A MONTH AGO Paul WonSavage found himself asking a crucial question: Can alternative arts, such as his own multimedia performance group Ricochet Kitchen, coexist with the City of Minneapolis's many rules and regulations? At the time he was a smidge irritated that the city, citing fire-code violations, had forced him to cancel plans for an outdoor show in a northeast Minneapolis salvage yard that would have included music, dance, spoken word, visual arts, and 300 gallons of paint, which audience members could use to create their own art on surrounding canvases (see Leyla Kokmen's "Paint by Numbers," in our April 25 issue). But now WonSavage can look to the TAO for an answer. Like the Chinese philosophy that describes the balance of all things, WonSavage's salvation is a particular balance of art and bureaucracy called the "Temporary Amusement Occupancy." Minneapolis Fire Marshal Tom Deegan unveiled a draft of the new procedures to WonSavage and numerous city officials at a May 10 meeting. The proposed rules, which Deegan hopes will go into effect July 1, would provide a road map for people interested in staging a one-time, large-scale event in a setting that normally wouldn't be used for that type of assembly. The proposal wouldn't create a new ordinance or any new fees; rather, it would provide a guide through the quagmire of city codes. If, for example, a performance group wanted to stage a show in a warehouse zoned for industrial use only, the director could use Deegan's checklist to see if the location could be made suitable: Is it on or next to a site that houses hazardous materials? Does it have at least two exits? Is the floor area sufficient for the expected number of attendees? If the site meets the criteria, the checklist offers contact information for the area fire inspector, who can help explain any modifications that might be necessary. "We want everyone to get where they need to be without spending a lot of money," says Deegan. Of course, he cautions, the draft is still subject to change: Other city agencies may review it and add their own criteria. Does this mean that the oft-busted techno-music dance parties known as raves might pop up more frequently? Deegan emphasizes that the fire department's interest is simply in making events safe, not in scrutinizing their content. "They can call it whatever they want. I just want the process to be in place," he says. "The fire department is not picking on people. There are rules, and we're here to explain them. It gets very judgmental. We want to stay away from that."
More Unkind Cuts
THE ST. PAUL Pioneer Press isn't the only capital-city newspaper that's downsizing. The venerable twice-weekly St. Paul Legal Ledger announced in April that it was cutting all three of its editorial positions and replacing them with a single new hire. The public-notice newspaper was founded in 1927 but only began covering state politics after being purchased by the Minneapolis-based Dolan Media Company in 1997. "We wanted to cover the Legislature and public-policy issues, and that mission hasn't changed," says publisher Pat Boulay, who says the decision to cut jobs came out of the company's budget meetings earlier this year. The small, 1,000-circulation paper will not be renewing the lease on the space it has inhabited at the Capitol for the past three years, but Boulay promises the Legal Ledger will have a "presence" there next year--presumably in the person of the "semi-entry-level" writer he's now seeking. Applicants might first want to talk to outgoing editor Richard Broderick, whom Off Beat reached in his office on his last day at work on Friday. When he was hired in November, Broderick says, "I said to them, 'This is not a six-month job, is it? Because if it is, I'm not interested.'" Broderick is also unhappy with the two weeks' severance pay the company offered. (Boulay declines to discuss severance other than to say that it's "a standard package.") Legal Ledger managing editor Pat Mack, who also worked his last day on Friday, says he intends to launch a new newspaper, Minnesota Office Politics. He's already set up a Web site (www.minnesotaofficepolitics.com) and hopes to debut a 10,000-circulation paper in July. As it turns out, he'll be giving his former employer some business: The Ledger's Minneapolis-based print shop will produce his new paper. "I don't really think they see it as competition," says Mack.