Axios Twin Cities

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

Good morning! It's hump day. πŸͺ

β˜€οΈUpper 80s and sunny today. Hello July.

In memoriam: The Twin Cities arts community is mourning the loss of Pamela Espeland, a beloved critic and writer who died suddenly Sunday at age 70.

  • "She sounded like a good friend telling you what you shouldn't miss," her former MinnPost editor Susan Albright told the Star Tribune.

Today's newsletter is 801 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Sweetgreen eyes Twin Cities

A bowl of salad with corn, cabbage, crab and watermelon on top

Sweetgreen is bringing its salads to the Twin Cities. Photo: Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Popular fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen is planning a Twin Cities expansion.

Driving the news: The Southern California-based chain registered to do business in Minnesota last month and is searching for a site here, according to Axios sources.

  • Sweetgreen declined to comment.

Why it matters: Sweetgreen has a cult following on the coasts and in Chicago, and it's expected to generate big excitement here.

  • It'll also create a local salad battle, as Sweetgreen is entering the home turf of Green + The Grain and Crisp & Green.

State of play: Sweetgreen, which had 120 restaurants as of the summer, is in expansion mode as it prepares to go public.

  • Meanwhile, Crisp & Green has begun its own expansion beyond the Twin Cities.

The intrigue: Where Sweetgreen chooses to open will be telling. Is it willing to bet on the downtowns, which still haven’t recovered from the pandemic, or will it target suburban and urban neighborhoods?

2. Election officials under attack

secretary of state steve simon

Secretary of State Steve Simon at a polling place in November 2020. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Election officials across Minnesota are facing threats and vitriol from voters questioning the 2020 results, leading some local administrators to consider early retirement, Secretary of State Steve Simon tells Axios.

  • "There is real anxiety out there among people who run elections," Simon told Torey in an interview. "And it's deeply disturbing."

The big picture: False claims that the 2020 election was "stolen"β€” popularized by former President Trump and other Republicans, including some in Minnesota β€” are fueling backlash and intimidation campaigns across the country.

  • A Reuters investigation published in September documented more than 100 threats of violence or death targeting election officials and workers since last year's race. The reporting uncovered only four arrests β€” and zero convictions.

Zoom in: Some threats in Minnesota have been serious and specific enough to be reported to law enforcement. In January, following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Simon said he and his wife considered temporarily moving their family into a hotel.

What's changed: Simon's office has seen shifts in both the tenor and the target of complaints from the public. Instead of raising concerns about the actions of specific candidates or campaigns, angry members of the public are "alleging that people running elections are involved in the wrongdoing."

  • One July tweet targeting Simon and other top DFL lawmakers suggested "treason punished by death" was "the only way to deal with them, so it never happens again."

What he's saying: Simon condemned the rhetoric from Trump and others, saying it "eats away at the fabric of democracy and it eats away at the well-deserved confidence people have in elections."

What to watch: The Justice Department launched a task force to investigate and prosecute threats against election officials.

  • Meanwhile, some members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, are pushing for stronger protections for election workers.

Read and share the full interview.

3. Quoted: Robots, at your service

A robot that serves food from three stacked bowls

"DeeDee," which appears to be the first robot server in a Minnesota restaurant. Photo courtesy of Cyndy Harrison/Sawatdee Thai Restaurant

"I thought, why not? I'm having a really hard time getting staff. It's not a bad idea getting extra staff."
β€” Sawatdee co-owner Cyndy Harrison on the Thai restaurant's decision to use robots to run and bus food.

Go deeper via The Star Tribune.

4. Charted: How we compare on violent crime

Data: FBI; Chart: Axios Visuals

Homicides and violent crime increased in Minnesota in 2020, though the state's rates remain lower than across the U.S. as a whole, new estimates from the FBI show.

Behind the trend: Social and economic changes set off by the coronavirus pandemic likely contributed to the spike in violent crime nationwide, legal experts told Axios' Russell Contreras.

Data: FBI; Chart: Axios Visuals

5. The Spoon: Fill your news tank

Illustration of two spoons with text reading "Twin Cities" that changes to "MPLS" and "St. P."

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

😷 A fight broke out at an Eastern Carver County School Board meeting over a mask mandate. (WCCO)

βš–οΈ A 6-year-old boy drowned in the Mississippi River while on a trip with Don and Sondra Samuels last year. Sondra settled with the family for $301,000. (Sahan Journal)

❓ Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey won't say whether MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo has committed to staying in his post beyond 2022. (Fox9)

πŸ’‰ Nearly 200 Minnesota health workers signed onto a federal lawsuit against the upcoming vaccine mandate. (MPR News)

🍽 The Guthrie Theater is opening a search for restaurant operators of the Sea Change space on the first floor. Sea Change has been closed since the pandemic, but its owners say they'll make a proposal to stay. (Star Tribune)

πŸ— The Highland Bridge development in St. Paul will include a medical office building, developer Ryan Cos. announced. (Pioneer Press)

πŸ’Ό Land O' Lakes CEO Beth Ford was elected to the board of directors of BlackRock, the massive investment management corporation. (Release)

6. Happy National Coffee Day

latte with rainbow design and candy sprinkles on top on wooden table

The Sunday Candy latte at Cafe Astoria. Photo: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Looking to celebrate National Coffee Day? Audrey recommends Cafe Astoria in St. Paul, known for its secret menu of specialty drinks.

  • This rainbow beauty is the Sunday Candy latte, with espresso, white chocolate milk, raspberry and candy.

7. πŸ₯œ 2 new Nut Rolls to go

A green nut roll wrapped with apple flavor above an orange one with pumpkin flavor

Image courtesy of Pearson's

St. Paul candy maker Pearson's is joining the pumpkin spice craze, debuting a seasonal Pumpkin Spice Nut Roll this fall.

  • It's also adding an Apple Spice Nut Roll.

You tell us: Do these seem worth trying?

On Wednesdays, some wear pink. Here at Axios Twin Cities, we share our recs for books, TV and more.

🍿 Nick was immediately sucked into "Promising Young Woman," which is streaming on HBO. But he has to split up movies into two sittings (because of kids), so he doesn't have a full review yet.

🦁 Torey has been reading this book over and over and over again. She also finished this one herself. (Her review: intense, but pretty good!)

πŸ“Ί Audrey was very disappointed by the TV adaption of "Nine Perfect Strangers," and is now starting "White Lotus" on HBO.