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The Future of Nice Ride MN Is ‘At Risk’

Plus predatory lending, more bad-faith attacks on Rep. Omar, and important restaurant updates in today's Flyover.

Chris via Flickr

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

No More Nice Ride?

The future of Nice Ride is apparently murky. That’s according to transportation advocacy organization Move Minnesota, which recently sounded the alarm over the 12-year-old bikeshare program’s “$2 million budget shortfall.” The primary reason? Nice Ride “lost its primary sponsor,” Move Minnesota writes, presumably referring to longtime lead bankroller Blue Cross MN. (Hey, the rapacious health insurance giant only made $557.6 million last year.) Move Minnesota says there’s a chance Nice Ride won’t open by its anticipated spring launch next year—or at all. Nice Ride execs are scrambling to lock in a sponsor, the org explains, but they’re asking the city of Minneapolis to financially float the bike/scooter/e-bike operation in the interim; supporters are being asked to contact their councilmember. More Twin Citians than ever—a record 70,000 riders—used the service in 2021, so demand is certainly there. We reached out to Lyft, who secured the city contract to manage and operate Nice Ride in 2018, to get a better picture of how dire the finances are. We’ll update you if/when we hear back.

‘Interest-Free’ Loans Prey on Minnesota’s Somali Families

Money lenders: They just keep finding new ways to be evil! Among the latest methods, ProPublica’s Jessica Lussenhop and Sahan Journal’s Joey Peters report, are predatory loans aimed at Minnesota’s East African Muslim community. Due to principles of their faith, many members of this community avoid paying or profiting from interest—meaning a mortgage is often out of the question. So when, about three years ago, some lending firms began offering an “interest free” homebuying opportunity, word spread quickly among the state’s roughly 80,000-person Somali community. These “Contract for Deed” loans let many families move from cramped apartments into beautiful homes in the suburbs.

But the catch, because of course there is one, is that buyers could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars (along with the house) if they default, and those who spoke with ProPublica and Sahan Journal said they signed contracts they didn’t understand. “It’s so delicious, the bait. Well, you don’t really know when you swallow there’s a sourness, a small piece of cyanide that’s getting to you,” Fartun Weli, CEO of Isuroon, a nonprofit that advocates for Somali women and girls, told them. “Contract for deed is really an amazing trap for our community.”

GOP House Leader Wants to Boot U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar from Any Committees

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy went on Fox New Sunday to announce that, if elected in January, he’d be stripping Ilhan Omar of committee assignments. “Her antisemitic comments that have come forward…” he said, not finishing his sentence with an example. “We’re not going to let her be on foreign affairs.” McCarthy went on to blame Omar for rising anti-Semitism in schools. How, exactly, she controls or influences something like that is unclear. Omar is currently on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee. Fortunately, McCarthy doesn’t have the power to single-handedly strip her of those roles; a vote by the entire U.S. House in the next session would be required. The last time that happened was with GOP Rep. and noted Qanon racist Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Omar responded to the accusations this morning: “[Republicans] have openly tolerated antisemitism, anti-Muslim hate, and racism in their own party,” she said in a press release, pointing out that these types of high-profile accusations are one of the reasons she has received “hundreds of death threats and credible plots against me and my family.” McCarthy said he also plans to go after Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.

What’s Going On with Annie’s Parlour, Kitty Cat Klub, and Mickey’s Diner?

We’re so glad you asked, because MinnPost has answers. John Rimarcik—owner of Annie’s and KCK, as well as Monte Carlo and Runyon’s—supplied a strangely worded answer to intern reporter Peyton Sitz: “L-A-B-O-U-R… the British spelling.” (Presumably a man who’s able to purchase $2.2 million buildings could financially entice students to flip burgers and blend malts, but that’s none of our businesses.) Rimarcik reports Annie’s should be open by early next year; he didn’t provide an update on the Kitty Cat Klub, whose swanky stage is sorely missed by upstart local bands. Over in St. Paul, the owners of Mickey’s staged a fundraiser to help pay for ongoing renovations, Sitz reports. May the dining car that once hosted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s interminable flirting never die. Curiously, the restaurant story is punctuated by a rosy observation from Ron Wirtz, the regional outreach director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis: “I think the pandemic has created new resilience skills in businesses, which is a good thing long term. It’s bad for those that haven’t been able to make it, but it has been making the remaining businesses stronger.”