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Mayor Celebrates Bad Bus-Lane Plan

Plus Big Pharma pays for sins, pizza place converts to homeless shelter, and tunnel drama in today's Flyover.

Hennepin Avenue, viewed from the corner by the Balloon Shoppe. A car is parked in the bus lane—go figure.
Google Street

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

Hennepin Bus Lane will Only Be a Bus Lane for 6 Hours a Day (What Could Go Wrong?)

The battle over how to do a Hennepin Avenue glow-up in Uptown has been fraught with the emotional outbursts of a stressful PTA meeting. Some people want a bus lane, others fear losing any street parking would destroy the economy. Last month, Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed a plan that would provide a 24-7 lane dedicated to buses. “I cannot… support keeping bus only lanes 24 hours a day when buses do not run 24 hours a day,” he wrote in a statement at the time. (He’s right, the 6, for example, only runs up and down Hennepin 21 hours a day.) So this week, a Minneapolis City Council committee passed a new plan that would give us both a bus lane and parking… depending on the time of day.

If the full council passes the deal, we’d have a bus lane for at least six hours during the time between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. (the exact times are TBD). Frey is feeling this bargain. “This is a big win for the city,” he told the Strib. “This touches on each aspect of prioritizing bus service, protected bike lanes, and accommodations for businesses. We are thrilled.” The local chapter of the Sierra Club is among the many voices who are less than thrilled; it called out the mayor by name in this Twitter thread, calling the current plan “needlessly worse for all users.” According to Fox 9, this compromise maintains 20 parking spots in the area when it’s not bus time. Meanwhile, many visitors of Uptown will continue to park where they always did: on the side streets or in one of the area’s many parking lots and ramps, because trying to park on Hennepin is like trying to turn left into the Wedge parking lot.

MN to Financially Benefit from Heinously Evil Big Pharma Firms

Plunderous drug companies designed and profited enormously from the still-raging opioid epidemic, and now they’re beginning to pay for it. On Friday, the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that Minnesota will see “tens of millions” from two recent agreements with drug companies totaling $6.6 billion. Earlier this week, opioid manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals agreed to pony up $4.25 billion; today, Allergan’s $4.25 billion figure went public. The agreements stem from a multi-state, bipartisan group of AGs who are handling over 2,500 opioid-related lawsuits. “As I said earlier this week, there’s no amount of money that can make up for the death and destruction that these companies caused by putting their profits before people’s lives,” Ellison said Friday via press release. “Even so, I have and will continue to aggressively hold these companies accountable for the harm they’ve caused in order to protect the people of Minnesota.” How bad is the opioid epidemic at the moment? As bad as ever. Click here to revisit our conversation with three local harm-reduction specialists who are on the front lines of it. Last year, a record 1,286 Minnesotans died from drug overdoses, according to the state Department of Health, most of them related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Vacant Pizza Place Becoming Much-Needed Homeless Shelter

Starting in 1965, St. Paul-based Red’s Savoy—the metro’s 12th-best pizza chain—began slinging pies outta 421 East Seventh St., and they’d keep doing so until the death of founder Earl “Red” Schoenheider in 2017. Now the long-vacant parlor will see new life as a daytime shelter for homeless people, Fred Melo of the PiPress reports. The publicly funded $2.82 million project received a final green light from the city Wednesday, meaning St. Paul nonprofit Listening House can begin a down-to-the-studs renovation and begin operating the shelter, which will help offset demand at Listening House’s main location at 464 Maria Ave. “In the last year, Listening House had 46,000 visits, and that was done by about 2,700 individuals,” Molly Jalma, LH’s executive director, told the city council. “People’s needs don’t last forever. Our regulars tend to be housed. They’re very stable people. They’re just very poor and isolated.” Plans for the new shelter spurred the usual handwringing from area small-biz owners, Melo reports, though its necessity outweighed their concerns. Last year, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge called the homelessness crisis in the U.S.—a country whose threadbare social services have been hacked away for decades by both parties—”devastating,” citing the nation’s “moral responsibility to end homelessness.”

Are There Really Tunnels Connecting Residential Homes?

Not only are there, but one such tunnel is fraught with inter-neighbor tunnel turmoil, according to a popular local Reddit post from Tuesday headlined, “My neighbor won’t unlock their side of the tunnel, has anyone ever experienced this before?” Sensing bullshit, I asked the original poster for a phone call Thursday to parse out the particulars. They claimed to be “not too big on phone calls,” and instead suggested we text. When I didn’t receive any texts, they followed up late last night saying they “do not give out my phone number to people I don’t know IRL.” They suggested we chat via Reddit’s messenger instead. At that point, I put my cards on table, asking to come see the tunnel and possibly photograph it, adding that I’d also sent a message to my architectural historian source about the prevalence or non-prevalence of such residential tunnels. “Ah yeah I figured,” they responded. “Not interested in providing tours of my tunnel with legal action pending. Good luck with your story!” Look what my “story” has been reduced to! In any case, we may have dodged a redux of the acorn-loathing Northeast jogger hoax.