In what order do you want your grim news? Layoffs on the Iron Range? More than 1,000 cars towed in Minneapolis and St. Paul? Budget cuts to police and fire departments? Minnows too laid back to survive? Or, seven Viking fumbles?
Despite a better warning system, Minneapolis took an early-winter lead over St. Paul in towing cars, 718 to 410, according to KARE 11.
Minneapolis took the hefty lead, despite the city’s expanded warnings to city residents about snow emergencies. Not only is the city calling, e-mailing and text-messaging residents with warnings, it’s also using Facebook and MySpace to get the word out. St. Paul stopped sending out automated warnings, because the costly calls were having little impact.
The boom is suddenly busting on the Iron Range, reports the Strib’s Larry Oakes. As recently as the third quarter, the Range was booming, relatively speaking. But all that has changed in the fourth quarter with mines across the region announcing layoffs and cutbacks. “It’s like we’re on a Ferris wheel,” Sandy Layman, commissioner of Iron Range Resources, told Oakes. Ray of hope: Layman thinks the Ferris wheel may move up as fast as it’s going down.
Since 9-11, police and fire departments have been pretty much immune from cutbacks. Not any more, the Pioneer Press’s Frederick Melo reports. Across the cash-strapped metro, city officials are looking at cutting public safety budgets. From 2001 to 2006, which is the date of the most recent state auditor’s report, police and fire department budgets have increased at a far faster rate than overall municipal budgets. For example, in Maplewood, police and fire department spending increased 60 percent in that five-year period, while the rest of the city’s budget increased 14 percent.
Not surprisingly, just when more charity is needed in these hard times, fewer people can afford to give. Jean Hopfensperger reports in the Strib that charities that distribute gifts and food at the holidays are having a hard time keeping up with demand. “The children’s age limit for toys used to be 18; this year we had to drop it to 14,” said the Salvation Army’s Annette Bauer. “The value of the toy has been $25. This year, it’s $15. And we used to give $40 grocery certificates to families. Now it’s down to $10.”
Pity the mellow minnow. The Strib’s Tom Meersman reports on the findings of St. Cloud University researchers who are following what happens to fathead minnows when they’ve been exposed to antidepressants. They may slow down, just a bit, and in nature that can mean the difference between eating lunch and being lunch. Drug residues of all sorts are passing through our bodies and into our lakes and rivers. Thus, the research.
Want to take the train home for the holidays? The supply of passenger rail service isn’t meeting the demand, according to Minnesota Public Radio’s Dan Olson. “We have not had a significant increase in fleet size since the ’90s,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells Olson. “There simply aren’t enough cars to meet all the demands all the times.” A host of arcane rules and regulations make expansion difficult. By the way, the Empire Builder, which carries passengers from Chicago to St. Paul to the West Coast, is the nation’s most popular overnight train in the country.
No Glean can be complete without a report on the Senate recount. Today’s report also adds the weather, the holidays and a need for charity to the mix. Fox 9 has video of Sen. Norm Coleman lighting the state’s Menorah at the Capitol Sunday evening. “The numbers look good to us. Certainly, there’s uncertainty, but I’m not worried about it. I’ve done everything I can do,” he said. The senator was hatless at the outdoor ceremony and looked very cold. Perhaps one of his friends can spring for a cap with earflaps.
On the sporting front, Vikings faithful proved again to be fair-weather fans in the midst of winter storms. After fumbling seven times — they lost four of the drops — in a 24-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, they again were calling for the firing of Brad Childress, according to the Strib’s Patrick Reusse. Now, Minnesotans find themselves cheering for the usually-hated Green Bay Packers. IF the Packers can defeat the Bears tonight in Chicago, the Vikings will still be champions of the less-than-prestigious North Division. Otherwise, it all comes down to the final weekend of the season, when the Vikes play at home against the New York Giants, while the Bears travel to Houston. Meantime, there was joy in Atlanta, which clinched a playoff spot.