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Daily Glean: Strib takes a bite out of doggie judge’s hide

By David BrauerFriday, April 18, 2008 In Friday’s local news roundup, a judge who freed a dad in a pit-bull manslaughter case has mace-inducing canines of his own. Also, newspaper headline writers buoy Delta-Northwest’s p.r.

Watchdogs: Judge Kevin Burke freed a dad on manslaughter charges after a pit bull killed his son. Now, Strib diggers David Chanen and Sarah Lemagie report that Minneapolis Animal Control warned Burke twice about his own Aussie Shepherds, who forced a mail carrier to use a chemical irritant, bit other dogs and generated 15 barking complaints. The judge criticized the Animal Control in his ruling. Burke says prosecutors could’ve asked for a new judge, but they didn’t know his history; Burke didn’t recuse himself.

Delta and NWA execs take their charm offensive to both dailies’ editorial board, where they say Minnesota will retain pilot training, aircraft maintenance, a reservations center and pilot/flight attendant bases. The Strib’s front-page hed — “Major NWA operations to stay here” — must please the execs, who hope that status quo will wriggle them from a $245 million promise to keep their HQ here. The paper’s Dave Phelps says bosses didn’t address 1,000 headquarters employees.

More NWA:
A PiPress subhed says execs promise “new, bigger Delta will live up to state commitments.” No, it won’t — the HQ will be gone, along with those top-paying exec jobs. The execs do tell the paper there will be no airport job losses.

Amazing: Gopher State Ethanol went belly-up four years ago, but still gets hundreds of thousands of state bucks, the PiPress’s Dennis Lien reports. Lawmakers want to turn off spigots that will send out $2.1 million between now and 2013. The state promised to make up 2003 per-gallon subsidy cuts if money was restored, and it was last year. But they didn’t limit the payback to still-operating companies.

The mortgage fraudsters who “laid waste” to three North Minneapolis neighbors pled guilty yesterday, The Strib’s Steve Brandt reports. TJ Waconia’s principals face 10- and 12-plus-year sentences for scamming 162 properties and $35 million in mortgages. Fines could top $10 million, though it’s unclear whether the miscreants have the dough. There may be more prosecutions in the case, and nothing makes the two defendants cooperate further.

Forecast for health care costs? Bigger increases, says the Strib’s Chen May Yee. The state’s eight nonprofit health plans posted their third straight year of combined operating losses. Investment income floated the boat, but it can’t keep keeping on, a plan official said. Blue Cross will break even in 2008, according to the Business Journal. Big message to legislators: industry taxes were up 26 percent, faster than procedure-cost inflation.

See — they can work together. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Iron Range legislators compromised over funding for a $4.9 million asbestos-related miner-cancer study. The money won’t come from a worker’s comp fund that Pawlenty feared would raise business taxes, but a more narrowly targeted honeypot that’s running a surplus, the PiPress reports. DFLers avoid using Range-specific taconite tax proceeds.

More agreement: The guv and legislators want banks to scour electronic records for tax cheats; banks and some civil libertarians don’t like it, AP notes. Now, auditors must find major discrepancies, but three states use the electronic parsing. Small cheaters would be spared, and banks would have to destroy encrypted lists after matching or pay damages. Civil libbers say banks and government would be too cozy; banks doubt even a $10 million state gain for the trouble.

Back to stalemate: MPR’s Tim Pugmire says the state House and Senate can’t agree on a 35W victims’ compensation fund, and victims are mad. The two bodies aren’t meeting. An individual awards cap is the issue; the House wants one, the Senate doesn’t. DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler says there’s too much talk of legal principles and not enough practicality; DFL Sen. Ron Latz says he can’t open the state to costly future payouts.

Fly on the wall: DFL legislator Scott Dibble telling Met Council chair Peter Bell that Bell had been “publicly humiliated” by Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s LRT veto, as recounted by the Strib’s Mike Kaszuba. Bell, Pawlenty’s point man on the issue, won’t talk about the private, now public, humiliation. Neither will a Pawlenty spokesman. A Bell spokesperson says LRT would be truly dead if not for his boss. Previous Met Council chairs blame the guy in the guv’s seat.

WCCO’s Heather Brown says that next year, Minneapolis parents can buy an all-day kindergarten spot if they don’t win a school’s lottery. Cost: $3,000, falling to $1,500 for families who qualify for reduced-price lunches. Many families already pay as much for afterschool care. Poorer families whose kids qualify for free lunches would pay nothing. High-poverty Minneapolis schools already offer more all-day sessions, and St. Paul funds it across the board thanks to a recent referendum.

The college-loan story will only keep building
in the months ahead. Banks are steadily pulling out of federal programs due to the credit crunch and reduced subsidies. In the Strib, local colleges react to Citibank’s decision to knife two-year schools. The bank is the nation’s second largest lender, and will still fund four-year-college loans. MPR says students with existing Citibank loans will have to find a new bank, but 2,000 lenders remain for now.

Mary Jo Copeland’s Sharing & Caring Hands shelter supporters marched through Minneapolis yesterday, MPR reports. City officials say Copeland won’t meet about a security plan around her site; she says they want her out as the baseball district gentrifies. No word on how many people marched, but a mayoral aide was forced outside City Hall to make nice with the crowd.

Many TV stations cover a gay-rights lobby day that drew about as many supporters as a well-covered recent anti-tax rally. At stake: a bill to let governments offer workers domestic partner benefits.

Xcel Energy will switch to soy-oil-based electrical transformers
, AP reports. It’s ditching petroleum-based mineral oil. Soy oil increases transformer life and fires are easier to put out; clean energy impacts touted but not really detailed.

City of losers:
The Wild fall in Game 5 and must win in Denver to save their season; columnists blame “disappearing” star Marion Gaborik. The Twins can’t provide a winning chaser; I witnessed balls ticking off Denard Span’s glove and booming off Tampa Bay bats. State football fans freak over a proposed L.A. football stadium with Vikings-ready purple seats.