these two budgets be?  Regardless, this seems like an overdue and welcome change to me.]

Headline: Food shelf serves ample portion of St. Catherine students in need
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: College students go to the food shelf for food. Quote from  organizer: “we’re realizing these students are taking on tremendous loans, find themselves in debt and having to work while being in school.” [But at least they have a shiny new parking lot. No new housing nearby, though.]


Signs of the Times #134

should get a
Speeding Ticket

[Sidewalk. Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]


[Window. West End, Saint Paul.]


[Window. South Minneapolis.]

Pretty Please

Parking for Sale

[Boulevard. Frogtown, Saint Paul.]

Special Only 

for 2day

[Boulevard. North End, Saint Paul.]

 Memorial Garden
Look for Plants

[Tree. St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis.]


[Barrel. East Side, Saint Paul.]


Eight Biggest Twin Cities Urban Mistakes of 2017

[Just like it was before, only more shiny.]
There are lots of reasons to celebrate 2017, good things that happened like the pair of short-but-sweet curb-separated bikeways in both downtowns, lots of new housing projects replacing parking lots or other urban marginalia, new transit plans, and pedestrian / sidewalk improvements galore.

But let’s have some fun and bash some stuff instead. I was brainstorming this list while on a walk the other day. Perhaps you have something to add?

Caveat on the rules here: “errors of omission” don’t count. You can’t say, for example, “Minneapolis didn’t get rid of all parking minimums” or “Saint Paul didn’t build a bike lane on X Street.” Let’s focus instead on things that were actually done (or killed) over the past year.

#8. Nicollet Mall re-opens with buses and without a skyway connection

Some might disagree here, but I think it’s a mistake to re-make Nicollet Mall as a transit hybrid instead of a people-centered place. The design doesn’t really fix the main problem with downtown Minneapolis, which is the so-called skyway paradox. (Key problem: the lack of doorways, shops, stores on the street.)

And keeping buses on the street prevents it from truly being a café-centered place, where people could enjoy sidewalks and car-free spaces without having the noise and pollution of an idling bus waiting at the ever-present stoplights.

#7. Plastic bag ban ban

The legislature made a lot of mistakes while it devolved into a junior high cafeteria food fight, but for some reason the one thing everyone could agree upon was a ban on bans of plastic bags. Yes, that’s right: pre-emption on behalf of the plastic bag lobby, of all things.

Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.

#6. Saint Paul’s abandonment of street fees

I still think Saint Paul should find a legal basis for charging street maintenance to non-profits and (state) government entities. Just throwing everything onto the property tax is a mistake, in my book.

#5. Killing the 4th Street Market District

One-lane 4th Street in downtown Saint Paul offers a golden opportunity to improve the streetscape, public spaces, and bike/walk access at almost no cost to the city. There was a study done to look at the options for transforming this marginal “street” into a useful bike/walk space.

Though it had support, it was quietly killed, I suspect at the behest of conservative downtown property owners.

#4. Half-assing the 38th Street bike lane

You can still park in it by the Fire Roast Café in the morning. Someone told me that the owner does this out of spite. Half-assing a bike lane is neither wise nor safe, and certainly not for an extra marginal parking space for a neighborhood coffee shop.

(The same thing happened on 40th Street by Chris and Rob's, IIRC.)

#3. Bus fare hike

Speaking of Metro Transit, raising the fares is not a wise nor morally defensible move. Every day I watch people dig for change to pay for the bus. This was a big tax on those who can least afford it, while we continue to subsidize the hell out of suburban riders, not to mention the mountains of taxpayer cash that go to reducing costs and congestion for those driving around in private cars.

#2. D-line de-listing

The aBRT plans are the single most effective and affordable transit investments on the table in the Twin Cities right now. The D-line is especially important, as it serves the poorest and most transit-dependent parts of Minnesota. This should have happened yesterday, and instead it's been demoted to "wish list" status.

(This might change, because I don't think the decision has been finalized.)

#1. Southwest LRT bid fiasco / wall thing

I don’t know what went on here, or here, but neither was good and both are terrible. The fact that this line continues to get delayed is just terrible news for a project that was already a mixed bag. This is quickly becoming an albatross for the Met Council, if it hasn’t already.

That’s all I could think of.

What did I miss? What’s on your list?

[Article is from 1987. See the rest at Magrino's Twitter.]


Two New Guide Booklets Now Available!

Hot off the presses, two new Guide Booklets are available for purchase.

The first is the long-awaited guide to Overlooked Parks of Saint Paul. Included within this 28-page booklet are a map, two essays involving notions of nature, historic information about Saint Paul's park development in particular, rumors, hazy photos, quotations or hearsay, atmospheric speculation, daydream transcriptions, and historical trivia about five (5) lesser known parks within the western reaches of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Featured parks: Hampden Park, Newell Park, Iris Park / Union Park, Merriam Park, and Desnoyer Park.

Booklet cover is full color featuring custom dive bar artwork by Kit Leffler. Inside pages are black-and-white.

It's based on a tour I did waaaaaay back in 2014 as part of the short-lived Pedalopolis efforts.

Check it out on the online store!

The second booklet is a guide to Noteworthy Dive Bars of Inner Northeast Minneapolis, the companion to the Noteworthy Dive bars of Outer Northeast Minneapolis. In this one, you will a map, an essay on karaoke, guidelines for dive bars, rumors, hazy photos, quotations or hearsay, atmospheric speculation, daydream transcriptions, and historical trivia about five (5) dive bars that line the edge of the historic dive district of Northeast Minneapolis.

Featured dive bars: the Northeast Palace, Jimmy's, the Knight Cap, the Spring Street Tavern, and the Vegas Lounge.

Booklet cover is in full color featuring custom dive bar artwork by Emily Parks, based on a mural at the Knight Cap bar. Inside pages are black-and-white.

This is based on the walking tour from May 2016 that ended in someone giving me a "buck" on a bike rack all the way from the Vegas to Jimmy's.

I am mailing these all out pronto, and I hope you like them.

Get yours today!

[They look great!]