Sniper fire claimed the life of the first Minnesota soldier killed in the Iraq War’s sixth year. Army Specialist Gregory B. Rundell, a 21-year-old North St. Paul resident, was manning a Sunni Triangle guard tower. The Strib says over 70 people with strong state ties have died in Iraq. Before shipping out, the would-be cop told his mom that if the worst happened, “I don’t want tears of loss, but tears of happiness for what I was able to do.”
Meanwhile, 16 protesters were arrested at the U for blocking recruiting station entrances. About 200 attended the rally.
NWA pulled planes for repairs as the feds pressed airlines to closely examine maintenance records this month. Slats on seven 757s weren’t fixed according to specs, the PiPress reports. Delta and American have canceled many flights, but Northwest service wasn’t disrupted. Company mechanics fixed the problems, but Northwest outsources a lot of maintenance work. Which group muffed the slat work? The story doesn’t say.
Airport firefighters apparently blew one, too. Channel 5 reports on why it took 33 minutes to respond to an airport car fire that spread to other vehicles. One problem: The MSP fire crew doesn’t have a rig small enough to work in parking ramps. Bloomington has one for the Mall of America. The airport fire guys aren’t talking, but issued a statement saying it only took 17 minutes to get there. Still seems like a while.
The PiPress reports that the state Senate Tax Committee would let the city of Bloomington levy higher local sales taxes at the Mall of America. That’s so $186 million in property taxes from a bigger mall can fund parking ramps. The property taxes are diverted partly from the city, so the sales tax of up to 1 percent would compensate. Local shoppers and theme park goers would be nailed, but out-of-town shoppers are the target.
Oy, stadiums again. The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba reports that the Senate Tax Committee’s approval of a $2 million study for a Vikes stadium came with “little advance notice,” but its paternity/maternity is not yet identified. Gov. Tim Pawlenty complains we’ve studied this “15 times”; the money comes from Dome funds. Kudos to Special K and his editors for reminding us that Strib owner Avista Capital Partners is eager to sell five blocks near the Vikes’ proposed home.
Security guards arrested: The 800-person union local has been upping the stagecraft to get public support for better wages, training and health care. The guards recently struck for a day and overwhelmingly rejected the last contract offer, but yesterday handcuffed themselves together in the IDS Crystal Court; nine were hauled off, according to the Strib. Details on current pay, at least, would’ve been nice for readers just tuning in to the show.
Neat PiPress story about how St. Cloud’s DeSoto Bridge and the 35W bridge differ, despite the same company’s steel truss design. The 35W bridge distributes stress throughout the structure, but the DeSoto bridge’s middle is suspended between anchored sections. Its bent plates “were under an unusual amount of stress because they hold in place the steel beams that support the suspension span,” the story says. Gusset plates were designed fine, but hot-cold expansion limitations might be a factor.
Also in reporter Jason Hoppin’s story: National Transportation Safety Board staffers say they didn’t want a public hearing on 35W because they were worried MnDOT would quit cooperating with federal investigators. The state agency denies it.
Want more cash for your local school? State Senate Dems would tap about $30 million from a trust fund to give a $36-per-pupil boost, the PiPress reports. The DFLers would access unused teacher performance pay and cut the Education Department. Can you say bargaining chip? The DFL-controlled House would spend $49 million and taps budget reserve funds.
A DFL-controlled state Senate panel knifes Gov. Pawlenty’s JOBZ program, but the Strib reports that 350 companies now getting tax relief would pay less until 2015.
Recycling aficionados will get warm fuzzies from the Strib editorial page: A Coon Rapids official found a local company that recycles hard-to-recycle plastics, so residents can drop off anything, including bulky Styrofoam. Significant unanswered questions: Can it work in curbside cities, and is the single-vendor solution scalable?
More health care: When veteran Dems collide. State Sen. John Marty tussled with health care lioness Sen. Linda Berglin on her reform plan and lost by a single vote, AP reports. Marty said Berglin’s bill was too bureaucratic and is moving too fast. The man-bites-dog: Berglin getting hit from the left; more policy details, please. Once Berglin won, the bill passed 41-22. Gov. Pawlenty says he wants further changes.
Strib arrives at the farm-income story a day late but with nice details: Beef farmers were 2007’s big gainers (income up 151 percent over ’06), followed by dairy farms (141 percent) and crop farms (68 percent). Hog farmers, however, took a 58 percent hit. Unanswered: Why did some grain-dependent meat makers do better than others?
Today’s featured animal: the gorilla. The Como Zoo wants $11 million in state bucks for a three-times-as-big playpen, MPR reports. GOP quote machine Rep. Marty Seifert would rather have McMansions, but if you look at MPR’s photos, the apes sure don’t have one. Eleven million isn’t chimp change, though. For comparison, it would be about a tenth of the DFL’s entire statewide property-tax relief proposal for human housing.
More animals: In a homicidal sign of spring, truly wild turkeys have turned up in White Bear Lake. The PiPress reports they’re “knocking down a man, chasing children, scratching and denting cars” at an apartment complex. Why? It’s mating season! The complex’s maintenance man carries a 4-foot pole to whack the male bird back. You can’t use a gun or bow in the city, and an understaffed DNR can’t help.
The U is getting a new wi-fi network. The Strib’s Steve Alexander reports the $3.5 million network will be two to six times as fast as the city of Minneapolis’s new grid. But “Unet” will only cover 40 percent of the campus; cost is an issue. Interconnection between the U and the city is a possibility.
In California, Starbucks baristas recently won a $100 million judgment because supervisors shared their tips. Now, the PiPress reports that Minnesota Starbuckians are suing under what the plaintiffs hope is a very, very similar Minnesota law.
The U Law School has slipped out of the Top 20 nationally, according to the PiPress. We’re Number 22, U.S. News and World Report says. Experts mock the mag’s rankings, but a U spokesperson takes them seriously. The Law School is currently between deans, but David Wippman takes over July 1.
Widmark obit, with a twist: AP answers the question about how long famed actor Richard Widmark lived in his Sunrise, Minn., birthplace: about a year. But get this: The little town 45 miles northeast of Minneapolis has a Richard Widmark Museum. No photos. We must have photos!
Nort spews: Twins’ Monday home opener is sold out. Winona State men’s bucketeers make the Division II final.