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Daily Glean: Strib lights up for smoking shacks

By David Brauer | Monday, April 14, 2008
In Monday’s local news roundup, the Strib editorial page leaves the door slightly ajar for “small smoking shelters,” Northwest’s value in the Delta merger may have dropped by a third, and the top University o

The Strib’s Liz Fedor and AP Atlanta correspondent Harry Weber report that the Delta-Northwest merger announcement could come as early as tomorrow. Then again, “pilot contract issues still loomed and there was no guarantee the deal would move ahead, three people familiar with the talks said Sunday,” Weber reports. Fedor says Delta has four-year terms with its pilots; NWA’s are still opposed. Sen. Norm Coleman says Delta execs pledge to keep the local hub and jobs.

More NWA:
The Wall Street Journal leads the pack on deal details. Northwest would be valued at $3 bil; the market value was $1.6 bil higher two months ago, when merger talks broke down. Delta pilots want more money, and Delta is trying to reduce NWA pilots’ premium. Northwest pilots worry the Delta schedule will expand and NWA’s will shrink. Also problematic: The dollar’s slide means a too-large Air France stake in the combined carrier.

The Strib edit page says a current amendment for winter smoking shelters should be “snuffed out,” but indicates it might be OK with “small smoking shelters” at smoking-banned hangouts. That’s buried toward end of a piece criticizing a House proposal to liberalize the smoking ban. Stribites warn that shelters could become “extravagant structures.” (“Hey, why does Puffy get all the pinball machines?”) Also, a joint’s servers can’t enter the shacks, but patrons perhaps “could be served by a neighboring establishment that happens to have the same ownership.” Theater-night folks, you enabled these contortions.

The Minnesota Daily’s Emma Carew details U faculty salaries. Among Top-30 research universities, the U is bottom 10, but moves up (how much?) when benefits are factored in. Salaries make up $1.8 billion of the U’s $3 billion annual operating budget. Basketball coach Tubby Smith makes the most. President Richard Bruininks makes less than two other admins. U Ed Prof Dante Cicchetti tops the teaching salary ranks at $384,000. Other top numbers are here.

The Strib’s Tom Meersman examines a DFL legislator’s proposal for stricter California-like emission standards on new vehicles here. A California regulator says car/truck prices would rise a grand, but at current oil prices, the gas-savings payback is less than three years. Dealers say truck sales would plummet, as would ethanol use. Enviros say that’s bunk; all three major-party presidential candidates would approve Cali’s rules, and automakers aren’t abandoning that market. Missing: the bill’s chances.

The Strib’s Katherine Kersten keeps the heat on St. Thomas, her second-least-favorite educational institution next to TIZA Academy. The school won’t provide a speaking site for conservative author Star Parker. St. Thomas is mad at sponsor Young America’s Foundation, which imported “firebrand” (Kersten’s words) Ann Coulter for a much-ridiculed St. T speech. Kersten asks why Jones can’t speak when Al Franken, 9/11 conspiracists and — gasp — a transgendered person talked on campus?

St. Paul’s “large carbon filters” have reduced spring complaints about stinky drinking water 92 percent, the PiPress’s Jason Hoppin reports. The technology cost $9.6 million. Minneapolis, which has spent more on water-plant upgrades and loudly touts its superiority to bottled water, gets more springtime complaints. Its water is still safe.

Today’s talker: Some in Edina and St. Paul want to lower residential speed limits from 30 to 25, the Strib’s Mary Jane Smetanka reports. In the exurbs, the battle is over reducing speeds on 55 mph roads. The story notes that Minneapolis pushed for 25, but my recollection is it was one councilperson and it died a quick death. People who bray about high speeds often drive fast themselves. Drive 25 today and see if it’s a crawl.

The PiPress’s Alex Friedrich compares the fate of two former St. Paul breweries. West Seventh’s Schmidt Brewery redevelopment is portrayed as the faster tortoise — though a closing has been delayed until October. Work on 100 live-work spaces begins next spring, maybe, as part of a $200 million, five-year plan. The East Side Hamm’s Brewery reincarnation as an Asian Cultural Center is just this side of dead following a gubernatorial bonding veto.

KSTP has the only video of an SUV pulled out of the St. Croix River in Stillwater. Four people were rescued. The video isn’t ultra-dramatic, but the rescuers’ response time — two minutes — is amazing.

The PiPress had the details late Friday, but the Strib says fewer local March unemployment claims is really bad news. Permanent layoff claims are up 11 percent in a year and more Minnesotans are exhausting unemployment bennies. Money quote: “People aren’t being laid off in Minnesota much faster, on average, than they were a year ago. But, once you’re laid off, it’s harder to find a job.” The local Fed guy isn’t bothered, though.

Today’s animal story: Wildcat keepers are ignoring new, tougher state laws. At least the bad ones are, according to the Strib’s Kevin Giles. None of the cats seized since the law’s 2005 passage was registered, and enforcement seems weak. However, no one really knows because locals enforce the state law and no one keeps statewide records.

Former Norm Coleman spokester Andy Brehm counters last week’s earmark defense by DFL gubernatorial hopeful Susan Gaertner in the Strib. Brehm rightly dings bad process: earmarks bypass committee review, often without debate. However, his examples — $211,000 for olive fruit fly research and $188,000 for Maine’s Lobster Institute — aren’t compelling. The olive fruit fly has infested California olive groves, and the anti-pork organization that highlighted the spending (uncredited by Brehm) acknowledges that the project’s merit isn’t the issue.

RIP, St. Paul’s Parkview Café.
The 53-year-old St. Anthony Park hangout closed Sunday, a victim of an expired lease, the Strib reports. The building’s owners — the Independent Order of Oddfellows — is looking to sell.

Nort spews:
I don’t care what Dick Bremer says, Francisco Liriano pitched like crap, and the Twins lost 5-1. Wild try to break a 1-1 series tie against the Avalanche in Denver tonight. Gametime is at the ungodly Monday hour of 9 p.m.