19.12.14

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Uncanny 
The fear of the other, the poor and the stranger has often fostered the formulation of specific policies, while the history of the European city can be described as a succession of systems of intolerance, removal of the difference and normalisation efforts. The adoption of devices to prevent permeability and accessibility (such as walls, infrastructural and environmental barriers) in the past, has been replaced today by multiple and complex forms of segregation.
[interview with Paola Pellegrini]


[The atrium in the Pioneer-Endicott building in downtown Saint Paul.]


*** CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LINKS! ***

http://acoupleofputts.com/2014/10/31/ahlgrim-family-funeral-services-palatine-il/

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http://grist.org/cities/seattles-unbelievable-transportation-megaproject-fustercluck/


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http://iqc.ou.edu/2014/12/12/60yrsmidwest/

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https://twitter.com/JeffSpeckAICP/status/545031955365236736


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http://existentialcomics.com/comic/58


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http://miguelmarquezoutside.com/


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https://www.flickr.com/photos/mark_allan/sets/72157637197421984/


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http://stuffaboutminneapolis.tumblr.com/post/105308146019/matt-barber58-moonrise-nicollet-mall


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https://twitter.com/TimPostMPRnews/status/544956297485889537


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http://www.metrotransit.org/Data/Sites/1/media/metro/metro_system-map_111114.pdf


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http://www.startribune.com/local/285647001.html


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http://alleycatmn.tumblr.com/tagged/Downtown-East-Project


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http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/12/17/rochester-expansion-plan

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http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2014/12/the-rise-of-men-who-dont-work-and-what-they-do-instead/


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http://greeneconomics.blogspot.com/2014/12/long-run-trends-in-quality-of-life-by.html


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http://www.newgeography.com/content/004795-two-chicagos-defined


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http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/11/why-its-so-hard-for-millennials-to-figure-out-where-to-live/382929/


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http://www.perfectduluthday.com/2014/12/14/35000-miles-scenic-highway-routes/?utm_source=feedly&utm_reader=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=35000-miles-scenic-highway-routes


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http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/25140/how-fast-can-you-go-map-of-maximum-speed-limits-around-the-world/


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http://www.minnpost.com/data/2014/12/voter-turnout-minnesota-mapped


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http://atlasobscura.tumblr.com/post/104936815421/our-favorite-scandinavian-yuletide-burning-goat-is


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http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/12/18/this-simple-change-to-truck-design-could-help-get-us-closer-to-vision-zero/


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http://curbed.com/archives/2014/12/11/rolu-various-projects-uncertain-surface-design-miami.php


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http://curbed.com/archives/2014/12/15/artists-create-sidewalk-stagesets-from-discarded-furniture.php


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http://www.citylab.com/design/2014/12/20-years-of-photos-show-just-how-boring-we-all-are/383781/


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http://gizmodo.com/rare-photos-from-1966-show-the-nyc-subway-in-full-color-1671949358


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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/detroit-black-owned-businesses-_n_5587466.html


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http://stubblemag.com/2014/12/09/finding-bananas-in-the-snow/


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http://clothesonfilm.com/suit-yourself-elliot-gould-in-the-long-goodbye/33795/


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http://curbed.com/archives/2014/12/12/illegal-nanning-china-corridor-apartment.php


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How many accidents are caused by texting in the U.S.?
At least 200,000 per year.

[this]

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The customer objected to paying the sales tax that raised the price to $1.93, and after Abualzain and the customer argued, Abualzain grabbed a machete he had behind the counter and struck the man twice, cutting his hand and arm, Abualzain admitted in court.

[this]

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http://inhabitat.com/stupefying-hand-knitted-hammock-is-suspended-above-a-400-foot-high-canyon/

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http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/12/08/from_the_bronx_to_the_bowery_21_photos_of_1980s_new_york.php


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http://catandgirl.com/?p=4759


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http://www.thelinemedia.com/features/avidors12102014.aspx


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http://stuffaboutminneapolis.tumblr.com/post/105186776999/teenager-mitzi-holter-on-the-telephone-1947


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http://stuffaboutminneapolis.tumblr.com/post/105239567954/rhythmicity-minneapolis-mn-2018-wow-is




12.12.14

3 Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager

For five years now, I have been re-blogging the Highland Villager, a print-edition-only local newspaper that focuses on Saint Paul local issues. I started doing this back in May 2009 because, as I explained at the time:
Basically, the problem is that the best source of local streets / sidewalks news in Saint Paul is the Highland Villager. This wouldn't be a problem, except that it's not available online. The editor / publisher Michael Mischke (who I've never met) clearly doesn't like the internet for some reason. But there's a lot of good stuff in this local bi-weekly about developments and street debates.

So basically, I'm going to have a twice-monthly post about what I discover when reading the Highland Villager. Maybe it'll encourage you to go get your own copy, available anywhere that's anywhere in Saint Paul. Or maybe I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to? Either way...until this newspaper goes online, information must be set free.

So, every two weeks for five years, I’ve been attempting to summarize the main local politics articles in the paper. I haven’t missed very many, and am up to 120 summaries and 8 op-ed reprints at this point. Because I can’t help myself, I also add a bit of commentary into the stories [clearly demarcated in red italics] with either a) important context missing from the piece or, b) sarcastic snark.

From time to time I get a bit of flak about this. (For example, one prolific Highland Villager reporter doesn’t seem to enjoy my summaries, as you can see in the comments here.) For this reason, I thought I’d outline three reasons I think it’s important to re-blog the Highland Villager, and why I intend to keep doing so until they bring their content online.

#1) The Coverage Area Exacerbates Income Disparities


[Highland Villager demographics.]
The Highland Villager focuses primarily on the wealthier parts of the city. Though on the masthead they technically claim to represent “Highland Park, Lex-Ham, Mac-Groveand, Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline, Summit Hill, Summit-University, West 7th, Longfellow, Nokomis, Lilydale, Mendota, and Mendota Heights, I’d estimate that over half of their content focuses on Highland Park, Grand Avenue, Summit Avenue, and downtown areas: in other words, the wealthiest parts of the city. This disparity is intentional; in order to attract advertisers, the Highland Villager even brags about their reader demographics on their news-less website.  (The inclusion of Mendota Heights, my wealthy suburban hometown, into the readership area seems like proof enough.)

I won’t begrudge anyone for trying to make a profit, especially a print newspaper (dying out everywhere). But the Highland Villager’s thorough coverage of Saint Paul's wealthier areas has the perverse effect of amplifying the voices of the well-off. This means that any time a neighborhood issue pops up on Grand Avenue, Summit Hill, or Highland Park, you can be sure that it will attract more attention. Meanwhile, stories in the poor parts of the city (e.g. the North End, Frogtown, East Side, or the West Side where I live) will not attract much attention.

This is as much about the failure of today’s news media to cover local and neighborhood issues as it is about anything else. The solution is to have economically stable local newspapers in all parts of the city, or to have a city-wide newspaper like the Pioneer Press retain the staffing levels that would allow them to cover every neighborhood equally. Those seem like pipe dreams, and until internet bloggers somehow get paid to do their own reporting about city issues, our local news media seem destined to amplify the voices of the wealthy.



[The Highland Villager's coverage area does not include the city's poorest parts.]

#2) The Highland Villager’s Issues have Extra-Local Relevance

The second big reason to re-blog the Highland Villager is that information is power. Those that are well informed about local political issues - such as plans for a road expansion or a new building - can have more active roles in shaping those outcomes.

But because the Highland Villager is not online, there ends up being unequal access to information. Those people in the Highland Villager coverage area have the information delivered to their doorstep, while those outside the coverage area have to seek it out at the downtown library.

This information disparity is important because Saint Paul local issues are not just for people in the neighborhood, but for everyone in the city (and even the larger region). The classic example is downtown, which doesn’t just "belong" to the people who live or work there, but to the whole city. It’s one of the few places that should be truly public. Anyone in Saint Paul should feel welcome to walk through the streets, parks, and museums downtown.

The same is true of local issues. Though I might sometimes tease Highland Village, I also buy tea, coffee, latkes, cat food, and film tickets there. Ford and Cleveland, or Grand Avenue, or West 7th Street, are important parts of my city, even though live in a completely different part of Saint Paul.

Heck, even someone from Minneapolis who bikes through Saint Paul, or a Macaester Student who only spends four years in Saint Paul, should be allowed a voice in community conversations about its future. In order to make sure that everyone can participate in our community, we need to make information as accessible as possible. To reach a broader audience, especially younger people, the internet is an important tool.

#3) The Highland Villager Has a Bias


Try as we might to be neutral and objective, all newspapers have a bias, as does this blog. A lot of this comes from questions of audience and journalistic methodology: who are we talking to? who do we interview for stories? what kinds of stories do we cover? 

How we answer these kinds of questions is important. But as I’ve been carefully reading the Highland Villager over the last five years, I’ve gradually become more frustrated with the way that the paper frames stories. For example, the Highland Villager seems to amplify concerns about parking and traffic while minimizing voices that view development or change in a more positive light.

Maybe this is intentional, or maybe it’s just giving the readers what they want. Maybe is the inherent nature of media; after all, conflict grabs readers, and nobody wants to read about how everyone agrees with each other. [Well, I do kinda, if it's done well.] But to me, the Highland Villager often frames issues in ways that exacerbate divisions around issues like street design and development that I find to be crucial for the future of Saint Paul.

In fact, having more positive and inclusive urban conversations is one of the main reasons why I helped to start streets.mn, along with a whole bunch of friends and colleagues from across the city. That website is "dedicated to expanding the conversation about land use and transportation issues', but implicit in that mission statement is a critique of existing conversations. I know how hard it is to be a reporter, and I know how difficult these things are. But unfortunately I sometimes feel that the Highland Villager inflames people about parochial issues at the expense of more collective values.

As I’ve said, every kind of media has a bias and specific audiences that they (try to) reach. For example, nobody without internet and a computer can read this blog. I like the Highland Villager and appreciate the fact that it’s out there covering neighborhood meetings that, otherwise, wouldn't get noticed. That's why I believe the Highland Villager is a net positive for Saint Paul.

But I also wish it spoke to, and about, all parts of the city. I worry that its economically unequal coverage and framing of particular voices can sometimes agitate city discussions in negative ways. That’s why I feel compelled to keep re-blogging the Highland Villager. I think its important to make sure that everyone has theoretically equal access to information and that broader perspectives are included in conversations about our city.

See you next fortnight!

[Some Highland Villagers waiting in the cold.]

11.12.14

Reading the Highland Villager Op-Ed Extra #8

[Empty spaces on Wabasha in the middle of the day, fm Ken Paulman's twitter.]
High cost, loss of parking argue for a better bike loop

By Bill Hosko

On Tuesday, December 2, downtown St. Paul residents and business people gathered for a follow-up discussion of Mayor Chris Coleman's plan for a "bike loop" in downtown. An earlier meeting with business people and residents on the bike loop was held on November 12. Public comments to the city were due by December 8.

[I went to one of these meetings, and listened to the following testimony from one elderly resident: "I’ve been a resident for just about a year and seeing a poster on a little deli was the first I’ve heard that 15 spots on Jackson might no longer exist. One of the biggest factors for us relocating to downtown from the suburbs, and we took six months to decide, was the parking for people who wanted to come visit us."]

The bike loop, as proposed, is an $18 million designated, curbed and landscaped bike path that would connect Wabasha, 10th, Jackson, and 4th streets. [The exact alignment for the loop hasn't been decided, though Hosko did choose my preferred streets as his example.] It would eliminate 147 metered parking spaces on top of the 131 metered spaces that were previously removed as a result of the construction of the light-rail Green Line downtown.

St. Paul has been working on a comprehensive citywide bike plan for the past three years, and released a draft of the proposal last winter. [Three years is a long time!] The plan, if fully implemented, would add 214 miles of bikeways in the next few decades to the 144 miles of bikeways the city now has. It includes two already-identified projects: the downtown bike loop and the completion of the Grand Round, a 27-mile route around the city on either bike lanes or off-street bike trails.

The bike plan has received the support of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater St. Paul Association of Buildings Owners and Managers, and limited endorsement by the downtown CapitolRiver Council's executive and parking committees. [Note that Hosko pulls many of the strings for the CapitolRiver council, unfortunately.] Mayor Coleman has already budgeted $8 million of the city's $42.5 million 8-80 Vitality Fund to rebuild Jackson Street as the first segment of the bike loop--two months before the public comment was to end. [Yeah, that's how this city works.]

Before I go any further, I should mention that I'm car-free, bike year-round, and view the draft bike plan as largely an excellent document. I'm also certain that most of those who live and work in St. Paul support the thoughtful, cost-effective expansion of biking opportunities throughout the city. [Before I go any further, note that the bike loop really isn't designed for people who are already biking around downtown Saint Paul, but for people who aren't biking in downtown because they don't feel safe. Downtown curb-separated bike lanes are something that even kids should be able to ride on comfortably.]

In August, Mayor Coleman expressed great concern in an article published in this newspaper about a projected $9.6 million city budget shortfall. ("Budget cuts and tax hikes may be in store for 2015.") Coleman was quoted as saying, "Imagine having to cut every year for the last eight or nine years and then year we need to cut more. It gets very difficult." Was the mayor's concern sincere?

Mayor Coleman was elated in October when the City Council awarded the bike loop project $8 million to start the first phase of construction: rebuilding Jackson Street between 10th and 4th streets. That project alone would permanently eliminate 46 metered spaces -- as well as significant parking meter and ticket revenue -- and 10 loading spaces. [Parking revenue doesn't go away, actually. It moves around. That's why parking revenue needs to be seen as a whole. One great way to increase parking revenue in downtown Saint Paul would be to extend meter times past 5 PM. That would also have the added benefit of ensuring that spaces turn over more frequently. The argument about revenue is especially disingenuous because it seems like what people are complaining about is the loss of free parking, which generates no revenue at all.] Only after making budget cuts and raising city taxes and fees does Coleman propose to pull out $8 million in city taxes and fees for his pet project, which was based on a similar project in Indianapolis. [I can only hope that this is indeed a pet project for Coleman, which means it actually might happen!]

What Indianapolis has that St. Paul doesn't is [downtown art gallery owners with vision] flat terrain, milder winters and a strong economy. [Pretty sure that the Twin Cities' economy is doing better than Indianapolis'. If decades of free parking haven't made downtown Saint Paul's economy thrive, maybe we should try something else?] Additionally Indianapolis' downtown streets are significantly wider than St. Paul's. As a result, far fewer parking spaces were removed to accommodate that city's bike loop. [I'm actually curious about data on this.] Indianapolis also doesn't have two other major economic competitors to contend with a few miles away: downtown Minneapolis and Bloomington's Mall of America. [Note that the Saint Paul Macy's is thriving because of the free parking.] Coleman continues to insist that downtown St. Paul is "booming," when the truth is that St. Paul continues to economically fall further behind other municipalities in the metro area.

Is there a middle-ground in Coleman's bike loop plan? Absolutely. let's install bike and motor vehicle markers on traffic lanes along the bike loop to drive home the point that they are shared lanes for motor vehicles and bikes. [Sharrows, the last refuge of the scoundrel.] Coleman might even lead by example by starting to bike year-round -- we're the same age -- and show how easy it is is to commute the four miles between his West Side home and City Hall. [It'd be easier if they had a contiguous bike lane on Wabasha Street and a bike loop path that would let you easily get from City Hall to Bill Hosko's dynamic business on 7th Street, the Music Forest Café.]


Reading the Highland Villager #120

[A Villager in winter. H/t Mike.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]


Headline: Homeowners feel pain of rising values; Housing market rebound brings big tax increases
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Also greater net worth.]


Headline: St. Paul grants liquor licenses for Salt Cellar; Answer to Selby-Western parking woes still sought
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A restaurant that wanted to open up in a vacant building in a historic walkable area can now do so even though they don't have as many parking spots as other restaurants in the area would like them to have. Minimum parking requirements are vague on the subject, either requiring 31, 13, or 14 spaces. The restaurant will 13. The city staff said 14 but neighborhoods and the owner of W.A. Frost took it to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) who denied the larger requirements. In a recent vote, the City Council sided with city staff and the BZA. Article includes quotes from the owners of the new restaurant about getting their employees to work, and some history of the building, which was formerly an art school. Best quote: "some business owners and residents have said that the Neighborhood ... has reached  a tipping point." [Classic Yogi Berra moment: "Nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded."] People are still concerned about parking. [The key to parking in this neighborhood is to park a few blocks away and walk a few blocks. It's nice to walk in this neighborhood because it's beautiful and doesn't have parking lots everywhere. Fancy restaurants also have valet parking, don't they?]


Headline: City vacates former Lexington Library
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An building that used to have a library in it was sold. Other vacant buildings owned by the city will be sold in the future.


Headline: Grant awarded for transit [Least exciting headline in many months.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Counties Transit Improvement Board CTIB has given money to transit projects like SWLRT, Bottineau, Orange Line and Gateway.


Headline: City gets to work on new teardown policy; The question is, how do you legislate standards for new home design?
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is considering new policies to regulate teardowns [when smaller homes in nice neighborhoods are torn down and replaced with larger homes], most of which is happening in the South-west quadrant of the city. Some questions include how to notify neighbors, what designs and style regulations might look like, and "lot splits."


Headline: Debbie Montgomery gets her name on part of Marshall Ave.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A former Council Member gets a symbolic sign. [See also: SuperTarget.]


Headline: St. Paul takes aim at creating archery range near Pig's Eye
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You may be able to shoot arrows in park land near Pig's Eye lake in the future. [You'll poke your eye out!]


Headline: Owners of Grand property appeal parking spot denial
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A commercial/residential building housing a contracting business wants not to build a parking spot but the city is trying to make them do so. Neighbors say that tenants "park illegally in the alley."



Headline: Permit sought for next phase of Victoria Park apartments
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old industrial oil tank farm is still becoming apartment buildings near West 7th Street. 194 new units, outdoor pool, and underground parking. [Park in the pool! Swim in your car!]


Headline: County to pay $11.5M to raze old jail, West Publishing complex in downtown
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Old buildings across the street from City Hall along the bluff downtown will be torn down by the County because they couldn't sell them to anyone. Politicians hope that the demolition will accelerate redevelopment. Article includes history of the buildings, the oldest of which is from 1895. [The jail is so amazing; see here.] "Demolition will take a year." They might get a Met Council grant to help pay for some of it.


Headline: Consultants aid St. Paul's effort to upgrade winter street maintenance
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is changing the rules about one-sided parking and snow emergencies to make it easier to tag and tow cars. They're using "data" now. [What will they think of next?] Article includes quote: "they faced a blizzard of complaints." They will especially clear snow around the Green Line.


Headline: St. Paul approves regs for Uber, Lyft
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city will let Uber and Lyft operate without requiring individual licenses for drivers. Article includes lots of explanation of what a "smartphone" is. Article includes claims from the companies that lists of drivers' names are "trade secrets." [My understanding is that each company poaches drivers from the other, which if course is bad for the companies because then they get into a bidding war with each other and end up giving more power to the drivers.]


10.12.14

Sidewalk Closed Signs #7

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Milwaukee, WI.]
 [Finlayson, MN.]
 [Downtown Saint Paul.]
 [Downtown Minneapolis.]
 [Stockholm, Sweden.]
 [Stockholm, Sweden.]
[Maybe Grand Avenue?]