According to the Strib, Gov. Pawlenty says a $4.3 million federal grant will buy 37 new foreclosure counselors who could negotiate away “more than 7,000 foreclosures across the state.” Still the guv opposes a one-year foreclosure moratorium that WCCO’s Pat Kessler says could help 15,000 homeowners. (Strib says Minnesota expects 37,000 foreclosures this year; Kessler, 39,000.) Moratorium-pushing DFLers would allow homeowners with delinquent subprime loans to make partial monthly payments; Pawlenty says bankers would hike interest rates for everyone and restrict credit.
Baby steps: MPR reports that minor foreclosure-law changes seem more agreeable: tenant notification if landlords face foreclosure, and renters assuming utility bills if the foreclosure-facing owner doesn’t pay.
Every recession brings a pawnshop story, but the Strib’s Pam Louwagie surveys the upscale (read: more discreet) way Pawn America handles rich folks’ wares. Bring your “original Picasso” or “$75,000 flawless diamond” to a “modern conference room in a Burnsville office park” and walk out with a check. Business owners have also joined the usual clientele, and gas prices are often mentioned.
Despite the pawnshop implications, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington county commissioners signed on to the quarter-cent transit sales tax. Hennepin and Ramsey were gimmes, but Washington was close: 3-2. The Strib reports 175 people attended the Washington meeting; the PiPress says 125. The Minneapolis paper notes most speakers opposed the levy, and only one pro-tax commissioner will be on the ballot this fall.
Legislative DFLers agree on a $925 million bonding bill, $100 mil more than the guv’s sand line. He says he might veto the whole thing. Only the Pawlenty’s plan stays inside the state’s 3 percent general-fund-spending guideline. According to the Strib, DFLers hope the bond-rating houses will notice other factors, including “how well political factions work together for the common good.” If so, get ready for junk-bond status.
Numbers game: AP calculates the bonding bill’s total construction at $1.08 billion; the Strib says Pawlenty pegs the Dems’ proposal at $1.2 billion. According to the PiPress, the higher figure is because the bill authorizes the U to sell $233 million of research-lab bonds that the state pays back over 25 years. The guv also includes $60 mil in already-approved transportation projects.
More bonding: The Minnesota Zoo is axed from the guv’s list, but Como Park’s polar bears and gorillas are in, as well as LRT, the Duluth Convention Center, and a Bemidji arts center. Colleges get $412 million. AP quotes Pawlenty ripping “the really deeply misplaced priorities” that exclude a Minneapolis Veterans Home nursing facility. (Operating such facilities is a different matter. Guv reporters: check the guv’s recent Medicaid reimbursement rate proposals for long-term care services: do they even keep up with inflation?)
Talk about drowning in history: KSTP’s Chris Keating has a nice take on the water-logged Fort Snelling Visitor’s Center. Built underground in 1983, the thing is leaking everywhere; check out the footage of a ceiling-suspended tarp in a lab. Eighty thousand people go through the center. The Minnesota Historical Society had $25 million for a replacement in last year’s vetoed bonding bill; the legislative conference committee just approved $3 million this year, down from a $5 million request.
We’ve been watching NWA’s struggles so long we kinda forgot about the other regularly scheduled airline. The PiPress says Sun Country is laying off 30 percent of its pilots May 1 because of costly fuel. The Strib’s Liz Fedor has the best details: The airline will lease two of its planes May 1 to Oct. 31, so the layoffs are considered temporary; this summer, it will fly half the planes it used this winter. Flights to D.C. will be cut, but no others are specified.
The Strib reports that every single school coach will get criminal background checks. School activity leaders will get the same fisking, according to a bill the House approved 118-11 yesterday; the Senate passed it 66-0 two weeks ago. The Senate, but not the House, would test all classroom volunteers who deal with students at least once a week. You don’t have to worry if you chaperone a field trip. Screenings like teachers get are $15 a pop, another cost for cash-strapped districts, but applicants might pay.
Talk about a worker you can’t fire: City Pages’ Paul Demko greets Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Russell Anderson’s retirement with a tale about how his daughter blew a Bemidji judge’s re-election campaign (according to the candidate). Later, despite pleas from local district judges, Anderson refused to allow Terrance Holter to serve as a fill-in jurist.* Anderson says it’s policy not to let defeated judges return to the bench, because it circumvents popular will. That seems like a reasonable policy, and CP doesn’t find any exceptions indicating Anderson acted capriciously. Still, it seems like the chief should’ve recused himself here.
Virginia is the new Saudi Arabia: Stapling Michele Bachmann is a passion of the lefty press, but Matt Snyders finds a whopper in a recent Anoka County speech. The congresswoman told a business audience that “we can replace [the oil] we import from Saudi Arabia” with 20 percent of the dinosaur juice off Virginia’s coast. The actual numbers? 500 million barrels of annual Saudi oil imports versus 11 million barrels near Monticello. Not sure if the paper tried to get Bachmann’s response.
The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba learns that the Legislature might release the U from any liability for the I-35W bridge collapse if victims use a state compensation fund. School researchers said in 2001 that fatigue cracking didn’t merit bridge replacement. Kaszuba notes that the U didn’t focus on gusset plates — study funds were limited, one author said — but nevertheless gave the bridge “a clean bill of health.” There’s suggested furtiveness here — the Senate bill doesn’t mention the U by name — but a victims’ attorney doesn’t seem bugged by the move.
Ex-pat alert: former Twin Cities Reader editor and current New York Times media analyst David Carr answered online questions yesterday including the breathless, “Are you the greatest Timesman of your generation?” But this is a local news roundup, so we’ll note that one questioner name-drops WCCO’s Erik Eskola and Mpls.St.Paul’s Brian Lambert and Carr goes off in vintage stemwinding fashion.
I can’t resist this one: Someone is car-tipping in Winona. A neat photo of a car on its sides at KSTP.com. Still, I’d be mighty pissed if it were the family Toyota. Three cars were upended after Winona State won the Division II men’s basketball title. Guess it’s time to call the city a D-II Detroit.
Nort spews: The error-prone Twins lose to the Boof-proof Angels 9-1.
* Correction: originally, I stated Anderson did not allow Holter to retire, then serve as a fill-in. Holter did in fact retire, but Anderson did not allow him to fill in.