Nothing peps up a soggy holiday season like a shot of Schadenfreude, so here’s your Tom Petters moment: he asked the court for $227,268 a month in expenses, the Strib’s Jennifer Bjorhus and David Phelps report. And court-appointed receiver Doug Kelley said yes to $141,522 of it! About 90 percent of the approved dough goes for keeping up payments on Petters four houses (and a lodge!) so the court can sell them later.
More Petters: You can get a gander at the rich-‘n’-famous details (PDF) here. Petters will have to find money for prescriptions, medical expenses, life insurance payments, child support and girlfriend maintenance ($68,000 a month!) elsewhere. (Tom Petters off the meds; does he get them for free in jail? Also, does it really cost his GF $38,000 a month for Hazelden, and is that an ongoing expense?) Fox9’s Trish Van Pilsum interviews Kelley.
Recount minute: It turns out there are lots of absentee ballots rejected without reason — between 12 and 28 percent in three big counties, the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger and Jason Hoppin write. A 12-county survey shows 358 absentee votes lacked one of four legal rejection reasons; estimates of 1,000 ballots don’t seem farfetched. Remember, Norm Coleman’s lead stands at 192, pending challenges. The state Canvass Board could decide their inclusion Friday; there’s a legal opinion but the board isn’t disclosing it.
Psst … the Iraq War isn’t over. MPR’s Tim Post says 1,037 Minnesota National Guard troops will deploy to southern Iraq in the spring, overseeing coalition military operations in eight of the country’s 18 provinces. Big duty for the Red Bull infantry, only the second Guard unit given such responsibility, the Strib’s Mark Brunswick notes. Tours are expected to last a year, down from the recent 16-month deployments. The PiPress’ Tad Vezner adds that this is repeat duty for many.
Minnesota reps voted 4-3 against an auto-industry bailout bill the U.S. House approved, MPR’s Tom Scheck reports. Walz, Peterson, Bachmann and Kline said no, while Oberstar, McCollum and Ramstad were ayes. AP has an explanatory quote from Walz here. He and Peterson were two of just 20 Dems voting against. Keith Ellison was on a Muslim pilgrimage. Ellison, by the way, is encouraging Muslims to apply for government jobs, MnIndy’s Chris Steller notes.
The PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck says the sale prices of non-foreclosed homes rose about 1.5 percent from October to November; prices are down just 2 percent from a year ago. The market’s foreclosure half dragged down the overall median price, which has plunged 19 percent since November 2007. Homes haven’t been this cheap since 2001, and the Strib’s Mike Meyers says affordability is the best since 1990. However, we now have the smallest number of new listings since 2004.
Minnesota’s current deficit will tick up to nearly half a billion dollars, MPR’s Tim Pugmire reports. This is not the $5 billion 2009-10 gap. Forum Communications’ Don Davis notes local government aid is among the last unspent state dollars, but a sizable cut would cripple cities’ calendar-year budgets. Mayors hit the Capitol to plead with Gov. Pawlenty not to unallocate their aid; he warns them not to cut police and fire, even though that’s the bulk of their general fund spending.
More LGA: Mayors aren’t taking the guv’s advice. St. Paul’s Chris Coleman won’t add 14 police, the PiPress’ Dave Orrick and Mara Gottfried note. The city, which already has a big budget gap, could absorb a $28 million cut but would pay more to borrow, the Strib’s Chris Havens writes. Richfield would lay off 16 of 43 officers, and Minneapolis would forestall street repairs, the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury reports. Levy limits block some local tax hikes, but those strictures could be relaxed.
The Red Wing Republican Eagle’s Jen Cullen says tougher rules for Pawlenty’s JOBZ program could imperil Goodhue County jobs. Local officials used to have a lot of discretion in ladling out the funds; they don’t any more. New rules discourage subsidies in economically OK areas. Meanwhile, Forum Communications’ Carolyn Lange says Kandiyohi County is toddling along with a 4.7 percent unemployment rate.
Cool: Normandale Community College will waive tuition for unemployed students. The offer covers 40 to 50 unfilled classes; you have to be eligible for unemployment bennies, the PiPress’ Maricella Miranda and Strib’s Mary Lynn Smith report. Tuition is usually $150 a credit; the program begins Jan. 12. Anoka-Ramsey will cut tuition in half. Officials say there will be little new expense because the classes would happen anyway. Fox9 says if you get a job during the term, you don’t have to reimburse your school.
Bad timing: The Strib’s Jeff Strickler says St. Paul’s Sisters of the Good Shepherd will close two shelters serving 27 women. The facilities have helped 750 women since 1986 but have run deficits for five straight years. They provided up to two years of housing and myriad services; 84 percent of the women became self-reliant, the group notes. By the way, one of the shelters is in tony North Oaks.
Crap: Two- to three-men groups are blocking and robbing bikers on Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway, the Strib’s Steve Brandt and David Chanen report. One was a Strib employee. There have been at least 10 attacks in recent weeks; the criminals want your backpack, not your bike. Cops advise staying out of the trench at night, but some incidents have occured in daylight, Fox9 notes.
Minneapolis’ planned Instant Runoff Voting gets a constitutional test in a Hennepin County courtroom today, MPR’s Curtis Gilbert notes. There’s not much on the legal matter (whether reallocating choices violates one person, one vote). Critics now cite the recount who say if people can’t fill out ovals for one candidate, chaos will ensue when ranking multiple choices. Supporters, meanwhile, tout less nasty elections. (Usual disclaimer: I was an IRV activist in Minneapolis three years ago.)
Amazing fact: The Mall of America’s Underwater World, once bankrupt, is being sold, the Strib’s Jackie Crosby reports. The seller claims profits are at record highs and will announce the buyer today.
Nort spews: The Gopher men’s hoopsters went to 9-0 with a workmanlike 74-60 win over South Dakota State; the Woofies lost to Denver 116-105, surrendering a single-quarter-record 33 points to Carmelo Anthony. Britt Robson’s evaluation of the Second McHale Epoch here.