Off Beat

The High Price of Cleanliness

AS CAMPAIGN VOWS go, mayoral hopeful Mark Stenglein's oft-repeated promise to bolster Minneapolis's street-cleaning operations may seem relatively modest. But when Stenglein, a fiscal conservative, told the Star Tribune he would initiate twice-monthly sweeping of every street in the city, he raised more than a few eyebrows. After all, this is the guy who boasts on his Web site (www.markstenglein.com) that, if elected, "the days of the $4 million theater relocation are over"--a pointed jab at the much-ridiculed one-block moving of the Shubert Theater. As it stands, the city conducts just two "comprehensive" citywide sweeps per year. According to Mike Kennedy, the director of operations for the city's Public Works Department, those sweeps cost about $1 million apiece--or about half of the approximately $4 million annual street-cleaning budget. Still, Kennedy says, Stenglein's twice-monthly plan wouldn't cost the whopping $24 million one might extrapolate from those figures; the twice-a-year sweepings require extra work crews to haul away big piles of fall leaves and winter sand--neither of which presumably would be a problem in, say, mid-July. Currently, the average residential street already gets two to four additional street cleanings per year. In some areas--the Chain of Lakes watershed district, some commercial districts, and the downtown loop--streets are swept up to twice a month. For his part, Stenglein now says he "misspoke" when he told the Strib he mentioned a twice-a-month schedule. "That would be a dream. I'd love to do that. But it's not realistic. Still, I would like to see the street sweepers go down every street at least once a month," he maintains. By Stenglein's estimate, such an expansion would still call for an increase of $5 million to $7 million in the annual street-cleaning budget: "This is one of the main reasons I'm running."

Jackhammer Justice

AFTER DECADES OF disuse, the old Grain Belt brewery in northeast Minneapolis is finally getting a face-lift, courtesy of the Ryan Companies (and a fat city subsidy). While Minneapolis officials trumpet the $20 million project to turn the brewery into a headquarters for RSP Architects, several artists with studios in the old bottling house are a tad put off. "We moved into a very quiet, beautiful building and it's turned into kind of a living hell," painter Virginia Keegan complains. Another tenant, artist Lynn Speaker, says that the noise and vibrations have been intolerable since construction commenced in late May, and she can't open her windowsbecause of all the dust and dirt. "I've basically not been able to work for the last month," says Speaker. Both women, who are among the half-dozen artists who rent studios in the bottling house, recently got letters from their landlord, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA), offering a credit of half a month's rent to compensate for the inconvenience. "We're probably going to seek more than that," Keegan says. According to the MCDA's Carter Johnson, much of the demolition has been "extraordinary" because of the age and structure of the former brewery. The demolition was scheduled to end by July 17. After it's finished, the agency will meet with the artists to talk about compensation.

Paper Chase

IT TOOK A few days, but Off Beat has finally figured out what it is that's vaguely disquieting about the St. Paul Pioneer Press's new layout: It's not the obvious--the shrunken paper size, the new typeface, the new photos of a seemingly older and beefier roster of columnists--but rather the subtle, um, Strib-ification of the editorial product. For starters there's the new "Fast Lane" transportation column by Toni Coleman. Another forum to dissect the travails of the daily commuter? Laurie Blake is surely quaking in her HOV lane. Then there's the addition of long, skinny columns, or "rails," to the front page of each Pi Press section, presumably to ensure that readers needn't struggle through more than one paragraph to find out what's happening in the world. Finally, the capital city daily has added a "Best of the Week" feature, spotlighting the top entertainment events of the upcoming week. The layout looks eerily similarto the Strib's Sunday "Arts & Entertainment" section calendar. We found it all rather depressing. At least until we spied the perky new headshot of metro columnist Laura Billings and all felt right with the world again.

 
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