Envisioning ‘The Yard,’ a crumbling archdiocese defense, and giving birth like a virgin (5×8 – 12/19/13)


(Ryan Companies)

The gang at streets.mn have been doing a masterful job over the last few months, asking us to think about what The Yard should be. It’s the 4.2-acre park space that will be part of Ryan Company’s office campus near and on Star Tribune land. Like the stadium, it’s a done deal. Agree or disagree, it’s reached the stage to consider how to get it right. The world doesn’t need another failed attempt at park. It can’t be — as the first installment pointed out — a neighborhood park plopped in the middle of the city.

In the fourth installment of the series this week, Sam Newberg considers the popular parks around the world and what should be incorporated into the Minneapolis version when it opens around the time the stadium does in 2016.

In the discussion of what is envisioned at The Yard there are passing references to a playing field. I think this notion should be reconsidered. First, grass is very hard to maintain, even as playing fields. Crowds trample grass. Heavily used urban parks often tastefully rope off grassy areas to prevent cut throughs and any use other than tossing a Frisbee and sunbathing. Second, a presentation of other downtown parks given to the Park Committee didn’t show a single large playing field. Third, playing fields are really only active when an organized sport is being played – they risk being vast expanses of underutilized land at other times. Lastly, organized sports have a hard enough time generating income in other locations – they should not be on valuable downtown land. The Vikings will pay $13 million annually for their field two blocks away – this is more in line with the underlying land value. The city and metro area are filled with playing fields. Besides, if people want genuine space to play, they can go to Gold Medal Park.

Speaking of Gold Medal Park, I’ve never heard anyone describe it as “active.” Yet discussion of The Yard continues to reference Gold Medal Park as setting the minimum standard for design and use. This is a mistake. Want proof? As of last week, Gold Medal Park’s sidewalks hadn’t even been shoveled! Yes, Gold Medal Park is award winning for its design, but it is clear that design alone does not attract people and perhaps Gold Medal Park is the most compelling argument that the key to success at The Yard is a robust programming budget. A simple tree-lined sidewalk programmed with a market (see Discovery Green below) does far more to activate a park than design.

The park will be nothing like anything ever seen in the Twin Cities, Newberg writes. “We need a place to do yoga in the morning. We need that place to celebrate a World Series victory. We need a place to eat and drink. We need a place to meet friends downtown. We need a place to gather and light a candle when a leader like Nelson Mandela passes. We need a place to sit and watch the world go by. We need an everyday active public space at The Yard. We need a place to host events year-round. We need a place to kiss.”

Be sure to read the very solid comments section in the latest installment.


Archbishop John Nienstedt’s “they told me this was taken care of years ago” defense is crumbling with Madeleine Baran’s story today that a priest accused of sexual abuse was allowed to continue in his position until he retired just two years ago.

Though Harry Walsh told Baran he did nothing wrong, the archdiocese paid off one of the people making the allegations. Nobody told the police.

Today Walsh teaches sex education to troubled teenagers and vulnerable adults in Wright County.

(Winona) Bishop calls for compassion in healing process (Rochester Post Bulletin).


Nearly 1 percent of women in the United States claim they have given birth as virgins. The revelation is in Britain’s BMJ medical journal, according to the Fargo Forum. Each year, the BMJ Christmas edition publishes untraditional science papers.

For the study of putative virgin pregnancies, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed data from the thousands of teenage girls and young women who took part in the long-running National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

The girls were 12 to 18 years old when they entered the study in the 1994-95 school year and were interviewed periodically about their health and behavior over 14 years, including via computer as a way to encourage them to be candid when answering questions about their sexual history.

The 45 women and girls who became pregnant despite, according to what they told interviewers, being virgins at the time of conception differed in several ways from peers who acknowledged that men had had a role in their procreation.

Of those who said they became pregnant as virgins, 31 percent also said they had signed chastity pledges; 15 percent of nonvirgins who became pregnant said they had signed such pledges, in which a girl vows not to have sex until she marries.


Audrey Kletscher Helbling, who writes the Minnesota Prairie Roots blog, gave MNsure a try.

I tried again later and was able to begin working on my application. As I plowed through the questions, unsure how to respond to some (because even the MNSure rep was wishy washy when I asked for clarification), I reached a point where I needed info from my husband’s employer. So I decided to save my app and resume work the next day. Major mistake. The information I’d worked an hour to input, and then saved, simply vanished. Yup. Not there.

I phoned the MNSure rep who’d called me earlier and this time I told her I was p__d. It is not a word I use often.

Her frustration nearly matched mine. ”I don’t know how people have stuck with it this long,” she said, along with a few other things I won’t share.

Well, for now, I’m not sticking with it. I’ve already invested hours and hours of my time working on the app and gathering and reading info on the health insurance options available to me. I have no clue what to do. I’m stressed to the max by this process and do not want to think about it anymore until after Christmas.

So I’ve paid my $1,627 premium for 2 1/2 months of coverage under my existing grandfathered-in $3,000 deductible individual health insurance plan until I figure out this mess.

“We are committed 100 percent and fully committed to making this process a better one,” the new boss of MnSURE said yesterday.

In her goodbye letter to her staff, the outgoing MNSure boss warned her staff to ignore “slings and arrows” shot by “those who want you to fail.”

And those who want some health insurance.


The Yule Log, the looping, endless picture of a fireplace for people who don’t have one on Christmas, doesn’t just happen. Netflix is streaming the fire this year, with a director’s cut version. (H/T: AdFreak)

Related reality:
Eddie Jonokuchi, 93, has been volunteering as a Salvation Army bell ringer for over 50 years in Milwaukee.

Bonus: UMD professor’s friends maintain holiday reading tradition (Duluth News Tribune).


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: A judge said it’s likely unconstitutional; tech leaders urged President Obama to overhaul it; the government says it saved the country from a cyberterrorism attack. Is there any way to change the NSA domestic surveillance program to both mollify the public’s concern for privacy and appease the government’s counterterrorism needs? Or is it an “all-or-nothing” game?

Second hour: James Fallows recent cover story for the Atlantic highlights the 50 greatest breakthroughs since the wheel – we’ll discuss the list, talk about what sparks innovation, and Fallows new project, American Futures.

Third hour: Tom Weber speaks with the CEO of Xcel Energy about planned rate hikes, the future of its largest coal-fired power plant, and efforts to expand wind power in the state.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – A new documentary from the Humankind series: “The Search for Well-Being: Integrative Medicine.”

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – President Obama had high hopes for 2013, with signs of an economic recovery and the Afghanistan war winding down. But things went downhill from there. Failed efforts at gun control, the Edward Snowden leaks, and the fumbled rollout of the healthcare law just to name a few. NPR takes a look back at Obama’s bad year.