Is there any way a story on exurban gangs wouldn’t be front page, top-of-fold in the Strib? The demographics-and-fear two-fer revolves around a nine-person fight in Chaska that included “one gang member” and flashed gang signs. Fight video here, if you need the extra lure. Aimée Blanchette and Herón Márquez Estrada pivot off the outdated perception that the ‘burbs are safe, even though Chaska’s had a gang unit for eight years.
More gangs: Officials say gangs are a problem “more than ever,” but the evidence presented is largely anecdotal. The one localized stat? In 2008, cops in five suburban counties rubbed up against gang members 4,200 times, compared to 12,700 for Hennepin and Ramsey law enforcers. The story partly blames central-city policing for pushing the bad guys outward, and says some small departments are overwhelmed. The bottom line is that societal problems are everywhere, and have been for awhile.
Whether out of necessity or recognition, the state has toned down its freakout over H1N1. Forum’s Scott Wente says schools now have the option of closing, or isolating flu victims, and the state’s lab only wants samples from folks with respiratory illness. MPR’s Tom Weber has state officials acknowledging they were “overly cautious,” and that hamthrax is spread by “close contact – large droplets.” Yummm. Schools must now disclose the number of kids absent due to respiratory distress.
More flu: The PiPress’ Jeremy Olson contextualizes that we still only have one confirmed case, though there are six probables. The school home to the guaranteed infection, Rocori, reopens today, as will three of four Orono schools, the Strib’s Maura Lerner and Aimée Blanchette report. For now, Minneapolis’ Emerson will remain closed until at least Wednesday.
If you’re feeling better about pandemics, KSTP’s Bob McNaney reminds you: terrorists can still easily bomb the airport. “Unmarked trucks” have easily entered MSP’s grounds on weekends and pulled up to planes, thanks to a 24-hour checkpoint that wasn’t quite that. A veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces (!) calls it “negligence.” Airport officials admit they did it to save money, and didn’t tell the Transportation Safety Administration. The government ordered guards back, but GSSC security performed perfunctorily. KSTP says things have toughened up, for now.
KARE’s John Croman onpasses complaints from children’s hospitals that they’ll be hit disproportionately by Gov. Pawlenty’s health cuts. That’s because their Medicaid load is higher — four times higher in the case of Children’s Hospital, which will lose $38 million in the next biennium on top of $58 million lost since 2003. Since hospitals can’t discriminate against poor patients, everyone suffers, but only outreach is listed as a casualty.
More hospitals: MPR’s Tom Scheck says hospitals would support raising the provider (aka sick) tax from 2 to 3 percent, though they’d prefer a broad-based tax. The docs disagree, saying health costs would soar $125 million. Despite ongoing cuts, the governor says hospitals must cut some more.
Welcome back from vacation: MPR’s Bob Collins has a typically pithy explanation of why the Health Care Access Tax — “one of the few dedicated taxes in Minnesota that actually works for the limited goal that spawned it” — may need hiking despite its surplus. It’s because Gov. Pawlenty has raided it for $400 million over his term, and the legislature has gone along with the slush fund.
One area of the state budget that won’t be cut, at least not very much, is transportation, according to Forum’s Don Davis. An overwhelming vote in both chambers that holds the State Patrol harmless keeps the overall $4.3 billion appropriation “just below current spending.” Provisions to ticket seat-belt scofflaws without another violation died, as did one allowing passers to exceed the speed limit.
More transportation: The PiPress’ Bill Salisbury and Dennis Lien says transit appropriations mean fares won’t rise for two years. Mark that one down. Strib killjoy Mike Kaszuba notes the guv hasn’t agreed to any of this yet.
In the Strib, Minnesota 2020 tax geek Jeff Van Wychen makes the case that “since 2002, the rapid growth in property taxes in general and homestead property taxes in particular is primarily the result of state policies, not local spending decisions.” He notes inflation-adjusted percapita state tax revenues have fallen 5 percent since 2002, with another 8 percent decline projected this year alone. Spending has gone down less. In other words, we have a revenue problem, not a spending problem.
The Strib’s Kevin Diaz says Al Franken’s Senate vote may or may not matter in picking a new Supreme Court justice. It all depends on whether President Obama needs 60 votes to get a nominee through, but there are so many Senate wild cards (conservative Dems, moderate Republicans, the choice itself) that it’s all guessing at this premature point.
As expected, Wells Fargo will need to raise capital after a government “stress test” — news that somehow caused its stock to shoot up 24 percent, the PiPress’ Nicole Garrison Sprenger reports. The Strib’s Chris Serres says results are due Thursday, but Warren Buffet’s warm embrace fomented the market gain. Bank chairman Dick Kovacevich has called the stress tests “asinine.” They’re based on unemployment rising to 10.3 percent and home prices falling another 22 percent.
Why is ex-gubernatorial, ex-AG candidate Steve Kelley running for governor? The Minnesota Daily quotes the DFLer saying his U students inspired him. That and there’s no frontrunner in what is now a 10-person field. Kelley, who now directs the Hump Institute’s Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy, touts alt-energy and educational rigor among his platform planks. He’s been raising dough since December.
Nort spews: A beautiful pitching performance from Frankie Liriano puts the Twins back at .500 with a 7-2 road win over Detroit.