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Daily Glean: The fall of the House of Hecker

Denny Hecker’s auto empire could be in Chapter 11 as soon as today, the Strib’s Dee DePass reports. The PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger has a clear-as-a-bell timeline. Hecker leaned heavily on Chrysler financing to stock his lots with rival makers’ vehicles. When venture capitalists bought Chrysler, they cooled on financing the competiton, including Hecker’s Advantage Rent-A-Car. The resulting credit crunch threatens 18 dealerships and 1,200 employees. Hecker is suing over the changed terms but the message is: overleverage kills.

Details of the feds’ 35W Bridge report, which has been leaking out for what seems like weeks, formally came out in a hearing yesterday. The PiPress’ Jason Hoppin says it was a 40-year-old design flaw, exacerbated by weight from redecking and other improvements. Summer heat and rush hour traffic are other possible factors, but not maintenance. Plaintiff’s lawyers say government still should’ve known about the weakness, and some NTSB members agree, the Strib’s Kevin Diaz notes.


Bad portent for the Franken folks: Pre-recount precinct audits are coming in and showing little or no gain for the Democrat. It’s a meaningful tea leaf because ballot boxes are opened, just as in the recount. Strib’s Pat Lopez says Franken picked up one vote in 196 precincts, which translates into 21 statewide. Not enough when you’re down 206. The Uptake disputes the Strib’s math, saying Franken had no gain. This may explain why Democrats are plumbing disallowed absentee votes.

Bad behavior by the Franken folks: Don’t use an anecdote to make your point about absentee ballots without confirming it first. MPR’s Mark Zdechlik calls “false” on the Democrat’s story about an 84-year-old’s vote being disallowed because her post-stroke signature changed. Franken forces acknowledged the error quickly, and say the ballots should still be evaluated, but that sound you hear is their bus careening off the high road.

As for those ballots, the PiPress’ Dave Orrick notes records of who voted absentee are public, but a Ramsey County lawyer says the rejected absentee information is private. Franken forces will go to court to get the info, but Secretary of State Ritchie says it won’t affect the recount. The Coleman camp paints a picture of Democrats knocking on doors for cherrypicked votes, upending the secret ballot. Still, the Republican’s campaign sought basic data on absentee acceptances and rejections.

Score one for Franken: His camp said Coleman’s late-campaign unfair-practices complaint was a stunt, and a judge threw it out yesterday, AP reports.

Sigh. In a highlighted text box accompanying its lead editorial, the Strib specifically calls out Ritchie for telling MSNBC that the Coleman forces want to win the recount “at any price,” but not Gov. Pawlenty for enabling the “car-ballot” fiction. Unfair and imbalanced. To be fair, the main editorial says Ritchie “deserves a nod of confidence” heading into the recount.

Nicely detailed report from the Lake County News-Chronicle’s Karin Smith on how Al Franken picked up 246 votes there. Another tallying error: a missing last digit sent to the secretary of state’s website originally put Franken’s error at 27, not 273. Conspiracy nuts take note: if Franken really had received 27 votes, he would’ve had about 50 fewer than Dean Barkley. The correct results are also within statewide Obama-Franken ratios.

MPR’s Laura Yuen gets documents showing disagreements between cops and the sheriff over Republican National Convention policing. Short version: Sheriff Bob Fletcher wanted a bigger force and non-riot cops on parade routes. He argues much of the egregious pepper spraying was due to riot cops following orders to keep the crowd moving; uniformed officers would’ve just arrested those who disobeyed orders. Meanwhile, the cops say Fletcher overhyped the anarchist threat. They also resisted the sheriff’s call for a massive holding pen.

Related: The PiPress’ Mara Gottfried says citizens alleging RNC police brutality are having a tough time getting the copious video of various incidents. St. Paul’s city attorney says the 6,000 hours of footage will be doled out according as criminal-procedure and data-practices rules demand. The Strib’s Anthony Lonetree adds that a public archive will be assembled, but the city hasn’t even started catalouging video yet.

The legislative fight over pulling Northwest’s legacy tax breaks is on. Now that Delta owns NWA, House Tax Chair Ann Lenczewski tells MPR’s Tim Pugmire the hometown discount probably isn’t warranted. But the PiPress’ John Welbes says Delta is still promising higher local employment for a renegotiated debt deal, even though the current deal proved we really have no leverage to keep things like headquarters. The Strib’s Liz Fedor lists Delta’s carrots/blackmail, which include regional-carrier executive slots.

KSTP’s Kristi Piehl goes after charter schools, and the state’s management of them. Teachers need state licenses, but Piehl says at least 50 charter instructors lack them. In at least one case, a noncomplying school is sponsored by the state education department — which is in charge of monitoring licenses. The department admits failure, and says it’s getting out of the sponsoring business. Noted charter expert Joe Nathan says law changes are needed.

Great read I: The PiPress’ Debra O’Connor on “that armed guy in the produce aisle.” Pellet-gun sharpshooters prowl grocery stores to kill birds that get in through delivery doors and lodge in rafters. They’re basically winged vermin, and state law demands their death.

Great read II: PiPresser John Brewer’s incomparable gas station deli story. The menu features the Gangster Burger, a one-of-a-kind sandwich a brave man ordered recently: two half-pound hamburgers, three six-ounce steaks, a half-pound of gyro meat and a half-pound of Italian beef, topped with six slices of cheese.” Urp.

The Strib’s Chris Riemenschneider has a thoughtful piece about how the new habitat/arts sales tax can help the local music scene. Micro-grants, more underage shows and musician healthcare assistance are the top three of eight ideas. The PiPress’ Dominic Papatola and Strib’s Graydon Royce each detail $7 million in non-amendment grants to help many local arts groups build audiences.

Business leaders and Minneapolis City Hall are fighting over improved bus shelters and other downtown amenities, the Business Journal’s Sam Black reports.

Nort spews: The Wild shut out Phoenix 4-0; is it really the Niklas Backstrom’s eight straight win over Wayne Gretzky’s Coyotes?

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 11/14/2008 - 10:30 am.

    With respect to the “pellet-gun sharpshooters,” this gives new meaning to the phrase, “Clean-up in aisle 6 please.” 🙂

  2. Submitted by B Maginnis on 11/14/2008 - 01:32 pm.

    Why the anti-business slant on Hecker?

    The guy is an entrepreneur, and a fairly large employer.

    Can you contain your glee a bit better?

  3. Submitted by David Brauer on 11/14/2008 - 02:47 pm.

    BD –

    Not sure where you get glee from in what I wrote. It’s bad news, and sometimes people get mad when they read things they don’t like.

  4. Submitted by John N. Finn on 11/15/2008 - 06:10 am.

    Quoting from a Wall Street Journal article about the General Motors bailout negotiations: “On average, auto dealerships employ 7.3% of a typical state’s payroll, and 740,000 dealership jobs nationwide come from the Big Three makers. GM’s 6,000-plus dealers employ about 325,000 of those people, according to estimates from the National Automotive Dealer Association.”

    I wonder if that 7.3% figure is true. Either there would be a lot of salespersons and mechanics, or they would have to be paid more than you would think.

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