Whoa: AP says John McCain knows why the 35W bridge fell. “The bridge in Minneapolis didn’t collapse because there wasn’t enough money. The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects.” Minnesotans’ reaction? No one scrambles to get local input — though the PiPress puts the Rev. Wright on its front page. AP recalls too-thin gusset plates and notes that the state was monitoring the bridge but hadn’t red-flagged it.
Can I be your special health-care friend? The Strib’s Warren Wolfe connects dots between John McCain’s new health plan (Tuesday) and Tim Pawlenty’s (Wednesday). Like his potential boss, Pawlenty is pushing health-savings accounts for state workers and expanded individual tax credits; unions are pushing back, saying it’s a panacea only for high incomes. Doesn’t the city of Minneapolis do a form of HSA? Someone should check how that’s going.
Census figures out today will show the state’s Hispanic population up 44 percent this decade, the PiPress’s Frederick Melo and MaryJo Webster report. The state as a whole has grown just 6 percent. Hispanics now make up 4 percent of the state’s population, or about 200,000 people. The Asian population is up 25 percent. Twenty percent of the state’s high school grads will be students of color by 2015, the state says.
More census: MPR’s Toni Randolph focuses not on color, but age. The state’s average age has risen to 37.1, up from around 35 in 2000. The number of folks 85 or older is up 22 percent, and there are 40 percent more 50-year-olds. On the flip, 35- to 39-year-olds are down 15 percent. On average, we’re a half-year older than the nation.
Hennepin County officials say Gov. Pawlenty is backing out of a promise to pay 10 percent of Central Corridor light-rail costs, the PiPress’s Rachel Stassen-Berger and Dave Orrick report. As part of LRT bargaining with the Legislature, Pawlenty proposes a $91 million cap that could fall under the previous pledge, forcing costs back onto the counties. The guv also could pay less than half LRT’s operating costs — another reversal, counties say. Vice-like, Pawlenty also refloated local property-tax caps.
More property taxes: Pawlenty calls the House DFL’s recent tax plan “fundamentally flawed.” The Dems would funnel money to low-income, high-property-tax payers by canceling high-income state tax deductions. Pawlenty says more people would pay higher income taxes than receive the property tax cuts. It’ll be a campaign issue, not legislation.
New MnDOT commissioner Tom Sorel tells the PiPress that “we can’t build our way out of congestion.” That’s often code for: we need mass transit, though Sorel doesn’t mention LRT.
Coincidentally, local new car and truck sales plunged 14.5 percent in 2007, compared to a 2 percent national drop, the Strib’s Dee DePass reports. Used car sales fell 12 percent. The local new-car drop was more than auto forecasters expected. This year, at least a 3.4 percent drop is predicted. American car sales fell 20.4 percent, the Euros were down 17.2 percent and Asian models were only off 4 percent. Justice: Hummer sales were off 42 percent.
Related: AP notes stricter ozone standards go into effect today, so expect more local air pollution alerts. The local air’s still cleaner than 20 years ago, a state pollution-control official says.
A Strib editorial laments how Al Franken’s tax troubles have “shunted aside” real issues. I know there’s a newsroom-editorial wall, but the opiners might want to peer over it; their own paper has featured the story on 1A or 1B four of the past seven days. It is a legit story, but it’s disingenuous not to note who’s reveling in it … and we’re not talking the GOP. Mpls.St.Paul’s Adam Platt lacerates the Strib for “Wright-sizing” the issue.
More Franken: GOP chair Ron Carey tried to keep the story alive yesterday by alleging Franken isn’t disclosing income from book signings in two states, Stassen-Berger reports. Franken’s folks say no taxable income was generated. “The press corps was curiously quiet at Carey’s press conference,” Stassen-Berger blogs. “Could it be that Carey has just worn us down?” MPR says DFL delegates aren’t freaking. The Strib notes Al’s accountant isn’t talking and Tim Walz isn’t running for the seat.
Today’s feature on the suddenly interesting world of grain prices: poor pig farmers. Corn is profit-killer No. 1, writes Strib’s Matt McKinney, — but so is a successful vaccine that’s boosted the supply of adult pigs. Now there’s price and peer pressure to thin the herd. As one agronomist says bluntly, “Consumers are going to get killed on this.”
The Strib’s David Peterson details grassroots efforts in Scott County to preserve farmland from subdivisions. The U and USDA are helping advocates who want to preserve the most valuable farmland and send developers to “lesser-quality soils.” The concept is sprawl-resistant European-style villages with energy-efficient homes that don’t need “expensive conventional sewer lines.” I count four hot buttons in that last sentence for talk-radio to push. No comments from developers.
I’m mourning the end of Robert Beale’s tax-evasion trial because it deprives me of more days of Jon Tevlin’s trial reporting. Beale is the stemwinding, Bible-quoting, authority-fleeing, judge-threatening ex-businessman who, despite defending himself, was found guilty on all seven counts of tax evasion, conspiracy and fleeing authorities. The jury took two hours to reach a verdict, and Beale faces up to 10 years in jail.
KARE’s Scott Seroka says that 40 Chinese school principals are in town for a U.S.-China Principal’s Summit. School budgets there are about a quarter of Minnesota’s, and the student-teacher ratio is at least 50-to-one. There’s talk of a teacher exchange.
Splitsville! The tiny town of St. Bonifacius wants to secede from Hennepin County and join low-tax Carver, the Strib’s Jenna Ross reports. The Citizen’s League says the 2,300 St. Boni citizens would save about $31 on property taxes; locals say $100-$200. But sticking it to those jerks in Minneapolis? Priceless. Chances? Not great.
The PiPress’s ace housing reporter, Jennifer Bjorhus, has another interesting one: over 16,400 homes have sat on the market so long that their listings expired or were canceled. That’s in the first four months of ’08, and only up 700 from a year ago, but double 2005. April’s numbers might be down 9 percent, which has Realtors grasping at hopeful straws. Bjorhus notes agents do cancel and re-list homes “so their offerings look fresh.”
Last month, after Twin Cities’ security guards secured hefty wage and benefit hikes in a high-profile labor action, I wanted a longer profile on SEIU, the union that took up the cause. Finance & Commerce’s Adam Johnson delivered. He looks at how grassroots organizing works, and says the union plans to expand its efforts beyond the central cities to the seven-county metro area.
The Strib’s Chris Riemenschneider reports that local hip-hoppers Atmosphere hit number 5 on the Billboard charts this week. That’s Prince-like, and just behind the pre-fab Ashlee Simpson.
Nort spews: The Twins sweep the hated ChiSox on Justin Morneau’s late double; everyone writes about Carlos Gomez’s crazy base-running, which apparently disrupted both teams. Sore loser from the Chicago Sun-Times, lamenting a loss to Twins no-name Nick Blackburn.