Let’s start the morning with a little insanity: Subsidize more retail space! Because there are so few vacancies out there right now! The Strib’s Susan Feyder says the Mall of America is “considering” a toned-down expansion plan — just 3 million of the planned 5.6 million square feet by 2013. The Legislature authorized Bloomington to subsidize this if it wants, and city officials are considering it. I feel like Alice in the Looking Glass. This retail retrenchment, at least on the building side, is long-term, folks.
Abandon hope, all ye who watch the U.S. Senate election contest, which formally begins today! MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki notes at one point, Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg will place 400-page binders of rejected ballots before the judges. Via WCCO’s Dennis Douda, Friedberg likens himself to a “trained monkey” when rotely introducing 12,000 ballots’ worth of evidence. One of the three judges tells the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger it’s a “deluge” of paper.
Related: The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere provides thumbnails of the contest judges. The Perpich appointee is an ex-social worker, the Carlson pick is a highly rated ex-prosecutor, and the Ventura choice is an ex-personal injury lawyer and hockey dad. Franken’s lawyer predicts a speedy narrowing of issues, and one legal expert says there will be fireworks early until the court exerts authority. Coleman shoulders the burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence. (MinnPost preview here.)
KSTP’s Kristi Piehl suggests a contractor hired to educate at-risk kids ripped off public school funds. Overall, a company called CTC received $2.8 million over four years; CTC’s director got untold thousands for, among other things, copying curriculum plans off the Internet. Piehl says the Minneapolis district knew and did little; the man’s wife works in district administration. District officials won’t talk. There will be laws, a legislator declares. One hanging question: Did the kids get educated?
Gov. Pawlenty’s embattled JOBZ program hits another pothole; AP’s Martiga Lohn reports many subsidized employers won’t meet job-creation goals. Thus, they’d have to pay back the funds amid recessionary struggles. Studies have questioned the program’s effectiveness, and the Legislature yanked the administration’s ability to grant extensions. DFLer Tom Bakk, a gubernatorial hopeful, says JOBZ businesses were struggling even before the downturn. Alternatively, MPR’s Tom Scheck says there’s support for lowering the corporate tax rate statewide.
Schools are bypassing voters and levying property taxes to pay off retiree benefits, the PiPress’ Megan Boldt and Marciella Miranda write. The money goes to a special state-OK’d “trust fund” that spares operating budgets. Back in the day, school districts and local government compensated for low pay with lifetime retiree benefits, but only a quarter of them put away money to pay the obligations. The cost is $34 a home in one district, but likely higher in places with powerful unions and more generous benefits.
High times for charitable gambling are over. The St. Cloud Times’ Kristi Marohn reports organizations there have seen profit declines of up to 80 percent; there’s a good database if you want to check your faves. Fox9’s Renee Banot says Bloomington and Richfield sports are getting dinged by declines at the local Knights of Columbus.
The Strib’s Warren Wolfe chronicles seniors who are “houselocked” by low real estate prices. They can’t downsize to senior housing because the market is so crappy. Therefore, octogenarians do things like install chair lifts instead of selling. Also, battered portfolios have forced some to take their impaired spouses out of assisted living. Senior complexes are offering incentives but, for now, can’t match the residential price declines.
Drivers are slip-sliding along local roads because endless nuisance snows have forced cities to cut back on road salting, the Strib’s Joy Powell writes. Sodium chloride stocks are down and prices are up; the alternative is doing nothing, or laying down a sand mixture that’s expensive to vacuum out of sewer drains come spring. Next up: locusts.
Nice piece from KARE’s Boyd Huppert on the recession’s Iron Range impact; it’s a place where the dips are steeper and more familiar. He interweaves the words of a Range writer with the patchwork of plants closing and opening; worth a look.
Death of a Winter Carnival medallion hider, by the PiPress’ Nick Ferraro. R.I.P., Bill Schneider.
Legendary punching bag Scott LeDoux has ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, the Strib’s Paul Levy reports. It’s a marvelously written piece not because of the obvious “fighting back” metaphor, but for the great details of LeDoux’s life and career. There’s a catalog of the worst blows LeDoux absorbed, but my favorite item is that LeDoux wears a championship ring — commemorating the championship fight he lost. For now, he’ll still head the state’s boxing/martial arts board, which is controversial.
Nort spews: The Gopher men edged pathetic Indiana 67-63, but because Bobby Knight’s ghost still wanders Assembly Hall, it’s a big deal. Sore Loser here, though they really paint it as a moral victory. The Wolves edge Chicago in OT 109-108; Britt Robson’s take here; Sore Loser here.