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Daily Glean: State constants — Capitol squabbles, stadium fights, wind

By Doug Grow | Thursday, April  3, 2008 Good old dependable Minnesota always has some constants: political disagreements, stadium studies, windy conditions at the Capitol and elsewhere.

We seem to have a few constants in Minnesota. The DFL-controlled Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are always squabbling. We’re always fighting over stadiums. And through it all, the wind keeps blowing.

Do DFLers have Gov. Tim Pawlenty cornered? That’s the question raised by MPR‘s Tom Scheck in his story on the state bonding bill showdown. Pawlenty says the Legislature’s decision Wednesday to spend $925 million in its bonding bill is too high — $100 million more than the governor wanted. Pawlenty, of course, can line-item-veto projects in the bill, but then the onus of killing popular projects in some communities would fall on him. He really likes to be liked.

Scheck’s story brings one the DFL’s great agitators back to the front lines. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, has been relatively silent so far this session. But the bonding battle brought out this comment from him:  “The governor thinks there is three branches of government, and they’re me, myself and I.”

In non-news at the Capitol, the perpetual legislative battle over stadiums continues with the Senate stripping from the tax bill a committee recommendation for a study of how to build a new home for the Vikings. 

Minnesota has passed Iowa to become No. 3 in the nation in producing wind power, according to a report by Leslie Brooks Suzukamo in the PiPress.  Texas and California, though, remain far in the lead in wind megawatt production.
Some local communities may be taking a night off from the annual National Night Out neighborhood get-togethers. The Strib’s Joy Powell reports that some police officials were shocked to learn that the creator of the popular summertime crime-fighting events is paid $300,000 a year to run his organization from its Pennsylvania-based headquarters. “I work 14 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Matt Peskin, creator of National Night Out and director of National Association of Town Watch, umbrella organization of the Night Out program. “Why would anybody drop out because of my salary?” Minneapolis and St. Paul are considering dropping out from the national group but maintaining the Night Out effort.
Familiar ground: Strib reporter Steve Brandt is back in a familiar neighborhood, covering the scams that have destroyed the housing market and brought the U.S. economy to a halt. This time, his story, is about Minneapolis and three of its neighborhoods filing suit against Roseville-based TJ Waconia and its owners, Thomas Balko and Jon Helgason. The suit alleges that Waconia has been involved in a complex scheme that has left 11 north Minneapolis properties condemned, 89 others foreclosed and neighboring home prices crashing.  Brandt wrote his first flipping story in 1999, only about eight years before Washington pols caught on to the concept that there might be a problem.
There are two ways to cover the opening of a high-profile sexual assault trial. There’s the traditional approach, as shown on KARE-TV: re-read the charges, in this case against former University of Minnesota football player Dominic Jones, and speak to an advocate for sexual assault victims about the difficulties district attorneys have in prosecuting such cases. Or, go beyond the charging documents for a fuller story, as the Strib’s Rochelle Olson did. From Olson’s coverage we learn that Hennepin County District Judge Marilyn Rosenbaum will not allow Jones’ attorney, Earl Gray, to tell the jury that the woman had sex with three other now-former players before Jones’ alleged assault. “It’s impossible to defend this case without explaining why he was there and why he was doing what he was doing,” the exasperated Gray told the judge.

Minnesota may not be Vegas, but it sure has nice air.

St. Paul City Council Member Lee Helgen gave the geography lesson in explaining why the council should oppose a move by state lawmakers to extend bar-closing hours in the Twin Cities from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. during the Republican National Convention. “This isn’t Las Vegas,” said Helgen in a brief article in the PiPress.  On a 4-to-3 vote, council members agreed with him. Republicans, of all people, should appreciate the council’s desire to not let the party go on and on: Cost.  Later closing hours would run up a $500,000 policing tab.

And though they may not be able to party all night long, the Repubs will be able to breathe good, smoke-free air, according to a Strib report. Three anti-smoking organizations on Wednesday — “Kick Butts Day” — placed billboards at the South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin borders bragging that our air is less smoky than theirs.
Sometimes, the best-laid plans get off to sluggish starts. The Twins are the latest example. They spent the offseason trying to get more “pop” in their lineup. The results: In the first three games, that new lineup produced a total of four runs — and one victory. But they still have 159 more chances.