For University Ave. businesses, the light at the end of the tunnel may be light rail

Nail shop improvements
Maryna Vong, right, works on Chantal Ryman's nails at her University Avenue store, The Nail Shop, in St. Paul, Minn. Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. Vong has used the down time she has experienced because of the construction on University Avenue to make improvements to her shop, including adding new pedicure and manicure chairs.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Today on the Update: Duluth's rush hour is slowed by unhappy logging truckers. University Avenue businesses in the Twin Cities are sprucing up to attract light rail customers. Other states offer little in the way of guidance on living with a voter ID law. And the president is promoting the idea of "economic patriotism."

MAKEOVER: University Avenue is getting a mini-makeover, and it's not just the billion-dollar light-rail project that's currently under construction. Owners of more than a dozen shops, salons and groceries are planning to use the customer slowdown to renovate their aging storefronts or expand their businesses, Laura Yuen says.

HEAVY TIMBER: It was quite a sight in Duluth this morning. During rush hour more than 50 logging trucks rumbled down the old brick streets downtown. The truckers are protesting a federal law that limits the loads they can carry on interstate highways. Loggers argue it's more expensive and more dangerous to drive through areas like downtown Duluth, where heavier loads are legal. But as Dan Kraker reports, some safety advocates argue the trucks don't belong on the highways.

NOT MUCH HELP: Minnesota could become the 34th state to enact a voter identification requirement, but only the second to put it in the state constitution. Tim Pugmire finds that those other states at best offer only a hint of what might be coming. The laws vary widely, and the details of the proposed Minnesota requirement remain unclear.

RECORD DEBT: An analysis by the Pew Research Center found that 22.4 million households, or 19 percent, had college debt in 2010. That is double the share in 1989, and up from 15 percent in 2007, just prior to the recession -- representing the biggest three-year increase in student debt in more than two decades.

SPEAK UP: In News Cut, Bob Collins takes note of an Associated Press story about the lack of gay people in ads urging a "no" vote on the proposed same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota and how it reveals a private debate: Is burying gays in order to win support for gays sending the wrong message?

CHURCH VANDAL: Police in Buffalo, Minn., have a suspect in custody who they think vandalized four churches northwest of the Twin Cities by breaking a window, and placing "handwritten posters containing inflammatory messages" referencing gays and religion. With help from the FBI, police arrested a 30-year-old Buffalo man Wednesday evening.

GOLDEN TATE, CALL YOUR OFFICE: So long, replacement refs. The NFL's regular crews will be back on the field starting Thursday night. After two days of marathon negotiations -- and mounting frustration among coaches, players and fans -- the NFL and the referees' union announced at midnight that a tentative agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.

ECONOMIC PATRIOTISM: The president, meanwhile, is pitching a broad economic argument to voters ahead of next week's debate with his Republican opponent, buying TV time in seven battleground states to promote what he calls a "new economic patriotism." And Obama supporters are also working to keep Romney's "47 percent" comments alive with TV ad buys of their own.

ROMNEY: 'I CARE': Slipping in states that could sink his presidential bid, Republican Mitt Romney declared Wednesday that "I care about the people of America" and can do more than President Barack Obama to improve their lives. In an all-day Ohio duel, Obama scoffed that a challenger who calls half the nation "victims" was unlikely to be of much help.

BATTLING THE GAFFE: Speaking of Romney and the "47 percent," Basil Smikle, political strategist and adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, joined The Daily Circuit to discuss political gaffes -- statements can make it tough for voters to stand up for their candidate.

HANGING CHADS: The AP wonders out loud this morning whether new voting laws in key states could force a lot more voters to cast provisional ballots this election. Provisional ballots don't get much attention if an election is a landslide. But what if the vote is close, as the polls suggest in the race between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney? Most of today's voting nightmares go back to Florida's "hanging chads" in 2000.

CULTURE CLASH: Nikki Tundel brings us a new installment in the Minnesota Mix series: A new photography exhibit in St. Paul showcases the Hmong-American experience through the eyes of someone who, as a child, often felt smothered by her Hmong culture.

LOSE HER: Junot Diaz's first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was greeted with rapturous reviews, and it won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He's back with This Is How You Lose Her, a by turns hilarious, devastating, raucous and tender collection of stories that lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weaknesses of our all-too-human hearts. He joined The Daily Circuit's Kerri Miller as part of the "Talking Volumes" series.


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