RNC creates friendly competition between Twin Citiesby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio,
Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
There's always been a complicated relationship between our Twin Cities. When St. Paul was chosen to host the Republican National Convention, the friendly rivalry bumped up a notch. Thing is, people keep talking about the convention being in -- Minneapolis.
That got our St. Paul reporter Laura Yuen just a little irritated. And then, Minneapolis reporter Brandt Williams mentioned that maybe the city with a convention center would be a better choice to host the convention.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. — It's people who should know better who keep inviting the world to the upcoming Republican National Convention, in -- Minneapolis.
Minnesota's Gov. Tim Pawlenty made the gaffe to CNN anchor Glenn Beck. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said on Larry King Live, "everyone should come to Minneapolis, it's the most beautiful city in the United States." Pawlenty and Bachmann aren't alone. Reporters and anchors from a variety of media outlets have copied the gaffe.
BRANDT WILLIAMS WONDERS -- WHY NOT MINNEAPOLIS?
Why not start at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
"Good morning," said a pleasant young woman at the front desk.
"I heard that the Republican National Convention is coming to town, and I'm wondering if it's being held here at the Convention Center?" I said.
"No, it's actually not. It's going to be in St. Paul," said the young woman.
"St. Paul?" I asked.
"Yes, you've got the wrong Twin City," the woman responded.
Seems to me the planners of this shindig got the wrong Twin City. Minneapolis has more lakes, taller buildings, more professional sports teams, streets laid out in alphabetical order -- plus everyone knows Minneapolis is much cooler place to hang out than St. Paul. Right?
"That's what I think," laughed Julie Wittman.
Wittman is the only other person waiting in the lobby of the convention center. Turns out she's originally from Florida.
"But I've been here since 1987. I know Minneapolis better, because this is where I landed when I got off the plane," she said. "Whenever I've gone over to St. Paul it just looks older. The people are older, the buildings are older."
Wittman reports that she did go to St. Paul once, to the driver's license department.
There may be a little more to do in St. Paul than get your driver's license renewed, but really, not much more.
Minneapolis has places like the Electric Fetus music store, which sells music on vinyl. That's so old, it's cool again.
Paul Christiansen works at the store, and lives in Minneapolis. He thinks it's way more hip than St. Paul, and demonstrates this with an example.
"If you're looking for Paul Anka and have to have his Gold Album, we can sell you two of them," Christiansen said.
"You've got two copies of Anka Gold?" I asked. "I bet you in St. Paul, they don't have any of those."
The Fetus, as it's been called for decades, will be hosting a "get out the vote" event during the convention. And Christiansen says he's hoping to catch a few stray Republicans who may visit the store.
"The 'Smush Bush' doll here, a little anger management system, would sell equally well to the conservative crowd as it would to the liberal crowd," Christiansen added.
I guess it's understandable how someone who's never been here could say the RNC is in Minneapolis. It does have a reputation as the most cosmopolitan city in Minnesota.
So can someone tell me, why in the ham sandwich did someone site such a big event in St. Paul?
LAURA YUEN -- IN DEFENSE OF ST. PAUL
OK, so Minneapolis has the urban hipster scene. They have Chino Latino and the snobby record shops.
St. Paulites get that.
But when they don't feel like going all the way to Uptown to order their mango martinis, they sidle up to the bar at neighborhood places, like Mancini's Char House on St. Paul's West End. And they order scotch.
"Used to be a shot and a beer years ago, now it's not," said a regular at Mancini's bar.
"We do a lot of martinis, but it's more of a blue-collar town," added bartender Jimmy Viner.
Viner has lived in St. Paul his entire life, and never thought twice about staying planted on this side of the river.
"There are more murders in Minneapolis, and the people in St. Paul are brought up better. They look better, and there are nicer people in St. Paul," Viner pointed out.
At a reception welcoming new retailers into downtown for the RNC, I corralled Mayor Chris Coleman and asked him to defend his city against those pot shots from across the river.
"I think being small-minded is not a good quality to have," the mayor said. "I think you have to open up and realize what an incredible community St. Paul is. I'm in a mixed marriage -- I married someone from Minneapolis."
Coleman is OK with recent efforts to brand the region as Minneapolis-St. Paul. But if you want to compare amenities, Coleman points out that the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul is one of the best venues in the country to put on a big show.
People in St. Paul are going out of their way to correct the confusion over where the convention is taking place.
City boosters have crafted a generic form letter, titled, "The Xcel Energy Center is in ST. PAUL." It's e-mailed to journalists every time they declare that the RNC will be held in Minneapolis.
And there is a lot to brag about in the Capital City. I challenge Minneapolis folks to find one square block in their downtown that rivals the beauty of Rice Park, or a stretch of storefronts that holds a candle to the urban charm of Grand Avenue.
You will find the occasional nose ring-wearing hipster here.
Mary Kay Olson is a shopgirl at the Visual Addiction tattoo shop on West Seventh. She agrees that St. Paul is filled with older people and families. But she's OK with that.
"I love it. I think it's a great place," Olson said. "I would definitely raise a family here. In my own personal opinion, I go to Minneapolis to party and go to St. Paul to sleep."
So if you're a delegate and looking to party, you know what side of the river to head to. But if you need a place to come home to, there's always St. Paul.
There may be a way for us all to learn from this situation -- perhaps by taking a lead from CBS news anchor Katie Couric. After all, she's one of the people who said on national television that the Republican convention would be in Minneapolis. A few days later, she apologized.
"Our apologies to all people of St. Paul, along with a reminder that the man for whom your city is named, encouraged all of us to be patient and forgiving."
- All Things Considered, 08/22/2008, 4:49 p.m.
Brandt Williams is a reporter with MPR News' Metro Unit.