Say what you will about the Strib’s financial struggles, but journalistically, they can still swarm a story. Case in point: today’s Tom Petters coverage. Begin with David Phelps’ bail-hearing revelations of Petters’ wretchitude — an end-gamed Petters saying he’d “just rather gamble, drink and die.” Petters also begs to be let go because he has “two little children” with a woman the PiPress’ John Welbes notes is in Hazelden. (Welbes has great details, too.)
Then there’s Jon Tevlin — who you never really want on your tail — with a fascinating portrait of alleged accomplice Michael Catain, the child of a Ponzi Schemer and apparently no Mr. Nice Guy. Tevlin’s backstory has lots of goodies: the 8,000-square-foot Minnetonka pad; the Costa Rican retreat. Then there’s the police report (PDF) detailing terroristic threats — political junkies should note Catain’s threat to bring in Mike Hatch, to whom he donated. (Absolutely no evidence Hatch was ever involved.)
Another poll shows Al Franken with a U.S. Senate lead. The MPR/Humphrey Institute survey gives Franken a 4-point advantage, attributed directly to the financial meltdown. Like Tuesday’s presidential poll, this one is a two-parter: Pre-bailout results gave Norm Coleman a 9-point edge; the 13-point Franken swing came after. Dean Barkley clocked in at 14 percent. No partisan breakdown — too few details here (PDF) — and a sampling-error margin of plus/minus 5 percent.
By the way, we’ve all seen the National Republican ad where Franken is raving like a lunatic. Ever wondered what that was about? KARE’s John Croman says there was no raving at all: It’s Franken’s homage to Paul Wellstone. Franken is doing his impression of Wellstone’s over-the-top encouragement to his cross-country-running son. Next time you see the ad, watch Franken’s lips: he’s saying “You can take this guy, you can take him!” Coleman says he’s powerless to stop the commercial because it’s an independent buy.
Politics in Minnesota’s Sarah Janecek says KSTP’s Tom Hauser was bounced from the moderator’s chair three hours before last weekend’s U.S. Senate debate. Janecek suspects Al Franken’s campaign; Hauser’s uber-Republican employer Stanley Hubbard is the speculative problem. KSTP alleges Franken scotched an earlier Channel 5 debate; Franken denied that and notes he appeared on the station’s DFL endorsement forum. Franken spokesfolk didn’t respond to the most recent problem. The omnipartisan Debate Minnesota organizers could house the culprit.
The Rammer puts the hammer down. You knew this was coming: moderate GOP icon Jim Ramstad coming to the aid of protégé and possible successor Erik Paulsen. MPR’s Curtis Gilbert says Ramstad lit into the national Democrats’ lousy “Vegas” attack ad, asking endorsee Ashwin Madia to condemn it; Madia did. Did anyone ask Ramstad if he condemns Paulsen surrogates using code words to attack Madia’s ethnicity and bachelorhood?
The Strib’s Bob Von Sternberg localizes last night’s presidential debate by talking to five Minnesota undecideds. The fun part is that two have pretty colorful Sarah Palin rips: One says, “I’m not ready to vote for Gomer Pyle as vice president,” while the other especially opposes “that woman with her Daisy Mae aw-shucks thing.” Ah, the “kinda mainstream media!”
For the first time, Minnesota declares a feedlot a public health hazard. The Strib’s Tom Meersman writes that the 1,525-cow facility near Thief River Falls exceeded hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg) standards 300 times. The dairy owners say those levels are too strict, but constant low-level exposure can lead to “memory problems, dizziness [and] fatigue and loss of appetite.” The problem started when a pit was excavated for a groundwater check; the dairy has refused to make certain improvements.
The suddenly fascinating world of grain prices has been less so in recent weeks, but the PiPress’ Tom Webb remains on the case. Update: Prices are back to (pardon the pun) earth. Corn and soybeans are down 50 percent since June, and spring wheat is down 70 percent since February. Sorta like the stock market. It’s Minnesota’s “last booming sector,” but man, are livestock producers happy. Is ethanol back?
Minneapolis will divert $5 milllion from an ancient federal grant for a planetarium endowment, the Strib’s Steve Brandt reports. The nest egg throws off $150,000 to $250,000 a year, but that’s not quite enough for Hennepin County overlords. They want more; the city isn’t budging. Is the $5 mil the highest and best use for the money in tough times? (Well, maybe the highest.) Also needed: more state money — beyond the $22 million in bonding authority already passed. Good luck with that.
Related: The Detroit-based Kresge Foundation — headed by ex-McKnight boss Rip Rapson — will fork over $1.5 million for the Shubert Theater near the planetarium, the Strib’s Graydon Royce notes. The catch is dancehall supporters won’t get the cash until they raise the remaining $6.5 million for the $41 million project. They have until the end of 2009. Good luck with that.
The credit crunch forced the state to cancel a $100 million offering for — irony moment — affordable housing mortgage assistance. Finance and Commerce’s Charley Shaw quotes an agency leader saying it’s unfortunate because there are a lot of cheap properties to buy right now.
Scared by the new 35W bridge’s low-seeming outer rails? Don’t be, says WCCO’s Darcy Pohland; they’re regulation height, but appear lower because they’re not solid concrete. Not solid? Not reassuring! The point is people are freaking because they can see down to the river, but that’s the point of the openness.
Today’s animal story: MPR’s Bob Collins passes along the heartrending tale of a Minneapolis Army sergeant who won’t be allowed to bring her adopted pooch back from Iraq. According to the SPCA, “These dogs and cats become [soldiers’] lifeline — saving them from deep depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.” Collins notes the dog will probably come stateside, given the attention from a British newspaper report.
Nort spews: I have to admit, I’ve read my share of Roller Girls tributes over the years, but I thoroughly enjoyed Beth Walton’s take in City Pages. The self-described “klutz” tried out to be a Girl, and heartfelt hilarity and enormous, spreading bruises result.