Mixed-media artist Andy Saczynski works on a billboard in downtown Minneapolis in August 2014. ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE
Minneapolis' array of "creative" jobs and organizations -- and its spending on everything from books to theater tickets -- has helped the city move up the list of the most "creatively vital" cities in the country.
A report delivered to the City Council on Wednesday showed that Minneapolis ranked No. 5 based on a comparison of the largest 100 cities' spending, sales and jobs in the arts. Last year, the city was No. 6.
Gülgün Kayim, the city's director of arts, culture and the creative economy, said the rankings are based on data from a national organization, the Western States Arts Federation. The city first received the report in 2013.
The latest report shows that residents and visitors are spending more on things like artwork and concerts. In 2013, total retail arts sales were about $520 million, up 13 percent from two years earlier. Per capita, Minneapolis residents spent $1,165 per year on the arts. By comparison, the report said sports-related sales in the city amounted to about $534 million in revenue in 2013.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis generated another $311 million in revenues from arts-related nonprofits. That total includes grants awarded to organizations or museums and ticket sales for those groups' events.
Kayim said the report is useful as a city planning tool and as a selling point for the city; she reported that at least two art schools use it as a recruiting tool.
"We have a highly productive creative sector ... this is information that can help us create strategies for the city as an attractor and as a competitive advantage," she said.
The report found that 26 percent of the "creative" employment in the metro area is in Minneapolis. The top occupations were photographers, musicians and singers, writers and authors, graphic designers and public relations specialists. The fastest-growing fields: actors, fashion designers, sound engineering technicians and agents.
Council members said they were glad to see the city tracking the creative side of the city's economy and wanted to see more information on related jobs and salaries.
Council Member Kevin Reich, who represents an area of northeast Minneapolis known for its growing arts community, said he's glad the report uses data from across the country to give the city an idea of its progress.
"It's a very real tool in that sense," he said.
The cities that ranked ahead of Minneapolis were, in order: Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York City and Boston.
In case you’re worried, we thought we’d reassure you that the slippery slope likely will remain legal in the Mill City.
That’s despite a recent spate of publicity over a growing number of cities banning sledding over liability concerns, most recently Dubuque, Iowa..
But that’s not likely to spread to Minnesota because of a clause in state law known as recreational immunity. It basically shields governments in Minnesota that operate park and recreational facilities from liability under most circumstances.
With parks accounting for many of the best sledding hills in Minneapolis, Park Superintendent Jayne Miller said there are no plans to put its slippery slopes off limits. Nor has the city attorney's office gotten wind of anyone in City Hall proposing that.
The Park Board has two official designated sledding hills – at Columbia Golf Course and Sunset Hill in Valley View Park. Where there are man-made structures at those hills, it places hay bales around them. But the doctrine of recreational immunity protects it from liability caused by natural objects such as trees, Miller said.
“We don’t have any paricular concerns about sledding hills," agreed Dan Greensweig, assistant administrator for the insurance trust at the League of Minnesota Cities.
Sledders are free to use other parkland for slip-sliding away but ought not to expect damages if they’re hurt, due to the law. Indeed, the hill in Lyndale Farmstead behind the house Miller rents from the Park Board is one of the city's most popular sledding hills.
Not that you can’t get hurt sledding. One national database reports an average of almost 21,000 sledding injuries annually. Broken bones slightly exceeded bruises and scrapes in those stats, with about one-third of injuries involving heads.
At least one powerful parks pol, Park Board President Liz Wielinski, dismisses cities that have passed bans. “As a native-born and bred Minnesotan, I think that’s crazy talk,” Wielinski said.
Minneapolis officials are launching a new effort to find trends in where police make stops, whom they stop — and who is arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses.
During its approval of the 2015 budget, the City Council separately voted to direct the Police Department and the city attorney’s office to gather five years’ worth of police stop-and-arrest data. The reports will include information about the race, gender and age of the people involved in incidents from 2010 to 2014, along with where the arrests took place.
The data will be presented to the council’s public safety committee by summer.
Council Member Cam Gordon, who introduced the plan, said he’s heard concerns about racial profiling and other issues since before he was first elected to the council nearly a decade ago. He brought up the issue in 2008, when he led a similar push to gather data on the city’s “lurking” regulation. That law allows police to arrest people who are hanging around public and private spaces, trying not to attract attention, with the intention of committing a crime.
A review of lurking arrests over two years found that black people were eight times more likely to be arrested than white people. Native Americans were arrested at nine times the rate of whites, while homeless people were 20 times more likely to be arrested.
While Gordon was not successful in getting the law overturned, he said he may bring it up again. After months of protests over people killed in altercations with police, he said interest remains high in how police interact with some community members.
Gordon expects that getting a broader range of data could be a better way to reach the city’s equity goals than trying to target some specific laws, one by one.
It will be nice to get a big-picture view and get more of an analysis about where [stops and arrests] are occurring and why,” he said.
Gordon said the data might lead to questions about the use of the “broken windows” model of policing to prevent crime. That strategy involves putting a major focus on lower-level crimes, like graffiti, vandalism or loitering, as a way to improve neighborhoods and reduce the number of more serious crimes.
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she welcomes the news that the city will take a more thorough look at how policing is working in Minneapolis.
She hopes this will be the first step in pinpointing the root of practices that could be causing problems with police-community relations.
"We need to have a better understanding of what’s going on and that needs to start at the level of what’s the overall picture,” Gross said. “But eventually that needs to drill down to see if there are issues, are they with particular officers or a wider problem?"
You can’t hurry Mother Nature, so Minneapolis park officials are prepping ice skaters that rinks likely won’t be open by their scheduled start date on Monday, the first day of the school holiday recess.
But Edina's Centennial Lakes Park has been open for skating for much of December.
According to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, its crews need 10 consecutive days when the temperature stays at 20 degrees or colder in order to flood and open rinks.
But according to long-term weather averages for Minneapolis, there’s no stretch during the winter when that happens. The coldest stretch is from Jan. 11-17, when the daily high averages 21 degrees. The average is no higher than 22 degrees from Dec. 31 to Jan. 25.
Of course, weather varies from averages. Rinks opened on Dec. 21 last year. (Photo: That's Cece Magill trying lsles on opening day) . But recent temps have remained below the Park Board’s ice-making threshold only once in the last 10 days, and they’re not forecast to stay below that level in the next week.
The Park Board operates 47 rinks for skating, broomball, and hockey at 23 parks. It said it hopes to have some open by the end of the month. The status of each rink can be viewed online. That shows no rinks open but you can sign up for e-mailed updates.
Can’t wait? Try Lake of the Isles if you’re hardy enough. The warming house isn’t open -- and neither is the rink officially -- but the ice has been thick to hold ice-flooding equipment and hockey boards have been installed. It's shallow, like Centennial Lakes, so it freezes faster.
Don’t tell ‘em we sent you.
By Eric Roper and Steve Brandt
The Park Board gave preliminary approval Wednesday night to a plan to take ownership -- in name only -- of the Downtown East park beside the new Vikings stadium.
The committee approval occurred after lengthy late-night discussion by park commissioners. The full board vote is scheduled for Dec. 17, after an expected City Council vote on the proposal on Dec. 12.
The plan is intended to maintain compliance with the city's charter, which grants the Park Board exclusive authority to operate and maintain public parks. That authority was made clear a year ago, when a district court judge said the Park Board must eventually take control of the space.
The proposed lease says the city will transfer the park to the Park Board for $1 after Ryan Companies completes construction. The Park Board will then lease it back to the city for the length of its agreement with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority over use of the space, but no more than 50 years.
The Park Board previously declined to take control of the park because of the money it would require and the number of days that the city has committed to private uses under its agreement with the Authority.
The Park Board will not be responsible for funding the construction of the park's enhancements, which are expected to cost several million dollars. The lease agreement also says that those enhancements must include the following items:
(i) the design will be comparable to the standards for Gold Medal Park, including mature trees, seating, lighting, and pavement treatments, but without the mound as developed in Gold Medal Park; (ii) the design will provide for flexible programming of the space with an open core, locating any permanent structures on the perimeter; and (iii) the design may, but is not required to, include a playing field with high quality durable turf.
The city intends to have the park's operations and maintanence overseen by a third-party conservancy, which will likely be handled by the new organization Greening Downtown Minneapolis.
Former City Council President Paul Ostrow, who filed a lawsuit in 2013 challenging -- among other things -- the city's authority to control the park, urged park commissioners to reject the agreement.
"Once you approve this agreement you will own this debacle that further subsidizes the Vikings and makes a mockery of the public park system," Ostrow wrote in an e-mail to the board.
He called the plan a "gimmick" aimed at reaching compliance under the charter. "Whether or not such a dubious agreement would pass legal muster there can be no doubt as to your complicity in overriding the clear intent of the charter," Ostrow wrote.
Four of five park commissioners on the board’s administration and finance committee voted for the proposal. They are Anita Tabb, Meg Forney, Jon Olson and Scott Vreeland. Brad Bourn abstained. The proposal will need six votes from the nine commissioners to proceed.
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