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Baffling Simonetti Saga Now Involves: Revoked Licenses, Grindr Pranks, Parking Violations Galore

Plus more drama at the U, Minneapolis claims bike crown, and fingerboard skatepark debuts in the 'burbs in today's Flyover news roundup.

KARE 11|

Marisa Simonetti chats with KARE 11

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Family Values Candidate or Biggest Chaos Demon in Town?

Marisa Simonetti sure has our attention these days, but not for political reasons. Yesterday, news broke that Simonetti, who’s running for District 6 Hennepin County Commissioner, had been arrested and charged with fifth-degree assault and misdemeanor domestic assault. KARE 11’s Lou Raguse has been on this story for the past two days, and what started as a simple case of a woman throwing a tarantula at an alleged squatter keeps getting, somehow, messier and messier.

First, there’s the spider recipient, who was staying in Simonetti’s basement, which she rents, not owns. “Details on how the other woman, Twin Cities attorney Jacklyn Vasquez, ended up in the home are muddy,” Raguse says during a broadcast segment. “They both say Simonetti subleased Vasquez a room through Airbnb, which is not allowed in the city of Edina, and it’s unclear whether the homeowner authorized Simonetti to do that.” (Michael Charles Held, 69, has also been charged with assaulting Vasquez.)

But wait, there’s more! According to this story from Raguse, Simonetti had her real estate license revoked by the Minnesota Department of Commerce in 2016 amid accusations that she “entered into a contract to purchase real estate for $235,000 but never intended to pay the money.” Basically, the MDC concluded that she was trying to sell property that she hadn’t paid for. 

But wait, there’s even more! Raguse has a Twitter thread on the Simonetti saga, which is chock full of wild stuff and growing by the minute. A few highlights: Simonetti’s ex-partner, who alleges that she once abused and stalked him, says she also created a Grindr account in his name and sent dudes his way; the two coparent a son. (He's not to be confused with Simonetti's apparent ex-fiancé, Marko Kamel, a Woodbury dentist whose practice is facing allegations of fraud, as reported by the Strib weeks ago.) Simonetti’s impressive rap sheet, Raguse notes, features dozens of speeding and parking tickets.

Thank you, Lou Raguse, for giving us the weirdest story of the summer. We're sure it'll be an eight-part Netflix docuseries by next summer.

Correction: A previous version of this article confused the ex-boyfriends. Racket regrets the error.

State Senate Wades Into Anti-Semitism Allegations at the U

Jeff Ettinger is winding down his time as U of M’s interim president with a State Senate committee probe to "learn about a pattern of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish" rhetoric, sentiments, and bias on campus. "We may not have always gotten it right," Ettinger testified today. "But I can assure you, we tackled each challenge in a manner befitting of the seriousness of those issues." Asma Nizami, an advocacy director at nonprofit Reviving Sisterhood, has been live-tweeting what she describes as today's "sham hearing."

A little background! In late April, students formed a pro-Gaza protest encampment, calling for the school to divest from companies that give money to Israel as its assault on Palestine intensified. (Today, the Palestinian death toll is reportedly creeping toward 40,000.) A few weeks ago, the university rescinded a job offer for the director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies to Jewish/Israeli historian Raz Segal, who called the assault on Gaza “a textbook case of genocide.” According to this piece from Liz Navratil at the Star Tribune, “bias reports at the U more than doubled in the 2023-24 school year, with 169 reports filed as of mid-June.”

Meanwhile, over at the Strib’s Editorial Board, they’ve definitively concluded that the decision not to hire Segal “was correct,” citing a desire for "unity." To which journalist/podcaster Adam Johnson responded, "Yes I agree the point of academia is to offend as few people as possible and say the most generic, middlebrow schlock imaginable."

Take That, Seattle! Minneapolis Is the No. 1 Place to Bike

For the second year in a row, PeopleForBikes has proclaimed Minneapolis as the best large city (population over 300,000) in the U.S. for bicyclists. Seattle, San Francisco, and good ol’ St. Paul came in second, third, and fourth respectively.

So, how did they arrive at this, obviously, very correct conclusion? By analyzing data in six different criteria, referred to as SPRINT: safe speeds, protected bike lanes, reallocated space for biking and walking, intersection treatments, network connections, and trusted data. Cities were then given a score ranging from 0 to 100. Minneapolis took the top spot with a score of 71 which, er, while technically a C-, is still the best damn grade of the bunch. St. Paul’s 61 is a D-. Hey, those are passing grades! Meanwhile, the top 10 small U.S. cities all outranked us (Michigan’s Mackinac Island scored 99!), as did all of the top 10 international cities (the Hague, Brussels, and Paris were all in the high 80s).

So get out there and bike, knowing that what we have is technically—statistically—the best there is right now for a city of our size. If you’re looking for more info on what’s out there, be sure to take a look at Racket’s Summer Guide post dedicated to bike trails and bike rentals.

There’s an Adorable Miniature Skate Park in St. Louis Park

A new skatepark opened last weekend in St. Louis Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It’s got grind rails, a quarter pipe, and a pyramid, plus it’s already been graffitied (including an old-school Garfield). But there’s a catch: It’s not for your body, it’s a finger skatepark, man! Dubbed “Minnesota’s first free outdoor fingerboard skatepark,” this thing is about two feet long and it looks adorable as heck (I’m not just saying this as a fan of tiny things). "I do stupid stuff," creator Jimi Nguyen tells Audrey Kennedy at Axios. You can find this thing on his front lawn and yes, fingerboards are available to borrow.

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