This will be a fun one: Medical-marijuana advocates are gearing up to get a constitutional amendment, the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin writes. The stars are in place, and that’s not a drug-addled vision: There’s popular and legislative support, necessary for an end-run around Gov. Pawlenty’s veto. The med-pot lobby has big cash, too — though one analyst notes it took $4 million and a huge coalition to get the arts/habitat sales tax through. Then again, alleviating suffering doesn’t involve taxes.
Just in time for the Twins ballpark, Hennepin County wants to burn more garbage next door, the Strib’s Tom Meersman and Steve Brandt report. The 10 to 20 percent uptick would provide more heat to a downtown energy district and divert waste from landfills, but indefatigable burner opponent Leslie Davis foresees more spewed toxins. The plant is way under permitted levels, especially for mercury. The county claims the ballpark (which will receive some steam heat from the plant) won’t be stunk out. Fans’ noses will soon know.
The PiPress’ Bob Shaw writes that some ‘burbs are mad at Greater Twin Cities United Way for cutting support to locally based programs. They think uber-charity’s focus on hunger and homelessness drew the umbrella group toward inner-city minorities. GTCUW says there’s no net transfer of funds inward, precisely to avoid angering suburban donors, but one analyst says heck, that’s where more of the problems are. In Washington County, donors are turning to local United Way chapters.
Related: MPR’s Lorna Benson notes a U study showing hungry teens in poverty are more likely to be obese. Kids who went hungry every month were only slightly more at risk, but the real problem turns out be “teens who only experienced hunger occasionally,” who “had a significantly higher rate of obesity.”
The Strib’s Dave Shaffer says the Ford Dam is at DefCon 3 — otherwise known as “unsafe or potentially unsafe” in Army Corps parlance. Turns out engineers can’t tell whether there’s seepage under the foundation, so this represents over-caution at the moment. They’ll do more soil checking. If you’ve ever worried about what would flood if the small dam broke: Hidden Falls Park and Minnehaha Park riverside areas. No homes are in danger.
The two dailies spin the day’s banking news differently. The Strib’s Chris Serres highlights slumping profits and a surging failure risk, while the PiPress’ Nicole Garrison says fewer banks were in the red this quarter than last. Serres is looking more at year-over-year figures, and notes bank reserves have slumped from covering 72.5 percent of troubled loans in ’08 to 50 percent now. Even though there hasn’t been a Minnesota bank failure since May, a new one is a “near-certainty,” he says.
Man, that Andy Lugar is busy. First, the ex-federal prosecutor co-chaired St. Paul’s look into Republican National Convention policing; now, he’s tapped to check out Gang Strike Force paper-shredding, the Strib’s Randy Furst reports. The FBI will be on hand with subpoena powers. And in a fun battle for the ages, State Auditor James Nobles wants Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher to prove he really found the 14 cars that Strike Forcers couldn’t document. You mean you don’t trust the sheriff, Jim?
More Strike Force: Unit commander Chris Omodt blames a “faction” of officers for the problems. Brooklyn Park cops want to stay in a reconstituted unit, St. Paul is hedging, and Minneapolis is out. The PiPress’ Mara Gottfried says one source of tension is over short-term investigations (Minneapolis’ preference) over long-term ones. The PiPress editorial page says the unit should be reborn.
Daniel Hauser: It’s all good. The Strib’s Maura Lerner and Jenna Ross say he showed for an appointment, while the judge laid down conditions for him remaining at home: undergoing multiple chemo rounds, showing up for one today, and having his docs keep the court apprised. Children’s Hospital touts its complementary alternative services, including aromatherapy. Good luck, kid.
President Obama picked a St. John’s prof for the dicey job of U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. The rightward lurch of the See and certain American Catholics has already complicated things for the pro-choice president, but Miguel Diaz gets the job of hand-holding. The Strib’s Pam Miller couldn’t get him to talk about controversial issues, but Diaz did advise Obama during the campaign. He’s been at St. John’s for five years; the Cuban-American has worked on outreach to Hispanic and African-American communities.
MPR’s Tim Pugmire says no legislators have responded to Gov. Pawlenty’s request for advice on how to unallot. Basically, they say he didn’t listen during the session, so why should they participate in a p.r. stunt now? The guv’s office says 1,500 Minnesotans responded with ideas. How many said cut someone else?
As the local impacts pile up, St. Paul has shrunk its police force from 615 officers to 588, the PiPress’ Dave Orrick reports. The city will likely be gashed $8 million this year and up to $16 million beginning in July. The city is planning for a 14 percent overall budget cut, the Strib’s Chris Havens notes. St. Cloud is closing wading pools, WCCO’s James Schugel says. Detroit Lakes would need a 17 percent property-tax hike to make up its losses, D-L online opines.
On the schools side, Chaska terminated 83 teaching contracts, with some high school class sizes of 40 kids, the Strib’s Aimée Blanchette reports. However, the cuts only stick if teachers reject a wage freeze and state support shrinks 2 percent; the latter will likely remain flat. Winona is considering closing all four elementary schools, the Winona Daily News’ Nolan Rosencrans writes. But don’t freak: Aging structures and declining enrollments should spur a single, bigger $18 million school, a consultant says.
In the Strib, Attorney General Lori Swanson laments Gov. Pawlenty’s veto of a bill that would merely require lenders to talk to foreclosees before throwing them out of their houses. Swanson says “it never occurred to me that the governor would veto the bill,” even though “the legislation was heavily opposed by the mortgage banking industry.” Someone is either naive or disingenuous. Finance & Commerce’s Betsy Sundquist explains the veto’s backstory.
The Strib’s Whistleblower, James Shiffer, celebrates a new state law giving tipsters a share of money the state recovers from unscrupulous contractors. It’s modeled on a federal law, and applied to all state and local spending. Weird facet: it gives the accused a 45-day grace period to pay the money back. Guess that saves recovery costs, but lowers the risk of attempting a scam.
MPR’s Dan Olson takes a look at U-6, which is not a tribute band but a broader measure of unemployment. It includes “those who are working part time and would prefer full-time work and another group, people no longer looking for work, or so-called discouraged workers” and stands at 16 percent, or 25 million people. That’s the highest since the category was created in the early ’90s.
Smart Politics’ Eric Ostermeier says based on 160 polls, self-identified conservatives are on the way up in the Midwest since a 2007 nadir. In Minnesota, the 29 percent figure is up from 26.5 percent two years ago, though down from 33.5 percent in 2005. Conservatives outnumber self-ID’d liberals by a ratio of 1.6:1. However, Ostermeier notes Republicans have not been able to translate that into electoral success, probably because they’ve lost moderates, and there are more of them than any other group.
Here’s one you don’t see every day: Man accused of building illegal airport in Afton, via KSTP. Like the neighbors wouldn’t notice.
I love responsible bar workers! The Rochester Post-Bulletin’s Janice Gregorson says employees of Mickey’s Bar surrounded a stumbler’s car as she was preparing to drive off, giving authorities enough time to arrest her. The patron blew a 0.13, and has quite the drunk driving record. But how did they let her get hammered in the first place?
Yikes: Eagan day care provider charged with “swinging [a baby] in the air like a monkey,” WCCO reports. The poor little 6-month-old victim had “fractures in various stages of healing on her arms, leg, ankle, wrist, elbow and ribs.”
Nort spews: The Twins edged into second place with a 4-2 win over Boston; Kevin Slowey picked up his seventh win. Sore Losers here and here. In Vikingsland, Fran Tarkenton crabbed at Brett Favre, Chuck Foreman crabbed at Fran Tarkenton, and Pat Williams crabbed at Tarvaris Jackson. Being a quarterback is tough.