Lileks: Minneapolis residents say life is wonderful

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2013 - 8:17 PM

Statistic of the week: 96 percent of Minneapolis residents are satisfied with city services.

Someone in government might find this alarming and ask: Is there a way to find out the identity of the 4 percent and send around the Sidewalk Crack Inspector? But that’s how it would work in a corrupt and unsatisfying city, which we are not.

Still, 96 percent? People, come on. You’ve heard the phrase, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease?”

You say, “Yes, and when I notified the city that the Sidewalk Crack Inspector’s car had a squeaky brake, they fixed it right away.”

Fine. That’s not my point. “And that crack really was dangerous. People were tripping. I’m glad he pointed it out.” I understand. Please stop talking. You’re fictional. “It was made from sustainably recycled cooking grease.” SHUT UP.

I’ve plowed through the survey, conducted for the city by the National Research Center, and it’s fascinating reading. Some details:

Housing: 6 percent of Minneapolitans believe their house is “too big.” This is not defined — could mean “dog gets lost indoors for weeks at a time” or “did Atkins, lost weight, place looks huge now.” The number jumps to 14 percent for Calhoun-Isles. BREAKING: Scientists, using nanotechnology, have made a violin three microns wide that plays a sad tune for people who live in Calhoun-Isles who think their house is too big.

Taxes: “Half of residents agreed that property taxes or fees should be increased to maintain or improve City services. About twice as many respondents ‘strongly’ disagreed than ‘strongly’ agreed with this proposal.”

This sounds like an eighth-grade math problem: “If Dora has five apples and Johnny has two apples that he feels more strongly about than the other two apples Dora does not have, how much are your taxes going up regardless of what you think?”

Local patriotism: 95 percent said the city was a great place to live. This makes sense, because A) it is, and B) if you don’t think so, you probably have left. But that’s one point less than general satisfaction with police, parks and schools. Given the sample size — 70,000 — that’s about 700 people who stay here out of sheer maso­chism, I guess.

But not for long! One-third of the respondents intend to move within the next two years. Of those people, over a quarter want to leave Minneapolis, and 12 percent of those worry that “the screen door will hit me on the way out.” Forty-four percent said they wanted to move for an unspecified reason, possibly because they’re just ramblin’ men no walls or laws can hold. Or it’s schools.

It’s usually schools. People always nod when you say you’re moving because of schools. Even if you say, “There’s a school in Apple Valley where the kids are outside most of the day and some of the staff are apes.” People nod, say, Yes, I’ve heard good things about that, and they’re thinking, “I think she means the zoo. Wow.”

Now the crazy part. “Nearly all residents (96 percent) said that they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the overall quality of City services, a rating that was much below the national average.”

Much below? You can’t put up a YouTube video of someone feeding liver to a dog without getting down-votes because people hate liver, your rug, the aspect ratio of the video, the fact that the mutt is wearing a choke-chain — but 99 percent of people in other cites are satisfied with their city? Really? “Oh, my city is just an Old Country Buffet of awesome and efficient, with six desserts flavored ‘Friendly.’ ”

The only possible reason: In other towns the survey was done door-to-door with a cop in mirrored sunglasses who stood at the bottom of the steps staring at the homeowner. We’d appreciate it if you were satisfied. Thank you for your cooperation.

Maybe we are satisfied. It’s possible. The city paid for the study — $70,000 — and while I’d be suspicious of any study that returns numbers similar to Hugo Chavez re-election results, I would have said, “very satisfied, all things considered, what with the fallible nature of man and the imperfection of our common endeavors.” If they’d polled me. Which they didn’t.

I’m quite dissatisfied about that.

 

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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