Uptown Secures 50 More Years of Drive-Thru Banking

A Google search for “do people still go inside banks?” shows that, for some of us, physical banks are a thing of the past. Which means you might not be aware of the dangers of car-free banking. Read on, for a story every parent should see.

Yesterday, the Planning Commission considered Wells Fargo’s plans for a new branch building at the corner of Lake and Humboldt. The building would replace the bank’s existing structure built in 1973. The maximum number of car parking stalls allowed for the proposed building is 17. Wells Fargo wants 36.

A representative for Wells Fargo cited safety concerns, for employees and customers, as one reason the Planning Commission should allow double the parking maximum. Commissioner Ben Gisselman also had questions about safety:

When we’re talking about bank transactions, I feel like there is some argument that perhaps customers–I don’t know if this is legitimate or not–but perhaps customers do want the safety of having their vehicle there.

@happifydesign @mikesonn from watching that meeting, I gather it’s hugely dangerous to do your banking without a getaway car nearby.

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) November 17, 2015

Considering the neighborhood context (frequent transit, multiple bikeways, walkability, density, the transportation preferences of nearby residents), Commissioner Nick Magrino expressed “surprise” that all 27 Wells Fargo employees at the site are driving themselves to work: “I think it’s probably possible that you’re sort of inducing some of that demand from the employees by having free parking available on site.”

The Planning Commission denied the request for 19 additional car stalls. They also required that three bike parking stalls be added at the bank’s Lake and Humboldt entrance. As a result of these two decisions, several long-time residents probably made dramatic Facebook pronouncements about moving to St. Paul.

The Planning Commission also voted to continue the tradition of drive-thru banking in the heart of Uptown. The new drive-thru will be two lanes, which is considerably smaller than the existing building’s seven-lane monster.

Sam Rockwell, the lone commissioner to oppose the drive-thru, noted that the Hennepin-Lake area is a Pedestrian Overlay District, and the first rule of Pedestrian Overlay District is don’t talk about drive-thrus. Rockwell also pointed to the fact that the area has the fourth highest bicycle counts and the third highest pedestrian counts in the city. [to watch his entire remarks, visit SamRockwellSpeech.com]

It’s impossible to say whether the Millenials of tomorrow will make virtual banking transactions from a retractable kiosk mounted on the titanium-alloy ceiling of their driverless Space-Ubers. But even if we can’t know what banking will look like a decade from now, we do know that Uptown might be stuck with the banking equivalent of a VCR, in the form of a one-story drive-thru bank that could last 50 years.  

Based on your past purchases, you might also like:
Rockwell’s Travel Guides – Drive-Thru Banking in Minneapolis

Better Know a Pumpkin: Andrew Johnson

I took Ward 12 Council Member, and recent jack-o’-lantern, Andrew Johnson on a historic walking tour of our very historic Lowry Hill East Historic District. He agreed that it is a beautiful neighborhood and that it should never change. Afterwards he sat for a series of softball questions in Mueller Park.

I was eager to hear his thoughts on Linden Hills. He described, with awe in his voice, that he’d never seen anything like the recent 43rd and Upton appeal at the Zoning and Planning Committee. He was particularly impressed with the Linden Hillers’ determination to blow through time limits and ignore repeated requests to wrap up. He remembered being surprised by a chant of “this is not what democracy looks like” in response to speakers being told they wouldn’t get a second try at the microphone (sadly, this was not captured in video of the meeting).

We talked about his proposed animal control ordinance, which is strangely controversial. He said his intention is to modernize a wide range of policies relating to animal care and shelters. According to Johnson, the existing policies are “cobbled together” and in need of overhaul. In formulating the proposal, they’ve held two public meetings and consulted with groups that advocate for the humane treatment of animals.

The proposal is full of potentially cumbersome regulations requiring pet owners to provide:

  • Adequate food, water, and shelter
  • Access to care, treatment, and transportation to veterinary care
  • Appropriate space and exercise
  • Access to care to prevent pain and suffering

We spoke about his legendary thirst. He claims he only used this giant mug one time on Channel 79 (implying that somehow I’m the weirdo for catching him). He took frequent sips from the comically large mug during our interview. After some examination, I believe he is telling the truth when he says it’s not a water pitcher stolen from a pizzeria. He emphasized over and over that he is still “re-hydrating” weeks after his Linden Hills experience.

I let Andrew hold my pumpkin, he let me touch his giant mug.

We talked about his Tweet-battle with home improvement icon Nicole Curtis. He renewed his challenge for her to release the disturbing emails. I got the impression he was prepared to take all the credit for running Curtis out of Minneapolis and back to Detroit, but he didn’t come right out and say it.

In response to a question about the recent setback for the Working Families agenda, he mentioned his hope that something could still be accomplished on sick time and fair scheduling, but in a way that accommodates some of what he sees as legitimate business concerns.

2015 Sexiest CM Alive pic.twitter.com/kOLYWoFQzl

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) August 21, 2015


Coming up next in our Better Know a Pumpkin series: City Historian and Planner John Smoley(!).

Smoley for President logo carved into the backside of Pumpkin Andrew.

We’ll ask him: Why is our historic district so small? What does he have against Queen Annes? Did he really get his PhD in “Missile Silos”? And also, why isn’t our historic district bigger?

Great Moments in “Oops, I Missed My Turn”

Sometimes buildings get in the way.
No helmet, no reflective clothing. smh. https://t.co/1kC6Z4GLoM

— § (@section_sign) November 1, 2015


A driver crashed a vehicle into the dry cleaner at 2500 Hennepin early Sunday morning. It’s happened before, in far more spectacular fashion, just one block north. In 2005, the driver of a van nearly demolished the building at 2400 Hennepin (which still houses Sudz Salon, as well as newer occupant Spyhouse Coffee). 

News coverage of the 2005 crash reprinted below—as always, without permission.

Wedge newspaper, April 2005

Photos below from Garrick Van Buren.

Full story from the March 14, 2005 Star Tribune:

A van crashed into a hair salon at 24th St. and Hennepin Av. S. in Minneapolis on Sunday morning, leaving a gaping hole in the storefront and causing the second floor to partly collapse. 

Emergency crews responded to the Sudz Salon at 2400 Hennepin about 8 a.m. and extracted the van’s driver from the wreckage. A medical condition likely caused the man to veer off Hennepin, hit a traffic light and then smash into the salon lobby, said Paul Nemes, a captain with the Minneapolis Fire Department. 

The driver was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center with non- life-threatening injuries. No one was in the salon or neighboring businesses when the accident occurred. An upstairs apartment was severely damaged, but salon employees said no one lived there. 

“Oh my god,” said salon manager Krysta Schrader. “I’m just worried about my employees’ livelihood. It’s devastating.” 

Although much of the salon’s rear half remained untouched, Nemes said that most of the building is a total loss because its structural integrity was compromised; it will be demolished. 

Schrader said the salon will try to lease a temporary space as soon as possible.

2400 Hennepin was stitched back together.

Wedge Living: Halloween Crafting & Recipes

There have been some spooky rumors going around about Council Member Andrew Johnson and his mysterious animal control ordinance. This guy is jack-o’-lantern material.

Is @CMAndrewJohnson proposing to round up and euthanize all unleashed cats, lizards, ferrets, weasels, and red hens? https://t.co/qQ9crcJBy7

— MRRderouSVLD (@MRRSVLD) October 17, 2015

wedgi-How Tutorial

Step 1:  Bring Andrew Johnson to meet some of your friends from Linden Hills.
Step 2: Create a template from his reaction.
Step 3: Pull out the guts of your pumpkin, and save them for later.
Step 4: Print out the template and attach it to the pumpkin. Trace by poking holes through the template.
Step 5: Carve out the white space, and scrape the surface off the grey-shaded areas.

RECIPE: Uncle Wedgie’s Extra-Burned Pumpkin Seeds

Now it’s time to cook your pumpkin seeds. Google around for a sriracha-based recipe. Make sure this recipe calls for you to cook the seeds for way too long, and at much too high of a temperature.

Sriracha, vegetable oil, soy sauce.
Perfect.

When the smell of burning pumpkin seeds becomes alarming, your seeds are done. Force-feed them to Pumpkin Andrew like a heavy dose of Linden Hills, giving him a good reason for that horrified expression.

UPDATE: Humans and gourds can coexist.


Clearing Things Up

Some Twitter disclaimers have become necessary:

  1. Pay no attention to that library stamp. I am not a licensed librarian, nor an employee of the Hennepin County Library.
  2. wedgelive.com has never published a Special Senior Edition. And I never will–no matter how many accusations of ageism are thrown my way.
  3. My tweets are not trapped in February 1983, waiting for Doc to help them get back to 2015.
  4. 877-WEDGE-LIVE has too many digits to be an actual phone number, though the first 10 digits will probably connect you to something–maybe an attractive young woman who is just waiting for your call.
  5. Chet Wedgely is a fictional character I created during my recent Linden Hills coverage.
  6. The current @WedgeLIVE avatar is not intended to be a factual statement.
  7. “Wedge DEAD!” is my spooky Halloween name, not a spinoff of popular AMC zombie drama The Walking Dead.
Might be necessary to stop signing my blog posts & start pretending to be an anonymous citywide coalition of concerned neighbor-reporters.

— Wedge DEAD! (@WedgeLIVE) October 22, 2015

Not LHENA-Sanctioned

FYI

LHENA had a board meeting last night. As you may know, I am a board member. During the meeting we learned of two grievances. The individuals attached to these grievances were unnamed (a “grievance” is a new process LHENA uses to resolve complaints lodged against the organization or individual members).

One grievance had to do with a pizza-related social media post (I immediately recognized this as one of my tweets). The other grievance was something else that happened on social media–no content was specified (I also recognize this as one of my tweets).

Hey two mystery grievances just came up at this board meeting. Sounds like they’re against me and my social media.

— Wedge DEAD! (@WedgeLIVE) October 22, 2015

The pizza grievance was dismissed. The second grievance remains a mystery to be resolved later. While I don’t know who’s behind these grievances, I can guess from whose Facebook posse they might be coming. I think the strategy here is to lodge as many frivolous complaints as possible, establish your crew’s reputation as an incredible cast of goofballs, and then really lay the hammer down when I’m least expecting it (save this sentence for a future grievance).

At the very end of the meeting, during the “new business” portion of the agenda (I’m new here, but I gather that’s where you need to watch out for an ambush), someone handed me this motion: an accusation that I used an account with the name “Wedgelive/Wedgedead” to fool people into thinking I’m the official LHENA Twitter account and a demand that I remove all traces of the Wedge newspaper from my website and Twitter. At least half the board was visibly and vocally irritated to have this pile of unexpected nonsense dumped in their lap after a two-plus hour meeting, right as they thought they’d be able to go home.

Totally urgent, emergency, last-minute motion.

Exhibit A: “Today’s Header.” Distributed at last night’s meeting.
Someone thought this motion was a reasonable thing to write, and print out, and show to a dozen other people. Someone seconded this motion, and a handful of people would’ve voted for it, but it was tabled and sent over to the LHENA grievance committee–where I’ve racked up three tweet-grievances in my young career. And this item will probably linger well into 2016. These people are not right. Here’s what one board member said shortly after the meeting, in a private message:
To briefly summarize the history: LHENA published and delivered the newspaper to every home in the neighborhood for free beginning in 1970. I was one of two people involved in a project to digitize the Wedge newspaper late last year. I made the archive freely available here. I did not contact LHENA to ask for permission. I used the archive as the source for a series of posts about Wedge history, like this LHENA episode from 1993, which I recommend. It’s relevant reading.
In April, I ran for the LHENA Board of Directors and delivered a speech at the annual meeting almost entirely premised on the fact that I had digitized the paper: “I gave you an archive of the Wedge paper, vote for me.” I won.
At the May meeting, my blog was made a surprise topic (not listed on the agenda; strange that this keeps happening). I was accused of mistreating a “single mom” (more on that here), and concerns were raised about newspaper copyright. In July, the board settled concerns over the copyright issue by deciding to neither give permission nor demand I remove the archive.
And now we’re talking about it again in October, ostensibly because I changed my Twitter header image to something I found amusing and visually interesting. The Wedge newspaper is one of the most historic/wonderful/hilarious things about this neighborhood. It’s an ongoing source of surprise to me that devoted defenders of the newspaper’s legacy aren’t glad to have it accessible from their phone.

“take down all your creepy posts about LHENA volunteers”

I was elected to the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) Board of Directors in April. Before that, I had been blogging and tweeting about local politics for roughly a year. Not everyone’s a fan.

At LHENA’s May meeting–my first as a member of the board–my blog was made a topic for discussion (surprising because I wasn’t on the agenda). During the discussion I was accused by a fellow board member of “publishing the home address of a single mom.” This was an intentionally vague and misleading reference to a blog post I had written about HGTV personality Nicole Curtis’ permit violations at some of her Minneapolis properties (also a threat to single moms: this WCCO story).

In July, a second board member accused me of “stalking” and demanded I delete a tweet linking to political commentary in a public Facebook post. The topic was parking reform (not vacation photos), so “stalking” seemed over the top.

Four days after the “stalking” accusation, I received an email from an unknown sender using an apparently fake name. The subject line was my girlfriend’s name. The message began by saying, “someone is playing your game.” The email contained a link to a Craigslist ad seeking sex; the ad was written to appear as if it came from my girlfriend, using her name, location and description. The email ended with a threat: “take down all your creepy posts about LHENA volunteers etc. Or who knows maybe her exact address, picture or phone # might show up tomorrow in a different category.”

We reported this to the police immediately. In September, all but one of my fellow board members voted to request the police seek a subpoena for Craigslist and Gmail to determine the identity of the person who sent the threat. I appreciate that, though I’m skeptical the police will pursue it.

You might imagine my initial reaction based on the content and timing of the email threat. Yet I’ve been told that it’s offensive to ask whether someone within LHENA has any connection to or knowledge of who might be responsible. It was said during September’s board meeting that this is no big deal; that putting my girlfriend’s name, location, and description in a sex ad is just someone being “snarky.” It’s also been said that the more important issue is all the unfair attacks (never specified, but presumably from me) coming at LHENA over the past year.

Not helping matters, Minneapolis’ Neighborhood and Community Relations Department replied to my initial email reporting the threat by sending a list of social media guidelines. I forwarded the email to NCR, and they gave me a lesson in discouraging participation. It was disappointing to have the city department that oversees neighborhood organizations suggest–in an email sent to the entire LHENA board–that my actions are the problem.

That attitude has carried over to the months-long debate regarding LHENA’s new “code of conduct” policy, with the argument being that the organization has been victimized by social media. Some folks were very adamant about including broad rules against “disparaging” language that causes a “barrier to participation,” and generally trying to define the most stringent possible standard for speech infractions.

I wish there was the same urgency to address those few LHENA board members who have disparaged me as a sort of predator–to the degree someone felt putting a Craigslist target on my girlfriend’s back was appropriate payback. As for barriers to participation: I’m pretty sure the only reason the anonymous emailer knows her name, or where she lives, or that she even exists, is because I brought her to neighborhood association meetings. She won’t be coming back.

The concerted effort to hype me as a menace has put someone close to me in danger, making it harder for her to feel safe in her own neighborhood. I sense too much denial and defiance from the people participating in that effort. This all escalated over a period of months during which I made the mistake of saying nothing. So I’m writing this post as a matter of self defense. My hope is that calling this out publicly makes it less likely to happen again.

9 Revealing Moments from John Champe’s Whittier Alliance Book

Lisa Goodman went to war with an inflatable Godzilla over these apartments.
Last week, I read the first two chapters from a forthcoming book about the Whittier Alliance. As it turns out, this stuff from 2015 goes back a quarter century, including bylaws shenanigans and reacting to criticism with rules against “defamation.”
The author is John Champe, who is an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota. Instead of lost tribes of the Amazon, he decided to study the far less civilized world of Minneapolis neighborhood associations. I especially appreciated the insanity of Chapter 2. And if you like giant inflatable Godzilla-based protests against affordable housing, give Chapter 1 a look.

1. “Homeowner Revolution”
Millions of dollars in NRP money helped drive the 1992 takeover of the Whittier Alliance by property owners hostile to affordable and supportive housing. Keep in mind that the reason Whittier received so many millions of dollars in city money was because of their large population of poor and minority renters.

Two years before the “Homeowner Revolution” many activists against more subsidized housing had already formed The Whittier Homeowners Association. This coalition “was a key force in the campaign”, and after its adherents gained a majority on the 1992 Alliance board, it simply moved itself into the Alliance. The Homeowners Association had made itself defunct because while it had scant money and legitimacy, the organization it took over had reams of cash and was certified by city hall as the official representative of the neighborhood. (Ch 2, p 12)

2. Culture Shift
The big change in 1992 turned the Whittier Alliance away from its long history of supporting low income housing.

Between the Alliance’s birth in 1978 and the 1992 revolution, the Alliance had developed “330 units of low income housing … The Alliance was one of the most productive nonprofit low income housing producers in the city.” (Ch 2, p 11)

3. “Elitist Cabal”
Champe describes how difficult it was for the Whittier Alliance’s new leadership (the “Friends of Whittier”) to get along with its staff:

I find that it was naïve of the FOW [anti-affordable and supportive housing] faction to think that they would find people to work in low paying, non-profit, inner-city, community jobs, in a poor, racially diverse neighborhood, who were not “social justice” oriented, and who did not see the poor, the renters, and the minorities as underdogs deserving of extra help. Even hiring a community organizer and a director who were Republicans did not solve this problem, as both still found the board an elitist cabal that was impossible to get along with. (Ch 2, p 14)

4. Opposition to school for the blind.
In 1993, a school for the blind proposed moving into the Pillsbury mansion. Board Chair Dave Hoban is reported to have said something to the effect, “I don’t even understand why they would want to buy that building, because it is so beautiful, and they wouldn’t be able to see it anyway.”

5. “Rode out of town on a rail, honey.”
A Board Member from 1993 tells her story:

When the Pillsbury mansion was converted from a residence to the school, oh my god people flipped out. And you know, the Dave Hoban’s of the world, which I’m sure you know, went nuts, that’s how I lost my board position because I voted for Blind Inc. Lucy and I got rode out of town on a rail honey. (Ch 2, p 32)

6. Mafia-style street justice.

After the Blind Inc. vote Dave called me and wanted me to come out into the street so we could wrestle in the street. That same night the husband of another board member who voted for it got punched in the jaw outside the Black Forest and we’re convinced that Dave arranged for that.  (Ch 2, p 32)

7. Political Parties
The early 1990s sees the advent of political parties in Whittier, called Friends of Whittier (FOW) and Diversity & Democracy (D&D):

Naming themselves “Diversity” was a jab at the FOW, who were seen as hostile to ethnic minorities and the lower classes. And “Democracy” was a way to show how they were opposed to what many considered the decidedly undemocratic methods of the FOW activists – their privileging of homeowner participation, and their “dirty tricks.” (Ch 2, p 40)

8. Bylaws Shenanigans

the FOW appeared to have a three pronged strategy – mobilize the base to come out to vote for your slate at the annual meeting, manipulate the bylaws to get other FOW members on the board after the election, then harass the rivals that did get elected to the board until they quit. (Ch 2, p 41)

9. Rooftop Godzillas for Responsible Development Coalition
Lisa Goodman meets her match during a 2001 battle over low-income housing:

At that time, city council representative Lisa Goodman hosted a monthly “Lunch with Lisa” chat session with local constituents at the Acadia café across the street from Plymouth Congregational. At her lunch immediately following her public statement of support for Lydia, Citizens picketed outside the cafe while their Godzilla held his own twenty four hour protest on the roof above. (Ch 1, p 8)

“The Planning Commission” Pre-Show Panel

We’re minutes away from tonight’s Planning Commission (view the trailer). Linden Hills is on the agenda. It’s Nick Magrino’s first meeting as a commissioner. There’s probably at least one Sabri on the agenda. Let’s go to our panel!

John: let’s start with Whittier. gentrification is in the news today. anyone have some quick takes?

[Shouted from the studio audience]: do these people not realize Whittier is getting fancy restaurants and hipster/gentrified bars, etc **without** the Uptown-esque 5 story developments?

J: I thought the line against this building was “too affordable”?

Senior Producer: From the strib, “As increasingly upscale businesses have bloomed near it — just up the street is a yoga studio and a bar that specializes in fermented products ranging from local kombucha tea to artisan cheeses.”

[Surly audience member]: It’s as if chains and bros will literally move into old, crummy buildings without new construction to satisfy their $2k/month budget!

J: Fancy people only ruin things when they live in apartments. As soon as a fancy person goes above about three stories, the neighborhood starts to undergo what I like to call “ghettoized gentrification.”

I’ve never been excited for anything as much as the @WedgeLIVE reporting team is for this zoning & planning meeting https://t.co/cYOI6rbtXG

— Kristina (@gelicia) September 8, 2015

Anton: wait, I thought it was the planning commission

Kristina: I’m sorry I maybe messed up the terminology. BUT no one who follows me will care who isnt one of you weirdos.

A: what a total n00b! Doesn’t know the difference between Zoning & Planning and the Planning Commission!!! LOLOL

J: familiarize yourself with the 87 layers of development bureaucracy or GTFO.

let’s get back to the issue. like, was commissioner nick magrino properly vetted?

A: did they hold confirmation hearings? was there a litmus test? there needs to be a quiz.

J: “which of these words has not been used to describe linden hills? a) quaint, b) small town, c) village,  d) gargantuan”

A: how many of the founding fathers’ signatures are on the Linden Hills Small Area Plan?

J: i can’t be the only one who’s exhausted by discussion of the LHSAP. it needs to go away.

A: but it represents everyone in Linden Hills

J: depends if you’re talking about the actual LHSAP or the one the founders intended.

it’s a sunni shiite thing.

A: Yes, are you an originalist when it comes to the LHSAP, or do you feel that it is a “living document”?

that needs to be the litmus test

J: that’s my point. nick magrino was never forced to answer that question.

Senior Producer: all I know about the LHSAP is they spent $60,000 on it

J: ha ha. like any amount of money can buy off the multinational corporations.

A: Do you, Nick Magrino, consider yourself more of a Antonin Scalia or Stephen Breyer?

J: he’s more of a ruth bader magrinsburg.

A: Thurgood Magrino

J: i might have to edit this into a roundtable. who’s willing to be quoted?

A: um, what of mine will be quoted again?

YES I CONSENT

J: i’ll edit you to make you look smart and handsome.

A: that doesn’t fit with my personal brand, but that’s okay. please make a clever Robert Bork joke on my behalf.

Update: Watch the three minute recap of The Planning Commission, or the full 12-minute director’s cut.

MetroTransit Bus WiFi First Impressions

With WiFi being tested on select MetroTransit buses, we recently sat down for a conversation with a transit rider on a crowded 6 bus as it traveled south on Hennepin Avenue.

Bus Guy:
Am currently on wifi on a bus

Wedge LIVE: 
are you in space???????? [rocket emoji]

BG: 
Feels like it!
Bus wifi would be pretty sweet if it were on all busses.

WL:
is it busses or buses?

BG:
I go with busses.

WL:
people are going to start tailgating buses just to steal wifi

BG:
On the other hand it’s a 6 and it’s packed
Think of the traffic repercussions
#BanBusWiFi

WL:
you’ll have to look up from your phone while you’re driving to keep track of those sweet wifi-emitting buses. oh, the humanity!

BG:
I’m only staring at the screen so I don’t have to look at anyone because there is nowhere to look.
It’s either people’s faces or their butts.

WL:
is it butts or buttses?
i feel like this conversation needs to go on wedgelive.com as “interview with a man using wifi on the bus”

BG:
I wish to remain anonymous.
Some dude in white shorts and sunglasses keeps giving me the eyes.