@Twins on Pace to Set New Attendance Record

This tweet from Bob Collins reminded me to take a look at how attendance is looking at the Twins’ latest publicly financed ballpark:

Screenshot 2015-09-18 08.58.35

If we, generously, average out the first 72 home games to create a projection for the full season, things will shake out like this:

Twins Attendance by Year
*Projected by averaging first 72 games.

That puts 2015 on track for a new record by 9,939 tickets.

But, this isn’t a mathematical certainty. The Twins just need to find 10,200 more people per night than they found last night for each of the last 9 games of the 2015 regular season to avoid their continued streak of attendance declines.

Or, if the Twins sold out the next 7 games, fans could take the last two games of the year off knowing that it’s only the second worth year for attendance at the latest publicly financed ballpark. At this point, there is a mathematical lock on this being either the worst or second worst season for attendance yet.

Assuming attendance stays pretty much on track, here’s how the per ticket subsidies continue to grow.

image (55)
*Projected by averaging first 72 games.

Same costs. Fewer fans.

How Minneapolis Makes Navigation Difficult for Outsiders

St Paul gets its share of criticism for being a tough to navigate town for outsiders due to the lack of pattern is their street naming and non grid conforming downtown. But, Minneapolis has its share of issues for outsiders too. Here are a seven examples:

1. The streets most likely to be encountered by outsiders don’t follow cardinal directions. A lot of visitors to Minneapolis come from places where terms like North, South, East, and West still mean something. If you’ve flown over the state, you’ll know that it’s largely a checkerboard with North-South and East-West roads drawing the lines. But, all of that changes when you get downtown. Take a frustrated pro sports fan (non-Lynx, obvs) at the end of another disappointing loss, and tell them you parked to the North. It turns out that can become more frustrated.

Tilted Downtown

2. Minneapolis bends major streets. Hennepin Ave is a common street an outsider may encounter in downtown or Uptown. But, they’ll most likely encounter a stretch that doesn’t follow cardinal directions and/or the grid.

Hennepin Ave

3. Minneapolis numbers streets, except those that count. Imagine you’re in Uptown at Lake Street and Hennepin and hear that there’s a Greek Fest worth checking out nearby. Someone tells you it’s at 35th St, so all you need to do is figure out whether to go North or South to get to 35th Street from Lake Street. But, we don’t call Lake St “30th Street”, or include any indications on signs that it’s 30th for navigational purposes.

Naming Streets

4. Numbering streets in both directions. Numbering streets is a great way to improve navigation, but it can go too far. For example, the East side of South Minneapolis numbers both the streets and the avenues (But, not Lake, Franklin, Minnehaha, Park, or Portland [See #2]). This forces outsiders to quickly get up to speed on which direction is for avenues vs streets. This can be a challenge for people driving on deadline to the Riverview Theater, who’ll end up near .7 miles away from their real-butter popcorn if they get it wrong:

Numbered Streets in Both Directions

5. Non-Euclidian Geometry. If we were paying attention in planar geometry, we learned that parallel lines don’t cross. But, don’t tell that to the street namers in Northeast Minneapolis where Avenues intersect with Avenues and Streets with Streets. For example, if it dawned on you that you’re far better off going to Anchor Fish & Chips than having a Filet-O-Fish, the two main routes take you on University Avenue to 13th Avenue or Broadway Street to 3rd Street.

Northeast Minneapolis Non-Euclidian Geometry

6. We bend interstates. If you want to mess with people’s navigational skills, bend the roads they take to enter your town. If they’re not sure whether they’re going West or North when exiting I-94, or North or Southeast when exiting I-35W, they’re directionally impaired even before they hit the local streets. The best solution to this problem is to do what great cities have already done: get rid of the highways in the city.

Screenshot 2015-09-15 09.49.16

7. (Retired). We let a publicly financed stadium be named after the private Mall of America – with the revenue going to a private company – in a location that’s nowhere near the Mall of America. I’ve helped people leaving downtown on the LRT understand that the MOA is quite a bit further down the tracks than the Wilf Family’s brand selling schemes would have you believe. I believe confusion caused by this map, which is supposed to help out-of-towners, was the culprit:

Downtown Minneapolis Map

The Downtown Improvement District did a good job tricking outsiders into not making it to Bloomington with that map.

A Year Later, Lyft Continues to Redline in Minneapolis

The StarTribune has an article today about Uber and Lyft drivers canceling a larger number of pickup requests among prospective passengers in North Minneapolis than in other parts of the city.

City business license manager Grant Wilson said city officials will pose as “secret shoppers” to test Uber and Lyft in underserved areas of the city.

Wilson made the decision after reviewing new information revealing that drivers for these ride-hailing services tend to prefer high-traffic and high-profit areas, like downtown, and are less likely to venture to north Minneapolis.

What’s particularly goofy about this is Minneapolis’ apparent willingness to allow Lyft to redline tens of thousands of North Minneapolis residents by not just reactively denying them service, but proactively doing so.

For example, here is what Lyft’s app looks like for people requesting a car from the 3400 block of Colfax Ave N:

2015-08-06 17.25.04

But, if I go to the 3700 block of Dupont (20 blocks south of the city’s border with Brooklyn Center) the cars disappear:

2015-08-06 17.24.57

That’s proactive refusal of service to city residents.

If this sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because I wrote about it last year in June. Nothing’s been done about it.

It doesn’t take secret shoppers to see this form of redlining. The problem is far larger than a particular driver denying a fare based on location. The entire service denies fares based on location.

Or, as Lyft puts it:

“If they are in our coverage area, we will do our best to supply rides,” said Danyelle Ludwig, a Lyft spokeswoman.

It’s not discrimination, you see. It’s a coverage area that just happens to not cover all Minneapolis residents. And, it’s not redlining, you see. They happen to use green lines:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 12.38.23

It doesn’t take secret shoppers to see how Lyft treats North Minneapolis residents. Their own coverage area map illustrates their discriminatory behavior.

Anther Justification for a Downtown Casino

Earlier this week, a guy from South Dakota escaped from prison, stole a car from a Pizza Hut delivery driver in Sioux Falls, pulled a gas & go in Lakeville, and robbed some banks in Minneapolis.

On the 13th, I made this comment via email to a friend about his crime pattern:

“He’s covering some ground. I’d check Mystic where he’s probably laundering the cash through slots.”

This morning, this happened:

A South Dakota prison escapee was caught early Wednesday at Mystic Lake Casino after piling up a slew of crimes since late Friday that included three bank jobs in the Twin Cities, an auto theft and other offenses, authorities said.

Why Mystic Lake? I don’t know about you, but when I land some cold cash of questionable origin, the first thing I want to do is launder it. And, what’s more convenient than anonymously bumping the questionable cash into slot machines, playing a few hands, then cashing out some fresh bills? You may even win something. Or, if not, you could count that as a laundering expense when you file taxes on your bank robbery earnings. (Disclosure: I’m not a CPA.)

We’ve heard this story before. Another high-profile example of this made the news last September:

Screenshot 2015-07-15 14.10.52

Thus the need for a downtown casino. Fugitives shouldn’t have to drive all the way to Shakopee to launder money1.. This causes wear and tear on our roads2., adds to congestion, air pollution, and ramps up the costs caused by multiple law enforcement departments getting pulled into investigations.

I don’t know if fugitives are better or worse drivers than average. Perhaps they’re extra attentive and law-abiding? Or, maybe they’re a bit distracted by the sudden lifestyle change? I just hope that they don’t draw attention to themselves by driving slow in the left lane.

Granted, fugitives aren’t your typical 9-5ers, so congestion alleviation may not be the biggest issue here. But, the downside of working odd hours is poor public transit options. It’s also a reverse commute (or the dreaded suburb to suburb commute), which are both difficult transit options. Uber’s obviously out of the question when you want your privacy respected.

The other upside is post-laundering entertainment. I’d rather see fugitives blowing some of their freshly laundered cash on highly taxed downtown entertainment. Put that laundered cash to work making up for the lack of fan support from Vikings and Timberwolves to cover infrastructure costs for their entertainment palaces.

Now, not every money launderer is a bank thief or murderer. Some are smaller time thieves who’d like to launder their money but don’t really want to make the drive all the way to Shakopee. Sure, they don’t get the same level of attention, but attention isn’t really what they’re seeking. Think about the benefits for these entrepreneurs. Less windshield time = more productivity.

Maximizing the full potential of our existing infrastructure is just good public policy.

1. Pro tip: Rob coins. Sure, they’re heavy, but are they marked? And, if you’re concerned about them being marked, Coinstar locations are a lot more convenient than casinos.

2. Fugitives really ought to consider hopping on Mystic Lake’s shuttle buses. Perhaps fugitives could form ad hoc mastermind groups to discuss laundering techniques while en route?

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Math Only a Corporate #wilfare Queen Could Believe @mnunitedfc

I was hoping that MN United would somehow be different than every other professional sports franchise in our local market, but then I read stuff like this:

We will pay our fair share of tax. The entertainment/sales/food/beverage taxes the facility generates will be 5x current tax. @edkohler

If you’re a business or resident in Minneapolis and you buy a property and improve it, you’re expected to pay property taxes. That’s the deal. It’s really quite simple. But, MN United seems to think that they deserve to redefine “fairness” based on sales tax generation.

It’s as if pro sports are the only industry that competes for entertainment dollars and generates sales taxes. Why should they be subsidized while local restaurants aren’t? If we were going to subsidize an entertainment business, how about subsidizing ones that are open more than 17 days per year?

But, the bigger issue with MN United’s claims is the math. It’s the kind of math only people who mistakenly trust pro sports franchise owners can believe.

Here’s the problem with their sales tax math. It assumes that every single dollar of sales taxes generates at the soccer stadium would not have been generated anywhere else in the entire state of Minnesota if there wasn’t a publicly subsidized pro sports stadium.

It’s an utterly preposterous assumption. Put another way, they’re lying. And, people who mistakenly trust MN United’s statements are falling for it:

@edkohler @_NickRogers_ Ed, if you didn't pay property tax, would your provide 5x those taxes in sales tax? Your analogy seems flawed.

People blindly trust pro sports owners that are in the business of subsidizing their businesses rather than competing fairly for entertainment dollars in the private market.

But, what makes this situation particularly interesting is that even loyal MN United fans seem to be embarrassed by the requests to shift property tax burdens onto homeowners and local business in order to further enrich some of MN’s richest residents. This is my assumption based on the lack of response to questions like this:

@lockstockspock I noticed that you ignored this tweet, which makes me wonder why you're so concerned about handouts:

Let’s try being honest. MN United doesn’t need subsidies. The team will be here. A stadium will be built. And Minneapolis will benefit from hosting a new local business while expanding its property tax base. That’s what fairness looks like.

@mngop Math: Light Rail Fare Edition

David Montgomery with the Pioneer Press has an article about a recent audit of fare skipping by light rail riders:

A recent audit conducted by the Met Council found around 3 percent of Blue Line riders and between 4.6 and 9 percent of Green Line riders were evading their fares. That adds up to between $800,000 and $1.5 million per year in lost money.

This created some outrage from a MN GOP rep:

Rep. Mark Uglem, R-Champlin, said during a Monday transportation bill discussion in a House committee meeting. “We have $1.5 million in taxpayers’ money that we’re being cheated out of.”

Let’s go with the absolute high end figure Rep. Uglem latched onto. I’m 100% confident that no level of fare enforcement or implementation of more rigid boarding systems would bring in anywhere near that kind of money.

The fallacy in his statement is assuming that every fare not collected actually would still exist under more rigid boarding/enforcement scenarios. It’s the same mistake the MPAA makes when they claim that every illegally downloaded movie should be treated as a lost DVD sale.

In the reality based community, it might be worth considering whether those fare skippers would have still taken the LRT if they had to pay the fare. I’m willing to be that a significant portion of them would not, because they likely have little to no money. But, they still need to get to work, visit their family, or get to the grocery store.

So, we could dump a whole bunch of money into attempting to increase revenue generated from the LRT’s poorest riders.

In the end, Rep. Uglem could proudly state that he helped kick poor people off the trains. But, there’s little chance that he’d see the uptick of $1.5 million in annual revenue he claims can be recovered. A good example of why can be found in the same article:

The fare-dodging audit said that all mass transit systems, even those with turnstiles, saw at least 2 percent to 3 percent of riders avoid paying their fares.

If we take the average of the Blue and Green line fare skippers (6.8%), and put that up against the reality that people will skip fares even if expensive turnstiles are installed, it becomes pretty clear that the potential savings – even before reality checking that many people would simply stop riding – could be more like $235k – $440k/year.

The article also mentions:

Once installed, turnstiles would cost about $1.3 million per year to operate, he said.

Even ignoring the huge costs of retrofitting LRT stops to make life harder for poor people and less convenient for all transit riders, this seems like a colossal waste of money.

If the goal was to invest taxpayer money into increasing the amount of money generated by light rail trains, there is probably a much better options such as increasing frequency. This would likely increase ridership among those who can and do pay.

Or – I know this is going to sound crazy, but we already do it for airline travelers – how about making the LRT free? We could save a ton of money on turnstiles and enforcement.

But, I suppose that’s less interesting to a Rep from Champlain than picking on poor urban people.

Adam Heskin: One of The Pioneer Press’ Racist Commenters

The Pioneer Press posted an Associated Press article about a group of Somali immigrants who’re dealing with discrimination and bullying. They claim that they’re being treated unfairly by fellow students and staff and, based on the original piece in the St Cloud Times, they’re right.

One of the parents involved in the protest, Sadwda Ali, said similar issues exist at South Junior High. Sadwda Ali said students there have taunted her 11-year-old daughter for wearing a hijab and spat in her face.

Sadwda Ali said she’s particularly disheartened to hear about students trying to link Somalis with the Islamic State group.

“They think that all Somalis and all Muslims are terrorists,” Sadwda Ali said. “That’s totally wrong. Our religion is peace.”

Here’s what Pioneer Press Commenter, Adam Heskin, had to say about this:

adamh2o: Is that all liberals know how to do anymore? Protest this, protest that, who cares if it even makes sense, scream and yell about it.

Adam Heskin Racist
Adam Heskin – Racist Commenter*

I’m not sure if it takes work to willfully ignore the concerns of protestors, or if racists like Adam Heskin save time by jumping straight from headlines to the comment box.

Heskin goes on:

Somali’s should be thankful we even let their Muslim terrorist a$$es into this country.

Adam Heskin - One of the Pioneer Press' Bigot Commenters
Adam Heskin – Pioneer Press Bigot

It looks like the “Heskin” surname is English. It’s really unbelievable that we allow English people into this country considering how much blood is on their hands.

Heskin goes on to explain that recent immigrants from a war torn country are a menace to society.

Get everything off the government dole, work for nothing, send money back to your terrorist families and yet you still whine and cry every chance you get.

Adam Heskin - Not a Fan of Today's Immigrants
Adam Heskin – Not a Fan of Today’s Immigrants

But, that was just a warm-up up for his big bigoted close:

Filthy animals should be grateful you aren’t put on the first plane out like you should be.

Adam Heskin can be found on Twitter @adam_heskin and Facebook adam.heskin.3 and as a racist commenter on many platforms that use the Disqus commenting platform as @adamh2o.

For those of you thinking “There’s no way that comment was actually published to the website of the second largest newspaper website in the State of Minnesota, here’s a screenshot of the article and comment with ads for Cub Foods and the Parade of Homes.

Screenshot 2015-03-19 09.33.19

* I figured that it was important to include pictures of the racist Adam Heskin in order to make it clear which Adam Heskin is the racist commenter on the Pioneer Press’ website. Personally, I find most people named Adam Heskin to be peaceful individuals who’re doing the best they can for themselves and their families during their stay on this planet. To suggest that all Adam Heskins are racist web commenters would be a broad generalization that tarnishes the reputations of the vast majority of Adam Heskins and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.

Minneapolis MLS Stadium Location: The Stripper Perspective

Word on the street is that Major League Soccer wants to enter the Twin Cities sports market with an expansion team.

Some analysis has been done in the past showing that the Twin Cities are already over-saturated with pro sports entertainment options while attempting to support an NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL team, but that doesn’t really matter because it’s a private business using private money to take private risks. Right? Right?

While mainstream media companies tend to talk about the success the only bar near the Hennepin County Medical Center, Hubert’s, when discussing the economic impact of sports, I contracted with an anonymous reporter to take the temperature of a different ancillary industry: strippers. Here’s what she found out (all names were changed to protect the identities of the strippers*):


Are you busier on game nights?

Merlot (Dreamgirls) [Other job: Cashier]: Totally. You can tell when Twins games must have ended. Or, maybe it’s just a because it’s boring game or their losing again? Either way, it fills up with guys in Twins stuff on game nights.

Which sport has the best fans?

Meredith (Seville) [Other job: Part time pre-med]: It depends what you mean by best. If you mean most respectful of the dancers, Twins fans. They bring a subdued attitude and appreciate what we do for them. If you mean people ready to party, then it’s Twolves fans. They’re up for partying to forget.

What are Vikings fans like?

Amber (Rick’s) [Other job: Sophomore, Elementary Ed.]: First, there’s the Saturday night crowd. They tend to be from the Dakotas and are really grabby. It’s like they’ve never seen a tit other than their mom’s before. They show up drunk, don’t tip well, and hardly ever offer to buy me a drink. A lot of them get kicked out.

Then there’s Sundays. It takes guys a bit to get adjusted since they’re stepping inside from the daylight. There are some big spenders. Especially guys in town on business trips. But, there are also ridiculously drunk tailgaters who can barely walk. I kind of feel sad giving lap dances to guys in AP jerseys with whiskey dicks, but if you knew what I owed in student loans it would make sense.

What are Wild fans like?

Elsa (Lamplighter Lounge) [Other job: Taco Bell Drive Thru]: We don’t see a lot of Wild fans in here, but we’re not exactly downtown St Paul. But, maybe they have brain damage or something?

What do you think of the Twin Cities getting an MLS team?

Victoria (Deja Vu) [Other job: craft brewer]: I think soccer players are hot. They have awesome abs and are in really good shape. I’d love it if they came in here.

There is speculation that a soccer stadium may be built near the Twins stadium. How would that effect your career?

Dominique (Downtown Cabaret) [Other job: Uber driver]: How many games do they play?

34, not including playoffs, so 17 home games.

Dominique: That’s like three times the Vikings.

Closer to 2 times.

Dominique: Still. How many do the other teams play?

The Twins play 81 home games and the Timberwolves play 41, not counting pre-season and . . . playoff games.

Dominique: You know, I been thinking about getting closer to the warehouse district for some time now. There’s something going on over there like half the year.

It’s closer to a third.

Dominique: Still, that’s way better than eight weekends with the Vikings plus the Monster Truck show.


While it may be too early to have a strong opinion about this, it sounds like this particular ancillary industry favors clustering sports venues on the entertainment district side of downtown.

* The questions, other jobs, and answers were made up too.

Glen Taylor’s StarTribune: Crunching Minneapolis’ False Alarm Costs

Imagine how you’d feel if you figured out a way to save 26% of the time your employees spend dealing with worthless stuff only to read an article claiming that you’re being wasteful. Here’s an example of Glen Taylor’s StarTribune reporting on the Minneapolis Police Department’s handling of false alarm responses at businesses in the city.

Alejandra Matos has an article in the StarTribune about the Minneapolis’ costs of dealing with false alarms at businesses. It contains incredibly poorly supported comparisons of costs to Minneapolis’ neighbor. Is this an example of the Glen Taylor ownership era at the StarTribune? Misleading people to justify cutting government costs seems pretty GOP to me.

Matos provides background on Minneapolis’ false alarm response costs:

[Minneapolis] used to give alarm users two free false alarms in a year and charge $200 for the third, with each additional alarm costing an additional $100. But heavier fees were implemented in 2007 after the city estimated it was spending more than $800,000 to respond to them. In 2006, police responded to 15,600 false alarms.

The article seems to suggest that Minneapolis’ false alarm fees are ridiculous, while St Paul’s are far more fair because they’re cheaper for businesses that waste extraordinarily large amounts of police time (yes, you read that right).

It looks like Minneapolis spent $800,000 responding to 15,600 false alarms at businesses operating in the city in 2006.

If I divide $800k by 15,600, I come up with an average false alarm response cost of $51.28. The problem the city appears to have been trying to address wasn’t that it spent $800k on false alarms. The problem is that the costs of dealing with false alarms exceeded the costs businesses generating them were paying. This isn’t a gross cost issue. It’s a rate problem that the StarTribune didn’t explain.

The article continues:

When an alarm is triggered, the alarm company must try calling the key holder, often the home or business owner, twice before they ask for police response. If that person can’t be reached, the police usually send two squad cars to respond to the alarm. If the officers find nothing wrong, they can designate a false alarm.

Is it just me, or do these numbers seem extraordinarily reasonable? What does it cost to have a plumber or Geek Squad show up at your house? The last time I called a plumber for an emergency it was a lot more than $51.28 with a 12 hour response time. The last time I called Geek Squad, the costs were more than double that, and that was well before 2006. Yet, Minneapolis sends TWO squad cars with at least two cops to address an active alarm and the cost is less than $26/person? I’m pretty sure that the cost per hour per police officer is at least $50/hour after equipment, training, and benefits, so these cops are somehow responding to alarms and writing up their cases in under 30 minutes? That seems unlikely.

The article mentions that the cost of clerical processing of an alarm statement alone can be $27. Yet we can send multiple cars with fully equipped, trained officers for less than $26 per cop per call?

To me, based on the information presented in this article, it sounds like Minneapolis was severely underestimating the cost of responding to alarms in 2006.

I would like compare the $800k figure to what Minneapolis is bringing in on average now after updating their fee structure, but the StarTribune didn’t provide that information. The article does mention that response calls have dropped:

False alarms have dropped 24 percent in the six years since the stiffer penalties were put in place. Although city officials say they are pleased by that, local business owners are not.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but a 24% drop in false alarms sounds like a $206,000 savings in otherwise wasted police time based on the reported 2006 false alarm response cost figure. You may have a hard time finding that $206,000 savings in the StarTribune’s column because it’s not mentioned.

Matos many paragraphs explaining that fees have gone up in Minneapolis while they’re cheaper in St Paul (under certain circumstances if you read closely enough).

Matos offered an explanation of St Paul’s system:

St. Paul requires all alarm users to purchase a yearly permit for $27.

Ricardo Cervantes, director of St. Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections, says this system anticipates that alarm users will have at least one mishap. St. Paul gives residents and business owners two free false alarms, then charges $35 for the third. Adding all the fees together in one year, a seventh false alarm will cost a user $427. In Minneapolis, the cumulative cost would be $2,130.

Matos didn’t explain how much St Paul brings in through those yearly permits, how that compares to Minneapolis, and how that breaks down on a per-false alarm basis. And, she didn’t offer any quotes from business owners in St Paul who has to pay a yearly fee of $27 even when they have no false alarms.

What did we learn from this article? Nothing. To learn something we’d need comparisons of 2006 numbers vs 2014 in Minneapolis. Or Minneapolis’ numbers vs. St Paul’s. Since no actual, honest, relative comparison was presented, I can only assume that the goal was to sell a bias for Glen Taylor that’s not supported by the numbers.

Basically, her editor – assuming their was one – wasted the StarTribune’s reader’s time with a handful of non-apples to apples comparisons that give the perception that Minneapolis’ fees are outrageous compared to St Paul’s without actually proving that point. Was misleading readers the editorial goal of Glen Taylor’s StarTribune with this article? The StarTribune was better than this article.