Civic beat :: Library will be open Mondays

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January 18, 2010
By: Cristof Traudes
Cristof Traudes
Central Library opens its doors to Mondays

Since it first opened its doors almost four years ago, Downtown’s Central Library has shifted in operational hours as its library systems shifted in operational budgets. As a result, Monday hours haven’t existed there since 2006.

But starting on Feb. 8, the library will be a seven-days-a-week operation again, opening its doors back up for what’s being called “Ballpark Mondays.”

The new 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours are named after the source of their funding, revenue from the sales tax that helped build Target Field. The same funding stream has paid for Sunday hours at 13 libraries in the Hennepin County Library System since 2008.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin credited both the sales tax and the merger of the Minneapolis and Hennepin County library systems for the change.

“You can’t be one of the premier library systems in America and not have your Downtown library open on Mondays,” McLaughlin said.

A celebration is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. the day Monday hours return. For more information, call 952-847-8000 or go to hclib.org.

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For regionalism, mayors urge corridor support

An annual presentation by the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul to talk regionalism ended on a note of frustration, as R.T. Rybak and Chris Coleman spoke candidly about their ongoing experiences in trying to push ahead with the light-rail route that would connect their cities.

The Central Corridor, on which preparative construction already has begun, has been mired in negotiations and renegotiations over the past year. In particular, the University of Minnesota — which will see the corridor go through its campus — has gone from supporting the route to now suing over it.

While speaking before the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce Jan. 12, the mayors’ annoyance boiled over.

“We have to stop spending 30 years talking about every line,” Coleman said.

Responded his colleague across the river: “Chris, can I say this? I’m really frustrated with this negotiation. … We’re not siting a nuclear reactor here.”

The mayors urged their audience to get behind the project now because they consider it an important piece in a longer-term goal: to improve the Twin Cities’ standing as a business hub. The overall focus of their Jan. 15 speech was to promote that idea of regionalism, that the cities should better combine efforts to compete on a global, rather than local, level.

One successful example of a metropolitan business hub, Coleman said, is less than 500 miles away: Kansas City. He said he’s heard from business leaders there that they consider the potential of success in the Twin Cities higher than in Kansas City, but that that city is doing so well because it’s organized.

“We’re not,” Coleman said. “We need to change that.”

The mayors took about 30 minutes of questions from their audience, and topics ranged from supporting small businesses (Rybak talked up Minneapolis’ Great Streets investment program) and the federal stimulus plan (Coleman said he hopes that the majority of any further stimulus money goes directly to local governments) to crime prevention (“This is a tough week to ask me,” Rybak said, just days after Minneapolis’ fifth homicide of 2010).

The mayors also were asked about the future of the Minnesota Vikings, a question Rybak, a gubernatorial candidate, didn’t hesitate to tackle. While there are higher priorities such as education and balancing the state budget, he said, “If we’re ever going to build a Vikings stadium, this is the time to do it.”

He offered two caveats: Any new stadium project would have to be done at the highest quality without spending more than necessary, and the team’s owner should not be able to get wealthier unless the public benefits, too.

“Sounds good to me,” Coleman responded.  

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Hydro resolution knocked at first Park Board meeting

Less than an hour into its very first meeting, the new Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board got into a lively debate over a decades-old issue: whether to support a hydropower project along the Mississippi River.

The last Park Board shared a consensus that a privately owned power plant at St. Anthony Falls — such as the controversial Crown Hydro project — would not work. But after a report said that hydropower would be the least expensive of three alternative energy options, and because the Park Board has a goal of getting off the grid, Commissioner Jon Olson pitched a lengthy resolution that would have had the Park Board declare support for “public ownership of a hydro facility in Mill Ruins Park” and encourage “the next board to acquire the rights of water use, and authorization and resources to complete construction.”

His colleagues showed little interest. New Commissioner Anita Tabb said the resolution looked Crown Hydro-like.

Picking up on that theme, Commissioner Scott Vreeland said he wanted to prevent the kind of divisiveness that project has brought the board. While supportive of alternative energy initiatives, Vreeland said passing the motion would mean the Park Board was moving ahead with something that’s continued to split allegiances.

The resolution, which was set to be moved to the Operations and Environment Committee, was voted down 6–3. Commissioners Bob Fine, Carol Kummer and Olson were the sole supporters.