Axios Twin Cities
March 16, 2023
Good morning! We're waking up one day closer to Friday.
Yuck: We're looking at a mix of rain, sleet and snow today, with 2 to 5 inches of accumulation, according to NWS.
- A total in the top of that range could catapult us into the top five snowiest winters on record.
Today's newsletter is 810 words — a 3-minute read.
1 big thing: Met Council in the grinder
The Metropolitan Council is getting fresh scrutiny after an audit criticized the organization’s handling and transparency of the Southwest LRT project.
Why it matters: The report and its recommendations set the stage for a debate about the future of the Met Council, which is the region’s planning agency.
Catch up fast: Five years ago, the Southwest LRT was supposed to be a $2 billion line between Eden Prairie and downtown Minneapolis that began service in 2023.
- It's now a $2.76 billion project that won't be done until at least 2027.
What they found: The Office of the Legislative Auditor said that as the Met Council realized the project was going to cost more than was budgeted, it kept moving forward even though it didn’t have the money committed from the entities footing the bill, like Hennepin County and the state.
The report also knocked the Met Council for waiting months to tell the public and legislature about a two-year delay.
The other side: Met Council chair Charlie Zelle told lawmakers during a hearing yesterday that much of the cost overrun was due to unanticipated soil issues along the Kenilworth corridor near the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes.
- He also disagreed that the council has not been transparent, noting that local and state officials were embedded in the project.
What's ahead: Auditors recommended future light rail projects be managed by an entity with its own money at stake.
Between the lines: The report echoed what Republicans in the legislature have been saying for years: that the Met Council is spending taxpayer money without accountability. The difference now is that Democrats are on board with a shakeup.
- Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, both chairs of their bodies' transportation committees, have proposed bills to make the Met Council an elected body (its 17-member board is currently appointed by the governor).
What to watch: Dibble said at a hearing yesterday that the changes need to happen this session.
- "We need reform. We need accountability [and] transparency," he said.
2. 🍗 A (boneless) chicken wing battle
The above tweet from Buffalo Wild Wings followed news that the company, which was formerly based in the Twin Cities, is facing a class-action lawsuit alleging false advertising over its sale of "boneless wings."
What they're saying: "The products are more akin, in composition, to a chicken nugget rather than a chicken wing," the suit, filed in federal court by an Illinois man last week, argues.
Flashback: Nick reported back in 2014 that the chain's sales of boneless wings had caught up to the traditional kind.
Go deeper on the legal fight via the Star Tribune
3. The Spoon: No more Aaron Rodgers?
🚒 St. Paul says its fire department is the first in the state to sign a contract to purchase an electric firetruck. The engine, which will be manufactured in Chisago County, should hit the road in 2025. (Background via Axios Twin Cities)
- The city is asking the federal government to cover the $1.8 million bill, a spokesperson told Axios.
🚌 Metro Transit has temporarily closed the Uptown Transit Station in response to ongoing concerns over vandalism and drug use. The indoor waiting area is expected to reopen in the spring, once new security measures are in place. (Star Tribune)
ICYMI: Minnesota lawmakers weigh transit safety proposals in wake of brutal attack
👀 Ryan Winkler, the former House majority leader who helped design the state's hemp-derived edibles law, is now starting a THC beverage company of his own. (Minnesota Reformer)
🏈 Vikings nemesis Aaron Rodgers said he plans to play for the New York Jets next season, but he's waiting for the Packers to make the trade. (Associated Press)
- Meanwhile, the Vikings signed former Saints pass rusher Marcus Davenport and former Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.
4. ⚾️ Goodbye, Bill Murray
After a 30-year run, the owners of the St. Paul Saints are selling the team.
What's happening: The group, which includes Mike Veeck, movie star Bill Murray and Marv Goldklang, are selling to Diamond Baseball Holdings, which owns 13 other minor league teams.
Flashback: That group built the Saints from an independent team in Midway into the Twins' Triple-A affiliate in downtown's CHS Field.
What they're saying: Executive vice president and general manager Derek Sharrer will remain in charge, according to the Pioneer Press, which first reported the news.
- The character of the team — which is known for its zany promotions — won't change, he told the paper.
- "Here's the thing: If the flag is a pirate flag, that's what they're investing in," Sharrer said.
A new career is waiting for you
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- Director of Marketing at Productivity.
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5. 🥤 More THC drinks hit the market
As Minnesota's recreational marijuana bill moves through the legislature, we're updating our THC beverage guide with new (currently legal) drinks available now.
- Additions include kombuchas, sodas, sparkling waters and spins on cocktails — like Venn Brewing's grapefruit, lime and sea salt-flavored Paloma.
Tip: Marigold, the nonalcoholic bottle shop in Minneapolis, carries over 50 different drinks from local and national brands.
😋 On the topic of "boneless chicken wings," Torey wishes Blue Door Pub would add the "Frogtown" flavor back to its "nuggies" menu!
❄️ Nick refuses to shovel this snow, besides the stuff on the sidewalk so people can still get around.
🥰 Audrey is very thankful for her resilient car. These potholes are ruthless.
This newsletter was edited by Ross Terrell and copyedited by Carlin Becker.