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Greasy green: Coleman won’t return oil-tainted cash

In Wednesday’s local news roundup, Norm Coleman’s keeping donations from a newly indicted colleague. And: DFLers are laughed out of court. Plus: crop circles!

Sens. Elizabeth Dole, Gordon Smith and John Sununu did it, but Norm Coleman won’t: dump newly indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ donations. The PiPress’s Rachel Stassen-Berger reports that Coleman received $20,000 from Stevens’ campaign committee. “Innocent until proven guilty,” explains a Coleman spokesman. Check out this 2007 public-radio report on help Coleman received from Stevens and executives from VECO, the oil company whose execs admitted bribing state lawmakers, spurring the Stevens case. Hey Strib, you’re missing a heck of a story here!

Meanwhile, a state administrative law judge threw out DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez’s complaint that two pro-Coleman groups falsely claimed Al Franken wanted to abolish secret-ballot union elections. Minnesota Democrats Exposed’s Michael Brodkorb gleefully offers the judge’s orders which, embarrassingly for Dems, say they never supported the false-claim argument. A case can be made; why didn’t Melendez, a lawyer, make it? Sure, it might just have been a publicity stunt, so now the media should even the publicity scales.

A 35W gusset plate partially fractured due to corrosion and bad design, not subsequent bridge-collapse energy, the Strib’s Tony Kennedy reports. The National Transportation Safety Board’s lab made the finding. Does that mean improperly positioned repaving equipment ignited the collapse? The story doesn’t go there, but the repaver’s lawyer sounds relieved that state maintenance is highlighted. Officials never ordered corrosion repairs; the plate, which should’ve been an inch thick, was designed half-an-inch too thin, and corrosion ate away half of that.

Minneapolis cops received a department award for a botched raid and the victim isn’t happy about it, the Strib’s Rodrigo Zamith and WCCO’s Caroline Lowe report. Officials say the police didn’t retreat from the homeowner’s gunshots, even if, in this case, they were acting on bad informant information. Inexplicably, Chief Tim Dolan didn’t talk to the family about the award beforehand. Vang Khang was trying to defend his home from the no-knock raid that endangered his kids. A lawsuit is coming.

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KSTP’s Kristi Piehl embarrasses Osseo’s school superintendent over damning emails that encourage document destruction and withholding public info. Susan Hintz worked to deny parents access to alternative-budget-cutting plans, asking others to “please delete from your email and files.” A district spokesman admits Hintz was wrong. Piehl leads with (weaker) allegations that Hintz impermissibly invoked religion discussing district affairs with staff and the school board. Hintz, and parents who unearthed the emails, declined comment.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield is eliminating co-pays for members who use retail clinics such as those at Target and MinuteClinic, Fox9’s Ellen Galles reports. The insurers say using the clinics’ nurse practitioners saves money.

Gov. Pawlenty proposed a $600,000 system giving state employees electronic medical-record access by 2009. They would also get $250 debit cards for out-of-pocket expenses, avoiding reimbursement forms, MPR’s Tom Scheck says. The cards will be funded with a state employee-health-plan surplus — hope that doesn’t become a deficit a la Ventura-era tax rebates! The state’s private plans will debut a price-comparing website by January, Stassen-Berger adds. DFLers say this is a publicity stunt that doesn’t fix fundamental access/affordability problems.

RNC protest story o’ the day: St. Paul is installing at least 40 cameras to watch convention-area goings-on, and privacy activists hate it. The PiPress’s Mara Gottfried and Dave Orrick write thatactivists will shoot their own video, but don’t want the cops peering on security or traffic. Camera locations are not being revealed, but a $50 million federal grant is helping pay for them. Complaints about protest permits are pouring in, the paper’s Jason Hoppin adds.

Twin Cities home prices went up a titch in May from April, a ray of hope, the PiPress’s Jennifer Bjorhus says. That hasn’t happened for 10 months. Year-over-year prices are still down 14.8 percent, about 2 points better than the national average. Meanwhile, Minneapolis has added 250 homes to its vacant/board-up list in 2008’s first six months, Minnesota Independent’s Molly Priesmeyer reports. There were 250 homes on the list in 2004; now there are 950.

City Pages’ Beth Walton goes deep in the case of a battered mom who got asylum in the Netherlands after kidnapping her kids from their Twin Cities dad. Holly Collins wants to return — her now-adult kids won’t come back without her — but Hennepin County authorities say punishment awaits. CP also offers some aching childhood drawings from the kids, who also claimed abuse. It’s a complicated tale; last week, Fox9’s Tom Lyden offered a take less sympathetic to the mom; the husband isn’t talking.

Crop circles! They’re in Fosston, according to the Grand Forks Herald’s Chuck Haga.

MSP airport traffic fell 1.3 percent in 2007 from 2006, the PiPress’s John Welbes notes. Ours was one of only four in the Top 30 to see a passenger drop.

MPR’s Mark Steil has a neat look at how Minnesota’s aquifers work, and how officials are monitoring dry spots that aren’t easily refilled.

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A teen who offered his vote for sale on eBay plea-bargained a potential felony down to 50 hours of community service, the Strib’s Paul Walsh reports.

Desperate senatorial plea for attention: Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley has lawn signs with “Brett Favre for Minnesota quarterback” on the back, MPR’s Tom Scheck notes. Made us look!

Nort spews: Justin Morneau justifies Ozzie Guillen’s fandom with a bases-clearing double that gave the Twins a comeback win over the White Sox. (Sox manager Guillen called Morneau the game’s best hitter recently.) The Twins are now just a half-game behind Chicago. Sore Loser here and a lovely bunch of insults from Sun-Times writer Joe Cowley here (though he does like our wimmin.)