Daily Glean: Tricking Pvt. Ryan

Seems like TV sweeps month is all about suspected serial murderers (it was WCCO’s turn last night) but Fox9’s Jackie McLean has a less-speculative exposé: local Army recruiting misdeeds. Recruiters are shown on undercover camera coaching applicants to lie about drug use, overstating cash benefits tenfold, and eliding the likelihood of going to Iraq. The coup de grâce: promising an applicant she will “get a job at, you know, Fox9 News.”

More recruiting: An Army commander says the actions are wrong, and four recruiters have been suspended pending an investigation. Context: McLean says there have been eight complaints against the Minneapolis office this year.  Interesting cultural touch: I don’t think I’ve ever seen TV news make local anti-war protesters look so credible; the report essentially corroborates their recruiting complaints, and the station isn’t shy about saying so.

Is that screaming coming from the Mall of America’s new water park? No, it’s the Ghermezians yelping about the Legislature’s new sock-Bloomington subsidy plan. The mall’s ruling family says there’s “no chance” the $2 billion expansion will happen under the revised plan, the Strib’s Mike Kaszuba reports. Just weeks ago, DFL leaders basked in construction-worker applause for supporting a statewide aid grab; now the plan seems dead. Someone should check back with those labor folks.

If you’ve ever scrambled for day care, pity the parents in west-central Minnesota’s MACCRAY district. High gas costs and lagging school funding mean canceled Monday classes — all next year. The Strib’s Maria Elena Baca says officials expect to save $85,000 toward a $200,000 deficit; they cut $800,000 last year. Parents don’t seem to mind, and state ed officials must sign off. The kids will go an extra hour Tuesday-Friday, but get 23 Mondays to drive a designated non-teacher crazy.

Which is a fitting backdrop for this: School districts will get $51 more per kid next year, if a state education bill becomes law. The money comes from gutting Gov. Pawlenty’s pay-for-teacher-performance plan. In the PiPress, the guv’s spokesman rips the “DFL education bill.” MPR’s Tom Scheck demurs: “a large number of Republicans” produced a veto-proof majority for the $49 million plan. It’s a one-year bump only.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis school board put a $60 million referendum on this fall’s ballot, the Strib’s Terry Collins reports. It would double the current operating levy, adding $204 to a $256,000 home’s annual property-tax bill. The money will go to maintain class sizes; the last levy was supposed to cut them, but that didn’t work out. Will parents — and other voters — feel burned? Optimism reigns. The eight-year plan would also pay for other program improvements.

Norm Coleman won’t return 10 grand in donations from a D.C. firm that lobbied for Myanmar, AP reports. It was a big enough deal for John McCain to dump his GOP convention chair, but the Strib only runs four wire-service paragraphs; the PiPress runs 13; neither gives the story big play. Coleman’s office says the contributions were legal — hey, so is lobbying for Myanmar, but that doesn’t make it right!

After getting badly, badly burned by their own ownership, the Strib tries to catch up on yesterday’s PiPress land-sale scoop. Strib owner Avista Capital Partners still won’t talk to the home team about its five-block offering, but reporter Paul Levy does a workaround: He surveys nearby property owners who say, yeah, the Vikings are still pretty interested. Hey Avista — you’re in  labor negotiation: Earn brownie points and let your folks know next time the competition calls.

The Wall Street Journal asks Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Gary Stern if we’re going to avoid a recession. “No,” he replies succinctly. He’s not sure if this one will be deep. Stern also thinks the Fed will keep letting investment banks use the bank’s credit, but the precedent will get policy-tweaking once the credit crisis has passed.

Talker! The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that a Chisholm, Minn., man doesn’t get a new attorney if he beats the tar out of the old one. The PiPress’ Emily Gurnon says William Lehman wanted a new attorney, so he punched public defender Mark Groettum repeatedly in the face until “blood was all over Groettum, the counsel table and the floor of the courtroom.” The Appeals court said Lehman’s “outrageous and manipulative conduct” meant he had to represent himself.

Talker II: KARE reports that “about 6,000” old-fashioned spinning-dial gas pumps can’t register prices above $3.99.  There’s an upgrade kit, but it’s back-ordered for a year; otherwise, mom-and-pop filling station owners face $10,000 bills for modern digital pumps.

The state education bill helped upset a peaceful budget resolution, though the Strib says the real snag was $50 million from a state HMO reserve fund. Pawlenty made the banked cash out-of-bounds for budget-balancing; DFLers said Gov. Pawlenty had earlier agreed to use the money. Reporters Mark Brunswick and Norman Draper say HMOs could sue if denied reimbursements for maintaining too-hefty reserves.

As expected, Pawlenty vetoed a health-care-reform bill, MPR’s Lorna Benson reports. The guv simply does not want access-fund surplus to be used 100 percent for access. MPR says the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supports the veto, even though it likes the bill’s savings.

The PiPress’ Jeremy Olson says Pawlenty vetoed a ban on possibly carcinogenic plastics from children’s products like teething rings. Pawlenty said the bill “goes beyond current scientific research.” He also didn’t like a ban on possibly toxic fire retardants. Once again, the legislative margins were veto-proof, but it’s possible bill proponents will re-introduce it next year. Why?

Kewl: 3M shows off a super-dinky projector that can be embedded in laptops, and even cell phones, the Strib’s Dee DePass reports. It’s the size of a 9-volt battery.

Hot button: MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill on the next new amenity in federal parks:  concealed guns. The U.S. Interior Department proposes allowing them; “the main reason … is to bring federal land in line with state laws,” an Interior spokesperson says. Last year, 40 million parks visitors produced 11 homicides and 373 other violent offenses.

Local transit advocates step carefully around U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar’s comments yesterday providing light at the end of the light-rail tunnel. Locals tell the PiPress’ Dave Orrick that no one wants a Washington Avenue tunnel. But, they add, we still love our pork-ladling transportation chair!

The PiPress’ Jim Ragsdale offers a finely crafted obit for former state Capitol colleague Jack Coffman, who died Monday. As you might expect, he was a salty, fun guy, as is Rags, who offers this bit of Coffman lore: “He was the center on a very bad high school football team, to which he contributed several broken bones.”

Nort spews: Bad defense doomed the Twins against Toronto; the 5-3 loss cuts their Central Division lead to a half-game over Cleveland.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Elias Kramer on 05/14/2008 - 10:42 am.

    Re: No School on Mondays in MACCRAY–

    Of course the flip side of the more expensive and headache-laden child care for families is the joy down in mudville for all the teachers and kids, who I think I can hear tap dancing in the streets of MACCRAY district even from my perch here in Brooklyn, NY.

    What a brilliant (and troubling) idea. Knowing teachers (I am one) they must be thrilled with a four day work week.

    Since canceling Mondays will only save the district $85,000 of their $200,000 budget shortfall, I say why stop there?

    Go for the whole hog, MACCRAY. Get rid of Tuesdays saving another $85,000. Now you’re only $30,000 short of balanced. Heck, you could even cancel 30/85 of Wednesdays as well. You balanced the budgets!

    Kids, first bell rings at 11:37 and 24 seconds a.m. Wednesday mornings.

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