Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Welcome to Saint Potemkin

Or rather, Saint Paul:
"In just 34 days from now, the world will descend on Minneapolis, St. Paul and the state of Minnesota," Lesher said. "We're helping Minnesotans get ready for company."

The boosters are asking homeowners and businesses to contribute by primping yards and gardens, washing windows, sweeping sidewalks and adding red, white and blue decorations, including American flags.

Besides planned Aug. 16 neighborhood cleanups — the first 100 volunteers in Minneapolis get free Minnesota Twins tickets — local convention and visitors groups are hosting an Aug. 5 "Cab Wash" at the Metrodome. Cab drivers will get free snacks while they watch their cabs get thorough scrubbings.

The efforts seem to pale to what some other cities have done. Of the $6.5 million spent in Boston, for example, $2.7 million was spent patching and repaving the city's famously tattered streets, the Boston Globe reported.

But there are more substantial ongoing efforts to give St. Paul a facelift. City workers have been resodding local parks, for example. The city's public works department has repainted 1,100 feet of ornamental railings outside the Xcel Energy Center. The stairs on the Wabasha Freedom Bridge have been spruced up, too.

"On Sept. 1, the eyes of the country and the world are going to be on St. Paul, Minnesota," said St. Paul marketing director Erin Dady. "This is a special occasion in the city of St. Paul."

There are other convention-related efforts under way, too. New signs and backlit maps are about to be installed in St. Paul's skyways, which are likely to draw curious guests who know little or nothing of Minnesota's frigid winters.

Actually, cooling the skyways in the summer and heating them in the winter would be a modest first step. The average temperature of a Saint Paul skyway yesterday must have been in the upper 80's. Especially those adjacent to the PiPress building.

As for other preparations for the convention, has anyone else been hearing rumblings about city permits that were issued months ago suddenly being yanked, or previously undisclosed conditions suddenly being imposed? It's a rumor that I've heard from several widely different sources just this week.

Update: The PiPress has an article about my last point here.

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