Reading the Highland Villager #220

[A Villager underfoot.]
[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: City Council holds hearing on proposed $15 minimum wage on Nov. 7
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is going to have a meeting about how to raise the minimum wage. Some people want tip credits, others do not.

Headline: Ryan Cos.' Master plan for Ford site gets rave reviews
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The developer who bought the Ford site released some initial plans for the development. There was a meeting and people clapped. CM Tolbert is quoted: there's a lot for people to like." Two of the little league baseball fields that were there before will remain in the plans. Article includes a lot more details and renderings.

Headline: Dayton Presbyterian moving out of historic home; Smaller congregation can no longer maintain 130-year-old church
Author: Roger Barr

Short short version: A church on Dayton Avenue is moving because they do not have very many members any more. Article includes lots of history of the church, which dates to 1888, including its architects, etc. There used to be over 600 people there, and now there are not.

Headline: Korte's Windmer's to become Oxendale's
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two long-time independent grocery stores are being sold to a small local grocery chain. [This is fine. The local grocery near my apartment was bought by Oxendale's a few years ago and it's even better than it was before. They run a great business. I shop there all the time.] Widmer's opened in 1957. Article includes some history of these two unique groceries.

Headline: St. Paul allows accessory dwellings citywide
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: It is now possible to build an accessory dwelling units (ADUs) anywhere in the city now. CM Bostrom voted against, quoted saying: "the long-term unintended consequences are significant as we put additional dwelling units on single-family lots."

Headline: Petitions seeking repeal of organized trash system surpass 5,000 signatures
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is [finally] organizing trash companies into neighborhoods. There is a petition of people who do not like it that has about 5,000 names. [Article does not say what the next step would be, apart from verifying the names.]

Headline: Neighbors protest 11th-hour change to Marshall Avenue rezoning plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a City Council public hearing and vote about changes to the rezoning of Marshall Avenue. Neighbors were concerned about protecting historic homes and density. There was a meeting that was "heated", and some people called other people racist and/or objected to the use of the term. CM Nelson, who sponsored the new plan, is quoted: "the process was not fully inclusive." [The amended zoning plan passed the Council, 6-1.] Quote from the last paragraph about the hearing: "Planning commissioners Bill Lindeke and Adrian Perryman appeared at the City Council hearing to point out that the Planning Commission recommended the original Marshall Avenue rezoning plan on an extremely close vote, and that they support Nelson's amendments." [I did. TBH I was surprised that the original unamended plan did not have more support at the Commission, given all the staff time that and neighborhood process that had gone into it. I thought I would be one of the very few votes against the original zoning proposal, but it passed by only one vote.] 

Headline: UST survey says: Build student housing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a survey of people who live by the University of St Thomas. The results are in: people want students to live on campus.

Headline: Mount Curve repaving project runs up against winter deadline
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A street is getting repaved, but the water main might need to replaced and is being tested. There have been eight tests so far, and the water has still not passed the quality test. Quote from neighbor who has had to park on the street: "it's getting pretty tiresome."  Quote from water guy who does not know the problem: "there can be a lot of variables."


Twin City Doorways #42

 [Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [Plum City, WI.]

 [Cathedral Hill, Saint Paul.]

 [Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [Saint Clair Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Saint Clair Avenue, Saint Paul.] 
 [Summit Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Summit Avenue, Saint Paul.]


Sidewalk Closed Signs #13

[West Side, Saint Paul.] 

 [Lacrosse, WI.]

 [Location forgotten. West Side, Saint Paul]

 [Boston, MA.]

 [Boston, MA.]

 [Location forgotten.]

 [South Minneapolis.]

[Upper Landing, Saint Paul.]


Gas Pump Politics are a Sure Sign We are Screwed

[What fresh hell is this?]
Imagine if the cigarette industry had never been reined in. Imagine if "Surgeon General's" warnings had never been amplified into a more meaningful gesture -- SMOKING KILLS -- or had never even existed in the first place. Imagine if cigarette taxes had been fought and killed at every level politically, and, even worse, that cigarettes were subsidized and provided to the public at below market costs. Imagine if cigarette commercials were not banned from TV, but instead became an omnipresent, full of sexy images and catchy jingles at all hours of the day and night promoting smoking.

That's the infuriating reality we live in, only cars are the new tobacco.

Filling the gas tank of a borrowed car the other night, I was greeted to the dumbfounding sight of a Jeff Johnson political ad blaring out of the TV installed in the gas pump.

"Tim Walz wants to raise the gas tax," it said, along with a bunch of other scary sounding things.

(Well, at least that part is true.)

Robot gas pumps spewing misleading defense of car culture is a desperate throe of a deadly 20th century legacy.  To me, today's gasoline guzzling political Koch-addicts recall the tobacco company lobbyists of the 80s and 90s, like the ones parodied in the film Thank You For Smoking or eulogized in The Insider. These are folks who desperately lied and cheated their way into preserving a way of life that killed millions.

[This guy is tremendously dishonest.]

The same thing is happening today with the political desperation around the automobile, where defending the planet-killing gas pumps and freeways are the last refuge of a political ideology devoid of ideas.

The "Stuck in Traffic? Blame Transit" billboards that line Twin Cities' suburban freeways is gaslighting bullshit brought to you by the hacks at the Center for the American Experiment. Johnson's wannabe Scott Walker gas pump ads droning on and on from a loudspeaker in the fluorescent night... Michelle Bachmann promising to bring back cheap gas as she loses her mind in front of Minnesota voters... The Koch Brothers / "Flint Hills Resources" astroturfing campaigns against transit funding in cities across the country...

Meanwhile the ice caps melt and the storms rage louder.   

[A real pic taken by my friend Amanda in Southern Minnesota.]

Imagine an Idiocracy-level future where gas pumps worked like early streaming video: wealthier people pay a fee and get their gas right away, but folks who want a five-cent discount have to watch a bunch of ads first, about how science is bunk, about how climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, or as Trump says, "it'll fix itself." Imagine getting a penny off a gallon for each time you whack a punching bag shaped like a pipeline protestor.

It's not that far fetched. Car culture will not go gently to the grave. The Republican snake oil men will do anything they can to keep profit margins fat while the world burns. Freedom gas, now offering predatory loans from the pump: it's not even a metaphor any more.

It suffices to say that gas pump ads should be illegal, just like direct to consumer pharmaceutical ads should be illegal. (To me, pharma ads are shameful, a national embarrassment worthy of our immoral profit-driven health care economy.)

Instead we should regulate gas pumps like they did with tobacco. There should be massive warning labels on gas stations: not "Kwik Trip", but "Kwik Death." Not "Holiday", but "Extinction " should be emblazoned on the marquee.

People buying gas should be required to watch videos of polar bears starving to death or scenes of people fleeing a flooded village on the Ganges.  There should be taxes on the deadly product that go directly to aiding the poor folks living in the most vulnerable parts of the world, the people at the bottom who had nothing to do with the legacy of 408 ppm and climbing (today's reading).

Instead we get this dystopian gas pump farce. I imagine it will only get worse from here.


Twin City Bike Parking #36

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Falcon Heights.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Seattle, WA.]


Signs of the Times #145


[Door. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

Please Keep
the Building
Clean! No Dogs
NO Cats

[Door. Medford, MA.]

w/ fries $8


[Door. Detroit, MI.]

 [Mysterious orange arrow.]

[Pole. Lansing, MI.]


[Plant pot. Lansing, MI.]

Open til 7pm
Night Market

[Window. Manitowoc, WI.]

For safety reasons,
Please Do not use
the post office
driveway as a 
parking spot. Also,
please do not use
the post office 
parking lot to turn
around in.

Thank You

[Door. Manitowoc, WI.]


[Pole. Boston, MA.] 


[Garden boulevard. Medford, MA.]


Public Character #8: Sid the Rat Man, c. 1890

From a short 1962 memoir of Minneapolis, "I Remember Minneapolis", talking about life in the 1890s written by Henry Broderick of Seattle, WA:

But, back to Fourth Street and Newspaper Row. Comedy was there too, in many forms and guises. One character in particular will be recalled by many Minneapolitans now living. He was known widely as “Sid the Rat Man”. He had suffered some sort of domestic tragedy which slightly affected his mental equilibrium. Always bareheaded, with a lone wisp of very curly hair - a bright, friendly twinkle in his azure-blue eyes - he would approach any stranger and very politely ask he had heard his story. With any encouragement, he would launch forth into a disconnected jargon, never varying the harangue by as much as one word. Rats received honorable mention at many points. The so-called story lasted about three minutes and wound up with this line: “Rattle his bones over the tones for he is nothing but a lying porpoise.” The crowd always listened attentively, waiting for their cue at the beginning of “Rattle his bones”, whereupon they would all join in, with great gusto, and the ending, shouted in thunderous tones, could be heard a block away. Sid was present wherever a crowd assembled, and thousands of Minneapolitans memorized his “story”.

[The offices of the Minneapolis Journal on Newspaper Row, about 1890.]


Reading the Highland Villager #219

[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: Era of organized trash collection begins in St. Paul; Only hitch in first week are petitions for repeal
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Only one trash company is going to come to each neighborhood now. "Few problems were reported." There is a petition to try and stop this change. Neighbors are concerned about carts and costs. Quote from petition person: "I've talked to some older people on fixed incomes who are in tears about what their garbage disposal will cost."

Headline: Ryan gives Ford site traffic studies another look; Developer is hoping to address concerns of future traffic congestion
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The developer for the Ford site has announced some initial plans. There was a meeting about it. Quote from developer: "we've heard a lot of comments about traffic and density." There are studies upcoming about traffic. Computers are involved.

Headline: Ideas about for future use of Highland 9
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old golf course is going to be used for something else maybe. People have different ideas about what it might be used for. Some people like soccer or baseball. Others like cross country skiing. Others want to keep the golf course. [IMO the correct answer here is soccer. And some housing, because we need some and why not.]

Headline: Ryan Cos. conduct its own tests of Ford site pollution levels
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Ford site developer is doing some pollution testing. Ford cleaned up the site itself. Apparently it is standard procedure. Article includes details about polluting chemicals.

Headline: Homeowners can expect a big property tax hike in 2019
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: City property taxes are going up.

Headline: City Council searching for ways to lower 11.5% levy increase
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is trying to stop property taxes from going up so much. Some city staff are retiring, which might help cut costs. [In my experience, in general, most city departments are dramatically understaffed. When there are staffing shortages, employees have to do the jobs of two or three people and it is stressful, which leads to turnover and attrition, which is bad.]

Headline: A year later, St. Paul still looking to wrap up new regulations for to-go containers
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city might or might not ban styrofoam containers. This idea was floated a year ago but was shot down on a 2-5 vote. Some groups like it, but restaurants do not like it generally speaking.

Headline: Amendments would increase density of Marshall rezoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The rezoning plan for Marshall Avenue between the river and Pacal has been tweaked by CM Nelson. Neighbors are concerned about historic preservation, community input, and teardowns. Quote from CM Nelson: "we need to maximize our opportunities along this very essential corridor."

Headline: Council awaits DSI's inspection of new accessory dwelling regs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is probably going to pass a city-wide ADU ordinance. [Note: they did on Wednesday.] Article includes lots of details about the ordinance. CM Bostrom is concerned about enforcement.

Headline: St. Paul plans smaller Pedro Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city (HRA) is going to vote on the sale of an old building to a developer that was slated to be torn down and made into a park at one point. Neighbors are upset about previous promises about the park, which will be smaller than originally proposed if the proposal passes.


Twin City Neon #24

 [Near North, Minneapolis.]

 [Victoria, BC.]

  [Victoria, BC.]

  [Victoria, BC.]

 [Vancouver, BC.]

  [Vancouver, BC.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]


Bike Rack Grades for Saint Paul Breweries

[A Minneapolis brewery.]
If there’s one thing that’s really simple that Saint Paul can’t seem figure out, it’s bike racks.

Bike racks are so easy to get right, and almost everywhere in Saint Paul get it so wrong.

Oh, and garbage collection.

OK. Let's try again. If there are two things that are really simple that Saint Paul can’t seem to figure out, it’s bike racks and garbage collection.

Oh, and crosswalks… Oh yeah, and tax assessments for street maintenance… And bike boulevards…  And walking in and out of downtown... And snow plowing.

Oh hell, let’ s stick with bike racks for a second.

[Only in Saint Paul.]
Bike racks are easy and inexpensive, all things considered. And yet it seems that nowhere in Saint Paul makes bike racks a priority or manages to install a bike rack that actually works well and is easy to find.

This is true almost across the board, from businesses to schools to libraries to municipal buildings. It even holds true for breweries — breweries! — which, let’s be honest, if there is one kind of business that should be catering to trendy young bearded beer-drinking bicyclists by having good bike racks, it’s breweries.

When Clutch Brewing opened up recently in the Keg and Case Market and even they, with all the high-end aplomb, did not have good bike parking, I figured it was time to look into the situation with Saint Paul breweries on a (keg and) case by case basis.

Also, I’ve taught geography for years and am used to giving out grades, so here goes.

What the bike rack grades mean:

  • A+  Ideal, a Minneapolis-brewery-level achievement.
  • A  Good effort, good outcome, good bike parking.
  • B  At least they tried, and it could be worse.
  • Technically there is a bike rack, but whoever bought and/or installed the rack had never parked a bike before and it sucks.  
  • D  They didn’t try, but you can still park a bike thanks to nearby poles or gas meters.
  • F  Failure. 

As always, any breweries that have problems with their grades can revise and re-submit their work for full credit.

[All Saint Paul breweries in alphabetical order]

12welve Eyes: C 


A weirdly bad bike rack — just a railing in an alley — but they installed it there, so they get some partial credit? It is hard to mount your bike on the curb and affix it to the railing, and even if you do, you might still be worried a truck will squash it. Also, you’re in an alley. (You can also lock your bike to one of the nearby window wells.)

That said, it does say “bike parking” on the brewery’s sandwich board sign, which is the equivalent of putting a bad term paper in one of those fancy plastic binder covers.

A poor effort. That said, while this rack would normally merit a worse grade, this brewery might get some credit for extenuating circumstances.

[Not good.]

Bad Weather: B

Good, but turned in late and needed revisions.

After a few poor showings, finally came up with something that does not suck. The first effort was bad, then it was hit by a car and removed. They came back with a good rack within sight of the door, even if it is small. There are also a few small racks installed on the sidewalk.

Still underwhelming and under capacity, but could be worse.

[Before revisions.]

Bang: A+


The best bike rack in Saint Paul. Much like their beer, gets all the details right.

Barrel Theory: C [Updated.]

Somewhat plagarized.

Nothing but parking meters. Wikipedia is not a legitimate source. They do have an actual lollipop rack installed on the sidewalk. Could use some more.

[More please.]

Blackstack: C- / D+


A wheel bender in a difficult alcove. Very disappointing, hard to read. Almost worse that they tried and failed than if they hadn't tried at all. [See also this report.]

Burning Brothers: [Unknown]

(I have not been here.)

Clutch Brewing: B- / C+ [Pending revision.]

Not great, and docked points for lateness.

When they opened they had no bike racks at all, but apparently there are a couple hoop racks along the sidewalk now.

[Note: I am being told they have submited new bike racks for revision.]

Dual Citizen: A

Great effort, not ideal location.

They have lots of bike racks (including a deluxe two-level bike rack!) in the back by the patio. If you bike to the front door, though, there is nothing but parking meters.

[Extra credit!]

Flat Earth: C- [Updated.]

Wasted potential.

You have to chain your bike to a hand railing for the staircase steps. There is a basic cheap rack to the left of the front door, but it's weak sauce. This brewery could do so much more if they connected the patio to the bike trail and installed a couple good racks there. I am hoping there are extenuating circumstances, and would be wiling to offer an ‘I’ (incomplete) so that they can re-take the class again.

Great Waters: D+

Just passed.

At least it’s downtown, so there are plenty of sign poles and tree guards around.

[Typical downtown Saint Paul bike parking looks like this.]

Lake Monster: A

Great work!

Spacious wonderful racks in sight of the front door.

[They are still working on unicycle parking. If only there was a safe way to bike there!]

Summit: B

Good, but incomplete.

Four Dero racks are a good start, but should have at least three times as many of these lined up along the patio and parking lot.

[Not ideal; more racks please.]

Tin Whiskers: D+

Copied from the same source as Barrel Theory.

Please note that parking meters cannot be used as a legitimate source for full credit.

Urban Growler: C+

Shoddy work, could be better.

A small cheap rack in the otherwise spacious parking lot. Lots of room for improvement.

Wabasha: D

No effort here.

Railings are not a legitimate source to receive full credit.

[Lots of bikes, zero racks.]

Waldmann: A-

Could use some more revision, but otherwise good work.

A large bike rack on the patio grass is great, though it is a bit difficult to find and use some of the time.