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Strib Analysis: American Dream Is Dead, Especially for Minnesotans

Plus a new downtown Minneapolis chicken joint, a voting rights bill passes, and reporting leads to change in today's Flyover news roundup.

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These stock models from the tourism board are almost certainly not discussing the American Dream.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Report: Minnesotans Uniquely Stuck With Their Lots in Life

Bad news for holdout believers in the so-called American Dream: According to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, income stagnation has a grip on this country and Minnesotans are among the least to enjoy economic mobility. Historically, Americans have been positioned to out-earn their parents, though for those born after 1980 it's more like a "coin flip," the Star Tribune reports. Between 2014 and 2019, only two other places in the U.S. faced worse "income persistence" than Minnesota—Washington, D.C., and North Dakota, with Maryland and Massachusetts not far behind. Cool! (Feel free to tweet at Will Stancil, the internet's leading financial doomerism skeptic, for comment.)

Speaking of the Strib: Two of its reporters, Emma Nelson and Mary MaryJo Webster, did a bang-up job visualizing and localizing the grim numbers across gender, race, and other criteria. As you scroll through their story, little purple and gold balls bounce around in accordance with the data, giving readers a neat way to digest the fact that, "it is harder for people who are in the lower-earning percentiles to move up over time, but it is also harder to go the other way, for the most part," according to Abigail Wozniak, VP/director of the Minneapolis Fed's Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute. The folks represented by the yacht-buying class of entrenched purple balls? Can't imagine they're losing much sleep over this report.

Chicken Shack to Roost in Downtown's Ol' Army Surplus Store

Remember all of the weird, never-realized plans hatched for the space in and around the long-shuttered American Army Navy Surplus Store in advance of Super Bowl LII? The downtown Minneapolis block was supposed to host: two clubs called Maxim Playhouse (not affiliated with the magazine) and Coyote Pretty (not affiliated with the movie), plus a restaurant called Downtown Waffle House (not affiliated with the beloved Southern chain). What a weird, scammy time to be alive! In any case, that's our throat-clearing way of saying that fast-casual chain Mad Chicken will soon move into the ol' surplus shop at 28 N. 4th St., Brianna Kelly of Downtown Voices reports.

In 2019, a year after our punishingly cold Super Bowl, Sexworld owner Dennis Buchanan purchased a pair of buildings along that block, including the one that wlll house Mad Chicken. What do we know about the chicken chain? It was launched in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (boo!), and soon expanded to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maryland (ehh?). The folks behind Mad Chicken cite their Egyptian heritage, per the website, as well as their "love for good food and lack of real unprocessed ingredients." Kelly reports that the locations stay open until 3 a.m. elsewhere, which could help fill Minneapolis's late-night eats void. (Shoutout to junk food's general void-filling properties.) Insta pics look promising!

Voting Rights Are Back, Baby!

Voting—it’s good. Discrimination—it's bad. As the Minnesota legislature races to the end of its 2024 session, one fruit of its labors is the Elections Finance and Policy Omnibus. Don’t be fooled by the drab name: There are some excellent voting rights provisions tucked away in ol’ HF 4772. To start, the census, which determines the size of voting districts, will begin counting the incarcerated by their home address, rather than by their place of incarceration. (Prisons are concentrated in rural districts, and their population numbers are inflated by counting the incarcerated, who cannot vote, among their residents.) The bill also expands polling places to universities and colleges, allows voters such as the unhoused and residents of tribal lands to physically describe where they live to register to vote, and guards against election-related disinformation.

But probably the biggest achievement of the bill is that it establishes a Minnesota Voting Rights Act to compensate for the Roberts Court’s gutting of the federal Voting Rights Act. The MNVRA allows individual voters to sue against racially discriminatory voting policies while also providing non-court processes for fighting back. There are also provisions targeting voter suppression and vote dilution, and the bill requires courts to interpret all election-related laws “in favor of voters and their equal right to participate in the political process.”

Journalism: It Gets Shit Done

Ya gotta love when journalism gets tangible results. For instance, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced this week that his office would be suing Chadwick Banken and his various companies for allegedly “predatory and deceptive” deals that targeted the East African Muslim communities. The practice that triggered this suit is known as “contract-for-deed,” and it’s shady. While attractive to Muslim homebuyers who, for religious reasons, seek an “interest-free” way to purchase, these arrangements gouge.

As ProPublica’s Jessica Lussenhop explains in the story linked above, “the contracts, according to the lawsuit, contained monthly interest payments in excess of the market rate, and the down payment, monthly payments and total price of the home went up if the purchaser was Muslim." The lawsuit follows an investigation into the practice that the AG’s office began last October. And what put such home sellers on Ellison’s radar? This 2022 story from the Sahan Journal and ProPublica. Congrats to the folks behind that story—Jessica Lussenhop, Joey Peters, and Haru Coryne.

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