The Strib’s Mark Brunswick has a nice get on the Pawlenty administration trying to skirt state law to seal a Lake Vermilion state park deal. The Legislature capped a payout at about $13 million for the 3,000-acre up-north parcel; owner U.S. Steel insists at least twice as much, but the state felt that appraisal was bogus. So the administration tossed some goodies the steelmakers’ way: 25-year taconite leases worth $10M, $5 million in free biofuel and 3,000 acres of wetlands. Still didn’t work.
More Vermilion: Brunswick says the administration “sought to help U.S. Steel get its higher appraisal certified.” A contractor hired to review both appraisals expressed shock the tightfisted TPaw was trying to justify “a substandard appraisal”; she was told to keep politics out. A gubernatorial spokesman elides the question of whether the extras were proper. Guess we’ll find out what the steelmaker can really reap for selling the land to developers.
WCCO’s Reg Chapman says a Minneapolis family is calling a local mosque “sinister” after their son died in Somalia. Burhan Hassan was allegedly lured to his native land by the terrorist group Al Shabab; his family learned of his death Friday. Officials of Minneapolis’ Abubakar As-Sadique Islamic Center say they have only acted in peaceful ways. The family says it has been called infidels for criticizing the mosque.
It sounds a bit like an Edgar Allan Poe tale updated for the foreclosure era: man boarded up inside own home. Strib Whistleblower James Shiffer has the tale (and video) of a disabled dude who took out a “stupid loan” (the victim’s words) on the ancestral homestead and wound up getting evicted. Ted Poestch is far from blameless, but the city admits a screw-up — though not enough to unboard the building so Poetsch could finally get his stuff. He and a buddy had to go in through a window.
Related, somewhat: The PiPress’ Jessica Fleming notes Dakota County domestic abuse calls for service rose 37 percent from 2007 to 2008, and in St. Paul, demand is up 10 to 15 percent already this year. Of course, fundraising for service providers — and police staffing — is not keeping up with demand. Everyone blames the deepcession.
Related: Fox9’s Dawn Stevens has the horrific story of a local woman gang-raped during a Mexican vacation; it’s more than just lurid (and luridly produced). The woman joined an Anoka County support group and became part of filling a shocking gap: Stevens says county 911 won’t take calls from sexual assault victims after 5 p.m. — can that be right? — so the support group has fundraised to provide counselors 24 hours a day. More on the 911 deal, other media.
The Strib’s Bill McAuliffe looks at the locally specific effects of Ashmageddon. According to a DNR survey, Minneapolis would lose a fifth of its trees, and St. Paul about a third, but that’s nothing, compared with Alexandria and Sauk Center, which would lose a staggering 60 percent. Hibbing, International Falls, Luverne and Willmar would lose half of their canopies. Even more depressingly, a replacement chokecherry in International Falls is already succumbing to fungus.
Via MPR’s Tom Scheck, USA Today reports 20 transportation groups have ponied up nearly half a million bucks for a St. Thomas professorship honoring Congressman Jim Oberstar. Oberstar is an alum, and the school won’t release a donor list. The congressman claims House ethicists signed off on the favor-seekers providing favors once removed.
DFLer Tom Bakk is officially running for governor, the Mesabi Daily News’ Bill Hanna reports. Bakk, who was behind the biggest proposed tax hike this session ($2.2 billion), is running as a “good old-fashioned jobs Democrat,” noting Gov. Pawlenty is the first chief exec among the last several where net employment has shrunk. The champion of the progressive income tax will abide by the party’s endorsement.
A Star Tribune editorial basically endorses the conclusions of a local auto dealer lobbyist who says the Obama administration is killing small-town Main Streets via dealership closings. Editorialists say the administration is mistakenly aping Japanese carmakers’ strategy of big dealerships in big towns, and government-supported carmakers haven’t shown how the closings can save money.
In the “great read” department, the PiPress’ Bob Shaw offers a look at a Met Council “sewer cop” who prowls the “putrid labyrinth” looking for pollution. Everything from soap to mercury raises alarms, and Cindy O’Sell is sent into the tunnels to, er, sniff out problems. She admits she’s still overwhelmed by the stench — sewers near hospitals are the worst — but find cockroaches “cool.” Good thing, I suppose.
The Strib’s Liz Fedor also has an interesting profile of a Tennant Corp. cleaning technology that literally turns water into an acidic sanitizer and alkaline cleaner. The “super-cleaner” recombines into water in the tank. The company, whose revenues have shrunk 24 percent this year, hopes to license the green technology for big bucks.
Nort spews: The Twins did their usual road thing, losing 4-2 to Seattle and falling three and a half back in the A.L. Central. In happier news, the Strib notes Chaska’s Hazeltine will be digitized in the next Tiger Woods computer game. Will Madden 10 feature a digitized Brett Favre in purple? Everyone reports the phlegmatic quarterback had arthroscopic surgery, but the results aren’t promising yet.