Monday, August 13, 2018

Carol Becker vows to come back to take "Wedge LIVE!" in 6 months


Maybe you've heard: a local elected official named Carol Becker is "behind an effort to file business and trademark registrations for Wedge LIVE!" (which is me, the guy you're reading right now). Becker currently serves as President of the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation. This appears to be an unlawful effort to shut down speech she doesn't like.

After a weekend of backlash, Becker indicated in a forum posting that she will temporarily back off. She said she "will be back in about six months" to try and take possession of the name "Wedge Live."

It is my intention to take steps in the meantime that would prevent her from doing that. Here's a countdown clock so we can all prepare.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

MN House 62A Endorsement: Jen Kader


My first impression of District 62A candidate Jen Kader has stuck with me since watching her at a candidate forum back in January. Jen is among a handful of first-time candidates competing in 62A, and she stood out as far and away the most prepared person on that stage. It's the mark of someone who has been working on -- and passionate about -- the issues since long before she considered becoming a candidate.

Monday, August 6, 2018

St. Paul City Council, Ward 4 Endorsement: Mitra Jalali Nelson


I got up early last Sunday and traveled from the Wedge to St. Paul's Ward 4 to spend the morning with City Council candidate Mitra Jalali Nelson. The next day I watched her answer questions at a 90-minute forum. I worried this was too much time to spend, and in such a short period, with a stranger I met on the internet who only wears pink pants.

But I learned a few important things. Mitra is unreservedly pro-city, pro-housing and pro-transit. She's a renter who chose her apartment because she wanted to live on the light rail in a vibrant neighborhood. She wants a city budget that invests in people -- in things like rec centers -- rather than hiring more cops. She's called for funding the remainder of the St. Paul bike plan. She feels a sense of urgency about passing a minimum wage ordinance right away, without exceptions or carve-outs, because "it's time to pour cement under our feet of sinking wages." She's thoughtful, she's compelling, she's experienced. I understand why such a broad and diverse coalition of people have been drawn to help get her elected.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Meet the Wedge: Mitra Jalali Nelson


Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak with Mitra Jalali Nelson, who is running for City Council in St. Paul's Ward 4. I came to St. Paul loaded with the ultimate gotcha question, which turned suddenly into two gotcha questions. By the end of the interview Mitra had got gotten. Below is that portion of our conversation (read my endorsement of Mitra here).

Thursday, August 2, 2018

MN Congressional District 5 Endorsement: Ilhan Omar


Ilhan Omar is a state representative who's amassed a lot of political capital, and a large national following in a relatively short career. She hasn't been shy about using that power to lift up new leaders, as when she took the unusually bold step of endorsing Phillipe Cunningham's successful 2017 campaign against powerful longtime Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Minneapolis 2040: The Final Countdown


Moments ago I submitted some last-minute, under the wire comments on the Minneapolis 2040 draft comprehensive plan. And I will continue to do so, throughout the day, as the situation merits, right up until the deadline.

YOU CAN KEEP COMMENTING ALL DAY --TODAY-- SUNDAY, JULY 22!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Minneapolis 2040 Charts and Maps

Some charts and maps to consider as we close in on the comment deadline for the draft of the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan. You have until July 22 to comment at minneapolis2040.com!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Minneapolis 2040 Deadline Roundup


There's just one week left in the comment period for the draft Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan! Concerned residents assured me it would be shoved down our throats, but I'm not sure my throat could handle a lengthier process.

Leave your comments at minneapolis2040.com until July 22. The city will spend a few months synthesizing that feedback into a new draft to be released in late September.

Below I have compiled the latest news on the comprehensive plan, including two presentations to City Council committees earlier this week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Beyond Apocalyptic Yard Signs


It’s a maddening time lately, with political actors denying obvious truths and using scare tactics to sidestep honest dialogue. In any debate about change, political winds favor the side with the simple message: NO. It's easy to fearmonger, deceive, and put words on lawn signs that conjure impending annihilation.

I like to think Minneapolis is better than that. In Minneapolis we recognize real problems and act to solve them. We recognize that housing is in short supply and unacceptably expensive for too many of our neighbors. We recognize that climate change is real, and is driven by lifestyles made necessary by our region's sprawling, auto-oriented development patterns. We recognize that nobody should have opportunity limited by the fact they can’t afford to live in the right neighborhood.

To foster an honest conversation about the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, let’s focus on this widely recognized fact: Minneapolis doesn’t have enough homes. MPR reports that the fabled “starter home” is disappearing from the Twin Cities due to a combination of factors: “land, laws, labor, and lumber.” For the sake of conversation, here's a few examples of things affecting the cost housing:
  • Energy efficiency standards substantially add to the cost of a new home
  • Land on which to build new homes is made more expensive because of growth boundaries
  • Restrictions in zoning codes all across the Twin Cities prevent building “twin homes” (or fourplexes, or apartments, or anything that’s not a single-family home) that share a wall and sell for much less than an equivalent single-family home 
  • Car parking requirements add to the cost of every unit of housing, especially when it’s a massive parking structure
If we can agree to the facts (that these things affect the cost of housing), then -- and only then -- we can move to what should come next: an actual conversation about what we value.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Painter Delivers 11 Classic Movie Monologues


Richard Painter is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota whose new "dumpster fire" political ad is setting social media ablaze. To capitalize on the firestorm (and inspired by this tweet), here's 11 classic movie monologues dubbed over Richard Painter's new commercial.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

People of the Lakes React to Minneapolis 2040

Last night, a coalition of Lakes-area neighborhood organizations hosted a public meeting in beautiful lakeside Lowry Hill. City Council Member Lisa Goodman and Heather Worthington (Minneapolis director of Long Range Planning) in the same room for a Minneapolis 2040 showdown! Turns out there was no showdown aside from Worthington referring to Goodman as Lisa McDonald. But other things did happen. Last night's tweets have been lightly edited into the article below. 

(comment on the Minneapolis 2040 plan)


Monday, June 4, 2018

A "Pro-Family" Comprehensive Plan


One of the common criticisms you hear about the Minneapolis 2040 draft comprehensive plan, if you go to enough public meetings, is that it's anti-family. People say if you want to support families, you've got to restrict the vast majority of city land for single-family homes. This criticism doesn't hold water unless the only kind of family you're concerned about is a white family of significant means. It turns out a lot of current Minneapolis families live in something other than a single-family home.

Comparing pro-family credentials of two very different Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Plan Meets Skepticism with Older Crowd in SW Minneapolis


I made my way to Southwest High in Linden Hills yesterday for a "Palmisano Presents" community forum on the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan (👈 leave your feedback!). This is a lightly edited tweet transcript from last night's live coverage. Don't miss the Hitchcockian "Palmisano Presents" opening credits video.

Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano begins by saying she has received "numerous calls, emails, and handwritten letters."

Palmisano more than once referring to Heather Worthington, who is the City's director of Long Range Planning, as the "owner" of this comprehensive plan. Palmisano says, "I don't endorse this draft in its current form. This is not my work. I have a lot of concerns." Palmisano says the plan has the "right goals."

Friday, May 18, 2018

Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition


Minneapolis residents may be wondering who is digging holes in their neighborhoods and dropping little trees in them. It's the Forestry Division of the Minneapolis Park Board.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

This Week: Minneapolis 2040 Open Houses

I've been to quite a few neighborhood association meetings recently. I can tell you a lot of them will be functioning as city-funded advocacy organizations defending exclusionary zoning. They're mobilizing against the draft comprehensive plan right now.

That's why it's important for you to make your voice heard at one of these upcoming comprehensive plan open houses. Slap a few post-it notes up on a board. Jabber at a city planner. Write a long-winded note. Together we can defeat single-family zoning. And keep commenting on the minneapolis2040.com website.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Lisa Goodman, Leader of the Opposition

Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman is rallying opposition to the Minneapolis 2040 draft comprehensive plan (you can comment here!). Goodman wants to defend single-family neighborhoods from fourplexes. She wants to protect drivers from bike lanes. As the most prominent and outspoken critic of the plan, here's a collection of her recent comments on the topic.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lisa Goodman: Arbitrary and Capricious

Here's an interesting thing I noticed. Last week, Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman rejected the idea of a variance for the reduction of a front yard setback for a proposed four-story building. It's not a remarkable argument. She's just a stickler on variances, and won't grant them just because someone wants to "build a bigger building."

Friday, May 4, 2018

Live Coverage: All Along the Witch's Tower


This is my third neighborhood meeting in as many days (read the Tuesday and Wednesday editions). Nothing this impressive has been attempted since Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov became the first men to successfully die in space back in 1971.

Below is a lightly edited tweet transcript from an almost three hour meeting of the Prospect Park Association (the local neighborhood organization). The object of concern is a proposed 17-story building, which many fear will obscure the beloved Witch's Hat Tower.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Live Coverage: Concern at 36th and Bryant

Here's a lightly edited tweet transcript from last night's meeting of the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association. Residents were presented with plans for a 41-unit apartment building adjacent to the famous pit at 36th and Bryant.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Live Coverage: Lowry Hill, the Comprehensive Plan, and Affordable Housing

Here's a lightly edited tweet transcript from last night's meeting of the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association. Towards the end of the meeting the organization voted to send a letter of support for a 41-unit building at 1930 Hennepin Ave with a combination of supportive housing for young people leaving foster care, and affordable rental apartments.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Live Coverage: Ward 2 Comp Plan Meeting


No surprise: the people with the most housing security in Minneapolis are very vocal about wanting nothing to change. They're not shy, and you shouldn't be either. Send your council member an email or ten with your thoughts about the Minneapolis draft Comprehensive Plan. View the plan and comment here: minneapolis2040.com

Below is last night's Twitter thread as a more readable blog post.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

State of the Wedge LIVE 2018


Dear Reader,

With the support of readers and viewers like you over the last year -- from countless neighborhoods across the region -- Wedge LIVE has grown to become the Best Website in the Twin Cities. If you don't believe me, check out City Pages' very glossy "Best of the Twin Cities" edition -- on newsstands now!

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Future: Minneapolis 2040



At a community meeting for a street reconstruction last year, a young mom made a passionate argument: it would be a generation, she said, before the street was reconstructed again. This was our only chance to create a neighborhood street where she could safely push a stroller, or walk and bike with her kids. It was an argument that stayed with me, not just for its passion, but because it so obviously placed the question in the right context: we were about to lock in a reality that would endure for decades.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sign up for Wedge LIVE Email Alerts


It's a question technophiles are asking each other more and more these days: "Are you on email?"

If the answer is yes, consider signing up for Wedge LIVE news alerts delivered straight to your inbox. We anticipate messages will be sent very infrequently, and possibly never. Sign up today!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Zoning Reform and the Pace of Neighborhood Change

There's a post on streets.mn debunking the idea that fourplexes mean four stories. The truth is that Minneapolis' new draft comprehensive plan that proposes allowing up to four-family homes in currently single-family neighborhoods, would limit those homes to 2.5 stories (the "Interior 1" designation). Honestly, I am someone who thinks four stories is just fine in lots of places and the comprehensive plan isn't radical enough -- but if you're bothered, the facts should be reassuring.

"Interior 1" in the draft Minneapolis Comp Plan
There's another point to be made about the pace of change that modest zoning reform would bring to any given neighborhood. As with most things, I like to use the Wedge neighborhood as an example. For the last 40 years, the Wedge has had the most permissive residential zoning in Minneapolis (R6) across many interior blocks (along with a generous portion of two-family zoning). It's the kind of zoning that, if you can assemble multiple lots, might conceivably lead to a five- or six-story building with a 100 or more apartments.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fourplexes Everywhere? Bold Reform Proposed in Minneapolis


Word has leaked of a very preliminary plan to legalize fourplexes in virtually every neighborhood in Minneapolis. It's one part of a larger draft comprehensive plan that hasn't yet been made public. If implemented, it would be the boldest land-use reform in the country, reversing a decades-long trend of restrictions that have contributed to higher housing costs and racial/economic segregation. Here are some reasons I think we should embrace this plan to legalize fourplexes in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Does Minneapolis need more cops?

Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo want to hire 100 more cops to push Minneapolis to 1,000 officers. A recent Star Tribune article notes that Minneapolis "still lags behind other Midwest cities, including Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo." The article quotes notoriously racist Minneapolis police union leader Bob Kroll saying Minneapolis should strive to match Milwaukee, a place with nearly 60% more cops per capita.

There are a few things about all these city-to-city comparisons that make me question the relevance of "cops per resident" as a statistic. Milwaukee and Kansas City have 40-45% more violent crime per capita than Minneapolis; either all that extra policing isn't working or there are more significant factors contributing to/mitigating violent crime than how many cops you have. And as long as we're comparing ourselves to large Midwestern cities, Minneapolis has slightly more cops per person than St. Paul, which is the Midwest city located just across the river (police staffing data as of 2016).

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lisa Goodman Calls YIMBYs "Republicanesque" Proponents of "Trickle-Down"


After spending far too much time with the cast of characters from last week's Zoning and Planning meeting in the editing room (ICYMI: I'm a prominent local anthropologist and documentarian), one thing struck me as particularly notable: Council Member Lisa Goodman calling YIMBYs a bunch of Republicans.

Local Development Politics Officially Enter the Trump Era


It was bound to happen. After a year spent enduring the daily trauma inflicted on our country by its own president, concerned residents have adopted the language of resistance to Donald Trump and applied it to the perceived atrocity of new apartments in their backyard.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Residents Gather to Remember Iconic Arby's Sign


People from across the Twin Cities flocked to Arby's Island in Uptown Friday night to celebrate the memory of a fallen icon: a fast food sign that lit the corner of Lake St and Emerson Ave for more than 47 years.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Uptown Arby's is Now Closed


With rumors swirling about the fate of the Wedge neighborhood's most beloved fast food restaurant, I was present for the final hours of the Uptown Arby's. Joined by four of my best Twitter friends, we ate curly fries and reminisced about the good times.

Monday, January 22, 2018

What's the difference between a 62A and a 62B?

You may currently be hearing a lot about a couple of open and competitive Minnesota State House seats this year: 62A and 62B. If you're like me, those numbers are geographically incomprehensible. You may be asking, what is the difference between a 62A and a 62B? Who is running in which of these districts? How can I get involved?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

App Matches Minneapolis Politicians to Their Fine Art Dopplegängers

Google now has an app that will match your face to fine art. I have determined you can point your phone's camera at a computer screen to match Minneapolis politicians to faces in old paintings. Disclaimer: much like DNA testing services provided by sites like ancestry.com, these results are not 100% genetically accurate.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Billboard Proposal is "Rash That Won't Go Away"


Update: New Ward 3 Council Member Steve Fletcher has confirmed that the billboard proposal is dead.

The mysteriously persistent proposal to allow more billboards in downtown Minneapolis has Planning Commissioner John Slack feeling as if he'd like to pour a bottle of antibiotics all over it:
For me this is like the rash that won't go away. I don't see how this supports any of the comprehensive plan goals, I don't see how this improves livability in the downtown. All I see is negative and adverse effects.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Lisa Bender Expected to be Elected President of Minneapolis City Council

Commemorative shirt. Get yours today!
In the Minneapolis City Council's virtual one party system it can be tough to know how election results translate to actual governing. This morning we get answers to some of the big questions lingering since last November's election, setting the stage for the next four years.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Acme Comedy: The Parking Crisis That Wasn't

Acme Comedy's remaining parking lot was half-filled during a Friday show last June

In 2016, Acme Comedy Co was the subject of the most high-profile movement to save a parking lot in recent Minneapolis history. If the owner of an adjacent parking lot was allowed to turn it into apartments, Acme's owner predicted he would be forced to move his business out of Minneapolis to a parking-rich suburb. Nationally-known comedians rallied to Acme's defense. Nearly 6,000 people signed an online petition to save a parking lot -- in order to save a beloved comedy institution.

Today, with a new apartment building occupying that former parking lot, Acme owner Louis Lee tells the Star Tribune (in a story unrelated to parking) "Acme is enjoying its strongest business in a decade."