I have to chuckle at the stories such as the Strib’s that entertain the possibility that public pressure will force Norm Coleman to concede. Look, folks, the guy is ensconced in a partisan job, raising money for himself and partisan interests on partisan media, and is already toxic to independents. The incentives are all the other way, as MPR’s Mark Zdechlik properly emphasizes.
Related: Politico says Gov. Pawlenty is in a similar obstructionist jam if he delays signing an election certificate. See above. Though Pawlenty has more independent support — Smart Politics’ Eric Ostermeier notes the guv’s approval rating is back over 50 percent, but with steadily rising negatives at 46 percent — he can govern and advance as an ultra-partisan.
More Norm: The PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger is working her spreadsheet; she says “at least” 11 of the 400 unadjudicated absentee ballots have been counted, lowering the pool to 389. On Wednesday, AP’s Brian Bakst noted more ballots came from Franken’s list (150) than Coleman’s (125). Small favors: AP says Coleman won’t wait the full 10 days to file his Supreme Court appeal. Strib editorialists praise the three-judge panel for following the law.
Maybe it’s me, but when the archbishop of St. Paul/Minneapolis calls the president “anti-Catholic” — and threatens to not support Notre Dame, the school that invited Obama to speak — that rates more than an AP short buried on inside pages. MinnesotaIndependent’s Andy Birkey is all over it, noting John Nienstedt’s specific religious issues: abortion, stem cells, civil unions. The academically free institution says its invitation doesn’t constitute an endorsement but rather “the basis of an engagement” with the president.
Related: Read Nienstedt’s letter (which AP says it couldn’t obtain, but Birkey publishes) and see how it squares with WCCO’s web headline: “Archbishop Tut-Tuts Notre Dame’s Obama Invite.” More like a broadside-cum-ultimatum: Nienstadt wrote, “I hope that you are able to reconsider this decision. If not, please do not expect me to support your University in the future.”
State Senate DFLers reduced a planned 7 percent E-12 education cut to 3.2 percent thanks to federal stimulus funds, the PiPress’ Megan Boldt reports. However, a vote was held up because federal rules complicate the final calculation. The guv wants to boost ed spending by 2.2 percent and let the bottom drop out the following biennium; HouseDems want to keep spending flat now and forestall deeper cuts later. The GOP again says the DFL is more about protecting welfare heath care than kids.
Tale of two woodlands: The PiPress’ Dennis Lien says the Blandin Foundation came through with $7 million to facilitate the state’s 188,000-acre forest project near Grand Rapids. But the Strib’s Doug Smith notes that plans for a Lake Vermilion state park are FUBAR after a state appraisal came in far lower than U.S. Steel’s $20 million price for the 2,500 acres.
More woodlands: By law, the state can only bid 12 percent over the appraisal; though that figure is unstated, it’s far below the $20 mil. The corporation says it will develop the site, but in this economic climate, that might be a negotiating ploy.
The Fong Lee case keeps sizzling. The PiPress’ David Hanners talks to three members of the Minneapolis Police-Community Relations Council who say Chief Tim Dolan told them Lee’s gun had fingerprints when the lab had already told him it didn’t. A Minneapolis officer shot Lee in self-defense, the department claims, but Lee’s family says the gun was planted. Dolan is unavailable to challenge, but the department is officially dummying up.
More Lee: It should be noted that the three PCRC members regularly allege police misdeeds; a Minneapolis council member could corroborate their claims but the city told him to dummy up. The Strib publishes enigmatic surveillance tape of the incident.
The PiPress’ Ruben Rosario checks out St. Paul’s proposed Cinco De Mayo “Safe Zone” ban on alleged gangbangers. After acknowledging civil liberties concerns, Rosario talks to L.A. cops and a relative who patrols Milwaukee’s Summerfest and says the move substantially improves safety.
Without notice, Denny Hecker workers lost their health coverage and a paycheck, the Strib’s Dee DePass writes. One family learned of the insurance stoppage when they brought their kid into the emergency room. Hecker’s minions blame — get this — bad press, which they say prompted their insurer to impose additional requirements. The truth is an absolute defense.
Hecker gets some cash: The Business Journal’s Kelsey Volkmann notes Hertz topped Enterprise to buy up Hecker’s rental car company assets. Hertz paid $30 million for Advantage Rent-A-Car, $11 million more than Enterprise.
Fox9’s Ellen Galles talks to a local Bernie Madoff victim whose family lost $12 million. Tim Murray’s dad-in-law put aside 200 grand 20 years ago for his kids and grandkids; it swelled to the eight-digit figure, and now it’s gone. Like everyone else, Murray bought Madoff’s probity and is still absorbing the full measure of his daughter’s lost college fund.
The Strib’s Mark Brunswick re-examines WCCO’s claim that an attorney general’s office renovation was too pricey. The $6,000 carpet job was only the capstone after rotting wood from a leaky bathroom was fixed; AG Swanson — who wouldn’t talk to Pat Kessler — says the specific $15,000 doors weren’t her call (she’d have gone to Menards). A state administrator said she make the request. MPR’s Tom Scheck has an audio debrief here. No one asks about changing predecessors’ portraits from color to black-and-white.
Forum Communications’ Don Davis notes a mixed response to letting counties raise sales taxes in lieu of some local-government aid. Border counties are nervous, retailers cry foul because of patchwork taxes. However, cities love the added funds, counties are still formulating a unified response, and nonprofits are happy they keep their property tax exemption, which might be threatened if new ways to raise revenue are needed. Doesn’t sound like this initiative will make it past the governor, though.
The PiPress’ Jeremy Olson says there’s plenty of dirty sex in Minnesota … well, not in so many words. State STD infections jumped 3.5 percent in 2008, to an exceedingly gross 17,650. The hike might be a product of better screening, though. Chlamydia accounted for 81 percent of the total; men reported a 13 percent increase in such infections. Gonorrhea was No. 2, and there were 163 early-stage syphilis cases.
Related, and contradictory: At the U, STD cases are down 20 percent, the Minnesota Daily’s Robert Downs reports. Condoms and monogamy are credited. Kids sure are different these days.
WCCO-AM host Eleanor Mondale’s brain cancer has returned for a second time. KARE’s Joe Fryar has a good interview with the brassy, gutsy personality, who has taken disability leave from the station.