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Stone Arch Bridge Closure Will Somehow Keep Us Safe

Plus a shady city council vote, UnitedHealth loves denying claims, and a quick labor news update in today's Flyover news roundup.

Henry Hietala|

You can feel the danger in the air.

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

Welcome to Minneapolis. You Can't Use Our Bridge.

Downtown Minneapolis has just enjoyed a particularly lively weekend, with Pride and a two-night Taylor Swift stand swelling our often moribund city center with some much needed humanity. Everyone had a blast, Mayor Jacob Frey was happy to proclaim that downtown was back, and there has been lots of talk about how the city can build on this momentum as we go into one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year. But today brought further evidence that Minneapolis decision makers are still not fully convinced that the city's residents and visitors should be free to enjoy its public spaces. 

In a logically challenged buzzkill of a move, Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board announced today that, from June 30 through July 5, temporary gates will block access to the Stone Arch Bridge from 8 p.m. (!!!) to 6 a.m. (Update: The bridge will be open slightly later, until 10 p.m., the Park Board announced Thursday.)

The reasoning? "Last year, large Fourth of July gatherings in riverfront parks and neighborhoods created unsafe, chaotic situations," Shaffer said on Facebook. It’s unclear to simple folk like us, who are not invited to participate in such big decisions, how closing a pedestrian bridge will prevent anyone from driving around and shooting fireworks from their car. Also not consulted, and not happy about the decision, was the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, which stated today "our organization cannot support a 10-hour closure of this critical route with next to no warning."

Anyway, enjoy Taste of Minnesota and, uh, the laser show they're holding on Boom Island in place of fireworks on the 4th.

Council Kills Rent Control While Muslim Members Honor Eid

Today is Eid al-Adha, one of the most holy days on the Muslim calendar, and as you might expect, the Minneapolis City Council’s three Muslim members were not present at today’s meeting. All three absent council members—Aisha Chughtai, Jamal Osman, and Jeremiah Ellison—have supported continuing discussions about placing a rent control question on the ballot this fall. And yet, the council went ahead today with a vote on a proposal to refer the discussion of such a question to a committee, despite the absence of these supporters. Without those three yea votes, the proposal went down on a vote of 6-4, and, given ballot question deadlines, the issue is dead for the year. “I’m shocked right now,” Council Member Jason Chavez told MinnPost, lividly.

What gives? According to Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl, no one brought up the conflict until Monday, at which point it was too late under state law to reschedule the meeting. But let’s not give the council a free pass here. They could have easily postponed the vote itself to another day. Instead, they killed rent control in just about the grossest way possible. Pissed off? Council member Robin Wonsley offered the following advice to MinnPost readers: “Take it to the ballot. We often see in this body, in the mayor’s office, where things are stuck down—priorities that we know working class people need in our city—that do not align with corporate interests.” Eid Mubarak from Racket to the Muslim council members and to all Muslims in Minneapolis, who deserve more respectful treatment than this.

Denied Health Claims Skyrocket as UnitedHealth Makes Bank

You know what you don’t have the time or energy for when you have cancer? Nickel 'n' dime-ing with health insurers. In this maddening story, The Lever takes a dive into the world of for-profit medical insurers and the big-business of denying people’s health claims. For example, one report from the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services found that in 2019 Medicare Advantage plans incorrectly denied 18% of its payment claims. Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group ranks fifth on Fortune 500’s richest companies this year with $324.1 billion in annual revenue. It outsources its claims to a subsidiary, Optium, which is reportedly notorious for denying care. (In the piece, one source recounts how being given the runaround from Optium escalated a minor issue into a serious health scare.) These denials, of course, have catastrophic impacts on the people who are paying a service insurers are refusing to provide. “I’ve realized that you can’t fix or repair the system,” says Jenn Coffey, who at one point had a “do not resuscitate order” after years of being denied care for a rare form of cancer. “The insurance companies don’t offer anything. They serve as a roadblock… The only way forward is Medicare for All.”

Starbucks Strikes; Lunds & Byerlys Negotiate Raises

Earlier this week, over 2,500 Lunds & Byerlys workers said they would strike Thursday through Saturday if they couldn’t come to a contract agreement with the company. Yesterday, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 announced a Fourth of July weekend miracle: a tentative agreement has been reached. "We won a lot of the raises and benefits that we're fighting for," says Maple Grove cheese specialist Sarah Dike in a statement. Employees are set to receive pay increases ranging from $2 to $4.50 per hour over four years, and the "worker-driven healthcare" the union fought for will be secured. 

Meanwhile, the St. Paul Starbucks at 300 Snelling Avenue and the Silver Lake Road location in St. Anthony both went on strike today. They’re joining over 150 other stores across the nation fighting against alleged union busting and what some workers consider to be the coffee giant's performative LGBTQIA+ support. “The National Labor Relations Board is currently prosecuting the company for failing to bargain in good faith with workers,” says Starbucks Workers United’s via press release. “So far, in 15 favorable decisions out of 16, NLRB judges have found that Starbucks committed 161 federal labor law violations, including 19 unlawful discharges.” Or as Minnesota Starbucks Workers United put it:

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