Minnesota’s jobless rate hit a 26-year high, matching the nation’s 7.6 percent, the Strib’s Dee DePass notes. Still, we’ll look back on this with nostalgia, the PiPress’ Julie Forster writes, because forecasters predict a 9.4 percent rate a year from now. The acceleration of job-shedding is stunning: Smart Politics’ Eric Ostermeier says the 0.7 percent increase was the biggest one-month rise ever, and the 69 percent 12-month jump the biggest annual increase.
Yikes: Half of Minnesota’s community banks lost money in 2008’s fourth quarter; a third finished the year in the red, the PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger reports. Overall, the locals were profitable, but Twin Cities banks — especially those aggressive in real estate lending — did worse than rural outposts, dragging the median down. No one knows how many local operations are on the FDIC’s problem list. A somewhat searchable database is here.
Related: Wells Fargo jerked top executives’ bonuses going back to 2008, AP reports. However, the CFO and a Senior VPs will get a $100,000 raise and restricted stock options.
Underreported so far: How Obama’s new budget plan will hurt certain Minnesota sectors. Notwithstanding the president’s equity and investment arguments, “thousands of Minnesota farmers will see a major part of their income disappear” if Congress signs off, MPR’s Mark Steil notes. About 6,700 farms — 10 percent of the state’s operations — sell more than $500,000 of grain, livestock or other products, and would lose direct subsidies. Congressional ag boss Collin Peterson is “leaning against” Obama’s plan.
In the wake of Meria Carstarphen’s departure, St. Paul will likely appoint an interim schools superintendent and could look local, the PiPress’ Doug Belden writes. The city’s teachers want them to go that way. Nearby candidates include two local finalists from last time, one a Minneapolis deputy, plus the district’s chief academic officer. The Strib’s Emily Johns notes other recent St. Paul supers have all stayed more than three years; she indicates officials lean toward a national search for a “high-energy” person.
Because gas prices have plunged, Minneapolis cab rates will, too, the Strib’s Steve Brandt reports. Beginning Sunday, a 5-mile ride will cost $1.36 less, but many cabbies won’t change the meter, hoping for City Council salvation. Last year, the council tied cab rates to gas prices; drivers thought they’d get a bump, but when prices fell, it went the opposite way. Rate-changing action is unlikely, but cabbies say it’s too “time-consuming” to adjust their meters. Hmm. Cabbies got their first increase in three years last summer.
Election contest minute: First, the “fake St. Louis County absentee” story evaporated by mid-day yesterday; the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin indicates similar handwriting on envelopes was merely record-keeping for overseas votes, which aren’t mailed in standard ballots. The PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger notes 1,500 absentees will be opened to see if registration materials were inside, and Coleman forces admit the 133 (now 132) lost Minneapolis votes existed.
MPR’s Tom Scheck onpasses the National Journal’s determination that St. Paul Congresswoman Betty McCollum has the most liberal voting record in the House in 2008; Minneapolis’ Keith Ellison was 13th of 435, while Peterson was in the bottom half at 210th. Michele Bachmann was only the 31st most conservative, which is kinda scary.
Related: Perhaps the lede should be that DFLer Amy Kloubuchar (37th in the Senate) finished just two spots ahead of Republican Norm Coleman (39th). Norm, of course, was doing the moderate dance, Amy’s usual spot on the floor. National Journal was the operation that ranked Barack Obama the Senate’s most liberal in 2007. Take all scorecards with a grain of salt.
Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller finds this choice quote from Bachmann’s opener to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference: “I just wondered that if our founders thought taxation without representation was bad, what would they think of representation WITH taxation?” Um, probably that it was fine, Michele — they were fighting for self-determination, not a specific policy outcome. Steller notes Bachmann opposes giving D.C. citizens a vote in the House or Senate.
Mother Hennepin might finally be bumping up against a brick-and-mortar ceiling. The Strib’s Mary Jane Smetanka says the county could delay $200 million in building projects because debt threatens to double by 2013. County administrator Richard Johnson wants to cap the rise at just underneath that: 15 percent of the annual property tax levy. A $50 million north Minneapolis family service center, a city household waste facility, and new Walker Library could be chopped. Minneapolis flipped its libraries to the county recently.
The “new” Delta is free of union mechanics, AP’s Joshua Freed notes. Northwest’s AMFA local ousted the International Association of Machinists some years back, but the divisiveness and a 2005 strike proved toxic. With just a sliver of NWA workers, they couldn’t get the 35 percent of Delta forces needed for a union vote, the Strib’s Jackie Crosby writes. Workers will get a four-buck-an-hour pay bump, says the PiPress’ John Welbes.
Al Garcia, a power behind the Minneapolis City Council throne in the ’80s and ’90s, was arrested for meth possession, the Strib’s Rochelle Olson reports. A meth-dealing client apparently set up a police sting; Garcia initially refused to take four ounces of meth as payment, but the next day had an assistant stuff the drugs down the front of her pants. Garcia, a counsel to city firefighters, was reprimanded last year for an unethical fee arrangement.
Really? We need more hotel rooms? The Business Journal’s John Vomhof Jr. and Caleb Stevens say a Wisconsin developer wants to erect one or two buildings with 250 rooms at 494 and Normandale Blvd. Local occupancy rates were a dismal 44 percent in the first week of February, down 20 percent from a year ago, and financing is non-existent. But stay tuned!
Your Snowmaggedon moment: Meet the mega-plow.
“Boxelder Bug Variations” author Bill Holm died Wednesday night and the Strib’s Laurie Hertzel eulogizes the Mineota native and “Polar Bear of American Literature” as “larger than life, a man of letters, a man of the prairie, a man of the world. … Icelandic to the core, as well as bookish and contrary. A curmudgeon, said many, but one with an enormous, kind heart.” The PiPress’ Mary Divine likens the fierce populist to Walt Whitman. MinnPost’s take is here.
Nort spews: Remember the Gophers men who dominated Illinois at Williams Arena? They were putrid on the road, losing 52-41 at Champaign. Now 8-8 in the Big Ten, they’ll have to sweep Wisconsin and Michigan at home to be a tourney lock.