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Plans surface again for Minneapolis mega-hotel

Political fact-checking continues; messy neighborhood students; popcorn prices on the rise; and more.

Editor’s note: Former Glean writer Max Sparber is filling in for Brian Lambert for a few days.

For those of you who ever played the videogame SimCity, there was one glorious moment you worked for: After months of carefully building your metropolis, you started to build arcologies, which were entire cities contained in enormous towers. Once you had enough, they all blasted off into the sky presumably to some new, unknown world. I don’t know how big a city is, precisely, but a couple of thousand people must be enough to at least make a town. Now let’s imagine them all together in one hotel.

That’s what’s being proposed for downtown Minneapolis. It’s not a new proposal — as Janet Moore of the Star Tribune points out, it’s a proposal floated around every few years. But it’s been floated again, and so Moore looks at the money (an estimated $300 million) and size (2.6 acres), as well as a comparison with our current near-arcology, the Hilton Minneapolis, which has 821 rooms. Stand aside, shrimp!

I myself support this plan, not because it reminds me of SimCity, but instead of the dystopian science fiction novel “High Rise” by J.G. Ballard, and I am tired of waiting to see a film version. Just build something like this downtown and I expect it won’t be long before the residents are walling off various floors and warring with other floors over elevators and swimming pools. Let’s do this.

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Speaking of movie plots, there is a scene in “Goodfellas” when the mob boss, Paul Cicero, takes over a tropical themed nightclub and “busts it out” (here’s the video on YouTube — some language):  loading it up with debt and then torching it for insurance money. This is almost exactly the narrative offered by David Foster of Minneapolis, who spoke at the DNC on Wednesday night about his experiences as the head of a steelworkers union representing a Kansas City mill taken over by Bain Capital in 1993, as reported by Bill Salisbury of the PiPress.

“The partners loaded up the mill with millions in debt,” Salisbury quotes Foster as explaining. “The company was forced into bankruptcy in 2001, and 750 steelworkers were fired.” This seems to be the exact tale that pro-Obama ads have highlighted, and, while the complaints may be true, Factcheck.org has accused the campaign of “lemon picking” — that is, highlighting Bain’s failings while never mentioning its successes. Which, if you think about it, was also true of Batman in the latest “Dark Knight” movie.

It’s not exactly “pants on fire” politicking, and so conservative pundits have gone after our own R.T. Rybak, whose speech referenced the I-35W bridge collapse. As City Pages’ Aaron Rupar details, the Tweetosphere and other channels of instant punditry lit up, quick to complain that the bridge fell down because of a design flaw, not
because of lack of infrastructure spending. Rupar is not impressed. “Um, no,” he writes. “Rybak simply noted that we’ve had our share of infrastructure-related tragedy around here, and thanked the president for investing in infrastructure. He didn’t connect his remarks with the cause of the I-35W bridge collapse.”

Speaking of the Batman movie, as I did, do you recall when Bane took over Gotham and all of a sudden there was trash everywhere? Apparently, that’s exactly what the neighborhoods around the University of Minnesota are like twice a year, when students move in and move out, according to Todd Wilson of KSTP. Students empty out their apartments and dorms, and next thing you know the Batmobile can’t hardly move for all the trash. “If we only had scratch and sniff TV, I mean this smells. It’s been this way for a week,” one resident says, which must be the best quote of the week.

Do I seem obsessed with movies? I’m sorry—  it’s just that I’m worried about popcorn. As Jamie Yuccas of WCCO reports, raw popcorn prices are up as much as 20 to 30 percent. I bet you didn’t even know this was a Midwest-specific issue, but one of the suppliersis St. Croix Valley Popcorn, right across the border in Wisconsin. And, of course, there is Peterson Popcorn right here in Minnesota. And if popcorn prices go up, I think I’ll just cry, because movie popcorn already makes up 20 percent of my weekly food budget. Fortunately, according to Yuccas, prices probably won’t go up at the concession stand. It better not, or I’m going to seal myself inside a movie theater and fight other residents over Junior Mints.