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Daily Glean: Media shocker: High gas prices change behavior

Twin Cities gas prices hit $4.09 yesterday, at least at local Super Americas, the Strib’s H.J. Cummins reports. The Strib’s Kara McGuire quotes a gas-price spotter saying SA “always” initiates the market’s price hikes, and Monday night is the best fill-up time. I’m intrigued by a post from Minnesota 2020, a lefty think tank, that Minnesotans drove 1.5 percent fewer miles in March. Someone should explore this question: Are we overexpanding road capacity, given the new pricing regime?

Further reducing miles driven: The PiPress’s Julie Forster says the Minnesota High Tech Association now lets employees work from home one day a week; a Woodbury man figures a $500 a year savings given a 59-mile round trip to St. Louis Park. Forster says a worker making $16 an hour and commuting 500 miles per week (!) needs a 9 percent raise just to keep up. Room & Board is holding bike-maintenance workshops for employees.

Al Franken kicked off his general election campaign and gets very different coverage. KSTP’s Tom Hauser calls the Senate race “one of the most harshly negative races in the country”; WCCO’s Pat Kessler notes that’s a Norm Coleman campaign frame. Alone among TV guys, Kessler says Dick Cheney’s Minnesota fundraising visit Monday will benefit Coleman. Fox9’s Bill Keller says a Coleman spokesman “shied away” from questions about a Bush fundraising visit or endorsement. KARE’s John Croman includes supportive DFL quotes.

WCCO’s Caroline Lowe chronicles the falling Minneapolis crime rate; the city had a homicide Monday, but it was the first in six weeks. Mill City murder is down 44 percent this year; aggravated assaults are down by double digits. Does the credit go to cooler weather or better juvenile policing? Both, probably, cops say.

People don’t often get a look at preventive policing, but Lowe tracks Hennepin County deputies and probation officers calling on young gun offenders. It’s kind of like a checkup; no new crime has been committed, but the authorities believe the unannounced, non-confrontational visits could head one off. Occasionally, they find more guns, but Lowe interviews a mom — and son — who seem cool with the meeting. There are about 110 kids in the program.

In the final piece of his three-part sex offender commitment probe, the Strib’s Larry Oakes follows a man who’s completed the treatment program but remains in prison. A political board makes release decisions, so the safest thing is to keep everyone locked up. (A court appeal is the only exit route Gov. Pawlenty allows following Dru Sjodins’s murder.) Several treatment program designers have quit, and there’s no compelling evidence treatment works. Gay detainees can’t have sex in the program.

More on sex offenders: Oakes and Dan Browning detail a federal judge’s rebuke of the Minnesota U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose’s inmate-commitment attempt. She pursued it, despite a positive prison review; U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson called the try “inexplicable,” adding that “granting the government’s motion would violate not only logic but law.”

The PiPress’s Jason Hoppin notes that the 35W bridge may span the river by July 4. A lot has to go right, he adds, and there’s a lot of work left on approach spans and other areas.

Fewer than half of Minnesota’s black and Hispanic 10th-graders passed the state’s reading exam, which the PiPress’s Megan Boldt calls a “harrowing” achievement gap, considering 82 percent of white students passed. The overall 71 percent pass rate is up 9 percentage points. Students must pass by the time they’re seniors. The district has started using an existing test, the MCAs, as the graduation test beginning with the sophomores’ class of 2010.

The Strib’s Terry Collins says the Minneapolis school board and black community leaders will sign an agreement to pursue culturally specific curriculum and teaching approaches for black students. The move indicates parents and the district are still willing to work together. There’s an existing covenant for American Indian students. The paper doesn’t give many specifics, and the online link goes nowhere.

The Minneapolis fire department, with a history of integration battles, has its first black chief, the Strib’s Steve Brandt notes. Fourteen years ago, Alex Jackson testified against a chief’s appointment; now he has the post. “That’s historical,” says one longtime department foe. Mayor R.T. Rybak hopes it turns out better than his appointment of the first woman chief, the ultimately scandal-ravaged Bonnie Bleskachek.

In the Strib, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann argues against cap-and-trade proposals to fight global warming, calling them “tax and trade.” Greenhouse gas limits are arbitrary, she says, and the caps would cost $6.7 trillion by 2050. (Kind of a long timeframe; it works out to $162 billion a year if you buy her math.) She says the Heritage Foundation calculates Minnesota’s per-capita job loss would top the nation. I wonder why?

The ferry to Winona started Monday, after the Highway 43 bridge over the Mississippi was closed. KSTP shows the first crossing; Wisconsinites pay $15 a week or $5 for the trip, then shuttles take them to workplaces. One guy says he now saves two hours of detours. The city of Winona will shell out $85,000 a week, which translates to $4 million a year; KSTP’s John Mason says the state will reimburse half the cost (only half?) and federal help will be sought.

The Burnsville Millers? The Strib banners a possible $27 million, 7,300-seat minor league stadium in the southern ‘burb. Two developers say they’ll finance the $27 million ballpark, but want their higher property taxes to fund public improvements. Skepticism is always in order for stadium dreams, and a 2009 timeline for joining the Northern League (the former St. Paul Saints home) is unlikely. Why build it just as the Twins stadium opens? Lower ticket prices are a lure.

Nort spews: The Twins continue their epic suckitude, getting swept by Chicago 7-5 to fall six-plus behind the Pale Hose. On a happier note, KSTP has a nice report on a local female wrestler with a very decent shot at the U.S. Olympic team. Jenny Wong will try to qualify Friday.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Patrick Phenow on 06/10/2008 - 05:08 pm.

    For those looking to change their commuting behaviors, here’s a pretty self-explanatory spreadsheet to see compare time saved/lost and money saved/lost on one mode versus another. Certainly some considerations are missing here, but it gives you a good staring point.

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