Axios Twin Cities

Picture of the Twin Cities skyline with MSP written across it.

February 12, 2021

TGIF, everyone!

Quick programming update: We're off Monday for Presidents Day, but we'll be back in your inbox bright and early Tuesday.

  • 💸 Looking for something to do to occupy yourself over the long, cold weekend? You can file your taxes with the state and federal government starting today!

Today's newsletter is 930 words — a 3 1/2-minute read.

1 big thing: Minneapolis poised to ban facial recognition by police

An image of man whose face is blurred

Minneapolis Police won't be able to use facial recognition technology under a proposed ban. Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Minneapolis City Council is highly likely to ban MPD and other city departments from using facial recognition technology at a meeting today.

Why it matters: Opponents of the technology say it invades privacy, allows police to surveil activists and is much less accurate in identifying women and people of color, which leads to false arrests.

State of play: Earlier this week, a committee voted 12-0 in favor of the ban, authored by council member Steve Fletcher, so it's nearly assured that Minneapolis will join Los Angeles; Boston; Portland, Oregon; and other cities in banning the technology.

The other side: MPD and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association declined to comment. Drake Jamali, government relations manager for the Security Industry Association that represents the companies that make the technology, weighed in during a public hearing this week.

  • "[This] ordinance strips away ... a useful tool for law enforcement in fighting identity fraud, criminal activity, thwarting malicious attacks against the public, solving hate crimes against LGBTQ community, cracking cold cases and course, rescuing over 15,000 children from human sex trafficking in just the past couple of years," Jamali said.

Yes, but: Chris Weyland, a cyber security consultant, said the technology moves us closer to an Orwellian surveillance society.

  • "This technology is simply not ready to be used," he told the committee. "It has significant racial biases that seem pre-built into the software itself. And these biases can be very difficult and time consuming to ferret out."

2. ❤️ A very chilly Valentine's Day

a tweet showing cold temperatures and a heart-shaped weather pattern for the midwest on valentines day weekend

Image: NWS Twin Cities/Twitter

Mother nature must not love us back — the brutal cold snap will continue through the weekend.

3. Business in brief: A nutty week, Best Buy cuts

grape nuts cereal

Photo courtesy of Post Brands

We've got good news for Grape-Nuts fans: Lakeville-based Post Consumer Brands announced yesterday that the crunchy cereal should be back on grocery shelves by mid-March — and they're raffling off a year's worth of cereal as an apology.

🥜Hormel Foods is buying Planters nuts from Kraft, a $3.4 billion acquisition that is the largest in Hormel's history. (Star Tribune)

  • Flashback: Things have gotten nutty in Austin. Hormel bought Skippy peanut butter for $700 million in 2013.

Best Buy is laying off and reducing hours of store workers, though the Richfield-based retailer won't say how many. (Wall Street Journal)

4. A new bid to get anti-MPD measure on the ballot

Illustration of cracked and broken police badge

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Another push to ask voters to overhaul policing in Minneapolis formally launches this weekend.

What's happening: A coalition calling itself "Yes 4 Minneapolis" is kicking off its campaign to pass a charter amendment that would replace MPD with "a new department centered in public health approaches to safety."

  • Backers will first need to gather enough valid voter signatures — at least 11,906 — to get the measure on the Nov. 2 city election ballot.

The backdrop: Three city council members are already seeking to put similar measure on the ballot through the legislative process.

  • So why the duplicate effort? The citizen petition bid is a sure path forward — if they get the needed signatures. It could also give organizers more control over the proposal that ultimately lands in front of voters.

State of play: Minneapolis became ground zero in the national reckoning over race and the future of policing in the wake of George Floyd's Memorial Day killing. Expect a fiercely debated — and expensive — campaign.

  • The yes campaign, which bills itself as a “Black-led, multiracial coalition of grassroots community organizations,” is already flush with cash thanks to a $500,000 contribution from Open Society Foundations, a group funded by billionaire George Soros' family.
  • Meanwhile, Mayor Jacob Frey hasn’t weighed in on this launch but he expressed concerns about the city council’s version of the amendment. And a new coalition backed by downtown business groups and some labor unions, called A New 612, could also play a role in the opposition campaign.

Be smart: Keep an eye on the language — including if and how it differs from the council's proposal.

  • The campaign's manager declined to specify ahead of the Saturday launch whether the proposal would include a division of traditional police officers, the Minnesota Reformer notes.

5. Limit washing your undies: St. Paul inventor pitches the "Sharks"

st paul entrepreneur appearing on shark tank

Photo: ABC

St. Paul entrepreneur Wen Muenyi will pitch his company's line of "laundry-minimal" sheets and underwear to a national audience on tonight's episode of "Shark Tank" on ABC.

Will the 27-year-old African immigrant succeed in landing a celebrity investor?

  • Tune in at 7pm on KSTP (channel 5) to find out.

Go deeper on Meunyi's business — which says you can wear its underwear for three days between washes — via The Pioneer Press.

6. Retail, finance, government: Minneapolis' top employers

Data: Minneapolis Downtown Council; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Minneapolis Downtown Council; Chart: Axios Visuals

Target remains the biggest employer in downtown Minneapolis, according to annual data from the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

Of note: These numbers are how many people would be working downtown if not for the pandemic. But the Downtown Council has said only 15.8% of downtown workers are going into the office, as Axios previously reported.

7. The latest headlines on the Buffalo shooting

Allina health

  1. Prosecutors detailed the terror and carnage that unfolded at the Allina Health Clinic as they announced charges against alleged shooter Gregory Paul Ulrich. (MPR News)
  2. Questions remain about why Ulrich was able to obtain a gun, given his history of mental health issues and threats. (Star Tribune)
  3. The husband of Lindsay Overbay, the 37-year-old medical assistant killed in the attack, is speaking out about the devastating loss. "I don’t know how to convey to my kids that they’re never going to see her again," Donnie Overbay said. (Fox9)
  4. An effort to support the family has already received more than $200,000 in donations. (GoFundMe)

8. 1 fun thing: Take down your lights!

A home in Minneapolis with Christmas lights glowing in the front yard

Twin Cities residents just don't want to take their Christmas lights down. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

Nick has always wondered if other parts of the country kept their Christmas lights up as long as Minnesotans do.

Reality check: Torey says lights would come down pretty soon after Santa heads back to the North Pole where she grew up in Vermont.

The state of play: Nick counted 10(!!!) houses on his block with Christmas lights still aglow as of Feb. 11. That feels like more than normal.

  • Is it the pandemic? Do we need more light in our lives?
  • When do you turn off your lights? Email us.

A correction before we go: Yesterday, we reported that Du Nord was the only Black-owned distillery in the U.S. It’s actually the first. There are plenty more for you to check out around the country.

  • And one more update: Unite Here Local 17, a hospitality workers union, clarified yesterday that it is not a part of the A New 612 coalition we covered earlier this week, despite being listed on the launch-day website as a partner.

Thanks for reading! We'll see you back here Tuesday.