Behold! The 12th best place to live in America. Bob Collins/MPR News

Don’t get me wrong. I love Woodbury. It’s been our home for 21 years. It has great bike trails, a decent school system, a hospital and several clinics, politicians who haven’t been arrested (well, we did have a mayor years ago of ill repute involving the nearby Target and young people) and — let’s see, I’ve mentioned the bike trails, right?

Woodbury’s a pretty good place. No complaints.

But if you squint your eyes, it also could be Anywhere, USA, which doesn’t do much to explain how it made Money Magazine’s Top Places to Live List.

I’m burying the lede here because Maple Grove finished No. 2, just behind McKinney, Texas. But I don’t know enough about Maple Grove, other than famous TV people live there.

Eagan finished No. 11. A lot of planes fly over there, a man who wanted to be president lived there, and you can pick any of dozens of chain stores to shop in. This concludes everything I know about Eagan.

Except that it looks a lot like Woodbury, which, by the way, is in the process of plowing under the last remaining farm fields to build another shopping center. It’ll have a grocery store, a gas station, and a bunch of places you go into and then get confused because you forget which city you’re in. Beat that, everywhere else!

Let’s see what Money has to say about the 12th best place to live:

Frigid Minnesota winters aren’t so bad when you have your own indoor park. That’s right: Even in deepest February, Woodbury residents can hang out among the trees and other plant life at the enclosed Central Park, which connects to the to local library, seniors’ residence, and YMCA.

Of course, folks in Woodbury have plenty of outdoor options, too. More than 130 miles of paved multi-use trails connect the city’s lakes, parks, and neighborhoods.

And Woodbury is also wrapping up construction on its Bielenberg Sports Center. The facility—over 100,000 square feet—is already open to the public for skating, soccer, lacrosse, and other seasonal sports. When it’s finished, it will also become the practice home of Minnesota United FC, the state’s pro soccer team.

The whole Twin Cities region has low unemployment and high job growth, and Woodbury is no exception.

The healthcare industry is particularly big here. Woodwinds Health Campus is the city’s largest private employer; Allina and Woodbury Healthcare Center also hire lots of people. Some residents also make the short commute to Maplewood, home of Post-It and Scotch Tape creator 3M.

It’s true, Central Park is nice, except when they close it because some bridal parties take pictures there. It’s reminiscent of St. Paul’s Town Square Park, back when St. Paul had a Town Square Park.

The YMCA is pretty neat, too, although it hasn’t expanded since it was surrounded by cornfields. I quit when they got rid of the racquetball courts in order to create more things for little toddlers and their parents. But if screaming kids indoors is your thing, Woodbury calls you.

And, sure, the economy is good. Lots of people are working and driving out of Woodbury to do so.

This is the part where I note that you can’t get a bus after 7:50 a.m.

But, oh those bike trails! They’re some of the finest in the Twin Cities, for sure.

Still, Woodbury lacks a “there,” an affliction which affects many suburbs in America. And it hasn’t quite figured out how to make a “there” there without a chain store of some sort. When I moved in, you could pass a field of Holsteins on the way to work. That’s the sort of thing that makes a “there.” But not there. Not anymore. There are no more working farms.

Woodbury is what it is and for lots of us, that’s good enough. We can take the slings that come over from the city.

And we can just wave the survey in front of the naysayers faces, even though we know it is some seriously hyped-up PR.

When darkness falls in Minneapolis, Tony Randgaard writes on Twin Cities Daily Planet, bicyclists are hitting the streets without the safety equipment to help them be seen.

He conducted a survey over four days, documenting 90 bicycle riders in Minneapolis. He recorded bicycle equipment — helmet, lights, reflective gear etc. — and found that 42 percent rode after dark with a front light as required by law. More than half were not wearing a helmet and only 6 percent wore any reflective equipment.

Randgaard suggests that’s one of the reasons bicycle fatalities are increasing.

A review of Minnesota bike laws reveals that the state is one of 29 that have no helmet laws of any kind. It is important to note that Minnesota (as well as Minneapolis-St Paul) does indeed mandate lights after dusk or during periods of insufficient light.

Front lights must be illuminated and visible at a distance of 500 feet. The state is also on par with industry (ANSI) standards for the rear reflector which manufacturers install behind the seat. This reflector can be static or flashing. The state does not require reflective equipment or apparel.

A closer look at U.S. military regulations displays several alarming contrasts with the State of Minnesota biking laws.

Air Force, Navy and Marine bases mandate reflective vests, belts or jackets be worn after twilight.

All military installations require helmets be worn by all riders.

Military regulations do not cede the right of way to bikers. Unlike the Cities, if a bike path (or sidewalk) is available, the biker is required to move off the roadway.

On the Portland side, what are they doing differently from Minnesota and the Twin Cities? Unlike Minnesota, Oregon is one of 21 states with a mandatory helmet law for riders under 16 years of age.

Although research is mixed, a Journal of Pediatrics ten- year study tracked a 20 percent reduction in injuries, in states adopting this measure. In addition, the City of Portland web-site prominently communicates its bike light policy, even going as far as to publish a legal guide about liability.

There is a section warning bikers they can be cited or arrested when deemed to be invisible during a night time accident.

Randgaard says his survey “highlights a lawless ‘Wild West’ environment with city bikers ignoring or unaware of the current law.”

Here’s an item from the “Good Friends Always Have Your Back” file.

“My mom tells me, and I remember to tell my friends, ‘Look inside [to see what] counts. Not the outside. Look inside your heart,’” Lillian Skinner, 17, of Grand Prairie, Texas, says. “If you judge people’s skin, that’s bad. But look inside their heart, to who they are.”

That’s the kind of sweetness that can make you a target in high school.

And, sure enough, a group of girls told Skinner that she’d been nominated for homecoming queen. She hadn’t. It was a practical joke, the kind you live with for the rest of your life, you may recall if you weren’t one of the popular kids.

But two of her friends, Anahi Alvarez and Naomi Martinez, were nominated, says.

The two girls planned that if either one of them won the homecoming crown, they would give it to Skinner. “She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” says Martinez, explaining why they wanted to help their friend. Alvarez agrees: “We need people in this world like Lilly.”

As luck would have it, Alvarez was named homecoming queen in a ceremony in front of thousands of parents and classmates, but she immediately passed her crown onto Skinner, who said the moment was like “a dream or something.”

WDFW takes it from there:

It was Arendse’s job to escort Skinner onto the field, under the guise of helping to take pictures of the homecoming court’s procession. So Skinner had front row seats for when her friend, Anahi Alvarez, was named 2014 homecoming queen.

“When she won the queen, I took a picture and she told me to come over. And I said, ‘It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s your crown, you know? My name is not on the list,’” Skinner said.

Slowly it dawned on Skinner what was really happening, according to the others in attendance.

“That’s when it was just, the moment itself took over,” Arendse said, still smiling four days after the fact.

“Seeing the look on her face and the way she reacted toward it, it was priceless,” said Martinez. “I knew it was the right decision.”
Skinner did not know what to think as Alvarez placed the crown on her head.

“I was like, ‘Wow, really? Like, wow! Like, is this a dream or something?’” Skinner said Tuesday, pinching her arm as she did.

As for the girl who got the most votes Friday, she said she would gladly do it all again.

“Well, for me, I want to say, and I always say, ‘Lilly won. I just ran in her place, in her position,’” Alvarez said. “When they ask me, ‘Were you homecoming queen?’ I say, ‘No, Lilly is homecoming queen.’”