It is, as Bill Murray once noted, “dogs and cats living together”: the Coleman and Franken camps sitting down to reduce their ridiculous recount challenges. The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba says Franken forces will unilaterally pare while Colemanistas pledge a meeting. Reality Check: The challenge pool spiked Monday — at 5,900 ballots, more than even hysterics predicted. With 91 percent of the vote recounted, could we hit 8,000? The PiPress’ Jason Hoppin notes 874 challenges in a single GOP county, Sherburne.
The lead: Coleman’s advantage grew by 52 votes, to 344; he challenged 35 more ballots than Franken Monday, and nearly 200 more ballots overall. The Franken camp claims their deficit is just 73, causing howls of derision from the Coleman camp, Kaszuba reports. Democrats also peg rejected absentee ballot numbers at 9,000, with some counties still out; a thousand might be valid (though no one really knows).
Outlying precincts: Forum Communications’ Scott Wente notes “two heavily Republican Twin Cities-area counties have yet to begin their recounts.” Meanwhile, Ramsey County’s tallying finishes today. MPR’s Mark Zdechlik has a nice look at the “missing ballots” question; some precinct totals are coming in a dozen or more votes less than Election Day. County officials admit they don’t know why, and Franken’s lawyer says there are too many for explanations such as jamming.
I think the Michele Bachmann for Governor campaign will begin any moment; that’s my takeaway from news that the state may lose a seat in post-2010 redistricting. I suspect leaders will find a way for the GOP’s loose cannon to be left standing in congressional musical chairs. The Strib’s Mark Brunswick theorizes Bachmann’s 6th could be parceled among Collin Peterson’s 7th or Jim Oberstar’s 8th. The PiPress’ Bill Salisbury notes we’re on the cusp of keeping what we have; “It’s at least as close as the Minnesota Senate race,” says the state demographer of the population-based calculation.
More redistricting: But why should fast-growing ‘burbs lose a rep? (The PiPress has the best chart of the disparity.) Another fun prospect: Keith Ellison versus Betty McCollum in the central cities. Any of this won’t happen until the 2012 elections. Bachmann v. Klobuchar that year?
It almost feels like an anticlimax, but Tom Petters was indicted on 20 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, the Strib’s Jennifer Bjorhus and David Phelps report. Petters will plead not guilty, his lawyer says, and notes the indictment (which replaces an earlier criminal complaint) gives the defense a chance to see the evidence. The PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger breaks down possible jail time thusly: 11 counts carry 20-year terms, eight carry 10-year sentences and one checks in at a mere five years. In other words, Petters could be looking at life.
The Strib’s vittles series continues with Chris Serres’ engaging look at shifty shrinking food packaging. Foil packages lose an ounce, underside indents in peanut butter jars expand; overall, three in 10 food packages have lost volume this year. Consumers rarely notice. Some trimming has a laudable purpose; Serres says packaging can account for 75 percent (!) of a product’s cost. But companies also add snappy packaging features to hide higher ounce-for-ounce costs.
Great sign-of-the-times story: The economic slump hits day care. MPR’s Jessica Mador says phones aren’t ringing, and one provider’s income as dropped $20,000. The reports are anecdotal — I’m sure there are parents unable to find infant care who are screaming right now — but it’s a phenomenon to watch if centers close their doors. Costs rose 5 percent this year, by the way.
Torching the test? The Strib’s Emily Johns says a new high-stakes 11th-grade math test is so tough that state leaders might get rid of it. Though the must-pass-to-graduate rule doesn’t switch on until 2010, just one-third of juniors did well enough last spring. The state Education Department head says legislators must make a decision soon because they’re designing education standards. One proposal would lower the stakes for 2010 and 2011, or substitute “end-of-course” proficiency exams.
WCCO’s Caroline Lowe takes an inside look at St. Paul’s new “cold case” initiative pairing retired officers with 100 unsolved crimes. The investigators will work as civilians, funded by a $250,000 grant, hoping that DNA evidence might exist to solve the murders. “You always remember the ones that weren’t solved,” says one ex-flatfoot. The police union is challenging the deployment of ex-members. More links here.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak proposed what the Strib’s Steve Brandt calls “a freeze in external hiring.” The city is bracing for tens of millions of dollars in reduced state aid and local sales taxes. Rybak argues the city is better prepared for this downturn than the 2002 slump because it has paid down debt. But this slump will be worse, and longer, and the city’s investment-based pension funds will be hit harder.
Ex-Minnesota Independent writer Molly Priesmeyer stays on the housing beat, vetting Minneapolis’ new demolition-heavy initiative for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Preservationists argue rehab is “greener,” and Priesmeyer reviews details that suggest affordability standards for the program are vague or high. No city officials are quoted outside of press releases, however.
When I first saw the news that downtown St. Paul would be getting a new Lunds in a new upscale housing development, I checked to make sure the dateline wasn’t two years old. Finance and Commerce’s Burl Gilyard reports construction of The Penfield will begin next fall, set to open in 2011. It will be apartments, not condos. MPR’s Bob Collins notes signs on the site still promise condos in 2007.
More Lunds: The PiPress’ Gita Sitaramiah says downtown St. Paul’s population is only 5,700, compared with Minneapolis’ 30,000. The Strib’s Susan Feyder says the Capital City has 14,000 downtown residents. By the way, Lunds’ promised downtown grocery in the Mill City still hasn’t happened several years after it was announced.
I missed the St. Cloud Times report Monday on legislative compensation, but an editorial today says it must change. The edit takes a poke at per diems that often exceed legislative salaries (which are low; $31,140). “Replace their daily per diems with reimbursement for actual expenses — receipts provided, of course,” says the paper. I wonder how much the accountants would cost taxpayers.
Nort spews: It was Loserville Monday as the Wild fell to Colorado 6-5 and the Wolves lost at Charlotte 100-90. But we have the first-place Vikes, at least until the Williams Wall gets suspended today. The PiPress’ Charley Walters says Zygi Wilf is trying to convince legislators a new football palace should be part of a state economic stimulus plan. They’re going with the “best stadium at the lowest cost” mantra, though it’s still nearly a billion with no taxing method identified.