Daily Glean: St. Paul mansion owners rattle the tin cup

Got schadenfreude? The Strib’s Randy Furst chronicles St. Paul mansion owners struggling to find renters for the GOP national convention. Craigslist has a couple of hundred listings “but only a smattering of takers,” Furst reports. Still, successful landlords talk: one mansion owner will reap $10,000 or so from an “environmental trade association” (we’re guessing it’s not Greenpeace). A couple of “super greedy” libs may get Arianna Huffington to pony up $4,900 for their condo. Surprise! Homeowners represented by well-connected “former Republican apparatchiks” are landing deals.

The New York Post reports that Strib owners want a six-month debt-repayment timeout. Creditors counter that Strib owner Avista Capital Partners must pump in $50 million first. Avista’s response: “Oh yeah? You want to run this pig?” (I made this last part up.) The Strib previously reported Avista wrote down its $100 million investment to $25 million, so a cash injection seems unlikely. The Post has sort of a see-what-sticks approach to news; you can read my brief analysis here.

The Strib’s Dee DePass offers a nice report on a Minnesota wind-turbine plant struggling to meet demand. In just 19 months, employment at Pipestone’s Suzlon facility has grown from 275 to 500; “Its blades and nosecones are back-ordered for two years,” DePass writes. Fear not; the plant is investing in computers and heavy equipment to pump out more zephyr-grabbers. However, the plant has to bus in workers, and “turnover remains a big problem.” One explanation: Pay for some is about $10 an hour, or $20,000 a year.

What’s the airport’s busiest travel day? Christmas? Thanksgiving? Try “Thursdays and Fridays in June,” the PiPress’s John Welbes and MaryJo Webster report. They analyzed 2007 data and found 950 or so flights took off on those dates, 100 more than average. Christmas and November are only in the middle of the pack. Guess who scheduled his father-and-son baseball trip departure for Thursday, June 19.

About time: Best Buy begins a free electronics recycling program today, the Strib notes. Accepted: computer processors, monitors and TVs with screens up to 32 inches. Most metro stores participate. Note to Minneapolitans: Don’t be idiots and use this program; your city picks up this stuff curbside. Just set items by the trash and label “Solid Waste: Please Take.” Two per recycling week, please.

Two weekends of hail put heaven-sent ice chunks in the news. The Strib’s Jeff Shelman reports that there have been 179 reports of hail larger than a penny, or winds over 58 miles per hour, in an area of central and southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Last year, there were just 66 reports. Any cool user-generated video? But of course. Still, I’m disappointed there are no photos of “hail [that] ripped so many leaves and branches that it looked like autumn.”

Related weather analysis: The Strib’s Bill McAuliffe notes that since 1950, 95 people have died in tornadoes — but only seven since 1992. Incredibly, “Minnesota has not seen multiple deaths from a tornado in 30 years,” McAuliffe writes. Credit better warning systems.

Last weather note: MPR’s Bob Collins begins a series of posts on tornado recovery. Today, he checks in with survivors of the Rogers tornadoes and learns how they fought off fly-by-night contractors. Collins is excellent at finding a story’s byways and unearthing compelling, human detail, so bookmark the link.

With all the tsuris about Central Corridor path through U, few have paid attention to St. Paul’s downtown LRT connection — but it’s a headache, the PiPress’s Dave Orrick writes. There’s only a “hazy vision” of making the downtown line work, including preserving a key aerterial skyway. Frustrated property owners want a Met Council meeting now. A Council spokesperson says it can’t start acquiring land until mid-2009.

The number of Minnesota mortgage originators has fallen dramatically: from 4,000 to 1,319 in just a year, the Strib’s Jim Buchta reports.

Amid high commodity prices, the Strib’s Bill McAuliffe reports that “once again, the prairie is falling to the plow.” Conservation-reserve grassland acreage hit a new high last year, but about 3 percent of the land was withdrawn between last fall and spring. The population of prairie chickens is slipping, in part because pheasants are competing with them for scarce land. Only eight-tenths of 1 percent of Minnesota’s original prairie remains intact.

Minneapolis neighborhoods versus Target Center? An underreported state tax bill facet sets up the dynamic, the Southwest Journal notes. The city’s 20-year, $300 million Neighborhood Revitalization Program gave neighborhoods a taste of downtown development riches, but it expires in 2009; this bill set up a new program allowing tax-increment funds to fund neighborhood priorites and pay off the basketball palace. Optimists say both can happen simultaneously, but nothing is simple in the world of Minneapolis City Hall.

Nort spews: Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn survived a Bobby Abreu liner to the face with teeth intact but had to leave what became a 5-1 Twins win over the Yankees. KARE has Blackburn’s post-game comments here. The station also reports that the Twins will discount Upper Club or Lower Reserved tickets by the price of a gallon of gas. The discount will be calculated each Monday based on the national gas-price average. These aren’t the cheapest seats; Upper Clubs typically run $21 and Lower Reserved are $30.

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