The City of Saint Anthony Falls

St. Anthony Main

Joined to the western half of Minneapolis (and the United States) by the I-35W Bridge, the Northeast and Southeast quarters of Minneapolis were once the City of St. Anthony. This area includes St. Anthony Main, but not the current City of St. Anthony (St. Anthony Village), or the neighborhood of St. Anthony Park in St. Paul). In 1872, the City of St. Anthony merged with the City of Minneapolis. This was a mistake and should be revisited.

Northeast has 36,255 people, fast-growing Southeast has 30,490 ( 6,288 – Como, 10,015 – Marcy/Holmes, 1,309 – Nicollet Island/East Bank, 7,457 – Prospect Park, University – 5,421 (University straddles the river, so remains a complex issue)). Together, these 66,745 would be one of the largest jurisdictions in the metro area and the state (technically 8th, above St. Cloud, below Plymouth). The area is geographically coherent, and has a strong identity. Containing the main campus of the University of Minnesota, it has a long-lasting economic base.

Really, what does Minneapolis do for the East side of the Mississippi River that it cannot do for itself? We Easterners get taxed to support West Bank entertainment districts, stadia, and so on, that we did not vote for. We see our public schools and libraries closed when budgets are tight. (There is only one remaining public high school on the East side). We don’t have full representation in the Grand Rounds, the only missing link is on the East side. To be blunt, we are being dissed.

Evidence that merger was not a good idea is border stability. Consider all of the other adjoining jurisdictions that have opted not to merge with or be annexed by the City of Minneapolis. It is just possible they were wise and the early politicos of St. Anthony bet wrong. Local governance is a virtue, it brings government closer to the people. I have my doubts that the current mayor has ever crossed the River except on his way to St. Paul to prostrate himself to sports-team owners. If independence is good enough for Richfield, Edina, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Brooklyn Center, Roseville, St. Anthony, and St. Paul, it should be good enough for the East Bank.

Regionalists will say the last thing we need is more fragmentation. But I argue we should view this not as a threat to regionalism, but an opportunity to realign government functions with jurisdiction. That which is best done locally, should be done locally, that which is best done at the metropolitan level, should be metro-wide. A new government is an opportunity to reset fixed arrangements, to de-stultify government (and Minneapolis City Hall is nothing if not stultifying, the Public Schools are even worse), to rethink how services are best delivered.

If we agree on the proposition, we then must discuss the name. The “City of East Bank” sounds too much like “East St. Louis”. Unfortunately the name “St. Anthony” is already taken, in spades, so I suggest the “City of St. Anthony Falls.” It is poetic, refers to a natural feature (rather than the saint himself), and evokes the history of this place that has been absorbed by its western twin.

10 thoughts on “The City of Saint Anthony Falls

  1. Pedro

    Much of what you say about the uniqueness of NE and SE compared to the rest of the city makes sense. I am a NE resident, and have always thought that the area feels like a large version of Winona, where I lived for a few years, than a cohesive part of greater Minneapolis. I'm ot sure what I think about this idea, though, and will be interested in reading the comments of the more learned (and opinionated).

    To be fair to R.T., he was in NE just last Friday for the opening onf the Indeed Brewing taproom. I have also seen him at other local events, like Art-A-Whirl, and of course glad-handing at the annual NE parade on Central.

  2. Alex

    Good luck with your plan – by the way, your rent for Edison Arena is due on the 1st. I'm sure we can work out a very fair pricing scheme for your drinking water.

    1. Alex

      Yes, but in Columbia Heights. But that brings up a good question – do you plan to appropriate all Minneapolis property within the borders of St Anthony Falls? Because I believe the Police department arsenal is on the West Bank.

  3. Ian Bicking

    Pretty much any of us living in the city can complain about city support for downtown enterprises that seem unrelated to the way we use the city. And we might all be right, or we might not – that area also pays lots of property taxes, and if our priorities really were driven entirely by votes then those landlords and property companies would have no representation, and that also seems unfair.

    But more to my point: why is east of the river any less a part of Minneapolis than any other non-central-business-district area? Because you are somewhat less connected due to a river and bridges? Because of Grand Rounds? These aren't very strong arguments. For example, why should St. Anthony Falls break off, instead of the southernmost part of Minneapolis rejoining Richfield?

  4. Anon

    This would be completely the wrong direction. Minneapolis and St. Paul should be talking about merging into one city and annexing some of the suburbs, not further breaking things up. The last thing we need is more municipalities competing against each other to everyone's detriment (see Xcel vs. Target Centers).

  5. Brendon SlotterbackBrendon

    The residents of Centerville also think their services are being delivered in the most efficient manner. Not saying City of St. Anthony Falls is in the same league, but I have my doubts about service delivery being efficient just because it's hyper-local.

  6. Chris Steller

    Interesting proposition. A couple footnotes: the main City of Minneapolis water plant is just north of the NE Mpls city limits in Fridley (not Columbia Heights) as is Minneapolis' new Emergency Operations Training Facility. Also, voters first turned down the merger of St. Anthony and Minneapolis in 1866, in part because that referendum also included buying Nicollet Island from William Eastman as a central park for $40,000–too spendy apparently.

  7. David LevinsonDavid Levinson

    What is optimal service area for any type of service? It involves a trade off of economies of scale (serving more people is less expensive on a per unit basis) vs. diseconomies (serving more people is more expensive). One of the main diseconomies is span of control. Large organizations have many layers between the top and the bottom. If decisions are centralized, they become remote. If the number of layers is constant, than managers are supervising more people, budget, etc., and their attention is diffused.

    A major problem in governance is that optimal service area varies by type of service. Typical we have 7 layers of "government" to address this (homeowners/neighborhood association, city, county, metropolitan, state, national, international). This still may result in mismatch between the problem and the right size organization to deal with it. Some communities have gone so far as to have many special purpose districts that don't match the hierarchical system (schools, mosquito control, etc.).

    Another problem is just the embeddedness over time of bureaucracies and institutions, which become more focused on self-preservation than service delivery.

    Instead of viewing government boundaries as spatially and eternally fixed, we should periodically (if not continually) reexamine what makes sense. Instead of assuming the assignment of services to government layers is also timeless, that too should be reassessed.

    Yes, change is difficult, disruptive, and occasionally costly, but so is stasis.

    Andrew sent me this link on the history of St. Anthony from the Hennepin County Library (see some services do get reassigned periodically, if only due to bankruptcy):

    As Jefferson said: "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion.", That is probably a bit more frequent and violent than I would advocate, but we shouldn't assume that boundaries determined over a century ago remain optimal.

    1. Brendon SlotterbackBrendon Slotterback

      David – I don't disagree with anything above. The current boundaries may indeed not by optimal. I also assume your post was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But I think duplication of services is often overlooked, as is the associated extra cost. Further fragmentation can also lead to isolation/segregation, which have their associated costs.

      What if we were to redraw city boundaries once a decade, as we do council wards, based on the census? An optimal city size could be identified (100k?) as could the optimal representation ratio (1 city council rep per 10k?). Boundaries could be redrawn by the state based on population. Perhaps this could be matched to school districts, since growing and shrinking populations tend to cause problems for schools. Maybe this deserves it's own post…

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