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More Like Air Pain: MSP Fares Up 48% Since 2021

Plus a weed czar fiasco postmortem, doom for downtown Minneapolis's last artist collective, and a GoFundMe for small businesses after a fire in today's Flyover news roundup.

1:33 PM CST on January 25, 2024

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

MSP Airfare Is Sky High

It won't surprise anyone who's flown out of MSP lately to learn that ticket prices have been soaring, much like an airplane, in the years since Covid hit. That's not exclusive to Minnesota's largest airport; research from USA Today, spotted locally by KARE 11, found that airfare at major airports across the U.S. is up 29% since 2021. But ever the over-achievers, our metro airport blows the doors off that figure (much like a Boeing 737 Max 9), with fares that have climbed 48%—about $136—during that same timeframe. (Following closely are Spokane International Airport at 46% and Philadelphia International and Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which are tied at 43%.) Some "good" news here is that we're still not the most expensive airport to fly from—that would be Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin, where on average flights cost $548. And hey: You have until 10:59 p.m. today to land a $19 one-way flight to cities including Atlanta and Cleveland in celebration of Frontier's newest routes.

Let's Check in on Walz's Botched Weed Czar Appointment

Remember Erin DuPree? The woman who was appointed to be the state’s first Office of Cannabis Management director in September? And who resigned roughly 24 hours later when MPR reported that her cannabis biz had sold illegal products and that she owed a tremendous amount of unpaid taxes to the IRS and Minnesota Department of Revenue, among other things? Who we've only ever seen that one photo of? Well, this week we got some clarity on how one of Governor Walz's most scrutinized appointments in who knows how long ended up being such a botch job.

In a report, legislative auditor Judy Randall explains that the governor/lieutenant governor's office "departed from its Standard Operating Procedure for Executive Director Appointments" when it selected DuPree. Specifically, the guv's office didn't include the state Department of Revenue in its checks into her background, which would have revealed those unpaid tax liens and outstanding court judgements. His staff then reviewed the summary of the background report, not the full report. So there you have it... I guess? The whole situation remains baffling: Not only that DuPree was appointed, but that she thought her background wouldn't eventually come out, applied for the gig, and then blamed the press (!) when it all went to hell. Gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss! Anyway, the job is back open—which Racket reader is brave enough to apply?

'Doom' for Downtown Artist Collective?

The historic six-story building at 250 N. Third Ave.—one of the oldest buildings in the North Loop—is for sale. And, as Brian Martucci reports for Downtown Voices, that could spell the end of Traffic Zone Center for Visual Arts, the only surviving artists' cooperative in downtown Minneapolis. “We may disband and go our various ways,” Harriet Bart, a conceptual artist and founding member of Traffic Zone, tells DTV. Traffic Zone shares a 50-50 ownership split of the building with arts nonprofit Artspace, which means its 23 artists haven't had to worry about being displaced since buying it in the '90s. But the 135-year-old building needs a lot of work, and the property's value (and associated taxes) keep climbing. Not every artist has given up yet though: “Some of us hope for a guardian angel,” says Traffic Zone co-founder Perci Chester. “It wasn’t clear what was at stake [when the cooperative voted to sell] and things have evolved over the past year.”

Cedar-Riverside Small Businesses Need Help After Fire

The West Bank Business Association has set up a GoFundMe for a number of Minneapolis small businesses after a Wednesday morning fire rendered their buildings "uninhabitable." The fire claimed two buildings on the 1800 block of Sixth Street S., and affected businesses include Al Ruwada Home Daycare, Ayantu LLC, Safari Tax and Immigration, a spa, and a therapist's office. All are uninsured, according to the GoFundMe, which has raised $1,730 thus far towards its $50,000 goal. Toss 'em a few bucks, if you can.

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