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Sunday, November 13, 2005

CITY CITY BANG BANG 

Like Mitch, I voted for Randy Kelly in this past week's mayoral election. Unlike Mitch, I live in Minneapolis, not St. Paul.

I couldn't bring myself to vote for Frick or Frack, so that left me with the momentous decision of whose name to write in. It's a surprisingly difficult one--after all, if you can vote for anyone, you can vote for, well, anyone. I considered both The Mayor and his opponent Fuzzy Lumpkins from the very funny Powerpuff Girls episode referenced by Eloise the other day--highly recommended, if you've never seen it. But I settled on Kelly on the grounds that he was an actual human being who was actually running for mayor and who was easily the best of the four candidates in the two cities, a few miles and a border be damned.

Funny thing is, Kelly had as good a chance of prevailing on my side of the river as he did on Mitch's.

Which brings me to another topic introduced by Mitch and amplified elsewhere: city vs. suburbs. Why do Eloise and I live in Minneapolis, anyway? For me (Eloise can speak for herself, though I think we're in agreement on this) the bottom line is pretty simple, and it's what I suspect is the bottom line for most people: aesthetics. I just like the look and feel of our Minneapolis neighborhood better than I like most of what's in the suburbs. And I'm sure that most inhabitants of the suburbs feel the same way in reverse. The other factors--crime, taxes, schools, commuting times, etc.--are not negligible, but for me they are decidedly second-order. They work to push me toward or away from my aesthetic preference, but they don't determine that preference.

I am of course ignoring the biggest factor of all: cost. Still, I think that most people start with their aesthetic preference as the ideal, look for what they can afford in that respect, and only depart from that if the other factors are quite weighty. We were lucky to buy in our neighborhood in 1993, just as the run-up in prices was starting. Today our house is worth probably three times what we paid for it 12 and a half years ago, and while some of that appreciation is due to improvements we've made, it unquestionably would be harder to buy a first home around here now than it was then. But even if we were in that situation, I'm sure we would look for a house in this or a similar neighborhood.

There's also a historical dimension to this debate. Much of the residential housing stock in Minneapolis was itself considered suburban when it was first built. Our neighborhood, known as Kingfield, is in the southwest quadrant of the city, near Lake Harriet but east of Lyndale Avenue. It was built mostly in the 1920s and 1930s, is dominated by bungalows (like ours) and smaller four-squares, and is essentially indistinguishable from the Morningside area of suburban Edina where I grew up and where my parents still live. The tonier neighborhoods just west (Lynhurst) and south (Tangletown) of ours are of roughly the same vintage but with bigger and more architecturally diverse houses, are closer to the water (Lake Harriet and Minnehaha Creek, respectively) and are essentially indistinguishable from the Country Club section of Edina (which is itself perched on Minnehaha Creek). I realize that when 21st Century Twin Citians speak of the suburbs, they typically have newer, sprawling places like Eden Prairie and Lakeville and Woodbury, not older, distinct-from-the city-in-name-only places like Edina and St. Louis Park and Mendota Heights, in mind. Still, it's worth remembering that today's "inner city" neighborhood was yesterday's bucolic enclave.

And there's a related sectional dimension. When our law school friends who now live in New York City or Chicago visit us, they don't see our neighborhood as urban at all. That's because they live in places that really are urban: bustling, high-density, apartment- and condo-dominated, and so on. Very little of Minneapolis and St. Paul is like that, so to many outsiders, this "city vs. suburb" debate would look like a "one kind of suburb vs. a slightly different kind of suburb" debate, which sort of takes the zing out of it.

One more thing. Does anyone else find it odd that conservatives--the staunch upholders of history and tradition--typically live in and defend decidedly newfangled suburbs, while liberals--the bold advocates of progressive change--typically live in and defend decidedly old-fashioned neighborhoods? I've never been able to figure that one out.

6 Comments:

What a pretentious prick you are.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:38 AM  

That's funny, JB, I thought I was a douchebag.

By Blogger THE WARRIOR MONK, at 9:10 AM  

Hey dickhead, that anon comment wasn't me.

But you are a prick.

By Blogger JB, at 3:24 PM  

Would you stop arguing. I hate it when you guys fight! Can't we all get along and agree you're both right?

By Blogger Saint Paul, at 3:34 PM  

Hmmm, must've been doppelganger. Sorry.

Glad I'm not a douchebag, but now I'm confused again: am I a prick or a dickhead?

By Blogger THE WARRIOR MONK, at 4:15 PM  

You all need your mouths washed with very bad tasting soap.

By Blogger Yo Mama, at 12:23 AM  

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