Let me say one thing to reassure all those who have asked whether this is a real event: this is a real event. If this wasn’t a real event, would it have an Official Route that has been measured at over 1.9 miles long? It would not. Pretend events don’t have Official Routes, nor do they have Official Route Maps.
I’m going to be honest. As your host for the evening, I’m hoping for a smallish crowd. Many people say the Wedge has too many people already. And I have done zero legwork consulting with the various neighborhood committees who are responsible for being agitated over a lack of parking.
After the tour, you’re invited to attend a special event called “Wedge LIVE: After the Cats” which will take place at the Lynhall, located at 27th and Lyndale, where you can purchase drinks or food. We will break into discussion groups to talk about our experience of the preceding 60-90 minutes of walking around the neighborhood. This will be a chance to celebrate our successes, reflect on our failures, and brainstorm ideas for how we can do better in the future.
Disclaimer: While we believe that cats are likely to occur, we can’t guarantee you will see any cats on the Cats of the Wedge Historic Walking Tour.
Transportation Info (tour begins at Mueller Park – 25th & Bryant Ave) 🚌 Bus: Routes 2, 4, 6, 17, and 21 provide service to the Wedge 🚴 Bike: The Wedge neighborhood is served by the Midtown Greenway and the Bryant Ave bike blvd, though we recommend you take regular streets, break all the laws, and slow down traffic. 🚗 Car: Please park your car on the 2400 block of Bryant Ave. Those people deserve it.
Like me, you may be grappling with the question: Why should I take mayoral candidate Tom Hoch seriously? He’s kind of an uninspiring figure, running a conservative campaign by Minneapolis standards, and I don’t know a single person who’s supporting him.
First, let’s talk about Hoch’s campaign and message. He’s positioned himself as the fiscally conservative candidate. At a mayoral forum on June 15, Hoch said he wants “property taxes at as low a level as possible.” This is consistent with Hoch’s constant social media pronouncements referencing Minneapolis homeowners overburdened by property taxes. No other candidate hits the property tax message as hard and consistently as Hoch.
On housing, Hoch presents himself as the candidate most skeptical of building new housing in Minneapolis. At that same June 15 forum (hosted by a non-profit formed by the wealthy, white residents of tall condo towers because they needed an entity to file a lawsuit to stop the construction of a slightly taller condo tower) he pandered to people he says have told him, “If I wanted to move to Brooklyn, I would have moved to Brooklyn.” He’s tweeted that people have told him “we’re over the tipping-point” in terms of growth.
Tom Hoch recounts these conversations, without challenging the content of these statements, because he is intentionally running a campaign that’s targeted at residents resistant to change. If that’s how he campaigns, that’s who he’ll favor once in office.
But if you really want to learn about Tom Hoch, you need to go to the tweets. Tom Hoch’s Twitter account is unlike any other politician in Minneapolis. Every week or so, his social media team fires off a few dozen tweets, containing many of the same talking points he tweeted the week before, and the week before that. It’s repetitive, but also instructive. Here are the big themes from Hoch’s tweets:
1. “Food could help bridge the urban-rural divide.” My favorite Hochism is the constant call for briding the urban-rural divide with food. I suppose it’s a call for healing in the Trump-era. But it’s a weird thing to keep saying over and over, especially when you’re running explicitly to become the “first gay Mayor of Minneapolis,” a job title that’s sure to make you the most hated man in rural Minnesota.
2. Hoch has an exclusively negative outlook on a minimum wage increase. Tom Hoch’s message on the minimum wage is always negative, never positive. He never calls for raising the wage. His public attitude is resignation that a wage increase will happen, while also warning of its “consequences.” It’s great to be prepared for the unexpected, but the universal negativity makes it hard to believe he supports raising the wage, even though that’s his official position (I think).
3. “FYI: the Nicollet Mall project is NOT on time.”
4. Tom Hoch vows to never consult with colleagues via text message. This is a finger-wag at Mayor Hodges for circumstances surrounding her rescinding Police Chief Janee Harteau’s appointment of John Delmonico as Inspector of the MPD’s 4th Precinct. Tom Hoch wants you to know he has a problem with the early 21st-century practice of consulting with colleagues via text message. But Tom Hoch has never said whether he has a problem with Chief Harteau putting a widely reviled police figure in one of the most sensitive law enforcement jobs in Minneapolis (Delmonico is the man who helped kick off #pointergate, a contrived scandal premised on the racist idea that an obviously innocent gesture showed a black man to be a dangerous criminal.)
Now, the question: why should we pay attention to this uninspiring campaign? After months of fading into the background, Hoch recently started spending lots of money on advertising and expensive campaign swag. His campaign produced a large number of Wheaties-style “cereal boxes” (containing mints, not cereal) to distribute during Pride weekend. The campaign sponsored an issue of Lavender Magazine. Hoch’s most visible spending was for a (plagiarized) television commercial, currently running on local broadcast and cable channels. No other candidate has a TV ad.
Tom Hoch’s plagiarized TV ad.
Tom Hoch’s giant rolling cereal box at the Minneapolis Pride parade.
(video produced by Wedge LIVE, not Tom Hoch’s campaign)
Hoch’s spending stands out as extravagant — some would say wasteful or desperate — but it’s earning his campaign at least some return on investment. Consider the free, uncritical media coverage Hoch has received as a result of his TV commercial. There were two stories on WCCO alone (1, 2).
During a fluffy WCCO-TV interview with Esme Murphy on Sunday, Hoch and his husband repeatedly called the ad “authentic.” Considering this was an interview focused entirely on a candidate’s television ad, Murphy should have asked how Hoch can present himself as the “creative” candidate at the same time he’s plagiarizing another politician’s commercial.
Another reason to pay attention to Tom Hoch: he’s got an unregistered, and therefore illegal, anonymous right-wing PAC supporting his campaign on Facebook. The “Anyone But Betsy” page became somewhat prominent on Facebook for spending a lot of money on ads against Mayor Hodges, racking up thousands of likes. In addition to criticism of the mayor, the page has also increasingly singled out Tom Hoch for praise.
If the race for mayor remains a muddled field of candidates following a likely no-endorsement at the DFL City Convention in July, Tom Hoch could be well-positioned. Lack of money won’t be the thing that stops his campaign from competing all the way to November (finance report deadlines mean that we won’t see what Hoch’s spent or who’s funding his campaign until August). There’s no reason to think Hoch won’t continue to be the beneficiary of uncritical media attention, like his WCCO appearance to gripe about Nicollet Mall or the two WCCO stories focused on his (plagiarized) television commercial. All of which means the most conservative of the plausible candidates for Mayor of Minneapolis might have better odds than you think.
Schorn was elected to the neighborhood association board (LHENA) on April 19th. He started campaigning for City Council on April 24th on nextdoor.com. The problem is LHENA bylaws prohibit candidates for office from sitting on the board (he still hasn’t resigned). This has led some observers to say that David Schorn is bad at planning for the immediate future.
David Schorn is also badly misinformed about Wedge neighborhood controversies involving the local developers known as “The Turkey Guys.” First, some things you need to know about the Turkey Guys: 1) they made lots of money selling turkey sandwiches at the state fair; 2) they own and build rental housing in the neighborhood, such as the world famous Rocket House; and 3) they are the subject of controversy among a special contingent of concerned residents (not for their sandwiches, but for their houses).
I suspect that new candidate David Schorn (who seems like he’s only just begun to grapple with many issues) has recently been exposed to a lot of turkey talk: as in, Turkey Guys did this and Turkey Guys did that. This may have caused Schorn some confusion. As you can see in this exclusive screenshot obtained by Wedge LIVE, David Schorn thinks the Turkey Guys are from Turkey the country, instead of Turkey-To-Go, the booth at the state fair.
Private Facebook reply from Schorn campaign page.
Turkey the sandwich, not Turkey the country
Schorn also has some terrible policy ideas. He would like to solve our housing affordability crisis (which is driven largely by a housing shortage) by stopping housing from being built. And what does the slogan “Parking and Traffic Solutions” mean? Not even David Schorn can tell you. These aren’t really policy ideas so much as local issue buzzwords combined into a terrible acronym on his campaign’s dasharez0ne-style Facebook header.
Also troubling, considering Schorn’s slogan is “Listening to Neighbors,” is his disregard for the rules of the neighborhood electoral process. In a story you’ll only see reported on Wedge LIVE, David Schorn cast an illegal vote at a CARAG meeting last night. Schorn is not a resident of the CARAG neighborhood and is therefore ineligible to vote at CARAG meetings.
And let’s not forget there is a second Not Lisa Bender candidate in Ward 10 named Scott Fine, who announced his campaign in February. Fine is a web developer with no candidate website, no obvious signs of an active campaign, and he can no longer be reached by phone. Neither Schorn nor Fine have yet registered a campaign committee with Hennepin County; until they do so, both candidates are prohibited from spending or raising more than $100 on their pretend campaigns.
I am disappointed in the final layout as presented to the city council. While this design may meet elements of the city’s Complete Streets Policy as outlined by the project team, it does not meet the spirit and intent and wastes a once in a lifetime opportunity of a full reconstruction. While there is obviously much to like – a bike facility, expanded sidewalk and boulevard space, pedestrian-scale lighting and tree coverage, it falls short in many ways of being a street that makes walking and biking the safest and most comfortable mode.
Studies have consistently shown that raised, protected bikeways make streets safer for all users. The most recent study evaluating bike lanes across North America states “Compared with major streets with parked cars and no bicycle facilities, cycle tracks on roads without parked cars were 89% safer; regular, unprotected bicycle lanes on major roads without parked cars were 53% safer; and lightly trafficked residential streets without any bicycle facilities were 56% safer.” It may be obvious, but because these facilities are safer, studies show people prefer to ride bikes on protected facilities over unprotected, painted bike lanes as well – which is key in driving the city’s stated mode share changes.
In practice, the layout in front of you means forcing bicyclists to ride in the door zone of the parked cars on the east side of the street, be cut off by turning or parking cars, take the lane when a bus pulls off into the bike lane to pick up passengers, and in general be feet away from traffic. We know pizza deliveries, UPS trucks, Uber, and any other user will park in the southbound bike lane as they do on countless other streets across the city. This is not a design I want my kids to ride on to go to school, and it’s not one I can guarantee I’ll feel comfortable on when I’m 60 instead of an able-bodied 32 year old. As a result of not putting the bike lane at sidewalk level, we make intersection crossing distances between curbs 12 feet wider than necessary. Painted bike lanes don’t have the same calming effect of a curb – indeed they are allowed to count toward the driver’s “curb reaction distance” per state statute, giving them berth to drive faster and not stay attentive.
The layout in front of you isn’t even the most popular as determined by community outreach. The survey the city put out, reached (to my knowledge) far more people than both neighborhood organizations and any meeting the city put on. The design option with no parking and bike lanes (2C, which could have been at sidewalk level with a slightly tweaked design) had, by far, the highest level of support at 59% saying Very Supportive or Supportive. The design in front of you had 50%, and the design with no bike lanes and two-sided parking was only 33%. The Pedestrian Advisory Committee also recommended pursuing option 2C and per their resolution does not offer support for the final layout. The CARAG neighborhood organization also voted for a different design concept that meets the broad community feedback while still maintaining some parking.
We normally hear that better street designs can only come during a full street reconstruction where Public Works is not constrained by curb and utility locations and costs. But here we have such an opportunity, and the design puts parking and the possibility of a handful of aBRT stations above the safety and convenience of people on foot and bike. We can do better, the city council should demand better. Please pull this from the consent agenda and turn it back to staff for a major revision.
Local developer Yellow Tree Homes is planning a 74-unit, 5-story apartment building at 22nd St and Blaisdell Avenue in Whittier. The proposal was presented to around 25 people at a meeting of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood organization on Monday.
The reaction from around 25 residents in attendance was mixed. One resident, who said he believes the neighborhood needs more housing, wanted to know why it couldn’t be six stories. Another said she was unwilling to support the new building unless the developer performed shadow study, though she acknowledged she thinks that part of the neighborhood is an appropriate place for additional housing.
2201 Blaisdell is currently a 3-story school building. Not the typical target for teardown. But they do have a giant parking lot. Zoned R5. pic.twitter.com/QMToXbybzl
Unit sizes would range from 350 to 1000 square feet. The developer breaks down the unit types this way: 15 micro studio ($940/mo), 21 micro 1-bedroom ($1195), 6 micro 2-bedroom ($1695), 19 1-bedroom ($1395), and 13 2-bedroom ($2195). Amenities include a deck and garden plots, both located on the roof of the building.
The building would have 49 parking stalls, which exceeds the 37 required by the city (this is calculated based on proximity to transit and number of units). Parking was a concern for a few residents at the meeting. The fact that constructing additional parking would mean higher rents was not discussed.
The developers say they will be requesting a conditional use permit from the city to include an extra story and two additional feet in height, as well as variances to reduce side and rear-yard setbacks. There was no mention of when this project might go before the City Planning Commission.