A "Church" funeral

The fabled underground venue stages a last hurrah

On Saturday, hundreds turned out for the "last show ever" at the Church, a legendary, semi-legal underground music venue in south Minneapolis on East 26th Street near Chicago Avenue. Known for a stained-glass decor and in-the-round stage, the former Methodist Episcopal chapel-turned-art studio has hosted noisy word-of-mouth punk and avant-garde concerts without much incident since 1991. Truly, an Interpol list's worth of international weirdos has squawked from the stage, including France's Costes, Michigan's Wolf Eyes, and Oakland's Faun Fables.

But last week, news spread that the 98-year-old structure had a date with the wrecking ball: The nearby Children's Hospital of Minnesota has plans to include the property in its expansion.

"Now it's up to every one of you to start a place like this," said a member of the band Last Legs speaking onstage, before an exuberant crowd that included members of Faggot and cartoonist/former Low bassist Zak Sally. But at one point, artist Susan Lynn-Greenfield, who rents the space, took the stage to announce that there was hope yet for saving the Church. The sale isn't final, and if and when the Children's Hospital applies for a wrecking permit, the city will hold a hearing to decide whether to grant one. Lynn-Greenfield and others plan to argue that the place should be preserved for its historic value, or used in the future as a children's community center.

You should see how they look when they're not dressed for church
Peter S. Scholtes
You should see how they look when they're not dressed for church

Presumably, this will mean no more hiding beer in the broken piano. —Peter S. Scholtes

OOPS! I did it again

The city of Minneapolis and its police union are conspiring to keep women and minorities from being promoted. That's the allegation in a lawsuit filed last month in Hennepin County District Court.

The plaintiffs are an anonymous group of officers billing themselves as the Organization of Potential Sergeants—or OOPS. The dispute stems from a round of promotional testing that began last January. There were two parts to the process, a written test and an assessment to gauge leadership potential.

Initially, it was announced that the top 60 scorers on the written test would be eligible for the second part of the exam. But in April of last year, the city's Human Resources Department determined that this methodology exerted an "adverse impact" on officers of color and women, who for no clear reason posted inferior scores. (Only five minority or female candidates finished in the top 60.) The department tweaked the process, so that anyone who received a score of 70 percent or better on the written test became eligible for the leadership assessment. (This brought in another six candidates who are women or of color.)

Having completed the testing process, the city created a ranked list of 79 candidates. But before any promotions could be given, the Minneapolis Police Federation raised objections of its own. After mediation, the city and the union settled on a two-tier promotion system. The first folks to get sergeant's stripes would be those 48 candidates who scored highest on the written test. Next would come the 31 other eligible officers—effectively spoiling the chances of those cops who'd ranked higher on leadership standards.

Marshal Tanick, attorney for OOPS, says that the change was an attempt by the city and the Minneapolis Police Federation to fix the results so that their desired candidates are high on the list. "I think what they were trying to do was create a system that would have the effect of tending to favor non-women and non-minorities," he says.

At a court hearing last Friday, an attorney for the police union denied that the testing process was racist, and questioned the legitimacy of OOPS. "How are we going to proceed in this case when we don't know who OOPS is?" Robert Zeglovitch asked.

OOPS is seeking an injunction barring the city from promoting any more sergeants until the dispute can be settled. —Paul Demko

Where the streets have no shame

As a literary form, the press release is a bastard child of the autobiographical ode and the royal edict. It was in this spirit that Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's office distributed a recent tribute to itself, filled with proud claims and grand language. The title of the missive? "Electronic visuals for the New Washington Boulevard."

Turns out Hizzoner, as part of an initiative launched at the start of his second term, has created a "design team" to re-imagine Washington Avenue from the Seven Corners area all the way to West Broadway.

"Washington was the backbone of the City's industrial and employment center, lived through periods of skid row and urban renewal, and now is emerging into a spine that connects vibrant new urban neighborhoods and the City's top cultural, educational, and entertainment destinations," Rybak says in the press release.

The idea, according to Rybak spokesman Jeremy Hanson, is to take advantage of the development happening near Washington Avenue—namely condos, the Guthrie, the Twins ballpark, and whatever the heck Zygi Wilf ends up doing to the Downtown East neighborhood in his efforts to build a Vikings mega-complex. Hanson also says it's a chance to connect the downtown core with the North Side, a longtime plan for the mayor.

Ambitious stuff, but the initial plan—which can be viewed at www.thenewwashingtonblvd.com—doesn't call for much beyond more trees, on-street parking, and better lighting. "At this point it's a vision," says Hanson, adding that citizens are encouraged to add their two cents' worth on the website.

Though Hanson says the tab will be paid by a public and private partnership, City Council member Gary Schiff, who has seen a similar transformation happen along Lake Street in his Ninth Ward, warns of hidden fees. "I don't know that property owners know that we'll assess them to make improvements like this," Schiff notes.

He suggests, too, that the unveiling of Washington Boulevard has less to do with, say, a new Vikings stadium, than with "the mayor wanting to leave a fingerprint on the town." If so, he suggests the legacy might be more like a smudge. "It's a beautiful plan," he says, "but ultimately it's a streetscape plan that calls for planting a lot of trees." —G. R. Anderson Jr.

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