The DFL Party chair explicitly called Norm Coleman a “liar” for saying a bill is “taking away the right to secret ballot in a union election,” WCCO’s Pat Kessler reports. Kessler doesn’t delve into the charge’s merits, and Coleman’s spokesman doesn’t either, merely reinforcing the “Angry Al Franken” meme. But just days ago, Kessler, on a Reality Check segment, declared a statement like Coleman’s “false.” So why not reference your previous evaluation when it matters? False balance?
Jim Oberstar renewed his slap-down of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s bridge spending. The Duluth congressman says Minnesota used a smaller percentage of Federal Bridge Program repair funds on bridges than any other state. AP’s Frederick Frommer reports that Minnesota spent 51 percent versus a national average of 89 percent. MnDOT says that’s just one program; and doesn’t reflect $400 million spent from 2003-2007. Still, $63.5 million was left on the table since 2003, the Strib’s Kevin Diaz notes.
More bridge tussle: MnDOT argues that the federal money is restricted to repairing bridges with a 50 or less sufficiency rating. (The 35W span qualified.) However, Frommer notes that ratings up to 80 qualify. MnDOT counters that it may be more effective to replace or rebuild higher-rated bridges, which the federal money doesn’t cover. But why would a higher rated bridge be more likely to be replaced than a lower-rated span? Is MnDOT saying we don’t have enough substandard bridges to repair?
New MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel is beginning to reorganize the department, the PiPress’s Jason Hoppin writes. Sorel added a chief legal counsel position to help navigate “innovative financing” plans he’s exploring. There’s also a new “Policy, Safety & Strategic Initiatives” office to more effectively plan for the future.
A New York p.r. firm representing disreputable kosher butchers admits it made up incendiary quotes attributed to a Mendota Heights rabbi on a website. The Strib’s Jon Tevlin reports that Morris Allen decries bad worker treatment at the Postville, Iowa, plant, but the 5W firm posted bogus quotes mocking other Jews on a popular national Jewish website that’s published locally.
Olga Franco’s supporters threw a fundraiser in Minneapolis; she’s the illegal immigrant accused of vehicular homicide in the Cottonwood school bus crash. The PiPress’ John Brewer says “about a dozen” supporters paid $50 each for the Babulú restaurant event, but $600 or so will only nick $14,000 in currently budgeted legal costs. Franco’s team has provided evidence that her DNA was not on a car’s airbag and contends her boyfriend was the driver.
A federal judge slapped down RNC protesters who challenged St. Paul’s designated opening-day route. The Strib’s Randy Furst says marchers can walk noon-4 p.m., but must clear the Xcel area by 3 p.m., but Minnesota Independent’s Paul Demko says there’s no such hours deal, according to protesters. The PiPress’s Jason Hoppin notes that if the city is sued for manhandling protesters, convention organizers will reimburse legal costs up to an “unprecedented” $10 million.
More protests: MPR’s Laura Yuen profiles “neutral peace teams” who will try to protect demonstrators, delegates or police from being hurt. Minneapolis and St. Paul police are helping train protesters to become “peace marshals.” Some volunteers knowingly risk injury standing between combatants. They’ve taken tips from a 15-year-old Michigan Peace Team, using tactics like the multi-person “puppy pile” to shield a potential victim. They’re seeking 50-150 volunteers.
Suspended Minneapolis cop Lee Edwards was “quietly” reinstated this week, the Strib’s Abby Simons reports. The black lieutenant is one of five suing the department for discrimination; he was sidelined after a corruption investigation that resulted in a fellow officer’s indictment this week. The reinstatement seems to validate Edwards’ contention there was no link to the other man. A supporter tells Minnesota Independent’s Anna Pratt that Edwards was “cleared” — at least of the most serious charges.
Minneapolis will probably raise cab fares and add a $1 surcharge during the Republican Convention, the Strib’s Steve Brandt notes. The flag-drop charge stays at $2.50, but per-mile rates go from $1.90 to $2.20. St. Paul has passed similar increases.
While both dailies are touting new “information centers” the provide public data on things like campaign contributions, Minnesota Independent’s Paul Demko exhibits some shoe leather to profile the Obama and McCain campaign’s top Minnesota fundraising “bundlers.” McCain updated his bundler list two days ago, but news reports were sketchy and Democrat details nearly nonexistent.
The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere has a bit of sport with U.S. Senate hopeful Dean Barkley, whose website touts him as “The Most Effective Senator in Minnesota History.” Barkley — a two-month fill-in for Paul Wellstone not often mentioned in the same breath with Humphrey and Mondale — blames adman Bill Hillsman. The source: Jesse Ventura, who said measured by the minute, Barkley qualifies. Barkley voted for the Homeland Security Department, not something he may want to brag about now.
Animal news: The St. Paul Parks Commission has approved a plan to “build a bevy of off-leash dog parks,” the PiPress’ Dave Orrick writes. Currently, the city has only one; two more are planned (on the West Side and on Randolph Avenue) with more to come. Small dogs may be segregated from bigger ones by “special little parks.” The Strib’s Patrice Relerford offers a heart-tugger on hobby-farm animals abandoned in the foreclosure crisis.
Financial ticker: St. Jude Medical’s profit surged 50 percent and made Wall Street happy. Wells Fargo’s net dropped 22 percent and Wall Street was still happy. (Bad loans went up to $1.5 billion, but the bank boldly raised its third-quarter dividend to scare off short sellers, the PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger reports. The shorts were back after the announcement.) Dealmaker Piper Jaffray reported a $3.6 million loss, but trading revenue rose.
The Strib and its newsroom unions agreed to a tentative three-year deal, the paper’s Jim Buchta reports. Six buyouts are part of the plan, plus a wage freeze for the first part of the deal, the PiPress notes.
Freak beat: A St. Paul chiropractor is charged with giving an illicit massage.
Nort spews: The Twins are still on All-Star break, but assistant general manager Rob Antony says Francisco Liriano is pitching so well he has to be called up from the minors, the PiPress’ Kelsie Smith reports. However, Antony’s boss is much more cirumspect, making me wonder what this morning’s staff meeting will be like. The Twins’ starters are all doing reasonably well, and the worst, Livan Hernandez, eats innings. Does Liriano, who’s starting in the minors, become a reliever?
More sports: The Green Bay Packers accused the Vikings of tampering with Brett Favre; the phlegmatic signal-caller and Vikes assistant Darrell Bevel are best buds, but Favre is still Green Bay property so such talks may be forbidden. Frankly, it’s worth a draft choice to see Packer heads explode.