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City Council OKs Minneapolis streetcar financing plan

Sidewalk construction blamed for some tree loss in storm; Tim O’Brien wins military literature award; Bachmann, Nolan team up on Syrian arms bill; co-working space founders expanding again; and more.

The Minneapolis City Council has approved a plan to pay for part of a proposed streetcar line that would run from the intersection of Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue north over the Mississippi River and onto East Hennepin Ave., reports Curtis Gilbert of Minnesota Public Radio. The city will “redirect property taxes from several buildings along the proposed route to pay for the project. The city estimates the new ‘value capture district’ would cover about a quarter of the $200 million cost of building the streetcar line. … Critics say streetcars are an overpriced alternative to buses. The funding mechanism approved today has also drawn criticism, because it will divert money from other city and county priorities.”

Steve Brandt’s follow-up storm story from the Strib offers one explanation for some of Minneapolis’ massive tree loss: Minneapolis residents are pointing their fingers at recently lain sidewalks as a culprit in their loss of boulevard trees during recent storms that toppled hundreds of trees across the Twin Cities. They note that many of the fallen boulevard trees have a lighter-colored slab or two of replacement sidewalk next to them, meaning that crews likely severed tree roots before pouring concrete, making the trees less stable and more vulnerable to being uprooted. … City officials acknowledge cutting the roots but say it’s a compromise between building sidewalks and preserving trees.”

Minnesota native Tim O’Brien has been awarded the $100,000 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award. The honor usually goes to historians, writes Mary Ann Grossmann of the Pioneer Press. “O’Brien, who grew up in Worthington and graduated from Macalester College, served in the Army in Vietnam from 1968-1970. His books about that war, including ‘The Things They Carried,’ broke new ground in literature. He was among authors … who attempted to evoke the hallucinatory feel of fighting in a senseless war by playing with traditional literary form. … How can the enemy be ‘real’ if you never see him? How can civilized behavior be ‘real’ when men wear necklaces made of enemies’ tongues? How can your buddy be ‘real’ if he’s blown apart by a land mine? O’Brien’s memoir, ‘If I Die in a Combat Zone’ (1973), launched his writing career. His other war-related books are ‘Going After Cacciato’ (1978), winner of a National Book Award; ‘The Things They Carried’ (1990), and ‘In the Lake of the Woods’ (1994). … O’Brien teaches every other year at Texas State University-San Marcos.”

Speaking of magical realism in wartime, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and Iron Range DFLer Rick Nolan are co-sponsoring a bill on arming Syrian rebels, reports Tom Scheck at MPR. “Bachmann and Nolan are co-authoring a bill that would block any military aid to Syrian rebel groups until it’s approved by a joint resolution of Congress. The bill would allow non-lethal humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people but would require President Obama’s administration to provide specifics on the aid. Bachmann announced last month that she won’t run for re-election next year. Nolan is running for re-election.”

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“A 21-year-old convict wanted by state corrections officials was shot to death in north Minneapolis,” reports Paul Walsh of the Star Tribune. “Landon J. Pederson, of Appleton, Minn., was killed in the shooting that occurred about 4:45 a.m. at a home on the 2400 block of Illion Avenue N., on the northern edge of Glen Gale Park, authorities said. Officers called to the home took into custody without incident a woman and a man who lived there, police said. The two have yet to be charged. The state Department of Corrections had been looking for Pederson for failing ‘to maintain [an] approved residence and to inform’ and properly check in with his supervising agent, department spokeswoman Sarah Russell said. Pederson began serving a prison sentence in June 2010 for a felony weapons offense in Swift County. He was freed in February 2013 on supervised release … No other suspects are being sought, and ‘there doesn’t appear to be any danger to the public,’ police Inspector Michael Kjos said.”

Weren’t these guys supposed to take advantage of the great tax breaks and choose Sioux Falls? Tom Webb of the Pioneer Press  reports that the “small but fast-growing natural chip maker, which owns the brand Way Better Snacks, is moving its corporate headquarters from New York to the warehouse district in Minneapolis. The company, Live Better Brands, was launched in 2011 and says its revenue has grown to $10 million a year with six chip varieties distributed in more than 10,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, including locally at Cub Foods, Lunds and Byerly’s, Kowalski’s and Whole Foods.  The company is known for using sprouted ingredients like flaxseed, chia seeds and broccoli seeds as ingredients in its tortilla chips. … Jim Breen, Live Better Brands’ CEO and co-founder, … is a Twin Cities native. … He said the decision to relocate Live Better Brands from New York’s Long Island had both personal and professional dimensions.”

Another story in the PiPress, this one by Julio Ojeda-Zapata, notes that CoCo, the co-working space founders in Minneapolis and St. Paul, are opening a third branch in Uptown: Coworking was an unfamiliar concept for most Twin Cities workers when CoCo opened its doors in downtown St. Paul in January 2010. CoCo co-founder Don Ball recalls having to sell prospective customers on the notion of a communal workspace for small entrepreneurs that is more affordable than traditional office space, not to mention more social and collaborative for all concerned. Since then, the coworking scene has exploded in Minnesota. CoCo’s newer, much larger space in downtown Minneapolis is at capacity, and other coworking spaces have popped up in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the state. … It plans to open an Uptown Minneapolis location in mid-September with a number of unique amenities including a movie theater, a tap room, a pool room and an open space for companies to jointly engage in product prototyping and strategic planning.”

 The decision to include more houses in Edina in a floodplain has irked said homeowners. The Star Tribune’s Mary Jane Smetanka reports: The city of Edina has “hired an engineering firm to review data used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to issue new flood plain maps. Barr Engineering is reviewing elevation data for three areas in the city that contain about 150 properties to see whether the flood plain designation should be appealed. The appeal deadline is July 4. … If a house is in a flood zone, homeowners who still have a mortgage may be required by their bank to buy expensive flood insurance. Any federally backed loan will include that requirement. And a flood plain designation can complicate selling property and affect remodeling or expanding a home. The new FEMA maps are part of a national effort to update and improve flood plain mapping.”

John Fitzgerald is subbing this week for Brian Lambert.