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Both MN Senators: We’re (Theoretically) Cool with Unionized Staffs

Plus DFL delegates ditched, a new Minneapolis PR campaign, and local plants get national recognition in today's Flyover.

4:02 PM CDT on March 28, 2023

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Forget what you’ve heard about staplers and combs: Klobuchar supports her staff where it matters most.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Senatorial Solidarity Forever

Gabe Garbowit had two questions for every member of the U.S. Senate: Would you support legislation that gives senate staffs the right to unionize? And would you voluntarily recognize your staff if it chose to unionize? The former staffer to Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith used public comments to arrive at answers, plus he emailed all 100 lawmakers with those exact Qs. He posted the results at SenateUnionTracker.com, where senators receive a solidarity fist icon if they answer in the affirmative, or a scabby rat one if they said no or ignored the inquiry. Garbowit is pleased to report that his former boss and her Minnesota colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, each scored two green fists; all 49 Republicans earned double red rats, while the other Democratic results are very mixed.

"Nobody had asked each senator about this before, and I knew from talking with staff that some senators were quietly discouraging their workers from unionizing while still claiming publicly that unions were important for society," Garbowit tells Racket, adding that Senate workers are "infamously exempted" from labor laws that allow for union elections. "I want to make sure that senators couldn't get away with that hypocrisy and hold them accountable—if a senator doesn't support unions in their own organization, how can they be trusted to support them in the Senate?"

DFL Tosses out Martinez Delegates in Ward 5

Victor Martinez is an anti-abortion Assembly of God pastor. He’s been endorsed by the police union. He’s running (again) for Minneapolis city council in the 5th Ward. And, Deena Winter at the Minnesota Reformer reports, he claimed to have signed up 514 delegates for the DFL Convention—more than three times as many as incumbent Jeremiah Ellison had when he won the endorsement in 2017. But the Minneapolis DFL Executive Committee refused to accept 358 of these signups, “because a campaign volunteer signed them all up using the same IP address, and was unable to validate them with paper signup forms, saying they’d been thrown out,” according to Winter's story. In a statement, Martinez’s campaign manager said the DFL was “using tactics mirroring those commonly associated with the GOP” to disenfranchise “people of color, recent immigrants, and low-income persons.” Winter’s story also outlines other “irregularities” in other wards. A candidate identified only as “a newcomer who announced a day before the deadline” had more delegates than City Council Member Aisha Chughtai in Ward 10, and in Ward 6, multiple delegates for challenger Tiger Worku are being challenged. 

Don’t Fuss With Minneapolis

How do we feel about the new Meet Minneapolis campaign "See What All the Fuss is About"? It does kinda lead with its chin—"Don’t be afraid of all those scary crime stories you keep reading!” seems like a hard way to start a tourism pitch. On the other hand, disreputable news sources and Twitter accounts are so intent on depicting our city as a fiery hellhole of murder and bike lanes that our rep must be acknowledged. The campaign is targeted at potential visitors within a 300-mile radius of the city, in Greater Minnesota as well as in nearby states. (Even Canada!) And those people aren’t coming here the way they used to: Minneapolis hotel occupancy fell from a nice 69% in 2019 to 21.4% in 2020, rebounding slightly to 46.8% last year. Maybe one problem is that downtown Minneapolis is hardly the most exciting part of the city? Then again, my brother (this is Keith talking) and his family stayed near the Stone Arch Bridge last summer and they had a great visit. Maybe ask him for some PR tips?

Normandale Japanese Garden is the 90th Best Garden in America

What's GoodPlantCare.com? It’s a site run by hobbyists and experts dedicated to helping people keep their indoor plants alive—a noble cause. It's also a site that recently took on the task of ranking the 200 best public gardens in America via a survey that was sent out to 3,000 participants. Nothing in Minnesota cracked the top 50—but hey, Normandale Japanese Garden came in at No. 90, arguably making it the best public garden in Minnesota. The two-acre garden, which opened in 1976, is located on the Normandale Community College campus in Bloomington, is free to explore, and is open spring, summer, and fall. (It’s still winter for gardens, sorry everyone.) To create this little paradise, designer Takao Watanabe selected over 300 varieties of shrubs and other flora that not only had the vibe of a Japanese garden, but could also survive a Minnesota winter. Normandale wasn’t the only Minnesota garden to make the list; Munsinger Gardens in St. Cloud hit No. 100 and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park came in at No. 186. The top three slots went to Hawaiian gardens, of course. Damn their natural beauty and plant-friendly climate!

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