Fox9’s Tom Lyden reports the circumstantial bombshell that Norm Coleman had a home remodeling project go $86,000 over budget just as Nasser Kazeminy allegedly tried to convey $100,000 to Norm’s wife through her employer. Coleman’s office provided an accounting of the $414,000 project that showed a supporter who coordinated the deal was paid $33,000. The senator remortgaged his home for $775,000 and admits he owes more than it’s now worth, but otherwise wouldn’t comment.
More Norm home: There are two suits but no proof Kazeminy tried to get the money to Coleman; no proof Coleman knew or profited from that scheme if it existed, and no evidence that anything illegal happened with the home project. Still, that’s a big mortgage for a guy making $180,000, whose wife has a part-time job, and whose retirement/investment accounts are under $600,000.
Recount-wise, the state Canvass Board today takes up the question of whether to count absentee ballots rejected without reason before the election is certified. Improperly spurned voters would have to sue for inclusion if the board says no. MPR’s Mark Zdechlik gets a great foreshadowing quote from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie: “We can’t just say, ‘Well, tough luck, soldier. Go get yourself a lawyer and sue us.’ That’s just not a Minnesota-type answer.”
Oh, how things have changed at 425 Portland. Strib editorialists say the state should consider privatizing the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and lottery, but the financial due diligence can’t happen quickly enough to solve the current crisis. Republicans have proposed both selling-the-seed-corn fixes. Meanwhile, PiPress editorialists cogently explain the state’s soaring health care bill is caused by covering the neediest, and cutting in tough times will be surprisingly hard. MinnesotaCare and state employee heath costs aren’t the problem.
The PiPress’ Emily Gurnon and Nicole Garrison-Sprenger note a Lino Lakes bank has sued Denny Hecker for defaulting on a $1.1 million loan due Dec. 1. The bank itself has been no prize; its principals were sued in a $1.3 billion Ramsey Town Center failure.
The PiPress’ Bill Salisbury says Gov. Pawlenty will, as expected, drain the state’s $155 million rainy day fund to close a half-billion current budget deficit. That’s the first step to Pawlenty unilaterally unallocating currently budgeted spending. He says he wants to work out a deal with legislators, but don’t bet on it. DFL senators have proposed an across-the-board 1.6 percent cut, while Pawlenty seems bent on local-government aid.
Of course, when the guv gets back from Israel, he may have great fun with the city of Minneapolis spending $5.3 million for a Target Center green roof. The Strib’s Steve Brandt writes that the roof becomes cost-effective in 20 years — four years after the Timberwolves’ lease is up. The roof is designed to last 40 years, but aside from Williams Arena, no bigtime sports facility here has seen the 60 birthdays Target Center would celebrate when the next replacement is needed.
Meanwhile, Brandt adds that Minneapolis city leaders agreed on a modified hiring freeze, 8 percent pension-paying property-tax hike and infrastructure investments roughly equivalent to the roof’s cost. Paying off Target Center’s considerable debt is likely to get more future funds than neighborhood or economic development. Expect significant alterations in the plan when the LGA whip comes down. MPR’s Brandt Williams details how the freeze works.
Edina opts to remain cake-ish in a new low-density, not-very-affordable zoning plan, the Strib’s Mary Jane Smetanka writes.
Starting today, smartphone users can board Delta and Northwest flights with electronic passes, the Strib’s Liz Fedor notes.
In a piece on struggling car local dealers — who may be struggling a lot more with the Senate nixing an automaker bailout — the Strib’s H.J. Cummins reports $6,000 to $10,000 local discounts on 2008 trucks and minivans. Cash is king.
The PiPress’ John Brewer says Twin Cities Public Television is dumping its 24-hour “TPT Kids” cable channel but will add two hours of video-pacifier programming on Channel 2. (In our house, we refer to TV as “putting the kids on pause.”) The channel will be rebranded “TPT Life,” which will carry “do-it-yourself, cooking and travel shows.” That fills a real programming hole.
Remember the strip club owner who hid income by installing his own ATM? The PiPress’ David Hanners gives the deepest explanation of how the scam worked — plus news that a well-timed guilty plea let the dude get a re-upped liquor license. The Strib’s James Walsh similarly probes the scam.
Both papers chortle over a St. Paul suspect whose attempt to hide his identity from police was undone by neck tattoo with his real last name. The PiPress’ Mara Gottfried also reports on how a downtown St. Paul online crime-alert network helped catch a restaurant burglar. And police trapped and shot a car-ramming thief in a Minneapolis ramp, KARE notes. It was part of a sting to catch serial robbers.
Nort spews: The Wild lost their third in a row, this time at Phoenix, 3-1. They’re barely above playoff level now. The Williams Wall will remain in place through the season as a judge postpones his ruling into the holidays. And as bad as the economy seems, we live in a world where Nick Punto can get a two-year, $8.5 million Twins contract.