Everyone’s in a tizzy that St. Paul’s Ford plant might stay open two more years. The Detroit News broke the story using unnamed sources; AP and the Strib’s Dee DePass followed similarly. DePass quotes “a source with knowledge of the situation” saying the Ford Ranger truck has to be remodeled and the plant overhauled; the PiPress’s Gita Sitaramiah clarifies that that would happen only after the theoretical 2011 extension. Remember, this is all hypothetical for now.
More Ranger: Ford folks aren’t talking for the record, but a union official tells Sitaramiah that the company has contacted vendors to see if they can support a reopened facility. She notes there are just 900 full-time workers at the plant now, and only 240 are permanent. The rest are temps making $20 an hour, seven bucks less than the permanent folks. Finance & Commerce notes Ford has not issued a promised Request for Proposals to possible site purchasers.
Lawyers for four “liberal” Minnesota organizations were unfairly blacklisted from Department of Justice jobs. That’s the conclusion of a DOJ investigation, Minnesota Independent’s Tom Elko writes. DOJ hiring should be nonpartisan, but the 2002 and 2006 blacklists included Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Justice Foundation and Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. For legal junkies, the report is worth reading: there’s an in-depth discussion of how two highly qualified Minnesota-tied lawyers got doinked.
The news broke right after Wednesday’s Glean was filed, but local lawyers’ $250 million legal windfall from the Exxon Valdez oil spill was cut 90 percent. That’s based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting punitive damages, the Strib’s David Phelps reports. Faegre & Benson’s actual dollar drop is murky, but the firm will reap $20 million to $25 million. The actual victims? The 32,000-person class will get about $15,000 each above their actual damages.
Faegre bucks: Faegre lead lawyer Brian O’Neill tells the PiPress’s Christopher Snowbeck that his firm’s lawyers spent 183,000 hours on the case. If Faegre ends up with $25 million, that works out to about $136 an hour. O’Neill says he spent 23,000 hours on the case — that’s a little more than 11 years of 40-hour workweeks, if you want an equivalent. O’Neill would earn $3.14 million at that $136-an-hour rate, but awards are never divvied up equally.
Cheesy: The U Law School beseeched alums to give a paltry $1 to get itself in U.S. News’ Top 20 rankings. Trouble is, U.S. News doesn’t use alumni participation in its rankings, so the U groveled for nothing, the PiPress’s Paul Tosto notes. Other schools have made such appeals, though it’s unclear if they resorted to the $1 pitch.
The Strib’s Mary Lynn Smith says about 100 people protested Archbishop John Nienstedt’s decision to cancel a gay-friendly church service at Minneapolis’ St. Joan of Arc, but KSTP’s Steve Shaw puts the number at “nearly 300.” Big discrepancy! Smith says Minneapolis politicos R.T. Rybak, Gary Schiff and Scott Dibble attended a lay service outside the church. A church spokesman is cool with the outdoor event.
MPR’s Tom Scheck details top-spending lobbying groups at the State Capitol. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Business Partnership spend $1.065 million combined (they had a joint effort); the union-construction firm Minnesota Transportation Alliance spent $333,000. Other leaders: MyWireless ($291,000), Enbridge Energy Association ($252,000), Minnesotans Against Fraud and Higher Insurance Costs ($$241,000), the Flint Hills Refinery ($192,000) and pot-legalization forces ($187,000).
A Republican polling firm working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce puts Norm Coleman up by 9 points on Democrat Al Franken. The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere says the Public Opinion Strategies poll also has Barack Obama leading John McCain by 9 points. There’s a hefty 5-point margin of sampling error.
The Coleman-Franken battle is the nation’s most expensive U.S. Senate race … by a big margin, WCCO’s Pat Kessler reports. Minnesota’s candidates have raised $23.1 million, topping Texas’s $16.2 million. Franken has raised more money than any Senate candidate in 2008: $9.4 million.
General Mills sales went up 10 percent, but operating profit fell 17 percent amid high commodity prices. The Strib’s Matt McKinney says the local food giant actually benefited from commodity inflation in the previous quarter, as the value of inventories rose, but a revaluation took a bite out of fourth-quarter ’08 year-over-year numbers. Excluding inventories, the company’s per-share revenues jumped 18 percent from a year ago. Does that mean they exploited inflation? Just wondering.
Six Minnesota American Indian bands — and two Minnesota Democratic congressmen — are fighting over $27 million in federal land-settlement money. The Strib’s Emily Kaiser says Rep. Jim Oberstar wants an even split; Rep. Collin Peterson says his district’s White Earth band should get the majority based on membership. Congress and the Interior Department must sign off; a Chippewa tribal council voted for the even split. A third plan favors Leech Lake, which claims to have suffered the worst under the 19th-century land deal.
St. Paul now requires its 352 “shabbiest” vacant homes be brought up to code before they can be sold. That’s to keep the gullible from buying money pits and the greedy from flipping, the PiPress’s Dave Orrick writes. But won’t that keep those vacant homes vacant? The council also hiked the annual fee for owning a vacant home from $250 to $1,000. Less-damaged homes, which can be fixed by a do-it-yourselfer, can be sold if fix-up money is escrowed.
Of St. Paul’s 257 liquor licenses, 32 can stay open until 4 a.m. during the Republican National Convention. That’s according to a plan passed by the City Council, the Strib’s Chris Havens reports. Bars still have to pay the $2,500 fee and make the economics work.
A tornado’s economic stimulus: Hugo has issued 900 building permits this year, compared with 70 the year before, the Strib’s Kevin Giles notes. Hail-damaged Lino Lakes has issued 633 permits, compared with 17 last year. The scope of the building has buoyed slump-ridden contractors.
Weird: Two Minneapolis teens were arrested for stealing a skeleton’s leg and foot from Marcy Open School. “It sounded like one of those ‘we-got-drunk-and-did-something-stupid’-type moves,” one cop tells the PiPress’s David Hanners.
Nort spews: The Twins win their eighth straight, 9-3 over San Diego, to pull within a half-game of the hated Whities. Sore Loser here. For you layabouts, there’s a 2:35 p.m. game on the tube today. Tonight’s NBA draft is a golden opportunity for the Wolves … to screw up.