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Tuesday's Axios Twin Cities stories

Updated Jul 20, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Minnesotans rejoice as Canada readies to open its border

Photo: Joey McLeister/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Canada's decision to fully open the border to vaccinated Americans next month was met with relief from many in Minnesota.

  • "We are ecstatic," Tricia Heibel, president of the International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, told us. "It's the best opening news we've had in over a year now."

Driving the news: The Canadian government announced Monday that it will lift a 14-day quarantine requirement for vaccinated Americans beginning Aug. 9.

Why it matters: The ban on nonessential travel at the border, which took effect in March 2020, caused frustration and financial pain for people and businesses on both sides of the Minnesota-Canada border.

Metal shipping container house for sale in the Twin Cities

Is this the Twin Cities' first shipping container home? Photo courtesy of Amber Steiner/eXp Realty

Forget about exposed brick interiors — it's all about the metal shipping containers at this $280,000 North Minneapolis home.

Background: This 1,300-square-foot house, built this year by Paragon Designs, claims to be the first shipping container home in the Twin Cities.

  • The three-bed, two-bath, five-container home sits on a .2 acre corner lot in the Jordan neighborhood.
  • It has all the amenities of a typical build and some extras, including a cute balcony and an unfinished basement.

Of note: It's part of the Minneapolis Homes Program, which helps provide funding for affordable homes and promotes homeownership. Potential buyers must qualify.

Our thoughts: Could the appeal of this industrial look be one of the factors behind the global shipping container shortage?

Check out the full listing here.

Jul 20, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Inside a Macalester College grad's juicy WeWork exposé

Macalester grad's new WeWork book comes out Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House

WeWork operates three coworking offices in Minneapolis and if you've ever been to one, you know they're hip, buzzing and full of entrepreneurs.

  • But there's a heck of a backstory to the company that grew from a small startup to a massive real estate firm in a decade, before a failed IPO shook CEO Adam Neumann from his perch.

What's new: Macalester College grad and Wall Street Journal reporter Eliot Brown's new book "The Cult of We," about Neumann was released this morning. He wrote it with fellow reporter Maureen Farrell.

  • Read an Axios exclusive excerpt here.
Jul 20, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Minnesota to create first state task force on missing and murdered Black women

The case of Brittany Clardy, a St. Paul teen killed in 2013, helped inspire the panel's formation. Photo courtesy of the Clardy family

Minnesota will soon launch what appears to be the nation's first state-level panel to address the disproportionately high rates of violence against Black women.

Why it matters: Black women die of homicide at twice the rate of women in general, per the CDC. Recent death data suggests the trend holds here.

  • But cases involving Black women tend to receive less attention from law enforcement, media and the public, said Rep. Ruth Richardson, the Mendota Heights Democrat who proposed the idea.

How it works: The Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women, approved as part of a public safety budget bill, will be modeled after the state's recent work on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

  • A 12-person panel, made up of representatives from the courts, law enforcement and victims' advocacy groups, will come up with policy recommendations to address the issue by December 2022.

What they're saying: Richardson told Axios she hopes the task force accomplishes more than just "another shiny report."

  • "It really is truly a public health crisis and it's one that there just hasn't been a bright light shone on," she said. "We hope this is a moment that not only moves us forward in Minnesota, but sets a standard for other states."

Of note: The case of Brittany Clardy — an 18 year old from St. Paul who was killed and left in a car in 2013 — was a driving force behind the proposal.

  • Clardy's family testified at a legislative hearing that they believe a swifter response to their missing persons report could've saved her life.
Jul 19, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Rep. John Thompson says he won't step down amid calls for resignation

Rep. John Thompson. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Legislature

State Rep. John Thompson says he won't resign amid a series of controversies, including recently surfaced domestic abuse allegations.

  • The move could force top state leaders to decide whether to seek the St. Paul Democrat's removal from office.

What's new: Top state Democrats, including Gov. Tim Walz and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, issued statements Saturday calling on Thompson to resign following the publication of police reports alleging physical and verbal abuse of a former girlfriend.

  • Thompson, elected in 2020, was already under fire for holding a Wisconsin license while representing a St. Paul district. That issue came up during a traffic stop in which Thompson said he was racially profiled by police.

What's new: Top state Democrats, including Gov. Tim Walz and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, issued statements Saturday calling on Thompson to resign following the publication of multiple police reports alleging physical and verbal abuse of women.

  • Thompson, elected in 2020, was already under fire for holding a Wisconsin license while representing a St. Paul district. That issue came up during a traffic stop in which Thompson said he was racially profiled by police.

What he's saying: Thompson's attorney says the lawmaker and his wife "categorically deny" the allegations.

  • He questioned the authenticity of the police reports, which a Fox9 journalist obtained via public record requests, calling them the "product of the campaign to silence an American African man who speaks out against powerful and abusive interest." The lawmaker was not charged with domestic violence as a result of the cases in question.

What to watch: Thompson's future at the Capitol remains uncertain. Legislative Republicans plan to file an ethics complaint over the allegations today. Under the state Constitution, the House can expel a member with agreement of two-thirds of the chamber.

  • A spokesperson for House DFL leaders declined to comment on whether they will seek such a vote.
  • A Walz aide said Sunday there have been no discussions of bringing back lawmakers prior to a planned September special session on frontline worker pay.
Jul 19, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Minneapolis looks for a city coordinator — again

Minneapolis City Hall. Photo: Getty Images

Minneapolis is once again seeking a new city coordinator.

Driving the news: Mark Ruff announced on Friday that he'll step down Aug. 1, after less than two years in the role. He cited "personal and family health needs" in an email to staff.

Why it matters: The coordinator, the city's top non-elected post, works closely with the mayor and the City Council to implement policy. The role oversees a number of departments, including HR, finance and emergency management.

  • Of note: The role has seen a lot of turnover in recent years. Previous coordinators Spencer Cronk and Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde left for new positions outside the Twin Cities in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Between the lines: Ruff's tenure coincided with a tumultuous period for Minneapolis, as the city and its residents weathered the pandemic and the unrest that followed George Floyd's murder.

  • "I've known nothing but crisis management, the whole time I've been city coordinator," he told The Star Tribune.

What's next: The city Executive Committee will meet today to consider Mayor Jacob Frey's nomination of Heather Johnston, a former city director of management and budget, to fill the post in an interim capacity.

  • A search for a permanent replacement will follow in the coming weeks and months, per a city news release.
Jul 19, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Minneapolis' new pickleball club takes aim at sport's rising popularity

Lucky Shots Pickleball is almost ready to open, but hold on. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

The hottest sport in the Twin Cities is pickleball, thanks to a growing interest among young players.

State of play: Public pickleball court usage is way up in the last few years. Cities are beginning to convert tennis courts strictly for pickleball play, and suburban park departments are adding more facilities for the sport.

  • Just look at the city of Roseville, which has proposed turning tennis courts at Evergreen Park into six permanent pickleball courts. Chaska added six courts last year.
  • But the biggest sign of the sport's growing popularity is in Northeast Minneapolis, where developer Peter Remes' team is putting final touches on what he said will be the biggest pickleball facility in the Twin Cities.