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With Minneapolis Fixed, City’s Highest Paid Employee Rides Off Victoriously

Plus Covid-sniffing dogs, Aquatennial's questionable history, and notable bathrooms in today's Flyover news roundup.

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

Cedric Alexander's Work Here is Done

Man, where to begin with Dr. Cedric Alexander? Let's start with today's news of Minneapolis's first-ever Community Safety Commissioner announcing that he'll retire come September 1 after just one year on the job. What'd residents get for our $334,000, the city's largest salary? At least one promise delivered, certainly. "I'm not God. I'm not Batman," Alexander, a veteran cop turned cable news talking head, admitted during his vetting process. "I'm not going to be the guy who saves the community in and of itself by myself."

Last October, after just two months on the job, the man who is neither God nor Batman got into heated, messy Twitter fights with critics; Mayor Jacob Frey would formally reprimand him the following month, according to records obtained by Minnesota Reformer. Alexander hasn't tweeted since. Many of those critics took issue with Operation Endeavor, the vague crime-fighting plan that seems to most tangibly manifest as waves of idling cop cars around town. City leaders, via some especially compliant local media members, tout Op Endeav as a grand achievement, though the numbers suggest a lot more nuance.

Alexander, 68, is responsible for overseeing five departments—Police, Fire, Emergency Management, 911, and Neighborhood Safety—and earlier this month the Star Tribune’s Susan Du attempted to capture the commissioner's results and vision for the city. She didn't seem to find much, with Alexander blaming his "very limited staff." He presented the Strib with an office org chart that resembles a PR shop: a chief of staff, a personal assistant, "space for four media specialists," a comms director, and a comms consultant. Earlier this year, Council Member Robin Wonsley issued a memo that suggested Alexander and the mayor have no plans to transform public safety.

"I need people to stop criticizing what we do, and sit down and listen to me," Alexander told Du in a tone that doesn't appear to be un-petulant. Actions speak louder than words, and today we witnessed the lengths Dr. Alexander is willing to go to improve Minneapolis. At least the city coffers will be improved to the tune of $334,000.   

Study: Dogs Can Detect Covid as Well as Rapid Tests

Hunting, herding, search and rescue operations, therapy—our canine friends can do it all. According to Stephanie Soucheray over at the University of Minnesota, they can even detect Covid better than most PCR tests. That's per a new report in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, which looked at 29 studies in which dogs were used to detect Covid-19. The dogs weren't tricked by long Covid, new Covid variants, or folks who were asymptomatic; the study found that trained scent dogs were comparable to, and in some cases superior to, real-time PCR tests and rapid antigen tests "We believe that scent dogs deserve their place as a serious diagnostic methodology that could be particularly useful during pandemics, potentially as part of rapid health screenings in public spaces," said study author Tommy Dickey of the University of California. We're all for it—nothing cuter than a dog with a job.

Did Aquatennial Begin As an Attempt to Undermine Unions?

“What a night kicking off Aquatennial, MPLS,” our city’s strongest mayor Facebooked today. “Despite the rain, you showed up—and showed up big. Nothing stops us from celebrating the city we love!” It’s weird how every successful downtown event now has to be treated as some kind of moral victory, as if we’re all surviving The Blitz together or something. But the return of Aquatennial is also a good occasion to examine the (not exactly provable but highly credible belief) that the event was originally designed by Minneapolis biz interests to overshadow the popular Teamster picnics, which were held at the same time of year to commemorate the union’s 1934 labor victories. The most exhaustive online source for this argument is this piece by Kelly Ahern. (Trigger warning for anyone who studies literary theory from the ’90s: The paper leans heavily on Mikhail Bakhtin.) “At first the ruling class attempted to refocus the minds of Minneapolis citizens off the successes of the strikes and picnics with the creation of a mammoth competing event, the Minneapolis Aquatennial,” Ahern writes. “A year later… they managed to replace the picnics all together.” 

Toilet Awards Time! A Pair of MN Rest Stops Are Contenders.

Cintas, a company specializing in restroom-related dispensers, products, and cleaning services, sure knows how to get press. Their annual contest, "America’s Best Restroom Award," has been a thing for over 20 years, inviting folks to vote for their favorite crap shack. This year, two local rest stops have made the cut: Clear Lake and Des Moines River Safety Rest Areas on I-90 near Jackson, Minnesota. “Open 24 hours to the traveling public, the SRAs share a similar design language that focuses on cleanliness, durability, safety, and inclusion,” the nomination text states, “as well as striving to exceed the users’ expectations.” It’s up against some stiff competition, including a really cool Barbie-pink bathroom in Tennessee, a chandelier-filled powder room in Florida, and a South Carolina spot with a rose garden on the ceiling. People can vote for their favorite bathroom online through August 11. Past Minnesota winners include the Varsity Theater’s grotto-esque restrooms, which won in 2013, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s eye-catching mosaic-filled ‘rooms, which topped the 2016 poll.

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