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

Hodges taps state commish Cronk for coordinator post

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: July 22, 2014 - 12:08 PM

Mayor Betsy Hodges on Tuesday nominated the state's Department of Administration commissioner Spencer Cronk to be city coordinator, filling a key role that has been empty for several months.

Cronk has led the Department of Administration since Gov. Mark Dayton appointed him in 2011. As coordinator, he will oversee a number of city departments including finance, IT, the convention center, human resources and communications.

The city coordinator post, one of the most important positions at City Hall, has been led by interim coordinator Jay Stroebel for several months after former mayor R.T. Rybak's coordinator, Paul Aasen, left the city.

Cronk, who lives in Minneapolis, must win the approval of the City Council before assuming the role.

“Spencer Cronk is an energetic, collaborative and visionary leader with expertise in running complex organizations in the public and nonprofit sectors,” Hodges said in a statement.

At the state, Cronk's department oversaw the fundamental operations of government -- from maintaining state buildings to managing a massive fleet of public vehicles. Its Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) is a key resource for helping journalists, citizens and government agencies determine what government data should be public. The demographer's office, also within the department, helps track long term trends across the state.

“I look forward to working with the Mayor and City Council to ensure the city runs well for everyone in Minneapolis," Cronk said in a statement.

Cronk's appointment continues a trend of top-level officials moving between the city and state government.

Dayton hired Rybak's chief of staff Tina Flint Smith to be his chief of staff, while Aasen came to the city after running the state's Pollution Control Agency. Aasen's predecessor, Steven Bosacker, was Gov. Jesse Ventura's chief of staff.

Prior to his state appointment, Cronk worked as executive director of New York City's Department of Small Business Services. He has also been active in LGBT advocacy.

Touching up Andersen United's image

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Urban living Updated: July 21, 2014 - 4:58 PM

MPLS figured anyone out painting her school’s name in Monday’s brutal 91-degree heat deserves a shoutout.

Jena McDermott, an AmeriCorps volunteer at Andersen United Community School in the Phillips community, sent the kids inside due to the heat.  But she remained outside.  “I’m a perfectionist,” she said.

McDermott works with kids in an after-school sports and arts program, who decided to paint the bricks spelling out “Andersen” in rainbow colors.  The bricks previously were all-white.

Woman confronts catcallers with camera, wit

Posted by: Matt McKinney Updated: July 21, 2014 - 6:21 PM

A woman has turned a hidden camera on her Minneapolis street harassers, filming men who make sexually suggestive comments about her appearance as she walks downtown. The clips, published on her website, include the confrontations that ensue when she asks the men to explain themselves. One man’s response: “I’m surprised that you’re offended by it.”

Not only offended, she built the website and has begun passing out cards to wolf-whistling men that bluntly tell them to stop.

“The street harassment my friends and I encounter tends to take the form of brief but frustrating interactions: comments made just as men pass by on the street, over so quickly you rarely have a chance to respond,” writes the woman, Lindsey, on her website. She asked that her last name not be printed. “Just as frustrating as the harassment itself is the feeling of powerlessness that comes with not having had a chance to defend yourself or convey how the harassment affects you.”

Her website includes a copy of each card so that other women can print them out and distribute if needed.

The project appears to have begun just recently, with most of the video clips posted this month.

In another encounter Lindsey caught on camera, a man walks past her and says “bitch.” When she turns to ask him what he’s talking about, he tells her that it’s a compliment. In another clip, she confronts a catcaller who, in his defense of his comments, says that “women are put on this Earth to satisfy a man.”

See more of the video clips here.

UPDATE: Lindsey is the same woman who wrote a Craigslist post last year about a specific street harassment. The Star Tribune wrote this story about it.

Olson's role debated as Teamster strike recalled

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Politics and government, Public safety Updated: July 18, 2014 - 9:53 PM

One of the more intriguing aspects of the 80th commemoration of the 1934 Teamster strikes is a rekindling of the debate over the response by Gov. Floyd B. Olson, a Minneapolis native.

Olson played a delicate role in the strike by Minneapolis truckers. He was elected as a left-leaning governor of the Farmer-Labor party. Yet he also had some support from business elements in Minneapolis for his vigorous prosecution of corruption on the Minneapolis City Council in the late 1920s, when he was Hennepin County attorney. Indeed, as one speaker this week recalled, a striker colloquially warned Olson that he was straddling a picket fence between the sides of labor and business, making any slip likely to be painful.

After open street warfare involving strikers and newly deputized lawmen, Olson mobilized National Guard troops during the May strike by drivers, but kept them on standby status.  That strike was resolved by an imperfect agreement that led to the climactic July strike, when more violence erupted.

Strikers were determined to stop truck movement, and business was determined to keep them running. After police opened fire on unarmed strikers trying to block a truck in the city’s market district, leaving two dead and dozens injured, many shot in the back, Olson mobilized the guard and declared martial law.

Farmer-Laborite Eddie Felien, editor-publisher of Southside Pride, argues that Olson’s actions maintained picket lines and preserved the strike when any other governor would have crushed the strike.

Others aren’t that charitable.  Bryan Palmer, the Canadian academic whose “Revolutionary Teamsters” advances study of the strike, spoke Thursday night at the downtown library. He addressed Olson’s role: “There was no question his actions were going to harm the strike when he brought in the National Guard.”  The guard issued permits for truck movements, seized strike headquarters and threw strike leaders into a military stockade. Palmer quoted one strike leader during this period as saying: “Trucks are moving.  They’re breaking the strike.” And another strike leader, Farrell Dobbs, simply titles one chapter of his 1972 memoir on this period “military strikebreaking."

Yet guardsmen never fired on strikers, unlike some other notable American labor confrontations.

Another historian, Mary Wingerd, who spoke on the same panel as Palmer, said she thinks Olson’s presence as governor played a significant role in strike psychology.  Despite being led by Trotskyist militants, the strikers likely mostly voted Farmer-Labor.  Having a governor of their persuasion in office — rather than a conservative hardliner -- likely made it easier for individual strikers to make the difficult commitment to put their jobs on the line in a strike, she said.

Palmer confessed that despite his research, he’s still somewhat mystified over how a strike that was starting to fray somewhat as it wound into August suddenly produced a settlement favorable to strikers. He gives more credit to President Franklin Roosevelt than Olson. Roosevelt clearly wanted the strike settled before the 1934 election; Palmer suggests that local bankers with substantial federal loans from the New Deal’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation put pressure on a key representative of recalcitrant employers.

The debate will keep historians busy for decades to come.

City looks to install bicycle corrals

Posted by: Alejandra Matos under Urban living Updated: July 18, 2014 - 3:20 PM

Demand for bicycle parking is so high in some areas that the city wants to install on-street bicycle corrals.

The corrals are groups of bicycle racks, installed adjacent to the curb, in the road's parking lane.

Currently, the city provides off-street bicycle racks to businesses, community center and organizations that are willing to split the cost of installing and maintaining them with the city.

The city's Public Works department will present the proposal to install 25 corrals to the city council on Tuesday.

Birchwood Cafe and Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub already have similar corrals that they installed on their own. The city's Public Works Department says there have been requests for more because bicycle parking demand exceeds the available spaces on the sidewalk or boulevard racks.

The department has set aside $50,000 to install the corral, which will be seasonally available from April 15 to Nov. 1.

The cost to install the stalls is estimated between $1,800 to $2,900 for the first year and $150 to $250 for maintenance in subsequent years. Those who want a corral would also split the cost. The city anticipates each location keeping its corral for a minimum of five years.

If the city council passes the proposal, those interested in installing a corral would have to apply for it. The city will give priority to those that have a high bicycle volume.

On-Street Bicycle Corral


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