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Daily Glean: A tale of two Purple People Eaters

Alan Page will appoint the judges who could decide a Senate election; Carl Eller lets a judge decide if he’s going to jail.

The Strib got the scoop Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Alan Page will name the election contest’s three-judge panel, but the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger follows up with a look at Page’s proclivities. He is “thought to be a Democrat,” and strongly opposed a court decision giving campaigns veto power over wrongly rejected absentee ballots. However, the Coleman camp endorses him. The trial will be heard in Ramsey County Court but Page can appoint judges from anywhere in the state, including himself.

The Strib’s Kevin Diaz says Al Franken is hurt by the Senate’s decision to block Roland Burris until the Illinois appointee gets an election certificate; Franken won’t have one until our election contest ends (if then). Sen. Dick Durbin says his chamber has refused to sit certificate-less senators since 1884, though the folks at Daily Kos say a North Dakota senator was seated thusly in 1910. (William Purcell apparently had a certificate, but with errors.)

I’m not a political science professor and Steven Schier is, but I still think he wrote a wrong-headed recount op-ed in the PiPress. Lamenting the baroque nature of determining a winner in a close-as-hell race, Schier advocates two alternatives that don’t solve the prob. One, Instant Runoff Voting, is a great idea, but you can still have nailbiters, and recounts get more baroque. Two, a Georgia-style runoff, would produce lower turnout without lowering recount chances.

On the other hand, MPR’s Tim Nelson looks at how to really reduce election problems next time. Ramsey County’s Joe Mansky wants an automatic registration system tied to driver’s licenses, and a unified registration database. A Republican wants Supreme Court justices off the Canvass Board and less local counting autonomy. He would also institute photo ID, even though that hasn’t been shown as a current problem. MPR’s Bob Collins says more folks should work as election judges rather than challengers.

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Election sideshow: Warroad sex offender busted for voting, AP reports. The felon picked Coleman, and his vote counted; officials couldn’t pick out his individual ballot after it was cast. It was recounted, too; nothing could be done. However, the dude is going back to the pokey for a probation violation. He “left a telephone message for his probation officer about his plans to vote. His probation officer got back … and told him he had just committed a felony by voting.”

If you’re stupid enough to leave a flat-screen TV in a fish house, expect it to get ripped off. The Strib’s Lora Pabst says thieves busted into 11 Lake Minnetonka shacks and swiped “a flat-screen television, a stereo, electronics and fishing equipment.” A Hennepin County spokesperson speaks slowly for the clueless: “If you leave something in a fish house, it probably will be taken.” Interestingly, only one other Hennepin fish house has been broken into this year.

This doesn’t affect Minnesota — yet — but the holy-of-holies Mayo Clinic is nuking a family-practice residency program in go-go Arizona, the Rochester Post-Bulletin’s Jeff Hansel reports. Everyone says we need more primary-care docs to control medical costs, but federal cutbacks in residency programs helped doom this effort. Training in Minnesota and Florida continues, for now.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is running for re-election with a boatload of endorsements, including a tacit one from the PiPress. This despite double-digit tax increases and little new development, the Strib’s Chris Havens notes. There are more cops, more after-school programs, and that rumbly light rail. Coleman blasts Gov. Pawlenty for cutting city support, but wouldn’t comment on 2010 gubernatorial ambitions, the PiPress’ Dave Orrick writes. A little-known GOP opponent and lefty RNC-policing critics are obstacles. (Joe Kimball’s take here.)

Alan Page isn’t the only Purple People Eater in the news; Carl Eller got out of felony charges for allegedly knocking around police officers. The PiPress’ David Hanners says it’s a victory for the ex-Viking, who merely waived his right to a jury trial. The police sound pissed at the Hennepin County prosecutor; the criminal division’s top lawyer took over late, the Strib’s Rochelle Olson notes. There must’ve been holes in police testimony, an observer speculates. Eller could still face jail time, but chances aren’t great.

The PiPress’ Tom Webb makes a pretty good case that one debt-ridden local company — grocery behemoth SuperValu — is actually in pretty great shape. “Supervalu is current with its debt, accelerating its repayments and generating an immense amount of cash,” the company’s CEO argues. The Strib’s Matt McKinney notes the company lost $3 billion in the third quarter, but that’s a paper loss due to a sagging stock price, not business fundamentals.

Macy’s will close its Brookdale location, AP reports. It’s another blow for the pathetic mall. This is the only Macy’s in Minnesota going down, though the chain is closing 11 department stores nationwide.

I lack the human-interest gene, but the Strib’s Mary Lynn Smith crafts a beautiful piece about a Duluth arthritis victim whose body temperature fell as low as 60 degrees after she lay outside for four hours. The woman was successfully revived, and the tale of removing and warming her blood is only one of the gems here.

About to lose his column, the Strib’s Nick Coleman pens a love letter/lament to newspapers of yore, with some terrifically entertaining Minneapolis political history.

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Missed this Wednesday: City Pages’ Bradley Campbell says Hennepin County’s housing court destroyed all but the past year’s worth of records. This leaves tenants unable to prove innocence when truncated electronic-only files are flagged in eviction cases, or when they want violations expunged. Most courts hang on to records longer, but storage is expensive.

KARE’s Rick Kupchella provides an updated look at the state’s sagging pension funds. The $50 billion in investments have sunk to $35 billion, and we’re below 100 percent funding. Taxpayers would make up the difference, but a pension insider says it’s too soon to freak; dips happen, but selling now would make the problem worse. Stay tuned.

Want a free coffee shop? Vita.mn’s Alexis McKinnis spotted this ad on Craigslist; it’s the old Hiawatha Joe at 43rd on the LRT line. Hey, wasn’t light rail supposed to be great for development? Anyway, you’ll have to fork over $2,500 a month in rent. More discussion at Secrets of the City.

Nort spews: The Wolves romped — romped! — over deeper-circle-of-hell Oklahoma City for Minnesota’s fourth win in a row. Randy Foye lit it up for 32 points in three quarters in the 129-87 triumph. Britt Robson’s take here. Sore Loser here.