Yesterday, it was imaginary twisters and horrific crimes dominating the news; today, politics sweeps through.
Gorillas in shoeboxes. Trains wrecked. Gov. Tim Pawlenty tore through the bonding bill, line-iteming $208 million, twice as much as needed to get under his $825 million ceiling. The $70 million cut from a Minneapolis-St. Paul LRT link gets most of the press (the state would lose $450 million in federal dollars). However, $11 million nixed for bigger Como Zoo facilities, mostly gorilla habitat, punches the animal-welfare hot button. (Como’s polar bears got most of their cash, the PiPress reports.)
Bonding politics: the PiPress cover says it all: “Sorry, St. Paul.” (Hat tip to Finance & Commerce for this: “Pawlenty to St. Paul: Drop Dead.”) Cap City electeds wail that 60 percent of the cuts came out of their hides. One DFLer says the guv personally attacked St. Paul Rep. Alice Hausman, though MPR notes that Pawlenty praised her spending less than the Senate. In the Strib, the guv says there won’t be five House GOP votes needed to topple his veto, though eight Republicans approved the original bill. In the PiPress, Hausman agrees.
Bonding money quote: On Pawlenty’s $70 million LRT wipeout, Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt notes, “It was his proposal to begin with. We did everything he asked for. We reached consensus. So he vetoes himself?” Counties say they have no Plan B, since Pawlenty signed off on the plan Jan. 14. The parties have until August to avoid at least a one-year delay. The PiPress has Pawlenty acknowledging it’s a bargaining chip.
We’ll take a Capitol break to note that the Northwest-Delta merger could be back on. If the pilots can’t agree, the Strib offers this new option: the “lite merger,” lopping off one set of execs but keep two airlines running. That would let the Bush Justice Department give its OK — it needs 180 days with only 287 remaining in the term — while leaving messy pilot integration for later. A tantalizing analyst quote at story’s end: shareholders could replace Delta’s board if a merger fails. Makes it seem like a bigger deal for Atlanta than Minneapolis.
Engaging trend piece from the Strib’s Sarah Lemaige about cities enacting tougher policies as single-family homes go rental. Minneapolis, perhaps not surprisingly, has levied a $1,000 fee to cover inspection costs, mostly on the north side. Mounds View has extended its rental licensing to single-family domiciles. Other cities are merely creating a registry, though in New Prague some have argued unsuccessfully for a cap on rentals. Better a vacant house than people who won’t overextend themselves to own a home, eh?
Last week, the Strib’s Tom Meersman reported on 3M’s $15 million plan to clean up water contamination in Cottage Grove; today, the PiPress’s Bob Shaw checks in with a bigger 3M toxic tab: $56 million. That includes the Cottage Grove money and spending on several other sites to clean up perfluorochemicals. Two years ago, the company set aside $147 million for “environmental liabilities.” The state is also on the tab for some of the clean-up because it took responsibility for the sites years ago.
Still fighting the last war, Ron Paul supporters nabbed six slots in the Minnesota GOP delegation, the Strib reports. McCain backers tell the Strib that Paul backers camouflaged their support for the Texan, but a Minneapolis-area district chair says everything was above board in the urban core. I think the left-wing Minnesota Monitor, espying the right-wing World Net Daily, unearthed the kerfuffle first.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner — a 2010 DFL gubernatorial candidate — bravely declares herself a member of the pro-earmark caucus … well, sort of. On the Strib op-ed page, she argues that anti-earmarkism is too blunt, and that citizens should make the distinction between Alaska’s $941 million “Bridge to Nowhere” and more cost-beneficial programs that legislators designate.
But who’s the new Wendy Anderson? DFLers propose a “New Minnesota Miracle,” which, like the old one, swaps state bucks — mostly from the progressive income tax — for regressive local property tax dollars. The $1.7 billion plan works out to four times 2007’s increase, the Strib’s Norm Draper reports. The proposal has the support of a “smattering of Republicans,” but not Gov. Pawlenty. MPR says nothing’s going to happen this year. If nothing else, the concept is campaign cannon fodder, Dems admit.
As the parent of a test-weary fifth-grader, I can’t say I’m thrilled about Minnesota’s new standardized tests for science. The no-stakes tests will be given this spring, so state officials assess the quality of science ed, the Strib’s Jim Walsh reports. Eighth-graders and some high schoolers will also take them. Somewhat fittingly, it’s being done online, which has stoked fears of technological bottlenecks. Cost?
My daughter has already handed me the “Hannah Montana bill,” but now that’s also the name of a crowd-pleasing bit of legislation. The Senate passed the law that forbids ticket brokers from using software to buy up concert tickets. It’s just a misdemeanor, the PiPress says, and given the Hannah Demandah, that probably isn’t enough to dissuade.
Speaking of tween buzzkill, the Strib’s Graydon Royce crafts a talker about the “High School Musical” cavalcade of disaster that forced State Theater patrons to watch a lead actor reading from a script. The real lead was sick, the understudy broke an ankle, the second understudy got ill and “barely made it through the first act.” Tickets ran about 50 bucks, and management is making vaguely apologetic noises.
He didn’t get his former staff journalism’s biggest award for its I-35W work, but ex-Strib editor Anders Gyllenhaal championed a special Pulitzer Prize for former Minnesotan Bob Dylan. The Strib’s Jon Bream reports that Dylan didn’t win the music Pulitzer because it’s for a specific piece – how has he not won for that before? Dylan’s Nobel quest continues.
Nort spews: Remember the Twins’ strong bullpen? Matt Guerrier walked two and Pat Neshek gave up a grand slam at the ChiSox topped Minnesota 7-4. Top Wild defenseman Nick Schultz will miss the playoffs because of an appendectomy.