Weather was a bummer across the Twin Cities, but the suckiest place to be in yesterday’s Glop Fest? Aboard American Airlines Flight 293, stuck for four hours on the airport’s tarmac — after a 15-hour flight from India. KSTP says Customs wasn’t ready; passengers had to wait several more hours for bags. Then they had to be rebooked for their Chicago destination. If you didn’t get a heart attack shoveling yesterday, you didn’t have it as bad as these folks.
The screwup wasn’t Northwest’s fault, but AP business writer Joshua Freed alerts us that NWA CEO Doug Steenland would reap a special payment of $7.8 million if he quits in June. Not in May, not in July. The big bucks aren’t merger-dependent. Labor has to love the fact that Steenland secured the payment the day NWA entered bankruptcy. (He gave up some rewards, too, but not as much as this potential gain.) Steenland would earn more from the payment than his restricted stock is now worth.
The Strib’s Tom Meersman reports that cleaning up 3M-related contamination in Cottage Grove will cost $12.5 million to $18 million, and involve dredging the Mississippi. That’s based on a company feasibility study filed with the state; the chemicals in question helped make Teflon, don’t break down, and at high levels cause cancer. The company foots the bill. A DFL lawmaker wonders if enough territory will be remediated.
Probably not related, but the Business Journal reports that new 3M hires won’t receive pensions. They’ll get 401ks instead; 3M will contribute 3 percent of salary and match contributions up to 6 percent. Current employees and retirees won’t see a change.
It was a good day to be a baker or breadlover. The suddenly interesting world of grain prices went topsy again yesterday: farmers will plant more soybeans and wheat, while corn cultivation should drop, according to a USDA report. That dropped skyrocketing soy and wheat prices about 6 percent, MPR’s Mark Steil reports. Corn prices did not rise as fast. One expert says that farmers might change their plans in the next few weeks if corn prices keep moving up.
More corn: The PiPress explains why farmers might grow less corn when prices are high. Some are rotating to soybeans and wheat this year anyway, and those grains cost less to grow. The Strib says higher corn prices would hit meat-eaters and ethanol lovers. Farmers with paid-off ethanol plants could idle them, but newer operations carrying debt could be in trouble.
The PiPress reminds us that the gas tax increased two cents today. Will you notice at the pump?
If the gas tax hike is felt, it will hurt charitable gambling. According to the PiPress, gambling receipts were down 13 percent in the last three months of 2007, the state says. It’s the largest drop ever in the 23-year history legalized gambling. Pulltabs and “other activities that can be tied directly to the [smoking] ban” were down 7.5 to 8 percent, and could add up to $100 million a year. The lung lobby says the decline started before the ban went into effect. Receipts have been dropping 2.5 percent in recent years, due to a weaker economy and higher gas prices.
Remember the 52 Waite House kids stranded on the school bus during the I-35W collapse? According to WCCO’s Pat Kessler, the kids’ supporters want $600,000 from any victims’ compensation fund to combat what one describes as “trouble concentrating in school … a lack of interest in school … a lack of interest in the activities that they used to be interested in” and trouble sleeping. Waite House serves families in distress. DFL state Sen. Don Betzold questions whether the linkage between incident and problem is meaningful. Kids’ compensation could bump up against Senate spending caps.
Today’s heartwarmer: Iva Weir, who left $1.8 million to protect Minnesota’s 12,000 loons. The PiPress says Minnesota’s population is healthy; the Strib says birds are “dying by the thousands across the Great Lakes region due to bacterial diseases.” Weir, a Minnesota native and Oregon teacher, died in 2006 but loved our lakes. (The PiPress notes she lived in a tent while building a home in the woods.) The money is going mostly to buy loon habitat.
A Minnesota U.S. District Judge ordered the state Department of Natural Resources to come up with a plan to stop accidental killing of Canada Lynx by trappers. About 200 roam the state; 13 were killed from 2002 to 2005, AP reports. The DNR might have to restrict all trapping in the lynx range,” an animal-protection activist says.
The Strib’s Washington guy, Kevin Diaz, brings word that a Colin Powell-founded group ranked Minneapolis’s high school grad rate sixth-worst among the 50 largest U.S. cities in 2003-04 and says minority students were disproportionately hurt. The district’s response is two-fold: our numbers are higher (52.8 percent versus 43.7 percent) and rising fast (to 67.2 percent for 2006-07). The stats can be manipulated in both directions; the story could’ve moved beyond “he said, she said” with a couple of grafs from Strib education reporters. Not-so-trivial note: the group’s president and CEO, Marguerite Kondracke, is the wife of conservative commentator Morton Kondracke. St. Paul isn’t among the 50 biggest cities.
Jesse Ventura, still suffering from Attention Seeking Disorder, tells the AP that he has “no intention at this point in time” of running for the U.S. Senate but “you can never say never.” Jesse says he’s not pleased with Norm Coleman or Al Franken, but is undoubtedly happy to have a new book getting mentioned. He will also play a shop teacher in a movie called “Woodshop.”
St. Paul Finance Director Matt Smith is leaving for Dakota County. The Pioneer Press reports he’s only getting a 5 percent raise to move. In St. Paul, Smith served wildly divergent masters: Randy Kelly, who preserved Norm Coleman’s no-levy-increase policy as local-government-aid payments and reserves dwindled, and Chris Coleman, who has presided over the double-digit tax hike catch-up. Smith applauds the second guy. We’re guessing Dakota is a better place to weather a recession.
In the man-bites-dog bureaucratic news, a DFL-dominated Senate committee unanimously recommended confirmation of Sanne Magnan, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s current health commissioner. As the AP notes, “she succeeded Dianne Mandernach, who resigned after intense criticism over her decision to hold back data on cancer among Iron Range miners.” The Strib’s Warren Wolfe profiled the woman who calmed troubled waters here.
Jim Souhan offers up a quote that’s hard to resist. Joe Mauer: “I know everybody loves a player like me.” April Fools! It was spoken by Carlos Gomez, about his own sweet extra-base-hitting, effortless-base-swiping self.
More nort spews: An Opening Day haiku:
Gomez: Torii who?
Delmon: snow, ball, roof all white
Crafty Livan, win