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Macy's downtown St. Paul store closing appears imminent

A story that was headlines in the '90s has returned. Kevin Duchschere of the Strib says: “Macy's is closing its St. Paul store this spring, leaving downtown without a major retailer and bringing to a close 50 years of continuous department store operations at the Wabasha Street location. Store employees were to be told this week that the store will shut down in late March, according to sources who did not want to be named. On the one hand, the store closing comes as no real surprise. The St. Paul store typically has been a sluggish retail performer, catering mostly to downtown's office workers and residents. But city leaders long have feared that downtown would become a retail ghost town without a large store anchoring its retail strip along Wabasha.” A “retail strip”? Is that what they’re calling it?

For the PiPress, Tom Webb, Frederick Melo and Nancy Ngo add: “A Macy's spokesperson declined to comment on Wednesday. But shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, employees were summoned to a storewide meeting. Employees at the Starbucks located inside the department store were also called to the staff meeting. They then returned around 4:30 p.m., telling customers they were told by management to close the coffee shop early. … Joe Campbell, Mayor Chris Coleman's spokesman, noted, ‘Downtown's momentum has been building and the city sees great things ahead for this site.' " Really? Maybe they think they can turn it into a stadium?

With the farm bill pretty much lost amid the carnival of fiascos that was the 112th Congress, Steve Karnowski of the AP reports: “Minnesota U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said Wednesday he's so upset that Congress passed only a short extension of the 2008 Farm Bill that he won't work on a new version without assurances from congressional leaders it will get a vote. The full House never took a floor vote on a five-year farm bill that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee in July with bipartisan support from Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the panel, and its chairman, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. The plan was projected to reduce spending on Agriculture Department programs by $35 billion over 10 years. But Speaker John Boehner said it didn't have enough votes to pass because some Republicans wanted to see deeper cuts to food stamps.”

Gay marriage will get a moment in the spotlight, according to Sen. Scott Dibble. The AP says: “The Minnesota state senator who will take the lead in that chamber on a bill to legalize gay marriage says backers will wait at least a month or two into the upcoming legislative session before they start to push it hard. Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis says Wednesday that Democrats taking power at the Capitol next week plan to focus early in the session on what he called ‘kitchen-table issues’ of improving the economy and creating jobs. But he says gay marriage backers in the Legislature want a vote in 2013.”

Obviously the St. Paul City Council has very little regard for personal safety or our precious constitutional freedoms. A PiPress blog item says: “The city of St. Paul doesn’t have direct say over statewide gun laws, but that isn’t stopping city council members from calling for more gun control. At the Wednesday, Jan. 2 council meeting, they amended their annual request to lawmakers to include a crackdown on semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. They join a chorus of municipal bodies, politicians and Hollywood celebrities clamoring for tighter gun laws.”

Speaking of Hollywood mixing with Minnesota … Marino Eccher of the PiPress writes: “A Burnsville woman who discovered a sex tape of her boyfriend with someone else was so angry she posted the video online, prosecutors say. But the act of revenge may have backfired in catastrophic fashion. The girl in the tape, along with two other people depicted in sex acts, was a minor. Now, the woman accused of posting the video faces child pornography charges in Dakota County District Court. Kayla Jo Henry-Heagle, 21, was charged by summons Thursday, Dec. 27 with possessing and disseminating a pornographic work involving minors, both felonies. … Henry-Heagle found the video on the cell phone of a man she had dated. The man left the phone with her after he was incarcerated for unrelated reasons.” So OK, maybe an episode of “Cops,” not actual Hollywood.

A thousand planes landing safely may not be news. But … . Candace Renalls of the Duluth News Tribune says: “Duluth International Airport's new terminal is on schedule for its targeted Jan. 14 opening, with a public celebration set for two days earlier. Construction crews should wrap up four years of work on Friday, save for some finishing touches. That gives the green light for occupancy, though the move already has been made by some staff and tenants. They include the Duluth Airport Authority, which was the first to move in in mid-December. … Although selling naming rights for the new terminal had been explored, that won't happen. ‘We ultimately decided that was not going anywhere,’ Werner said. So the new terminal will be called the Duluth International Airport terminal, the same as the old terminal, which is set to close at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 14. The new terminal will open 90 minutes later, at 3 a.m.” Apparently they didn’t bite on The Last Place on Earth International Terminal.

Speaking of … the AP is saying: “A judge has ruled that a downtown [Duluth] head shop is creating a public nuisance. Judge Shaun Floerke ordered the owner of the Last Place on Earth to pay for two police officers to provide security and nuisance control. The judge said head-shop owner Jim Carlson's argument that there is no proof his business has sold synthetic marijuana in the past year is irrelevant. Business owners have long complained about the throngs of customers who gather outside the shop.”

The Strib picks up Charles Lane’s Washington Post commentary on higher-ed “bloat,” with our own U of M as Exhibit “A.” “At the University of Minnesota, the number of employees with ‘human resources’ or ‘personnel’ in their job titles has grown from 180 to 272 since the 2004-05 academic year. Since 2006, the university has spent $10 million on consultants for a vast new housing development that is decades from completion. It employs 139 people for marketing, promotions and communications. Some 81 administrators make $200,000 per year or more. In the past decade, Minnesota's administrative payroll has gone up three times as fast as the teaching payroll, and twice as fast as student enrollment. Oh, and tuition more than doubled in that same period, to more than $13,000 per year. … Solving the problem, however, won't be easy. Americans and their elected leaders have grown used to discussing college ‘affordability’ as a matter of distributing ever more government aid — in the form of tax breaks, direct assistance or subsidized loans. Actually, this is self-defeating: By making it possible for students to pay higher tuition, federal and state aid reduces institutions' incentive to make the hard budgetary choices that might hold tuition down in the first place. … The higher-ed establishment has no cause for complacency in an era when YouTube routinely teaches young people everything from dance moves to Spanish, for free.” Indeed. See above, under “Burnsville woman.”

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Comments (18)

Last place on earth

Uses judge to harass a booming business. Judge says said business is bringing too many people to the city. This on top of a reported 50 count federal indictment currently in process agaist same. With the new airport terminal, it might be time to market the whole show to retail tourists. Imagine the potential T-shirt sales.

I agree with Peter..

...they should just open up a "Narcotics R Us" store, cuz really, let's be honest. All that matters is if it's a "booming business".

Peterson

I'm not sure what kind of meaningful assurance the House leadership can give Rep. Peterson the bill will get a vote.

Until almost the final moments, they were assuring New York and New jersey Reps that the Sandy disaster relief bill would be voted on.

It's never been the same

since they changed the name from Dayton's.

I'm old enough to remember when the St. Paul Dayton's building opened, amid a great deal of publicity for its 'air door' on the northeast corner of the building. That spot became a winter gathering location for every teen in town, including those of us who'd bus in from the 'burbs to spend an exciting Saturday downtown. The day might include a bite at Bridgemans or a slice at Woolworth's, a pair of shoes from a low-end retailer the name of which I can't recall, a sharkskin suit from Robert Hall, a game of pool, a movie at one of the many theaters along 7th St or Wabasha. It was an exciting place, made all the more so by the traffic streaming down 7th St.

I'll always regret the passing of Dayton's, but will never care one way or another about the loss of Macy's.

U of M

Please stop spreading these numbers without any relevance tied to them. How many marketing/communications staff does a company with revenues and expenses of 2-3B require? How many "administrators" make over $200k at a local large company? Howbout compared to other successful higher ed institutions? How many SHOULD there be??? The article does a great inflammatory job of putting big, scary numbers out there to make the U seem wasteful. 81 people making more than 200k!?? For a state-wide institution that serves nearly 70,000 total students and works with healthcare systems, urban development, community outreach, etc etc why is that so hard to grasp?

Let's also not forget that in flat 2012 dollars, operating expenses at the U system have gone up 14.4% since 2002, yet total student enrollment has increased by 10.2% in that same time. State/Federal Aid to the U (again, in flat 2012 dollars) has DROPPED 29% since 2002. 4-year grad rates have INCREASED from 41% in 2002 to 58% in 2008 (higher, unofficial numbers for 2011 have seen 60+%). Student faculty ratio for the U system has gone from 20.2 in 2003 to 16.6 in 2011 (and 15.1 at the Twin Cities campus).

The 101% increase in tuition rate is below the national public university average of 104% increase in the 2002-2012 time span as well. Maybe, just MAYBE, tuition rates would not have spiked so drastically is states had not cut so much from their university systems (despite the lip flapping politicians at all levels saying how important education is to America's future). Also, keep in mind the U has done all these things with a balanced budget (by $150M on the + side in 2012).

Finally, is it possible that all the things going on at our campuses - major new buildings and repair/maintenance of old ones, new student groups, counseling, health, buses, police/safety, stadiums (football, baseball), etc etc require people who are not primarily educators but "administrators" to make sure they're done (on time, and on budget)? Just a crazy thought.

Right on.

Amen.

I can't help but wonder

what your connection to the U is, sir. Not that your points are invalid, but your tone says 'wounded'.

My connection

is alum status only. I work for a company in Chanhassen and live in Prior Lake, have no relatives or friends who work for the U, only a youngest sister who is attending.

I am first a citizen who believes in the funding of education levels for a multitude of reasons (in the case of the U of M, they have shown $13 of economic output for every $1 invested in them, to say nothing of the educational benefits they bring to our area), and second a supporter of the UMN system.

No wounds, just frustration with poor journalism that does no scientific rigor. Where is the control case? Where is the data showing where the U ranks in admins/profs/student costs/budget from state/etc? Just negative hype for the sake of it that the masses feed on. And it bothers me, so I did a little research of my own.

Thanks for the reply.

It's a pleasure to hear that you're not grinding the U's axe.

Kudos

Thank you, Alex, for taking the time to look into some pretty shallow journalism and report back in a factual and respectful manner.

Farm bill

All Americans have a stake in continuing food support programs and even increasing them as is necessary to meet the basic human needs of our less-fortunate neighbors.

Food support programs have their roots in national security and public safety (as well as price supports for farmers). When our military reported that too many soldiers had to be rejected for service due to under-nourishment and malnourishment, hunger became a national security issue. Programs like free/cheap school lunches followed. The public safety aspect is perhaps more obvious: it is tied to the crime rate. If people do not have enough food to eat or cannot feed their families, they are more likely to steal. Or does the GOP expect them to lay down and die?

It is well documented that food insecurity can affect ANYONE. Most families who accept food stamps or visit food shelves do so for only a period of a few months until they can get back on their feet financially and back to self-sufficiency.

For Republicans to pursue cuts to food stamps is just plain cruel and heartless. And detrimental for homeland security.

Your research seems a little selective, Mr. Cecchini...

And your claim of "poor journalism that does no scientific rigor" is suspect.

The Lane piece mentioned in the Glean was a reaction by the Washington Post to a piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal - not an organ people usually think of as suffering from "poor journalism."

I suggest you consult the Wall Street Journal article and re-think your criticism.

Hiring Spree Fattens College Bureaucracy—And Tuition
Wall Street Journal on University of Minnesota
link: http://bit.ly/TxDQ4E

for example:

"When Eric Kaler became president of the University of Minnesota last year, he pledged to curb soaring tuition by cutting administrative overhead. But he hit a snag: No one could tell him exactly what it cost to manage the school.

Like many public colleges, the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition. Officials didn't keep close tabs on their payroll as it swelled beyond 19,000 employees, nearly one for every 3½ students. 'The more questions I asked, the less happy I was,' Dr. Kaler said."

and

"The University of Minnesota illustrates the trend. Its main Twin Cities campus had the largest share of employees classified as 'executive/administrative and managerial' among the 72 'very-high-research" public universities in the 2011-12 academic year...' "

We have some severe problems at the University of Minnesota and the most serious one is the cost of tuition which places an intolerable burden on many of our students and their families.

Behaving like an ostrich by putting our heads in the sand is no longer acceptable.

My response

was in response to the WSJ article you cited. I had already read it in its entirety and that is what spurred me to find the actual facts. This is why I asked The Glean to stop reporting these numbers with no sense of comparison or follow-up comments on the validity or relevance of the data.

I would argue that many respectable newspapers have had countless examples of poor reporting. I called this one in to question for its rigor because it doesn't do anything to make a recommendation of what a good level of spending, administration, or any other measure relative to other schools, non-profits, or even for-profit enterprises.

I would say a prime example of poor journalism is in the statement you quoted, "Like many public colleges, the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition." Yes, first, tuition rates have increased. The article fails to mention below the national average and even further below the average of large, public, research universities. Secondly, a "spending spree" is hardly accurate. As I stated earlier, holding for inflation, expenses at the U have risen 14.4%. Student enrollment has increased 10+% in that time as well (if you look at the numbers, the share of students full-time undergrad or grad actually increased from 77.8% to 82.4% - increasing the number of students on campus every day by an even wider amount). So holding for inflation and an increase in costs associated with student enrollment, spending that is a "spending spree" of roughly 3.4% since 2002. Wow. In that time we've seen massive capital expenditures in new facilities (2nd Carlson building, Science Classroom, TCF Bank, Coffman Memorial Union and surrounding improvements were finishing in 02, Mech Eng building improvements, Lind Hall, Folwell Hall completely redone, the buildings by the railroad ped bridge completely refurbished, a new dorm under construction, I could go on but I won't).

Thirdly, to state that these were "paid for by a steady stream of state money" is, again, laughable. As I shows in my previous post, holding for inflation, the annual state and federal aid to the U since 2002 has dropped 29% (when holding for inflation). Even looking at 2002 vs 2012 dollars, the state has put in more than a 100M less in '12 than '02. Anyone who thinks a 30% DROP in funding is a steady stream either never passed junior high algebra or has an agenda.

"The University of Minnesota illustrates the trend. Its main Twin Cities campus had the largest share of employees classified as 'executive/administrative and managerial' among the 72 'very-high-research" public universities in the 2011-12 academic year...' " This is the only time the author chooses to make a comparison (he brings up employees per supervisor as a random stat but only states what UC-Berkeley did, not what the U's numbers are or even what industry standard numbers are). Might this be explained by the fact that we rank in the top 5 of research spend for public universities? (http://mup.asu.edu/research2011.pdf shows us at #5 in research spend, year earlier had us at #6, and that' using 3 year old data, the trend has been upward).

I'm not short on criticisms of the U - I dislike that the tuition rates for out of state residents increased at a much lower pace than in-state residents (despite the fact that a larger share of out-state students with similar credentials get scholarships to further lower attendance costs compared to in-state). This is a national trend, but the gap at the U ranks fairly high compared to others (see this report on major peer universities by UGA to see what I mean, but also that we are middle of the pack for overall tuition hikes by % http://t.co/EICUO7bF). I believe most universities are trying to bring in a varied population, be seen as a global u, etc etc. I'm sure there are some intangible benefits to this practice but the university was established to educate our own population first, and even with reduced state funding, 500+M of our tax money goes to the U each year, and I'd like to see in-state tuition stay lower. There are other complaints, but I will digress.

My overall point is that the author did a good job pulling a quote from Kaler about no one being able to tell him how much it cost to run the U far out of context. He did not do a good job convincing anyone with real numbers where the problem truly is. Does the author know how many marketing/comm staff it takes to run a U? How many "administrators" (which, in itself is an extremely broad term and acknowledged to be used differently by school) are appropriate? What their pay is? What their pay WOULD have been if they worked somewhere else (I would suspect that the U pays below market prices because working at a school has a mission tied to it that most would accept the lower pay). I would challenge that until the WSJ or anyone else can look in to the numbers at the U and make broad comparisons of pay for similarly qualified positions elsewhere, number of staff in total on-hand, admin required to complete given projects, or anything else, it is impossible to say the U has mismanaged its money. I would be interested to see it and take an objective look at our system with regard to others.

I would also inquire as to how anyone can say whatever spending the U has done has not put forward results. To reiterate my previous post, 4 (and 6) year grad rates are up (by quite a bit), student-faculty ratios are down, student experience is up (I'll point to the list of capital enhancements above, which doesn't begin to cover it all), and many other positive measures. By what benchmark should we measure "success" of a public, research university? What goals are we/not obtaining? Which ones require more spending vs less?

Here's a question. No one ran an article about Target spending $10M to build themselves a lavish employee lounge center across Nicollet from their main building. That $10M could have gone toward lowering my prices at the cash register, paying out better dividends to shareholders, or anything else. In fact, the press about the spend was widely POSITIVE.

I'm sick of "fiscal conservatives" who only point to spending "problems" with neither a solution (well, the solution is always cut cut cut without regard to the quality of the resulting product) or a wide enough range of vision to see that a budget issue has 2 components (not one), both spending and funding. You say let's pull our head out of the sand, so what is YOUR solution? I'm sure you've done the research and data mining to come up with one.

It is a matter of priorities...

You might want to have a look at the article in MinnPost today that will give you some links to a few of the essays I have written - along with my colleague Mr. Michael McNabb.

Bloggers track U’s ballooning administrative spending
link: http://bit.ly/RwLFsT

I repeat that trying to blow off the situation as a consequence of bad journalism is not going to work.

We have a problem and it needs fixing. It is the high cost of tuition and the unbearable - to some - burden under which our young people labor.

So

What is your response? What programs, employees, majors, sports, intramural sports, research, or otherwise should be cut in the name of student tuition? I am not in disagreement that student tuition rates have increased since 2002. Across the nation, in fact, tuition rates at public schools have risen (by a slightly smaller amount more than at the U, meaning our state school has done a better job at curbing tuition rates than at least half of its peers). My point in evaluating the WSJ article (and, before delving in to too many of your essays) is that I fundamentally disagree with the point the article makes. The article presents a problem: rising tuition rates at the U, hurting our children's ability to access higher education. The article presents a cause for said problem: bloated spending at the university.

I don't disagree with the problem statement. Tuition rates have risen at a higher rate than inflation or even medical costs in this country over the past 10 years. Not a question. I disagree with the cause the author proposed. Straight costs at the U (and I have not evaluated other, similar universities for spending increases), have increased 3.4% in the author's chosen timeframe when adjusting for inflation and number of students enrolled. 3.4%!! That would assume that the number of amenities, buildings, professors, etc available per student has remained constant, which they haven't (I guarantee you, per student, things like computers/labs, lounge areas, professors, etc have all increased since 2002 - some I have data to prove, other I don't).

To say that spending has become out of control is absurd. The University has maintained a balanced budget for many years. The athletic department has done so also (despite many public objections to TCF Bank Stadium, a budget-balancer without question). The issue of rising tuition can be evaluated from multiple causes, but I would argue the $250M shortfall (inflation adjusted) in funding from state/fed sources far outstrips the 3.4% increase in operating costs the U has seen since 2002.

So again, I ask, in what ways, specifically, is the U not operating efficiently? What industry-proven techniques of management, personnel, or otherwise would you employ to a) reduce operating costs (in an effort to bring tuition back down) while b) maintaining or improving educational quality, grad rates, programs offered, and research output?

And, for the record, I will look at your essays.

I'd suggest that you move over to

the site where this matter is the main topic, not the Glean.

Get back to me after you have done some research. I disagree with most of what you have said above. I have made plenty of specific suggestions over the years.

But I note that we are not likely to get very far, since you don't seem to think that this is a problem, to summarize what you have said above.

"My point in evaluating the WSJ article (and, before delving in to too many of your essays) is that I fundamentally disagree with the point the article makes. The article presents a problem: rising tuition rates at the U, hurting our children's ability to access higher education. The article presents a cause for said problem: bloated spending at the university."

We disagree on this point. The cause for the unwarranted rise in tuition is bloated spending at the University. This can and has been documented.

It is a free country and you are, of course, entitled to your own opinion. Hopefully, though, most people will agree that we have a serious problem and are willing to work toward a solution.

My best,

Bill Gleason

My last.

"The cause for the unwarranted rise in tuition is bloated spending at the University. This can and has been documented."

Your many blog posts all seem to gloss over that, accounting for inflation and number of students, costs have increased by 3.4% since from FY2002 to FY2012 for the University of Minnesota. That is the number one data point to look at when using the word "bloated" expenses.

Your blog posts focus on individual expenses and how valuable you believe them to be, which can be debated (one example being your conclusions drawn from the advertising campaigns, another the indictment of TCF Bank Stadium without a comparison to the alternative short/long term spending by not building an on-campus stadium). I'm sure we could debate the merits and drawbacks to each.

But at the end of the day, the U has increased expenditures by 3.4% in a decade. The state has cut funding by 29% (despite an increase in metro and state population, and therefore tax base, by the way). I'm sure there are ways to improve spending at the U (or any organization), but I'm not convinced by anything I've read from your blog that reductions in costs will guarantee a reduction in student tuition without sacrificing educational or research quality metrics the way the same dollar of state investment would.

As I said, I wish you would not hide your

light under a barrel.

There is a topic specific discussion going on elsewhere that I wish you would use so that your comments were more widely seen.

The link is:

http://bit.ly/WbfEmp

Meanwhile, I'll just reiterate my argument that it is a matter of priorities. The new football stadium was unnecessary as was the re-do of Northrup. I've given plenty of specific examples of things that could be cut in the past.

See this fiasco:
Trainwreck at University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium
http://bit.ly/po8Res

Here's another one to chew on:
At the University of Minnesota:
Cost Effectiveness Is a Sometime Thing?
http://bit.ly/cdfSHN

In general the university's model in the past has been: We need x$. If you give us less than that we'll charge more in tuition. This is, of course, an oversimplification. But it can be documented. Look into what Tom Rukavina had to say about this a few years back. And the perception of the U by the legislature as a blackmailer is not helpful. See light rail fiasco.

My argument is that things other than raising tuition can be done. Including the items mentioned above and a significant decrease in administrative costs.

End of discussion with you as far as I am concerned.