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Daily Glean: Judging the recount judges

Balancing partisan with partisans. Also, a ‘welcome’ probe. And: cops versus cops.

Four judges were named to the state’s recount board, where they will join Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. The DFLer is more than balanced by Pawlenty-appointed state chief justice, Eric Magnuson, along with former GOP Party lawyer and current Supreme G. Barry Anderson. Two Ramsey County judges, one elected and one Ventura-appointed, round out the roster. AP’s Martiga Lohn has the thumbnails. The PiPress editorialists laud the panel’s balance and quality.

The PiPress’ Jim Ragsdale has a must-read recount column that accomplishes two things. First, it eschews false balance: “The Coleman campaign, while promising to ‘work together to get things done,’ has dished most of the dirt, suggesting that normal bounces in the unofficial results are evidence of vote-tampering or worse.” Second, and in historical detail, Rags reminds us of all the ways Minnesota isn’t, and won’t be, Florida.

Forum Communications’ Don Davis says the Franken campaign crabbed about “partisan Republicans.” However, MPR’s Tom Scheck provides fuller context: The DFLers gave more consideration to Magnuson and Anderson than Republicans do to Ritchie, noting “We’re going to hope that even though they’ve got these partisan affiliations, that these two justices are capable of interpreting those laws correctly and ruling with fairness on matters related to the recount.”

The invaluable Uptake has video of Ritchie’s press conference, where he responds to questions about his fairness. Coleman lawyer Fritz Knaak is here.

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Four 35W bridge victims are suing; their targets are a consultant and the construction company that was re-decking the structure, the PiPress’ Tad Vezner writes. The suit blames consultants URS for not factoring in a buckled gusset plate. The construction firm may get some cover from a National Transportation Safety Board report that says no one knew excessive weight would collapse the thing.

Then again on bridge liability: MPR’s Sea Stachura says “NTSB investigators determined that bridge engineers and inspectors did not have a system in place to double-check that all factors and safety features of the bridge were sound.” Forum Communications’ Scott Wente writes that a key DFL legislator praised MnDOT’s revamped bridge inspection program.

Like the return of a long-lost pal, Norm Coleman “welcomes” a federal DonorGate probe. Well, OK, not exactly like that, but the PiPress’ Dave Orrick notes Coleman issued the statement after lefties Alliance for a Better Minnesota filed FBI and Senate Ethics Committee complaints. Coleman has adamantly denied involvement; in the Strib, he questions the lefties’ motivations; AP has him calling the affair “extortion.” The campaign said no federal investigators have approached Coleman or his staff.

Related: MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki says Dave Durenberger is defending Coleman, likening the “political allegations” to those the ex-senator faced in 1990. But Durenberger was unanimously denounced by the Senate for financial improprieties, found guilty of misuse of public funds in office, and disbarred. He’s been a fabulous public citizen since, but the legal outcome isn’t one Coleman wants to duplicate. Still, there are only allegations, no evidence, linking Coleman to the current controversy.

Nonprofits will get first dibs on buying “strategic” foreclosed properties in Minneapolis and St. Paul under a deal with four lenders, the Strib’s Steve Brandt writes. Call it socialism with a Realtor face, or just a rejection of a market that hasn’t worked well anyway. Two nonprofits “will offer properties to the two cities, other nonprofit developers working within their borders, and private developers with a track record.”

By the way, Twin Cities median home prices have returned to April 2002 levels, the PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck reports.

Yikes: In part two of his fisking of the U’s pediatric heart transplant program, KARE’s Rick Kupchella tells the tale of a boy who was needlessly hospitalized, only to have his transplant eligibility downgraded to save a surgeon’s vacation. The U admits it, and ethicist Arthur Kaplan calls it unethical.

A Strib editorial recommends giving Delta what it wants on renegotiated airport debt because it doesn’t matter anyway. A forced payback of $245 million for moving the headquarters won’t produce a windfall for the state, only bondholders. To be fair, the editorial holds out some hope we can get “a stronger Delta presence,” but economics seems to trump agreements in these deals. The Strib’s Liz Fedor says the airline plans to add local flights to Atlanta and New York in January.

MPR’s Chris Roberts says the smoking ban is killing bars. Membership in the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association is down 25 percent. Money quote: “All the anti-smoking folks had said, you know, you get smoking out of your facilities and we’ll come in droves. Well, those droves didn’t come out.” Pro-banners blame the bad economy.

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The PiPress’ David Hanners says 23 Minneapolis cops could testify for ex-Viking Carl Eller — who is accused of assaulting other Minneapolis cops (and, the Strib’s Rochelle Olson notes, threatening to kill them). That oughta make for a fun union meeting. Bud Grant and Murray Warmath are also on a potential witness list for the Dec. 29 trial. It helps to be a star.

Coincidentally, the U wants to sell liquor in its new football stadium, MPR’s Tim Post reports. But it’s sort of an Upper Deck/Lower Deck kind of thing: only in the private suites. Everyone else would have to make do with water and soda. Shocker: Students think this bites. But they can’t drink in any other U venue.

From the Business Journal: Another union drive at a Starbucks, this one at a Franklin Avenue outlet plagued by safety problems.

Brasa might open on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, the PiPress’ Nancy Ngo reports. The Northeast location is one of MinnPost’s company cafeterias. (No, I don’t get discounts for this mention.)

Fun arts piece from MPR’s Euan Kerr, about a 1930s heiress whose singing was so bad she attracted big crowds. Kerr cleverly frames his subject as the Sanjaya of her day. The paradox is the subject of a new Jungle Theater play.

A Fox9 reminder: Do not rob a bank and escape on a bus.