Tire Gauge Tim Pawlenty gets mixed reviews for his “Sam’s Club Republican” National Press Club appearance. A big-city critic from John McCain’s least-favorite paper, the New York Times, calls it “low voltage,” but the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank terms it a “strong audition” for the veepstakes. Pawlenty emphasizes not-so-untried ideas like school choice, not-so-successful ideas like merit pay, and vaporware concepts like electronic medical records. The anti-cynicism crusader who’s forced big tuition increases wants a free online university.
More TPaw: As always, PiPress editorialist Jim Ragsdale offers a well-considered overview of the Pawlenty record that’s a bit more charitable than my take; the Strib’s and PiPress’ neutral-to-positive takes are here and here. MinnPost’s take is here. Pawlenty channeled Ronald Reagan and credited Obama’s positive campaign. Still, he says the Democrat isn’t mavericky, noting that his signature bipartisan accomplishment — rounding up loose nukes — had too much Senate support.
A new Al Franken ad feels deceptive. The PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger notes that the ad claims Norm Coleman “is being investigated for paying only six hundred dollars a month rent to live in a million-dollar D.C. home owned by a Washington insider connected to powerful lobbyists.” There’s a Senate Ethics complaint, but that filing isn’t really an investigation. Franken, who promises, “Stay tuned for more,” contextualizes his tax troubles, saying he overpaid in Minnesota and New York.
More Senate: Franken’s primary opponent, Priscilla Lord Faris, issues her first TV ad, which echoes many Republican talking points about the DFL endorsee’s character.
It took jurors eight hours to find Olga Franco guilty of criminal vehicular homicide and other charges stemming from the Cottonwood, Minn., bus crash. The PiPress’ Frederick Melo and Tad Vezner say Franco was “ashen-faced”; the Strib’s Pam Louwagie says victims’ families didn’t revel in the verdict, and the defense team expressed its good wishes to the parents after the decision. The 24-count sentence will come down in a month to six weeks.
In the no-closure department, jurors in the Barbara Winn murder felt defendant Aaron Foster was guilty, but prosecutors didn’t prove it, the PiPress’ Emily Gurnon reports. Foster is the Corky Finney pal whose case became a political football in the 2006 Ramsey County sheriff’s race between Finney and Bob Fletcher. “We didn’t follow our hearts,” one juror said. “We followed the law.” The key prosecution problem: evidence gone missing since the 1981 murder.
Sun Country Airlines rattles the tin cup for state support. The Strib’s Liz Fedor says the airline won’t quantify its requested handout; unlike every other airline on the globe, it didn’t hedge fuel purchases. Airline execs say their Northwest competition saves fliers $300 million, the PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck writes; low-cost carriers might fill the gap. Sun Country lost $43 million in a year, and owner Tom Petters has pumped in $25 million. Northwest-lovin’ airport commissioners have mixed reactions for now.
Precisely zero bars have asked St. Paul for a 4 a.m. closing time during the Republican National Convention, the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin relays. Minneapolis has dropped the $2,500 fee — meant to recover policing costs — as low as $100 for 12 private events. However, nine Mill City bars, including three strip clubs, have ponied up the full freight. They include The Local, Aqua, First Avenue, Brothers and my fave, the gay bar The Saloon. A dozen Bloomington bars will stay open for the regular $200 2 a.m. fee.
KSTP says Barack Obama raised $2 million during a Minneapolis Hilton fundraiser. The Strib’s Pat Doyle offers the pool report from the non-public event; Obama said nothing very controversial, and, one donor notes, “nothing really concrete.” KARE’s John Croman does a nice job explaining why donors could fork over as much as $28,500 to get into the event.
Brett Favre was traded to the Jets, and there’s no way the back door is open to Minnesota. According to the NFL Network, the Jets would have to give the Packers three first-round draft choices if they re-trade Favre to the Vikings.
Minnesota has begun a pilot program rating day-care providers, the Strib’s Jean Hopfensperger writes. The online site, ParentAware, assesses care quality and educational efforts. So far, it’s limited to St. Paul, north Minneapolis, Wayzata and Blue Earth and Nicollet counties. Sounds like U assessors will give out the zero-to-four stars; 200 providers have signed up.
Indefatigable Strib census reporter David Peterson writes that non-whites now account for most of three big suburban counties’ population growth. Dakota, Anoka and Washington counties still have “plenty of white people,” but logically, their percentage will fall. The trend is also established in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, but the census doesn’t do a city/suburban breakout there.
A St. Paul Public Works fund is $2.3 million in the red. The Strib’s Chris Havens says lower permit fees, less county and state support and higher benefit costs are why. Selby and Payne streetscape projects will be delayed. It’s the second Public Works fund that’s experienced a crimson-ink tidal wave. It could take five years to dig one fund out.
A Whole Foods plan to come to downtown Minneapolis seems dead — or as Monty Python used to say, “restin’.” Finance and Commerce’s Burl Gilyard says developer Michael Milliken hasn’t found financing for a condo-cum-retail project on the now-shuttered Downtown Jaguar site. He says Whole Foods remains committed “long term” to the project, but the pricey grocer has slashed its new-store openings in half for 2009.
KSTP says it triggered the firing of a 35W bridge-reconstruction worker who allegedly bashed a man coming out of a gay bar. Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey reports that several men were involved in the harassment; the victim’s sister-in-law says the fired suspect was released after paying $40. A recent report showed a 135 percent increase in anti-GLBT violence in 2007, Birkey notes.
Nort spews: The Twins escape a Safeco Sweep with a 7-3 series-ending win over Seattle. Denard Span was the homer-robbing hero. Sore Loser here. Minnesota is still a game back of Chicago; today’s an off-day.