Norm Coleman is winning the recount PR war, according to a KSTP survey analyzed by Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller. Respondents approve of Coleman’s recount handling 51-40 percent while disapproving of Franken’s 44-48. It helps to have a lead. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie gets smashing reviews (61-28 approve), absentee ballots should be reviewed (58-39 for), and legal challenges stink (40-55 against). For second-guessers, the “race” remains a dead heat: 41 percent Coleman, 40 Franken, 15 Barkley.
More Senate: The Strib’s Kevin Diaz looks at the role the winner will play in the Senate. There’s not much new here; everyone admits they have no clue what Chameleon Coleman will do, and Franken’s influence depends on Republicans holding together. However, there is at least one interesting fact: Coleman would be the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is way higher than I’d have guessed. Diaz also makes the case Coleman will be more progressive on health care.
Aping a national trend, Minnesota gun-sellers are exploiting Barack Obama, the Strib’s Jon Tevlin finds. Conceal-carry activists note Obama’s past with the “antigun” Joyce Foundation, and even though the president-elect has no gun-control position papers, fear bans and confiscations. Cooler heads note Obama has bigger things to worry about; anything that stimulates economic activity may be welcome at this point.
Via KARE, USA Today reports that four Minnesota schools are in areas with “toxic” air quality: Eden Prairie’s International School, Minneapolis’ Shelters School and two St. Paul Park buildings: Oltman Junior High and St. Andrew Lutheran School. The paper created an ambient-air-quality database “modeled on information reported to the government by 20,000 industrial plants.”
Just in time for economic collapse, The Strib’s Jean Hopfensberger looks at state welfare 10 years after reform. Numbers have fallen (from 150K to 99,000 now), as have working program participants’ wages (from $1,125 a month to $830, inflation-adjusted). Meanwhile, only 6 percent ever hit the five-year time limit. Recipients get too little real training and “one of the surprises of the past decade was uncovering the health, mental health, domestic violence and other serious problems facing many families on assistance.”
More welfare: Hopfensberger also notes “a parent’s ability to find a job is very dependent on the job market and their particular skills.” But Strib columnist Katherine Kersten profiles a college kid who spent a year turning $25 in his pocket into “a car, an apartment and a $2,500 bank account.” He hid his education but doesn’t sound like he had any of the other encumbrances (kids, health problems, skills, divorce, race) that many struggling Americans face.
As if financial calamity isn’t enough, Augsburg professors say renewed sunspot activity “could take down electrical power grids and disrupt airline radio communications and routes over the poles.” The Strib’s Bill McAuliffe profiles the researchers, who argue for preparedness; a 1989 event took out Quebec’s electrical grid. A Duluth-based consultant has gone further, he “has stocked up on canned goods, water and batteries.” I’ll just re-use my Y2K supplies.
The PiPress’ Dennis Lien reports on St. Paul’s buckthorn-to-energy program. A $500,000 state grant kills two metaphorical birds: the weedy European pest is pulled and ground into chips for the city’s district energy plant. Other invasive shrubs are also involved. The grant runs out next summer, so this good idea might not continue. But the effort is large enough to keep the virulent greenery away longer.
MPR’s Laura Yuen follows St. Paul inspectors as they prowl for squatters in the Capital City’s myriad foreclosed buildings. Apparently the hunt happens one night a week, maybe 10 or so structures at a time. Inspectors insist they rarely evict on the spot. Some are renters being swindled, but “at least half” are former owners living illegally. The state has 20,000 foreclosures, by the way.
MnDOT hired a bunch of “disadvantaged” contractors for the 35W Bridge rebuild, MPR’s Dan Olson reports. Women- or minority-owned companies received about $33 million of $233 million spent. That 14 percent topped the 10 percent goal. As for actual workers, it sounds like 15 percent of the bridge builders were minorities, above the 11 percent goal, while women made up 3 percent of the workforce, half of the 6 percent target. Remember, these are goals, not quotas!
KARE’s Janel Klein says local ski resorts are seeing booming business: Buck Hill is up 5 percent and Lutsen is up 20 percent. Better weather and cheaper tickets are helping. “We’re really perplexed,” admits Buck Hill’s general manager.
Back away … slowly … from the … development plans. I’ll admit, my mind is blown by a proposal to turn the former downtown Minneapolis Shinder’s space into an office-restaurant complex. Do we really need more of either? The Strib’s Susan Feyder breaks down the deal.
In full meltdown mode, the Timberwolves are on the verge of firing coach Randy Wittman, ESPN.com reports. Owner Glen Taylor reportedly wants his draft-day savant, Kevin McHale, to take over. It would save a salary, I guess. The other option is general manager Jim Stack, a McHale co-conspirator. Feeling inspired yet?
Other nort spews: The Williams Wall stops Duante Culpepper, and Tavaris Jackson does his best Joe Nathan impression as the Vikes edge Detroit 20-16. Up next: two division champs (Arizona and the New York Giants) and a possible playoff team (Atlanta).