Buffalo Ridge Blog

the View From the Ridge

Marriage Equality: Boon to the Buffalo Ridge!

At least the Minnesota part…

Back in the 70s Minneapolis passed a law banning discrimination against gay folks and became a gay mecca. While gay folks were getting harassed and bashed in the surrounding rural and even suburban areas, Minneapolis was the “Minneapple” with a vibrant gay culture in a what was more a collection of small towns than a city that offered all the benefits of a big city but with small town culture and crime rates. I and thousands of other gay folks moved there, and together we probably saved Minneapolis from the same sad fate that befell most of America’s other big cities.

 Then in 1993, Minnesota finally got around to passing the same human rights laws Minneapolis had enjoyed for nearly two decades. The ink was barely dry on the governors pen before gay folks started tiptoeing into the suburbs. Just as well, given that crime and blight were starting to take off in Minneapolis… Those first few cautious tiptoes into the suburbs soon became a stampede escaping Minneapolis crime and hassles, and escalating taxes.

 Two decades later, Minnesota finally got around to allowing loving couples to marry, regardless of their gender. The law took effect last night and Minneapolis did it up proud, with a splendid midnight ceremony at City Hall that saw forty some couples married. But up in the little Clay County Courthouse in Moorhead, a city a tenth the size of Minneapolis, a couple judges opened up the courthouse at midnight and did 19 marriages. The courthouse in even smaller Polk County was reportedly open for marryin’ business too, midnight marriages were the order of the day in Duluth, and I suspect that tiny Pipestone County where the first application was filed got in on the act too.

 But as the celebrants sleepily exited the safety of Minneapolis City Hall for the mean streets outside, reality sets in. This is a Minneapolis where roving gangs run even the downtown streets at night. This is a Minneapolis that spends millions on bike trails and rental bicycles, only to have bicyclists mugged for their bikes and worse in broad daylight. This is a Minneapolis where the most feared law enforcement presence is not the police, but the housing inspectors who will give you but a day’s notice to trim your trees or whatever violation of the city’s massive and obsolete laws are the offense d’jour. 

 Meanwhile in Moorhead, the newlyweds were greeted by a cheering crowd of supporters as they walked out of the courthouse. They were free to walk or cycle the quiet streets home, serenaded by the whistle of the passing trains and the gurgle of the Red River below. A few walked back across that river to North Dakota, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few even walked over to the Amtrak station and caught the westbound Empire Builder back to work in the Bakken oilfields. Same thing in Duluth, and the view from the walkway on the high bridge back to Wisconsin must be incredible at night. 

 Belatedly waking today, those newlyweds in Minneapolis, those veterans of the early gay rights movement now approaching retirement age, are probably dreaming of retiring back to their hometowns in rural Minnesota… Heck, we’ve even got a PFLAG chapter here in Marshall and the local coffeehouse and DFL party are gay hangouts! And in Sioux Falls, Fargo, Superior, Winona, and all over those adjoining states that still haven’t “gotten with the program”, newly “married in Minnesota” couples are wondering why they went home… A couple from West Fargo that was married in Moorhead is already moving to Minnesota. So Pipestone, Moorhead, Duluth, Winona, and all the other border towns are about to see a migration to Minnesota for marriage equality. And once they move here to Minnesota, they’ll start to wonder why they don’t work here too, ‘specially if their “enjoying” the Dakota’s “open shop” laws and the low wages it brings. Folks, I think we’re on the verge of an economic boom in Minnesota’s small towns and country!

Me? Still single and have to run into Minneapolis this weekend to trim the trees, hopefully to the satisfaction of Minneapolis’ Housing Inspectors!







Buffalo Ridge Blog is expanding, help me pick a name…

Yup, Im goin’ whole hog all in and expanding coverage beyond the ridge to include the swing districts and states along on of America’s political fulcrums, the Interstate 29 corridor from KC to Canada. The POV will turn a bit more left too, but in no way mimic the metrocentric Democratic party dogma… Fo example, why should I support solar subsidies when I’m surrounded by wind turbines that deliver twice the power at half the price? So yes, this is gonna be a small “d” democratic blog with a rural twist. 

So I need a new name for this growing blog, and of course the best ones like “ruralprogressive,com” and “ruralblue.com” are already spoken for. So I need your advice and suggestions… For a start “i29blue.com” is available, as is my Kos handle “RuralRoute” with an “.org” suffix. Or maybe “progressivehick.com” or “bluehick.com”? Suggestions or advice welcome… Just use the comment feature or e-mail me at dynasluyter@gmail.com, thanks!

Two Wheel Tourists Take To The Buffalo Ridge...

This young gent from Minneapolis graced us with his presence last night, he’s cycling back home to Minneapolis via Mankato. We’ve had a regular parade of cyclists through here of late, couple weeks back ’twas a vet riding from Wisconsin to Nebraska, last week met a couple riders from Portland headed for the east coast.

So stop by and spend a spell in Florence, there’s cold water at the tap, power for chargin’ your electronics in the park shelter, and you’re welcome to tent on our lawn. Hmmm… Maybe I should hang up some county maps in the shelter and furnish it with an old microwave?

Never before seen so many long distance bicycle tourists- an Iraqi war vet riding from Wisconsin to Nebraska a few weeks back, a pair of riders in South Dakota last week headed from Portland to the east coast, and last night this young gent from the cities blessed us with his company as he camped out in our city park.

Welcome to the Buffalo Ridge… Cyclists welcome!

The Power of (small) Place(s)…

After a long and fruitless DFL convention followed by a noisy night on the Northside, I saw Minneapolis better side. “Twas the annual Blind Lizard Cycle Rally on historic Nicollet Island, with hundreds of collectors and lovers of classic bicycles and motorcycles gathered for a pleasant low key afternoon. Late morning the bikes roll in, a keg of beer and lemonade magically appear, soon followed by a cauldron of chili and fixin’s. And by late afternoon the neighborhood returns to normal, with not a single permit having been pulled from the ever micro managing City of Minneapolis.

The bikes again impressed me, but what really charmed me was the power of the place. Nicollet Island is a living museum of Victorian era homes, hostelry, and industry, saved from the city’s bulldozers by activists who merely wanted to save those magnificent Victorian homes and live in them. The whole place is technically a park, and the city’s plan was to bulldoze the place and replace it with the usual park benches and picnic tables, The residents prevailed, the city backed off the bulldozers, and the residents have 99 year leases on the Victorian homes they’ve restored in their forgotten little place in the middle of the Mississippi. To me, it feels like the small towns I’ve chosen to live in, and if you didn’t look up and between the houses and trees and see the skyscrapers, you’d think you were in a small town…

Which is precisely what Nicollet Island was over a century ago- giant flower mills, a few factories, stores and bars, and housing for the folks who worked in all of the above. Same with another small place saved from the bulldozer, Milwaukee Avenue in the same Minneapolis, built by the Milwaukee Road to house their employees who worked in the shops just down the street. I’ve seen the same thing in downtown Aberdeen, South Dakota where you could easily use a 1900 City Directory to find your way around today, or in Bismark where I instantly recognized landmarks around the railroad station even though I’d been away for half a century. Riding the Buffalo Ridge today, I explored a half dozen old railroad towns- Amerit, Wabasso, Lucan, Milroy, Lynd, and Russell. All were established by the railroads over a century ago, and all are still alive and well today. Yet the tracks were pulled up in the first four places three decades ago, and while the last two still have an active railroad there are no shippers in those places.

Back in Minneapolis, one can see many small places that started out as streetcar stops that are still succeeding as commercial nodes and neighborhoods a century later. For example, Dinkytown, tucked in between the U of M, river, and railroads, has been successfully housing and supplying students for going on a century. Yet an expensive consultant told the city a while back that almost every one of these small places was to small to succeed and should be abandoned!

Meanwhile, that shining example of the consultant’s favored development, Brookdale, didn’t live to see it’s 50th birthday. It’s been replaced by a brand stinkin’ new WalMart… They didn’t even recycle the slab of Brookdale. And given WalMart’s current past it’s prime problems, I suspect the wrecking ball will be back to put it out of it’s misery in a decade or so, ‘specially since it looks to be at least a half a mile from the nearest home. And Brookdale was but one of over seventy dead malls scattered about the country, and probably thousands of zombie strip malls. Revisit a suburb after a decade’s absence, and you’ll be lost for lack of enduring landmarks. Minneapolis heavily subsidized attempts at malls have even shorter lives- Gavidaee, the Conservatory, and City Center’s life spans were measured in years, not decades. And those losers from the get-go, sports stadiums and convention centers? The Met was dead by 30, the Dome ain’t doin’ much better, the barely quarter century old glorified warehouse called the Convention Center was killed to make way for a now near quarter century old even more glorified warehouse, and they just stole the money to fix it’s roof and such to build a new stadium.  And that glorified lean-to  with the merry-go-round seating that hosted the convention saturday… An inadequate replacement for the WPA hall and home of the legendary Lakers it replaced. Took ’em a whole month to knock that brick behemoth down!

And after a century, with little or no public subsidy, the small spaces like Nicollet Island, Milwaukee Avenue, and small towns all over america are succeeding while malls come crashing down. No surprise, they were laid out before the auto to provide most everything within walking distance, and that criteria’s in demand again.

.There’s a lesson here… Instead of another short lived stadium, Minneapolis needs a hundred Nicollet Islands and Milwaukee Avenues!

As the fog of war rooms clears…

‘Twas a day and night of campaign stupidity, one campaign rushing to top the others in implementing the best strategies to turn off delegates. For a start, Cherryhomes and Samuels insulted us by blowing off the endorsement completely with their promises to dishonor the endorsement. Despite not receiving even double digit percent between them, the Samuels campaign hung on for hours after being dropped and there were signs of life in the Cherryhomes war room even as the convention adjourned De Facto 6 hours after she’d been dropped.

Those offenses became petty as in an unprecedented move, the Andrew campaign refused to let Schiff make a withdrawal statement. Now at DFL conventions, these are pretty routine… We usually give the withdrawing candidate a few minutes to get up on stage with his campaign staff, thank them for their efforts, and tastefully withdraw from the race. Schiff didn’t even ask for that- he just  wanted a minute or less at the floor mic. Fearing that Schiff might endorse Hodges, the Andrew campaign delivered one of the nastiest and most tasteless insults I’ve ever seen at a DFL event.

Having lowered and set the bar for campaign tackiness and tastelessness to such a low level, I didn’t expect to see stupidity on the level of the Andrews campaign for the rest of the convention, even if it ran ’til dawn. But I’d underestimated just how stupidly rude and selfish some of the candidates can get when the Hodges campaign walked out en masse when it was clear they couldn’t win. And just to further literally trash the convention and tired but dedicated delegates, the Hodges campaign left a small forest of campaign lit behind when they left the convention.

So by default, the Miss Congeniality prize goes to Schiff, who ran an honorable and principled campaign and didn’t waste the delegate’s time by withdrawing when he clearly couldn’t win. For that alone Gary, you’ve got my endorsement!

The ride home told me as much about the current poor state of the city as the convention. I dodged drunks on newly paved streets that flowed traffic worse than the old one ways they replaced. I will concede that by strangling traffic and lightly policing the city, Minneapolis has managed to produce traffic jams at 10pm at night. That might be OK if there was even more commercial activity in the morning, but the drunks I dodged last night are still sleeping in as we approach 10am today. ‘Tis fine to have a “bustling nightlife”, but fact is that’s about all Minneapolis has left. Arriving at my cabin in the ‘hood on the Northside, despite being up since 4:30am the noise and sirens made sleep difficult.

I don’t think candidates that insult each other, walk out in a tantrum, and bad mouth each other can fix any of the above, never mind run the mayor’s office. Gary Schiff remained above that fray, and for that alone he should stay in the race and be elected Minneapolis’ next mayor.



Convention Adjourns, De Facto…

From the looks of the remaining crowd of largely Andrew supporters, quorum has been truly lost on the 5th ballot. The Andrew delegates stopped only for pizza on the way out, and that didn’t last long. Good night everyone, I’m already outa here!