Downtown double talk

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April 14, 2003 // UPDATED 10:42 am - April 30, 2007
By: Sam Grabarski
Sam Grabarski

The real meaning of familiar phrases

Being a fan of wordplay, I can't resist using the Washington Post's yearly doublespeak contest as column inspiration. Assigning alternate meanings to words, this year's Post's winners included "abdicate: giving up all hope of ever having a flat stomach" and "lymph: to walk with a lisp." Here are my, more localized attempts:

Transit stop: The Pawlenty transportation plan.

The Pawlenty-Molnau Administration's Road Fest is getting a cool reception in the Minnesota Senate, because it provides so few dollars to any neglected transportation projects. It denigrates transit by providing a little for anti-visionary projects such as widening more shoulder lanes for buses. Thankfully, the 230-member Minnesota Transportation Coalition has introduced a competitive alternative that raises $1.5 billion for roads and $342 million for transit over seven years. It allows Metro Area residents to vote on dedicating all Motor Vehicle Sales Tax revenue to transportation in the future, with 25 percent of funds supporting transit options. No cakewalk to pass, this business-led proposal benefits from having bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate.

Farmer's Marquette: a place to buy upscale vegetables.

Downtown's Farmers Market opens April 24 for another winning season through October 30. This roughly corresponds with the major league baseball season. Expectations are high that the Minnesota Twins will be champions again this year. Anticipation is high that a bill will still emerge this legislative session to allow Hennepin County to join the effort to build a new ballpark in Downtown Minneapolis. No one knows when this emergence will happen.

City Hall: the Downtown tax base.

For the first time since 1984, Downtown's assessed values have dropped to 30 percent of the city's over-all tax base. This two-year decline of 12 percent is due to tax reform (homes are taxed at a higher class rate now) and lower assessed values in some Downtown's towers (vacancy rates are at a 10-year high). What will it take to ensure the future of these investments?

The Downtown Council has assembled 25 business leaders to study the benefits of creating a much larger Special Services District, where a business-led entity might manage a host of improvement options. Imagine Nicollet Mall on steroids, district-wide, with drinking fountains serving Zinfandel. Or, imagine something nice: a clean and safe Downtown, with street furniture and trees everywhere, with incentives for unique new stores and restaurants to locate here, linked by free shuttles? If you think such illusions are delusional, you have not visited one of the 1,200 places in the U.S. and Canada where these things are actually happening.

Orbicular: driving a car around the block twice to see what's in the long planters on Third Avenue. After they're planted, that is.

Councilmember Lisa Goodman is the visionary leader behind the imminent adoption of three long planters by nearby businesses. Several professional gardeners have suggested schemes that would be worth the drive, made possible by water and electric lines already installed by city crews. The trick is to make plantings "readable" by people in tall buildings, moving cars, sitting at stoplights or strolling by. Third Avenue could be renamed Good Gawk Walk. A fourth planter will be installed this summer along the block next to City Hall, displacing all of the standing police cars. Won't you miss them, so?

Flabbergasted: anger caused by the weight gain of your bar tabs due to Minneapolis entertainment taxes.

Esplanade: trying to express oneself about this while drunk.

Stone Arch Bridge: a foot problem caused by cueing up for lunch at Chipotle.

Pedagogue: total surprise when the line moves quickly.

Gnaw: the nice way to decline gnocchi at Nye's.

Sam Grabarski is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, a group of business leaders.