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Posts about Public safety

Strib reporter drives by North Side shooting

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: August 4, 2014 - 7:25 PM

While writing a lot about gun violence, I had yet to witness gunfire outside the shooting range.

Until last Friday.

I was driving west on Dowling Ave. N. after work when I heard a gunshot and saw people ducking in the bus shelter in front of the convenience store at Fremont Ave. N., not more than a couple dozen feet to my right.

Was that really a shooting? It was just after 6:30 p.m., and still light outside. There were lots of people around – walking on the sidewalks, driving through the intersection, shopping at the store.

I hadn’t seen much in all the commotion, but circled the block and confirmed with a bystander that it was, indeed, a shooting. Three police cars showed up in minutes. Witnesses told the officers that a group of teenage boys had crowded outside, but couldn’t be sure who had the gun; they all scattered.

The number of nonfatal shootings in Minneapolis is on pace to top last year, and the North Side has already seen its share in recent months: a drive-by on Saturday injured three men, and three women were shot at a backyard gathering last month. One man was shot to death in a dispute that began on a public bus.

The shooting I drove by is not the sort that would ordinarily make the news, but it offers a glimpse into the kind of crime that can drag down an area and make people feel unsafe running everyday errands.

One woman told a police officer that she pulled in front of the store and waited in her car for a while after seeing a large gathering of young men hanging around in front.

“I was just about to get out of my car and I heard bam bam bam and I ducked,” she said. “My ears starting ringing; it was right behind me.”

"Broad daylight," grumbled another woman.

Inside, one cashier hit the floor when he heard the noise, but minutes later, continued work as usual.

A copy of the police report obtained today indicated that someone had been hit, contrary to what police and bystanders initially assumed. I called up the listed victim, Deveon Marquise Branch, 20.

Branch said he saw men he didn’t know making gestures at him as he walked into the store for a Black and Mild cigar and they walked out, but ignored it.

He heard shots ring out as he headed toward his car, and jumped in and drove home a few blocks away, before authorities arrived. Branch took off his shoe and saw a bullet had scraped the top of his right foot, by his pinky toe – an injury that doctors later said would heal soon.

“It was just unfortunate,” Branch said, adding that he already had plans to move off the North Side.

Branch said he rarely heard gunshots around that corner, and neither had I, after driving by several times a month for nearly two years.

The police report was sparse, noting, “FURTHER INVESTIGATION REQUIRED.”

No arrests have been made.

W. 36th Street bikeway nears construction

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 1, 2014 - 3:51 PM

The city is nearing construction of its first protected on-street two-way bike lane, and an adjoining pedestrian lane, on the south side of W. 36th Street next to Lakewood Cemetery,

Construction should begin in the next 30 days on the planned improvement that connects two sections of parkway -- Lake Calhoun and King's Highway.

The nine-block-long segment will feature two five-foot-wide bike lanes, and a six-foot-wide walkway where no sidewalk now exists next to the cemetery.

The bike lanes will be separated from the adjacent eastbound traffic lane by a three-foot buffer strip containing lightweight plastic bollards. More conventional bikes lanes are expected to be extended from King's Highway, where the protection will end, for two additional blocks east to Bryant Avenue.  

Access between the new bike-pedestrian facility and bike and pedestrian paths at Lake Calhoun will be in two stages across 36th and E. Calhoun Parkway

The project cost of $110,900 is being split by the city and by Hennepin County, which is working to fill gaps in bike routes.

Northeast's cycling museum open Sunday

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 25, 2014 - 6:16 PM

When Brent Fuqua moved the expanding bike shop he co-owns into a newly refurbished storefront across Central Avenue last summer, he suddenly had thousands of square feet in which to stash the bikes the business had stored in rented garages across northeast Minneapolis.

That new space included a big second floor. Meanwhile a buddy, Juston Anderson, had accumulated somewhere between 40 and 50 vintage bikes in 27 years of collecting.

“I thought people should see these bikes,” Fuqua said.

So during Sunday’s Open Streets event, in which bikers will take over 8-1/2 blocks of Central for six hours, the Cycling Museum of Minnesota will debut in the upstairs of Recovery Bike Shop, 2504 Central Av. NE.

From 19th century boneshakers, including one with a 60-inch drive wheel, to trendy Pusgley fat-tire bikes, cyclists will get a glimpse of cycling history that highlights important advances in biking from technology to alliances with good roads boosters to changing social mores. They’ll see those how changes affected bike safety and speed.

It’s a coming-out party for the museum, which organizers say is only in the formative stages and won’t be open regularly until sometime next year. “It was just a bunch of dudes with bikes,” Fuqua told a sneak

preview Thursday night that was intended to elicit interest and funds from an invitee list that dressed from cutoffs to suits.

The organization’s nine-member board has incorporated and plans to put on educational programs, conduct community rides, host family events, present lectures and show films.

The collection includes beginner bikes for kids, BMX bikes, mass-produced bikes by Sears, hand-made frames by some of the state’s noted builder, bikes on which some of the state’s best-known racers sped, and vintage machines such as a locally made tandem designed for courting couples.

But there are also prosaic bike collectibles, such as the 1950s prototype of a Park Tool Co. bike repair stand.  It features such parts as a concrete-filled World War II shell casing, kitchen table legs and a 1937 Ford truck axle.

Anderson, 42, of Arden Hills, remembers looking at pictures as a kid of the high-wheeled bikes that dominated the 1880s but were typically affordable only to wealthy young men with strong legs. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how you could balance on something like that,’” he said. But earlier this month he completed a century (100-mile) ride on one at a collectors meeting.

The nursing home janitor said he takes a frugal approach to collecting. He said he reminds his wife: “There’s other hobbies I could get into. I could get into hunting or gambling or drinking.”     

(Above: Recovery Bike co-owner with a bike that mimicked automobile streamlining; below: an 1897 courting tandem made by Deere and Webber of Minneapolis.)

Here's more on the upcoming Lee house exhibit

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 24, 2014 - 1:32 PM

It you read Thursday's article on the listing of the Arthur and Edith Lee on the National Register of Historic Places, you may have been left wondering about details of the University of Minnesota's upcoming exhibit that commemorates the events that led to the listing.

Here's the information on that exhibit that was supposed to accompany the article but didn't:

What: “A Right to Establish a Home,” an exhibit at the University of Minnesota focused on the 1931 purchase of a home by Arthur and Edith Lee, the resulting backlash, race and housing in Minneapolis, and racism in Minnesota.
When: Aug. 23-Jan. 4; opening reception on Aug. 22, 6-8 p.m.
Where: HGA Gallery, Rapson Hall, 80 Church St. SE., Minneapolis.
Sponsor: Goldstein Museum of Design
More information: http://goldstein.design.umn.edu/exhibitions/upcoming/

(Photo above: Part of the crowd of white homeowners who opposed the move of the Lees, a black couple, to their neighborhood in 1931)

Olson's role debated as Teamster strike recalled

Posted by: Steve Brandt 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.

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