Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.
Mpls City Council May Aid Rideshare Drivers
You might recall that last November drivers for Lyft and Uber converged on City Hall in Minneapolis demanding new protections and regulations, and expressing anger at our beloved mayor for not meeting with them. But the newly formed Minnesota Uber/Lyft Driver Association must have caught the ears of at least a few folks on City Council. According to Max Nesterak at the Minnesota Reformer, councilmembers Wonsley, Chavez, and Osman have said they will push for an ordinance that sets a minimum wage for rideshare drivers and increase safety protections, though they haven’t disclosed the specifics of that regulation yet. In addition, councilmember Andrew Johnson is collaborating with city staff on a proposal that would apply the same regulations to rideshare companies that taxi companies must already comply with. There’s also a push at the state level to tighten the definition of “individual contractor,” the classification Lyft and Uber apply to their drivers as a way of wriggling out of the responsibilities they would have toward employees.
Undocumented on the Road
For more than a decade, the Driver’s Licenses For All bill, which would let all Minnesotans get a license or state ID card without showing proof of legal U.S. residence, has bounced around the state legislature unsuccessfully. (MN residents didn't have to provide proof of legal residence in order to get a driver’s license until 2003.) But with a DFL trifecta, there's a renewed push to pass the bill.
It's against this backdrop that Sahan Journal's Hibah Ansari spent a day in the passenger seat with Lauro, a single, undocumented father of three for whom driving each day is a risk. Hitting the road without a license, whether he's taking his kids to school or heading to work as a Residence Inn housekeeping supervisor, is a source of anxiety, especially after police jailed him for three days following a routine traffic stop in 2015. In his eyes, he was lucky: He could have been deported. “This is so sad,” Lauro told Sahan Journal. “I’ve been living here for almost two decades, and I can’t believe the state is not doing anything about it. Not for me, but for the community.”
Minnesotans Might Kinda, Sorta Get Price-Gouging Protection
Price gouging: It’s all around us. Moderna hopes to hike the cost of its COVID-19 vaccine 4,000% over manufacturing cost, drawing the ire of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. President Joe Biden, rather than making any efforts to upend the carceral state, instead is putting an end to the exorbitant costs prisoners pay to have phone conversations with loved ones. Elsewhere, TikTok users are attacking Walmart over the skyrocketing prices of eggs. And here in Minnesota, one of just 13 states without any laws to protect consumers from price gouging, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would penalize “unconscionably excessive prices.” Specifically, vendors would face “a $10,000-per-sale civil penalty” if they’re proven to have charged "an increase in the price for an essential consumer good or service that exceeds 30% within a seven-day period." The state Attorney General's Office would go after any claims. Does the bill go far enough? Probably not, considering those championing it include nonprofit cheerleaders of the food/ag industry, like AgriGrowth’s Tamara Nelsen, and the leaders of pro-biz groups, like Bruce Nustad of the Minnesota Retailers Association. "It's not a price regulation. It's a bill that relates to a state of emergency," Nustad tells the Strib. Well, at least that’s something.
Northrop Roof Collapses, Kool-Aid Man at Large?
Last night, around 7:30 p.m., employees at Northrop Auditorium where startled when they heard a loud explosion. But it wasn’t a bomb, it was the sound of the roof collapsing inside as exterior brick crumbled. While the damage isn’t as spectacular as the 2010 Metrodome snow dump, it can be seen from the street, and it doesn’t look good. "Certainly, it is problematic as it's open to the outside," University spokesperson Chuck Tombarge told the Strib. "There are structural questions, but also questions about how do we keep the pipes from freezing." Right now, the building is closed to employees and the public, as engineers are evaluating any safety issues; nearby parking ramps on Church Street and Northrop are also closed. The cause is unknown so far, but heavy snow seems like a likely culprit (or maybe it was the Kool-Aid Man?). The fallen debris and exposed holes are over a part of the building that is used for storage.