Hey, how’d you like to subsidize the megamall and the Vikings? The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba punches two hot buttons at once with a look at how the region’s fiscal disparities pool could be diverted for a mall parking ramp and Vikes stadium. Property-tax-rich places subsidize poorer cousins, but a bill would divert $204 million in potential Mall phase II property taxes from the pool to pay off ramp construction costs.
More ramp: Mall owners say it’s just tax-increment financing, a common tool. (I think Minneapolis uses the same approach to fund neighborhood revitalization, not more car space. That city, by the way, is trying to renew such funding.) Typical TIF arguments apply: no subsidy, no project, no new taxes. The Vikes’ stadium is pricier than the ramp: $954 million. More detail on politics, please; I suspect labor is laboring mightily for DFLers to do the regressive deed.
Everybody loves Tom Sorel, Gov. Pawlenty’s new MnDOT commissioner. “He brings a truckload of road-building experience to the job,” gushes the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury. A Strib editorial heralds the non-hack’s federal administrative and engineering background and notes his Presidential Honor for I-35W bridge work; we hope that wasn’t of the “Heckuva job, Brownie” variety. Nick Coleman says interim, now also-ran, Bob McFarlin “looked like he had just come from a root canal.”
More Sorel: He “participated” in Salt Lake City’s LRT construction and says “we have to consider” light-rail, KSTP reports. Of course, his new boss vetoed Central Corridor LRT funding, but that seems like a bargaining chip. DFL transportation titan Steve Murphy says confirmation is likely. WCCO’s Pat Kessler says Sorel is trained in conflict resolution. The Strib quotes a contractor critical of predecessor Carol Molnau praising Sorel. Jim Oberstar likes him, too.
How juicy is this? As an alleged tax evader’s trial was set to begin, cops arrested four supporters for conspiring with the defendant to “disrupt proceedings and intimidate the judge.” Strib reporters Jon Tevlin and Dan Browning quote Robert Beale’s taped pledge to “take down [Judge] Ann Montgomery.” The duo describes a religion-soaked kangaroo court that found Montgomery’s home address and tried to get Hennepin deputies (real ones) to arrest her.
We’ve entered the budget end game. The PiPress’s “Political Animal” blog says Gov. Pawlenty will only raid half of the Health Care Access Fund’s $250 million surplus, but DFLers must cut spending $125 million. That bumps up deficit-closing spending to $466 million. DFLers still believe the fund is about reducing the uninsured, not balancing the budget. It’s only a first offer.
DFL legislators have a new property tax plan: Make it more like the income tax. The Strib’s Pat Doyle says those paying more than 2 percent of their income in property taxes would get bigger refunds; folks making $200,000-plus would get hundreds less. Overall cuts: 1.1 percent now and 5.7 percent in 2009. The PiPress says there’s no overall tax hike. The guv favors property tax caps.
WCCO features Metropolitan Airports Commissioners talking tough about the NWA acquisition. Airline execs say keeping everything but the headquarters complies with the “spirit” of the deal, but MAC commissioners spit nails. “This isn’t the spirit; this is a financial arrangement,” says one. Remember that rhetoric as negotiations proceed.
The PiPress reports that two Kraus Anderson construction execs were charged with tax evasion in a landscaping scam. The reason you care is authorities are still looking at former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire, he of the insider options. Scary in the boardroom: The defendants are probably cooperating in the investigation, Tad Vezner writes.
The final part of the Strib’s Wright County housing meltdown series details governmental costs. Uncontrolled growth led to uncontrollable cuts; as land values plunge 30 percent, the full impact on budgets won’t be known for a year (sadly for the series), but towns are raising sewer fees to pay for now-unneeded hookups. Other towns are paying to mow unkempt lawns.
Arsonists torched three homes on one North Minneapolis block, KSTP reports. “Arson investigators say it will most likely happen again,” the piece ominously notes.
Meanwhile, thieves are now stealing copper from utility poles, KARE’s Scott Goldberg reports. The ground wires don’t carry electricity, but handle surges and lightning. More outages result if the wire’s not there.
Freak beat: Police arrest a 39-year-old Eagan man for allegedly blackmailing 23 Dakota County teachers and coaches, the PiPress reports. WCCO puts the count at 24. The station says the man wanted $1,000 or he’d tell authorities teachers were having sex with students. Cops caught the guy in a city park where he expected to be paid off. He lived at home with his parents.
Worth checking: The Strib’s new “Whistleblower” blog has an entertaining dispatch on the troubles at Johnny A’s, a Minneapolis dive. Byline-watchers may remember James Shiffer’s from the early buzz.mn. When that blog became James Lileks’ bailiwick, Shiffer shifted to superficial pursuits like editing the paper’s 35W coverage. But he’s a pretty fun writer — working a sword into the Johnny A’s saga — and it’s nice to see him and, we hope, other news guys, strut their stuff here.
Not the greatest timing: News broke Saturday that the feds were investigating Minneapolis police Lt. Lee Edwards. Last night, Edwards didn’t get the Northfield police chief job. Northfield electeds said they’d made their decision before the bad news broke. If you remember last year’s “heroin epidemic” controversy, Northfield doesn’t need any more headlines.
The newly merged Thomson Reuters legal information group should add 200 jobs in Eagan this year, the Strib’s Neal St. Anthony reports. That plugs perhaps a fifth of the NWA acquisition’s predicted jobs losses. Company employment has boomed from 4,000 a decade ago to 7,000 today. Still, weak info-system demand and integration hurdles concern the market.
The state lost Clint Eastwood’s Minnesota-set movie to Michigan, WCCO reports. The Wolverine state offers an unlimited 40 percent rebate; Minnesota’s deal is 15 percent off, up to $600,000. Eastwood’s film has a $20 million budget. The state reinstated a “snowbate” in 2007, but film board officials say it’s too puny. They want $2.1 million more for incentives. By the way, Johnny Depp will be acting in northern Wisconsin this week on the film “Public Enemies.”
Nice Finance & Commerce trend piece on vacant or underused Minneapolis theaters. The paper counts four: the Schubert, the Hollywood in northeast, Hennepin Stages at Eighth and Hennepin and now the Music Box Theater, which is up for sale now that” Triple Espresso” has closed.
Finance & Commerce also says Macy’s will crib Best Buy’s store localization to boost sales. “Color, sizing — those things can have variances even across town, not just from city to city,” a Macy’s spokesperson notes. While Best Buys all look alike to me, their offerings are highly tailored, the story says. The electronics chain has expanded well beyond its original four-consumer-segment approach.
AP says Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. is appealing his death sentence in Dru Sjodin’s killing. The U.S. Attorney says defense arguments cover “no new ground.” Rodriguez’s lawyers didn’t call the wire service back.
Nort spews: a Twins off day, meaning we can all obsess about the Vikings draft.