Off Beat

Off and Running

THE MINNEAPOLIS POLITICAL season got off to an early start last week when anti-airport-noise activist and longtime DFLer R.T. Rybak announced his mayoral candidacy . While the news was not unexpected (see Off Beat, October 25, 2000), the venue left us a little puzzled: the dairy aisle at Ventura Village Food Market near the intersection of Franklin and Chicago Avenues. Positioned between the snack crackers and canned tuna and surrounded by well-wishers, Rybak took the opportunity to kiss his first baby and explain the significance of the location: It was the site of a drugstore owned by his parents, who, he told the crowd, taught him the importance of vital neighborhoods. "They've forgotten us downtown," he proclaimed. "I will not forget Franklin Avenue." Off Beat noticed a number of prominent DFLers in attendance, including outgoing city council members Jim Niland and Doré Mead. Also present was former council member Steve Minn, who was lurking between the Ding Dongs and the feminine hygiene products. ("I'm just a fly on the wall," said Minn.) Proprietor Roger Albarghouthi watched the proceedings from the fringes. Though he confessed only mild interest in city politics, he predicted Rybak will go far: "Only one term as mayor, then on to the Senate." Meanwhile, one of Albarghouthi's regular customers came in, gazed around at the snappily dressed crowd, and left without buying anything. But within minutes Rybak was able to make good on his campaign promise to develop the neighborhood's small businesses, when a supporter purchased a jar of pickles and a 16-ounce can of grape juice. Total economic development: $8.47.

The Bobblehead Bubble

WITHIN 24 HOURS of the Timberwolves' evisceration at the hands of the suddenly mighty Dallas Mavericks last Wednesday night, no fewer than 28 Sam Mitchell bobblehead dolls were being hawked via the online auction site. The going price for the trinkets, 4,000 of which had been handed out at the Target Center before the game? Ninety bucks. No offense to Mr. Mitchell; we recognize his hallowed place as the last of the original T-Wolves. But $90 for a head-bobbing likeness of a guy who's averaging 2.2 points per game? "It's amazing for me to think that a less-than-$5 item to manufacture is worth $80, but that's the society in which live," muses Wolves bobblehead guru/chief marketing officer Chris Wright. (Par for the course in a town where the only way the baseball team can attract an audience is to offer wobbling plastic likenesses of past heroes.) The frenzy will no doubt reach a fever pitch come Tuesday, when Kevin Garnett totems are handed out to 6,000-plus lucky fans. "What I'm expecting is we're gonna start getting Japanese buyers for K.G.," gushes Dennis Kuchenmeister of St. Paul, who says he has unloaded at least 20 dolls on eBay for an average of $80. Interestingly, a few Garnetts have already pierced the market: It seems that on Wally Szczerbiak night, December 28, a box of dolls bearing the Big Ticket's likeness was inadvertently opened. Wright confirms the mixup but says that only three of the Garnett figurines were given out before the error was detected. Inevitably, one of the fugitive dolls surfaced on eBay, as part of a full T-Wolves bobblehead family.

Winter Parking Ban 101

AS THE DECEMBER snows piled up, Off Beat spent more time than we care to admit dialing our municipal snow-emergency line. Any poor schmuck who has ever had his jalopy towed after a snowstorm understands such a compulsion: Keep abreast of the parking rules or risk winding up in a long line at that nexus of human misery and anger known as the impound lot. Or so we thought. During the recent break in the weather, we called Mike Kennedy, street maintenance engineer with the Minneapolis Public Works Department. According to Kennedy, cooperation among the good citizens of Minneapolis during the recent spate of three consecutive snow emergencies was so dismal that many parking violators avoided not only the tow, but the ticket to boot. According to the city's figures, while 18,150 tickets were issued, only 4,178 vehicles were towed. ("The compliance rate after the first snow emergency was one of the worst we've ever seen," says Kennedy.) The consequence of snow-emergency scofflawry, of course, is poorly plowed streets, a situation that in Minneapolis raises the specter of the dreaded Winter Parking Ban: the notorious rule under which parking is prohibited on one side of residential streets until the lane-shrinking piles of snow melt away. (St. Paul has no such provision.) Back in the early 1980s, says Kennedy, the ban was instituted routinely. But following a few mild winters, the policy was modified to an as-needed basis. Although the ban hasn't been imposed since the winter of 1996-97, it was a narrow escape this time around. "In the end we decided we weren't quite ready, because we're getting a warmup and the snow windrows are decreasing in size a little bit," Kennedy imparts.