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Daily Glean: The local housing market … worse than advertised

In Wednesday’s local news roundup, Twin Cities housing prices drop by amounts only seen in faster-growth areas. Also, the Minneapolis-Hennepin library merger is pricier than expected. And, a local leisure giant cuts jobs.

Ka-boom: Home prices in the Twin Cities fell 15.5 percent in a one-year period through April. The Standard & Poor’s figures are nearly double Realtors’ reported declines, notes the Strib’s Jim Buchta. The S&P report only focuses on single-family homes. Despite a sunny “at national average” spin, we’re doing worse than any area not named California, Florida, Arizona or Vegas.

Ouch: The Strib’s Steve Brandt says the Minneapolis-Hennepin County library merger is $2.2 million over budget. The Strib headline emphasizes $3.5 million in higher benefit costs and a money-losing parking ramp. On the flip side, there are $1.3 in savings, which brings the net loss to $2.2 million. Savings will accelerate in out years. Commissioner Penny Steele terms it “a failure to do due diligence” — in other words, county’s fault — or a “failure to disclose,” which fingers the city.

It’s not a huge number, but local travel-hospitality giant Carlson will cut 200 Minnesota jobs by year’s end. That’s about 5 percent of the company’s local workforce, and another sign the economic slump is pounding discretionary spending on trips and dining, the Strib’s Dave Phelps reports. The company recently exited cruise and leisure-travel segments to focus on business travel, lodging and restaurants.

Northwest pilots have reached a joint-contract deal with Delta and its pilots. The deal doesn’t yet cover the overarching seniority issue, but brings pay “much closer” to pre-bankruptcy levels, the PiPress’ John Welbes notes. The problem, of course, is that there will be many fewer pilots earning such dough as airlines cut back flights. How does raising pilot compensation help this merger pay off? The two pilot groups will try to merge seniority lists themselves but have agreed to arbitration if that fails.

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Gov. Pawlenty responded to the Legislature’s bridge report: It did not make “any connection to maintenance decisions” and the bridge collapse’s cause. However, the PiPress’s Jason Hoppin lists several undone plans directly related to gusset plates. The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba says in a two-hour hearing MnDOT’s new deputy commissioner “bluntly” asked “irritated” legislators to “trust us” that the abortive plans wouldn’t have kept the bridge up. A graphic comparing report points and MnDOT’s response would’ve been helpful. (Note: My wife works for the law firm that did the report, but not on the report itself.)

Some outstate Minnesota cities expecting to get state local-government aid increases won’t. MPR’s Tom Robertson reports that Gov. Pawlenty’s property-tax caps apparently undid a promise to simultaneously beef up state assistance. Administrators say $212,000 evaporated in Bemidji, as did $500,000 in International Falls. Even a rural Republican says the caps hurt places like his around the state. Just wondering: How did bigger cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Duluth fare?

There’ll be some hot parishioners-on-church action in Minneapolis’s Regina neighborhood tonight. Folks will hold a “a lay service” outside St. Joan of Arc, because new Archbishop John Nienstedt canceled the traditional GLBT-friendly church service, the Strib’s Herón Márquez Estrada writes. Celebrating homosexuality goes against church teachings, a spokesperson says. (Somewhat amazingly, he claims previous archbishops didn’t know of the service or they’d have canceled it, too.) It’s another jerk of the reins for the liberal congregation, which could lose members.

A second group got a GOP National Convention protest permit. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign will march on the convention’s second day, with a different, longer route, the Strib’s Chris Havens reports. This one edges into prime time: 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

In Morrison County, just north of St. Cloud, police killed a bar owner who had taken 10 people hostage at a county board meeting, the Strib’s Richard Meryhew and Abby Simons report. Gordon Wheeler owned “adult entertainment establishments,” such as Lookin’ Fine Smut and Porno. Perhaps not surprisingly, he feuded with board members for years over zoning and license issues. At the end of the meeting, he walked up with his “big gun” that came out from under a red handkerchief. The PiPress says it’s unclear if Wheeler fired. WCCO and KARE talk to a hostage.

Finance & Commerce reports that Minneapolis’s pioneering Green Institute is having financial trouble. They operate the building-materials haven ReUse Center,and have a 100-percent leased building. However, F&C’s Burl Gilyard says they are 60 grand delinquent on a city construction loan, and $185K due on a second city note. The Institute’s boss blames the housing crisis for a $16,000-a-month loss. A city staff report  terms the problem “not manageable” under the current business model, but no fix is offered.

A couple of high-powered ex-politicos say they’ll help instant-runoff-voting advocates sue the city of St. Paul. That’s if council members keep the election reform off the ballot, the Strib’s Chris Havens says. IRV advocates successfully petitioned their way onto the ballot, but the St. Paul city attorney thinks the technique is unconstitutional and says appeals courts have already ruled a council can spike such initiatives. Attorneys Jay Benanav and John Hottinger counterthat doing so defeats the petition’s purpose. (Note: I worked on Minneapolis’ IRV effort a few years ago.)

Minneapolis Urban League President/CEO Clarence Hightower is leaving for St. Paul’s Community Action Partnership, the Strib’s Terry Collins and Patrice Relerford report. What change did he make? The story says he was a cool head in police-community disputes and annually reported on black Minnesotans’ condition. He also lead a successful building campaign. Otherwise, accomplishments are vague. The new group is also “involved with creating public policy and helping reduce poverty.”

Nort spews: Mike Lamb who? New Twins third baseman Brian Buscher homers to help the Twins beat San Diego 3-1. It’s Minnesota’s seventh win in a row. “Boos rained down” on legendary Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, who gave up back-to-back dingers to Brendan Harris and Buscher, according to today’s Sore Loser. The Lynx break their losing streak, smashing the Liberty 91-69.