What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to suzanne.ziegler@startribune.com.

City Council draws laughs at improv show with Lisa Bender

Posted by: Maya Rao under Politics and government Updated: April 22, 2014 - 5:38 PM

The rookie City Council’s agenda involving goats, Styrofoam and earplugs in recent months earned Lisa Bender some ribbing Monday night during an interview interspersed with improv comedy at Bryant Lake Bowl.

“Forget everything you know about the City Council,” declared one actor. “This is Crazytown.”

Uptown’s newest council member went on stage with the Theater of Public Policy to tout her support for engaging more constituents, enhancing regional transit and paying attention to how development is built in Minneapolis – but not without some grilling about council priorities.

“I wonder, does that hurt Minneapolis’ image at some point?” asked host Tane Danger. “Do we look like we’re just silly to other people?”

Bender’s response drew laughter.

“This would not be my preference of the issues that we focus on,” she said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

The mother of two said she represented a more open style of leadership in a ward where most people are renters.

“Honestly, it’s probably easier to represent the homeowners who are going to definitely be there in four years and who always vote … just kind of basically represent them the best I can and hope no one else will notice and sail through,” she said. “But that’s not my plan.”

When Danger joked about how many people see living in the city as a phase until the kids come along, Bender said she sees a lot of families with children in this part of town.

“Someone forgot to tell me that I’m supposed to move now,” she said. But, she added, Minneapolis is not doing enough to make the city “a really, really awesome place to live.”

Bender hit a lot of the right notes for an Uptown crowd when she talked about wanting to make the city more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists and increase affordable housing.

But she didn’t have a good answer when a woman in the audience asked how the council member would convince her husband to move out of U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s district into the neighborhood.

“I’m trying to get Jim Graves to open a hotel,” Bender joked, referring to Bachman’s challenger in 2012.

“What’s the sales pitch?” Danger pressed Bender.

“Why wouldn’t you want to live in Uptown? It’s such a great place,” she said, prompting one audience member to mutter that her response was lame.

In between her conversation with Danger, improv actors performed skits about being kicked out of Uptown after turning 30 and having to buy a home there to be allowed to vote.

Of course, there were plenty of goat noises, in a dig at the movement to legalize hoofed animals within city limits.

As she explained the importance of improving the transportation system, Bender revealed that she and two other council members recently sat for an hour and a half reviewing the wrong Southwest light rail plan sent to the city by the Met Council. (The correct one was supposed to arrive today.)

“Then we’ll all get back on track,” said Bender.

“No pun intended,” added Danger.

'Pitbull-type' dog mauls, kills smaller dog at S. Minneapolis park while pitbull owner looks on

Posted by: Matt McKinney Updated: April 21, 2014 - 5:42 PM

A pitbull-boxer dog mauled and killed a much smaller Papillon Sunday evening at Martin Luther King Jr. park while the owners of both dogs looked on, according to a police bulletin. The owner of the pitbull-type left the park after the 7 p.m. attack and didn't cooperate with the owners of the injured animal, according to the bulletin. A Papillon, also known as a Continental Toy Spaniel, rarely weighs more than 10 pounds.

The police bulletin asked residents to help identify the pitbull owner, describing her as an African-American woman about 5'1" to 5'4" who was at the park with a baby, two small boys and a girl aged nine or 10. The pitbull-boxer mix is brown with a light tan chest and neck.

After the attack the woman walked east on the footbridge over Interstate 35W, according to city animal control.

A woman writing on the Minneapolis Issues Forum on Monday who identified herself as the owner of the slain dog warned others about Martin Luther King Jr. park, saying it's too dangerous for small dogs. "We thought we were extra careful but could not stop the attack," the woman wrote.

Anyone with information was asked to call Minneapolis Animal Control at 612-370-1434.

Razing of Star Tribune's Freeman building begins

Posted by: Matt McKinney Updated: April 21, 2014 - 5:38 PM

A man operating an excavator punched holes Monday in the wall of the five-story Freeman Building, the one-time home of Startribune.com and numerous business functions of the state's largest newspaper. It's the beginning of the end for the 72,000-sq.ft. building at 329 Portland Av. S., which was among the properties sold by the newspaper to make way for construction of the new Vikings stadium and a related mixed-use development. 

The newspaper's operations have already consolidated in 425 Portland Av. S., and sometime next year the offices will relocate to an office tower a few blocks away. 

Council to vote on renaming 'Columbus Day'

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 21, 2014 - 4:04 PM

Minneapolis is preparing to strike "Columbus Day" from its calendar this October.

The City Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution that would rename the federal holiday "Indigenous People's Day" on all city communications. The vote follows a similar effort in Red Wing, where the city mulled changing Columbus Day to "First People's Day" earlier this year.

The Red Wing city council has yet to act on the resolution. City Council administrator Kay Kuhlmann said in an e-mail that the council discussed the matter in a workshop but has not scheduled it for action on any upcoming agenda.

The effort in Minneapolis is being spearheaded by new City Council Member Alondra Cano. She said they have been working with the Native American Community Development Institute and a handful of other Native American leaders.

“This is more about elevating the American Indian perspective than it is about being anti-Columbus," Cano said. "Although there are plenty of people that will talk about the deep violence that Christopher Columbus used and enacted when he first came to this part of the world."

The Red Wing resolution noted that Columbus never stepped foot in North America and practiced "extreme cruelty" in the New World. A full accounting of Columbus' legacy in America is documented in a recent podcast from Backstory.

"From a basic historical perspective there’s a lack of understanding about what Christopher Columbus did or didn’t do," Cano said. "So we’re just trying to make sure that people are aware of a more clear and accurate history in terms of what is that folks are celebrating on Christopher Columbus day, what does that mean for them.”

The practical effect in Minneapolis will be largely limited to changing the name of the holiday on official communications from the city, including the calendar and press releases. If the resolution passes Friday, those documents will now refer to the second Monday in October as "Indigenous People's Day."

Though several states do not recognize Columbus Day, it is defined as a holiday in Minnesota statutes. The city of Berkely, Ca. has celebrated Indigenous People's Day since 1992.

UPDATE: Barbara von Haaren, chair of the Red Wing Human Rights Commission, said the chair of the Red Wing City Council is now planning to hold a vote on "First People's Day" will be held on April 28.

Proposed app-based transportation rules unveiled

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 18, 2014 - 1:30 PM

Council Member Jacob Frey's office has released a final draft of proposed regulations for app-based transportation companies like Lyft and UberX.

A hearing on the new rules is expected on April 29, with an initial vote slated for early May. Lyft and UberX are currently operating illegally, since existing city ordinances require them to register as taxicabs. The services allow people to sign up to essentially become chauffeurs of their own vehicles, locating passengers through a smartphone app.

The proposed ordinance specifies that so-called transportation network companies (TNC) are distinct from "rideshare," defined as carpooling and other modes of shared transportation where payment is not expected.

Unlike taxicab drivers, who must be individually licensed with the city, TNC drivers will be "endorsed" by their companies.

The primary distinction between TNCs and taxicabs is how they pick up passengers. TNCs may only accept prearranged trips, whereas taxicabs can pick up random passengers on the street.

The companies must have commercial liability insurance with limits of at least $1 million per occurrence. The policies must cover all vehicles that are "active," meaning a driver is logged into the dispatch system.

Inspections must be performed at a facility approved by the city. Vehicles must at a minimum be "rust-free and damage free" and pass an inspection of components outlined by the city.

TNC vehicles must be newer than 10 years old, whereas taxicabs must be replaced every five years.

Ten percent of taxicab fleets must be wheelchair-accessible vehicles. If a TNC company receives a request for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, they must direct them to "licensed provider of such a service."

Finally, the number of rides requested in each zip code must be recorded by the company. The city will also require them to document any accidents, the hours and miles each driver is logging and the number of people requesting wheelchair-accessible rides.

The proposed ordinance is below. Click on the highlighted boxes to see some comparisons to taxicab regulations.




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