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Daily Glean: Court to Coleman: ‘We’re not Florida’

The absentee ballot box turns half-full for Norm, but court rejects Bush v. Gore precedent. Also: Bloomington accountants sued in both big Ponzi cases.

The absentee ballot box is half full as the Coleman forces win the right to have 4,800 votes examined. That’s less than the 11,000 Coleman’s people wanted, the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger notes, but enough to undo Al Franken’s 225-vote margin. Still, those ballots won’t necessarily be counted and, of course, won’t necessarily favor Coleman, the Strib’s Pat Doyle and Kevin Duchschere write. The ruling could extend the trial for weeks as ballots are pored over individually.

Also: A Franken request to add 700 ballots to the pool is pending; the 933 absentee votes the Canvassing Board accepted weeks ago will be counted. MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki and Elizabeth Baier note the Coleman forces can only include ballots cited before the Jan. 26 trial began. Stassen-Berger adds that the court unambiguously rejected Coleman’s “Minnesota is Florida” argument. (MinnPost coverage here.)

Related: The Strib’s Kevin Diaz flags a longshot legislative bill to provisionally seat Franken as the trial drags on. It’s hard to see Pawlenty signing it or House Republicans overturning a veto. (The Senate is vetoproof.) MinnPost’s Eric Black broke the story Tuesday.

Tidy Strib headline: “State auditor can’t say whether Q Comp works.” That’s Gov. Pawlenty’s boldly labeled but opaque “Quality Compensation” plan. DFLers say they’d rather spend $41 million on proven programs, the Strib’s Emily Johns and Bob von Sternberg write. The PiPress’ Megan Boldt says officials defend the program as more than merit pay; MPR’s Tom Weber does a good job describing the teacher training emphasis. The auditor also says there’s inconsistent application review and oversight.

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The Strib’s David Phelps notes a Bloomington accounting firm is being sued in the Bernie Madoff and Tom Petters frauds. McGladrey & Pullen was targeted by Petters claimants last fall; a Connecticut fund just flagged the accountants for a muffed 2007 Madoff audit. In the latter case, new M&P auditors brought that business from their former firm — great timing! Anyone with deep pockets can expect to be hauled into court, an observer says.

Confirming the St. Paul skeptics, PiPresser Tom Webb notes Minneapolis made more from the Republican National Convention.Minneapolis saw double-digit spikes in the collection of sales taxes, lodging taxes, restaurant taxes and liquor taxes during the months of August and September” while St. Paul levies rose just 2 percent. Capital City lodging taxes did climb 12 percent.

DFLers rip Pawlenty for borrowing rather than taxing our way out of the budget deficit, the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury reports. Noting it would cost $1.6 billion over 20 years to borrow $1 billion from tobacco proceeds, DFL Rep. Tommy Rukavina calls the guv’s plan “profoundly stupid” — an homage to Pawlenty’s 2005 line about a DFL tax hike. Pawlenty says now is the wrong time to raise taxes, but DFLers throw old anti-debt quotes back at him. Minnesota Independent’s Paul Demko has more. (MinnPost coverage here.)

Related: MPR’s Tim Pugmire quotes DFL state Sen. Steve Murphy calling for a tax hike, but not specifying which one. Speaking of hypocrisy: I’m betting all these Dems support Barack Obama who, like Pawlenty, opposes tax hikes and favors debt.

Also related: On the Strib’s op-ed page, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and League of Cities President Wayne Wolden say Pawlenty’s business tax cuts probably won’t create jobs, but his local government aid cuts will definitely torpedo employment.

Longtime St. Paul school board member Al Oertwig, who quit in 2007 over a since-discredited child-porn viewing incident, is running again, the PiPress’ Doug Belden reports. Oertwig was looking at legal erotica, which was no disqualification in the U.S. Senate race, right?

If you want to understand a bit more about the Troubled Assets Relief Program, check out PiPresser Nicole Garrison-Sprenger’s small-bank overview. It’s a plain-spoken analysis of the terms and costs of the program from the lenders’ (or non-lenders’) view.

Good little trend story from the Strib’s Mary Jane Smetanka, who notes localities are revoking pool licenses in the wake of “Abigail’s Law.” The provision requires drain modifications. Minneapolis and Hennepin County closed six and 24 pools respectively; more than half remain shuttered. In Bloomington, five pool owners surrendered licenses rather than make the fixes. The cost seems to be about $5,000 per pool.

Mediagenic epidemiologist Michael Osterholm tells City Pages’ Emily Kaiser that the peanut butter recall has gone too far. He says the problem is only in items with raw peanuts; cooked items such as peanut butter cookies don’t have to be yanked. Anything mixed with eggs is fine because it has to be baked to salmonella-destroying temps.

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Carl Pohlad began making money collecting debts during the Depression; his sons may continue the buy-low practice by nabbing a couple of Denny Hecker’s dealerships. The Strib’s Dee DePass says Inver Grove Heights Volkswagen and Hyundai stores are in play. The Pohlads bought BMW and Jeep dealerships last year. Hecker was just sued by Chrysler for $550 million, but his lawyer says that reflects the dealer’s credit limit, not the actual amount owed. No figure is specified.

Sad sign of the times: A Minneapolis church with a basement food shelf has been broken into five times in six months, KSTP reports. Authorities suspect an inside job. “All they had to do was ask,” laments one organizer.

Nort spews: Kevin McHale beat Larry Bird as the Wolves won at Indiana 116-111. WCCO’s Darcy Pohland has a nice piece on newly minted Pro Football Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel’s return to his second-grade special ed class. He’s volunteered there for years. On the flip, KSTP reports a Twin Cities business owner is in trouble for selling Carl Eller incarceration video.