Cities v. Suburbs (5×8 – 7/17/12)

A victory for the urbanist ideal? Biking for Baseball hits Minneapolis, Zen of the town pool, the life of a mayfly, and what hath Tommy John wrought?


It’s all over for you, suburbs, the Star Tribune suggests today. The city is where it’s at. “Minneapolis and St. Paul are adding new residents by the thousands, reversing a decades-long trend of population losses to the suburbs and possibly reordering priorities for things like spending on highways and transit,” the paper proclaims.

The paper cites a Metropolitan Council report released yesterday, and numbers from the Census Bureau that were released last month.

The Met Council didn’t provide much analysis that wasn’t out there when this trend was first revealed last month. It may be “Generation Rent,” that can’t afford much more than what the cities have to offer.

And there’s no question there’s a one-year trend in growth from the ‘burbs back to the cities, but why isn’t it more pronounced in Minnesota? The one-year trend, upon which spending priorities may be set, shows only a .2% difference in population growth in one year. Is that enough to change things significantly?

The numbers also can’t be determined for sure since the Census Bureau doesn’t actually break down the numbers this way. That’s coming from a single researcher at the Brookings Institution.

And there are at least some signs that it might be temporary. Housing permits in Lakeville are running twice what they were a year ago. In just the last week, for example, a corn field along County Highway 42 in Rosemount has given way to McMansions.

Maybe the data is right, maybe the data is wrong, but it’s a good time to be skeptical, writes David King, an urban planner, on his blog, Getting From Here to There.

First, these are growth rates, not absolute numbers. Because central cities make up a minority share of regional population most population growth–by a lot–is happening in the suburbs. Consider Atlanta, the second fastest growing city compared with its suburbs according to the chart at top. Atlanta has 432,427 people as of July 2011 and grew at 2.4%. The suburbs have 4,926,778 in July 2011 and grew at 1.3%. Here is the data source. This means that the metro growth was 73,361 for the year, 10,135 settled in Atlanta and 63,226 settled in the suburbs. In percentage terms, 14% of the growth happened in the central city and 86% happened in the suburbs. That doesn’t suggest a sea change in attitude.

In an article last week in The Atlantic, King says the discussion and analysis needs to change…

One of the reasons it’s frustrating that you just hear about city versus suburbs is there’s so much heterogeneity of suburbs, that it’s really not fair to treat all suburbs as the same. Some suburbs are dense. Some are old streetcar suburbs. Some have been trying, through transit investment and investment in main streets downtown, to create walkable denser communities. This has been happening throughout the country.

What we need to do is stop looking at these crude city-versus-suburb divides and we need to start looking at where is the growth actually happening. Is it happening in places where we’d expect — are people voting with their feet, so to speak, to go to these denser places? Is it actually the case that people want more urban existence? I think we’d probably find evidence that’s the case. That does not mean the overwhelming majority of Americans want that. One of the issues is how big of a market is there for the urbanist ideal. We just don’t know.

Which is an interesting approach. What parts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are growing? What parts of the suburbs are? Which parts of the cities aren’t growing? Which suburbs aren’t? Why not? Figure out what is most attractive to people in both locations, and do more of that.


Some time today, by what we can tell on their route map, a group of cyclists will pull into the Twin Cities as part of a mission — Biking for Baseball — to cycle to all 30 Major League Baseball parks this season, and provide some baseball and mentoring clinics in the process.

They’ve pedaled from Kansas City and will leave later in the week for Chicago, ending the season in Boston Outside of Mason City yesterday, the four averaged 20 mph in the 95-degree heat. They shouldn’t have any problem watching the Twins, an act that brings suffering to many fans these days. Today, they started in Lake Mills, Iowa.

The four quit jobs. Two were volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Chase Higgins, a Minneapolis resident, is one of the riders. ESPN says the idea was hatched here.

The idea was born a couple of years ago when the group attended the final series in the Metrodome. Wouldn’t it be cool, they thought, if they could somehow see every major league park?

The four decided this would be something worth doing, and realized that this was the best time to do it with no wives, kids, or mortgages to leave behind. (Kremers and Higgins noted their girlfriends have been “very supportive.”)

In every city, they go to a game, root for the home team (the quartet is made up of Royals and Rockies fans), and do a clinic for a local youth organization. They make sure each kid makes at least one highlight-reel play, telling them to try to make catches like the ones they see on ESPN.

(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)


Writing on Boston Globe blog, pediatrician Claire McCarthy captures — perfectly — why the town pool is critical:

Over the 21 years I’ve been a parent, I’ve been to the town pool countless times, and they have been some of the best moments of parenthood for me. These moments are better, I think, than outings or parties or even holidays or birthdays–because there are no expectations, no organization, no planning, no cleanup, nothing you have to say or do. They are about pure, unadulterated fun. They are about being in the moment, and getting the most out of that moment. They are some of those rare Zen moments of parenthood, the ones we–or at least I–don’t seem to get nearly enough of.

They are a gift. We need to treasure them, and grab them whenever we can.

Discussion point: Where’s your summertime “in the moment” spot?

Related: Why do kids need to be entertained? Just go outside and play. (Fargo Forum)


We should’ve seen the mayfly invasion in Hastings coming. The hatching caused an accident on the Highway 61 bridge because the dead critters were so slippery.

But two weeks ago, it was a problem in La Crosse…

At about the same time, they hit Lake Wisconsin northwest of Madison…

…and a month ago, it was Dubuque’s turn.

You think times are tough for you? At least you’re not a mayfly. What’s going on here? The usual: A desperate search for sex that ends up with the guy dead on a bridge.

Mayfly – a life story from Dean Hodson on Vimeo.


Thirty-eight years ago today, Tommy John blew out his arm. His career was over. Or was it? Dr. Frank Jobe performed pioneering surgery on his arm, and “Tommy John surgery” became a household phrase in the world of sports.

Kevin Watterson points to this moment over the weekend in Los Angeles. Nice.

But the great Vin Scully references a troubling fallout from the surgical discovery. Kids are having Tommy John surgery before they need it. Blame the parents.

Bonus: Weekend rewind — You have to like the pluck of the two guys in lawn chairs who wanted to fly to Montana from Oregon over the weekend.

They didn’t make it.


The former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, says reinstating the draft would instill a sense of shared civic duty in Americans and spread the burden of fighting beyond the country’s all-volunteer armed forces. Today’s Question: Do you favor reinstating the draft?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Should the U.S. bring back the military draft?

Second hour: The life cycle of an elite athlete (part four).

Third hour: Gov. Mark Dayton.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival: Two advisers to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney discuss the key issues in the campaign. Former domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes and former Minnesota GOP Congressman Vin Weber.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – State budgets still reeling from the recession.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Organ donors can save lives with hearts, lungs and kidneys. Tissue donors can do the same with heart valves, bones and skin. But the donated tissue of your loved ones could also supply plastic surgeries without the knowledge of donors. NPR begins an investigative series on the human tissue industry.

Minnesota made headlines around the world in 1995 when school children discovered dozens of grossly deformed frogs in a pond in south central Minnesota. Soon there were more reports of deformed frogs from around Minnesota and other states — gruesome pictures of frogs with extra legs, or missing legs, or eyes in the wrong place. Everyone wondered if the frogs were a sign that something was wrong in the environment that could also spell trouble for humans. Seventeen years later scientists still have not completely solved the mystery of what caused frogs to develop those deformities. But we do know more about how the investigation unfolded and how the case of the deformed frogs spawned a fight within the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency about whether the agency should even look into the matter. MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill will have the story.

The Minnesota Supreme Court hears arguments on claims that the Voter ID proposal is vague and misleading and should not be on the ballot this fall. MPR’s Tim Pugmire is following it.

  • vjacobsen

    I’m kind of scratching my head about the mayfly thing. Have people never heard that they hatch along the Mississippi this time of year every year? And that they congregate on the lights of the bridge? I remember the bridge to WI in Red Wing got slippery almost every year, and I’m fairly certain they had to turn the lights off on the bridge a couple of nights every summer. Some years were worse, to be sure…but this is nothing new.

    Slow news week, I guess.

  • Brian

    Last year Paul Huttner posted a radar loop that was able to detect the mayflies. Crazy to think there were so many of them they were actually visible on the radar.

  • Blake

    The cities vs. suburbs don’t really make sense for places like the Twin Cities and Atlanta. The “city” is only 10% or so of the population, yet what I would count as “urban” goes well beyond that. Is Robbinsdale really suburban? Then what is Woodbury? We need to get better terms for this, and make sure they have nothing to do with where the city limits are drawn or whether the city name sounds like a tree.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Two baseball stories!

    Re Biking to all 30 parks: I’m guessing they aren’t all blind, but do they have some other not quite totally disabling challenge? And will they complain about the experience afterwards?

    Re Parents getting their kids unnecessary Tommy John surgery: You have to be licensed to try to catch a fish. But to create and take responsibility for the care of a human being…