After “extensive research of best practices on brand identity for large organizations and businesses,” the Minneapolis Communications Department has determined the city’s 1980s-era logo is outdated and overly complicated.

For one thing, it has too many sailboats.

To address this problem, staff are recommending the council adopt a new, streamlined emblem, which emphasizes the city’s name and reduces the sailboat count from two to one — a 50 percent cut.

The accompanying “graphic standards policy” also includes an approved palette of colors that must be used for all city communications. There are three acceptable shades of blue, one of green, and five subtle hues of gray. Orange, purple, yellow and red are OK, but only as accent colors.

The Communications Department says the proposed changes will bring a variety of benefits, among them building “public trust.” They also created a mandatory template for Powerpoint presentations, which is expected to save “considerable staff time” currently spent designing such documents from scratch.

The proposed changes will keep the city in line with current trends in branding.

Many companies — including Minnesota Public Radio — have taken steps to simplify the formerly baroque images that were their trademarks. City staff note that Starbucks, Walmart and Apple have made similar moves over the last decade.

Staff opted for a “refreshed” sailboat logo, rather than a complete overhaul, because the public has long associated the landlocked city with nautical imagery. Given what happened when Austin, Minn. went for a more out-of-the box re-branding, that’s probably wise.

Assuming the council approves it, the new logo will be phased in gradually. As a result, the second sailboat will likely haunt the city for years to come, staff acknowledge. After all, it is emblazoned, among other places, on the city’s manhole covers.

A bitterly divided St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday to preserve a dilapidated and disused billboard perched above the Eastern District police station.

The billboard, which dates to the 1940s when the building was owned by Hamm’s Brewing, has been blank since 2013.

Image Courtesy of “Tear Down the Board.”

But Council Member Dan Bostrom, whose ward includes the building, sees it as an irreplaceable asset to the neighborhood.

“This is a way to positively tell our story,” said Bostrom, who’d like to see the board used to celebrate the legacy of East Side native and legendary Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks.

Rendering courtesy of Council Member Dan Bostrom.

Like many city councils, St. Paul’s has a custom of alderman’s privilege, where the body gives members deference on issues specific to their wards. But the Eastern District building sits at the border of two other council wards, and the members who represent those areas would rather see it torn down.

“If there was ever an example of blight, this is it,” said Council President Kathy Lantry, who represents the area south of the station.

Lantry pointed out that the city passed a policy in 2002 opposing all billboards. She, along with Council Members Amy Brendmoen and Russ Stark, also objected to the timing of Bostrom’s resolution, which was not included on the council’s agenda.

They argued the public, including members of a Facebook group opposed to the billboard, deserved an opportunity to be heard on the issue. But Bostrom said a public hearing would merely delay things.

“It wouldn’t change anybody’s opinion on this council, I don’t care what we did,” he said.

The final vote was 4-3.The city owns the billboard. Bostrom says it’s up to the mayor’s office to decide what message to place there.

Comcast acquired Time Warner in February 2014. (Matt Rourke / AP)

Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner.

The free service and equipment is valued at about $50,000.

Comcast has also agreed to pay Minneapolis $40,000 in overdue franchise fees after an audit found it underpaid the city for its use of the public right of way over the last three years.

Minneapolis cable customers will see a small increase on their bills as a result of the agreement, which goes before the city council next week. It raises the fees the company collects from subscribers by 36 cents a month to support public access programming on channels 14, 79 and the Minneapolis Telecommunications Network, which will share an extra $250,000 a year as a result.

 

Comcast needs the city’s permission to transfer its franchise agreement to a spin off called GreatLand Connections. The move is part of an effort to alleviate anti-trust concerns and increase the chances of federal approval for the merger.

Comcast has offered to transfer 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast to GreatLand if the merger goes through. Greatland would be operated independently, but Comcast and Time Warner would own 67 percent of the company.

Minneapolis isn’t the only city to drive a hard bargain over the proposed merger. The Lexington, Ky., city council voted to oppose the merger last fall because leaders said Time Warner refused to address complaints from customers there. Both companies are infamous for their poor customer service.

The concessions Minneapolis won are relatively small compared to the $4.5 million it will get from Comcast this year in fees. But if you’ve ever tried to get a refund from the company, you know it probably wasn’t easy.