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Daily Glean: As state shirks, nonprofits shrink

The ailing economy has been especially bad for area nonprofits, and the Star Tribune’s Warren Wolfe looks at struggling local social services organizations that must repeatedly restructure or face closing. Wolfe quotes Mike Weber of Volunteers of America-Minnesota, who says “It’s been kind of a perfect storm … All the factors that could turn south are headed that direction.” This comes as state cuts further burden nonprofit clients.

Medicare spends $6,600 per year on Minnesota enrollees, compared with $8,300 nationally — and that’s a good thing. The Pioneer Press’ Jeremy Olson explains our restraint: not ordering unneeded tests. That’s been better for patients,  but Medicare, which pays per procedure, provides almost no incentive for this sort of goodness. Still, Minnesota’s frugal model has inspired both President Obama, who has called for health care reform to address Medicare payment disparities, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who introduced legislation this month to reward efficient medical care.

MPR introduces us to a new vocab word from the world of foreclosures: trash-out. Reporter Nikki Tundel narrates a slide-show illustrating an increasingly common trend: a foreclosed house still filled with the detritus of the former owner. Tundel looks at the cottage “trash-out” industry that has developed, in which private contractors clear out foreclosed properties, some of whose former owners could not afford to move or store their possessions, and so left behind eerily undisturbed properties, which look as though long-gone residents just stepped outside for a moment or two, with food in the refrigerator and just-opened letters by the door.

Meanwhile, the PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck and Nicole Garrison-Sprenger warn that another wave of near-record-level foreclosures is likely on its way. Lawyer Paul Weingarden produces this menacing quote: “The people who said the foreclosure boom was over — they were whistling in the dark.” According to the story, the biggest factor affecting future foreclosures will be unemployment, which, as John Vomhof Jr. recently pointed out in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, was up in May.

Homicide rates in St. Paul are up, and the police are reaching out to the Hmong community. Reg Chapman of WCCO informs us that, while St. Paul averages 20 homicides per year, the city has had seven so far. Unless I miss my math, with the year nearly half over, St. Paul’s number is below average. However, three of the killings have been from the Hmong community, including Sunday’s drive-by shooting of 23-year-old Chai Moua, reported by the PiPress’ Nick Ferarro.

More homicide: While there are currently no reported suspects or motives in Moua’s shooting, and his family believes he was a victim of mistaken identity, the St. Paul Police department is concerned that the killings in the Hmong community point to a rise in gang activity. Meanwhile, Chapman notes, we’re at a rare point in history: Minneapolis has fewer killings (five) than the Capital City. Last year at this time, Minneapolis had 18.

Minneapolis is also not the same city it used to be — when it comes to advertising. Jeremy Mullman, writing for Advertising Age, charts the city’s new ad topography, in which small boutique advertising agencies, run by ex-employees of our city’s powerhouse agencies, have begun to draw significant business away from their former employers. Mullman illustrates his point with a rather startling fact: In six years, Fallon Worldwide has seen its revenue fall from $82.2 million to $41.6 million, which has got to hurt.

The Strib’s James Lileks takes a look at a very curious case from Minnesota history: that of Dr. H.S. Tanner, a Minneapolis physician from the Victorian era who believed he could starve himself just about indefinitely, and set out to prove it in a 40-day fast. Tanner chose to perform his hunger experiment on public display in New York City, attracting the attention of the New York Times, and the comical skepticism and outrage of a number of other doctors of the era, who were certain Tanner wouldn’t survive his experiment.

John Lauritsen of WCCO gets points for this weekend’s best headline: Ambulance Crashes On Way To Other Ambulance Crash.

Nort spews: The Twins beat St. Louis 6-2 at the new Busch; Francisco Liriano actually pitched a good game. Sore Loser here. The Strib’s Jim Souhan, reflecting on Justin Morneau’s three-run homer Sunday, distills what happens when Morneau doesn’t hit home runs: “The Twins stink.” The PiPress’ John Shipley says that the Minnesota Wild managed to pick up the top-rated North American goaltender, Matt Hackett, in the third round of drafting new players.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 06/29/2009 - 09:48 am.

    You really are the King of All Media, Max.

    Thanks for leading off with the Strib nonprofit story. As you and I discussed several times, even larger, long established nonprofits like the one I work for have been cut to the bone, and the news ahead may not be good.

    Our fiscal year eand tommorow. We will be looking hard at what we can do — if anything — to keep out of the red next year.

  2. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 06/29/2009 - 02:17 pm.

    A double trash-out on the “Trash-out”?

    The Trash-out slide show with narrator was probably an attempt – naively or innocently maybe, but not too professionally – initiated by the reporter trying to create a story behind the story.

    But with a facts-be-dammed approach, ended up creating a piece of tabloid hype going way beyond the ‘Right-of-Privacy’ of the former inhabitants as she intentionally or unintentionally ‘trashed’ the personal lives of whomever lived there by exposing love letters, pictures; speculating on life changes, whatever else?

    I say whoa there. Somebody went too far. This could easily send the attendant media group being tangled in on-going lawsuits for going over the line?

    House persons retain their right of privacy, I assume,and whatever were the senitive or insensitive intentions of the ‘storyteller’… to soap a background into the tragic mix of lives abandoned suddenly… this was far beyond clean journalism’s role without the consent of former home resident/residents?

    Minnesota Monitor/Independant did a prize-worthy investigation of homes in North/ North East Minneapolis awhile back, showing boarded-up, abandoned houses/foreclosures and their effect on neighborhoods. The tragedy of this present economy was clearly presented. They did the story line well with dignity and respect; sans insurgent speculations.

    The slide show narrative, however intended, was soapy; an “I-wonder” story…and trashed the signifigance of foreclosure in the process.

    The right of privacy should not be tampered with lightly, for however low one falls in this economy, these or any others so affected, are still individuals with again, the Right of Privacy; and their guts and foibles carelessly speculated on or so blatantly exposed, is tabloid journalism in all its ugliness, whatever intended.

  3. Submitted by Katherine Werner on 06/30/2009 - 03:00 pm.

    Glad to see your posting of Warren Wolfe’s Strib story about nonprofits cutting costs in a time of greater need. I share this “anxiety” in a very personal way…..

    Twin Cities United Way’s first budget cut was made in December 2008. It was to discontinue early its three-year Hunger Project which also eliminated my position as its Project Manager. (More employees laid off or demoted in March ’09) The Hunger Project was funded internally by the Community Impact Basic Needs Group with the primary objective to directly support area food shelves with food or cash donations from businesses, and community and public events with a longer-term goal of building partnerships among those businesses and food shelves for longer-term support. All this was done by a department of one – me – on a very modest budget (see below).

    Project goal: Raise a total of 600,000 pounds of food by the end of 2009, its third/final year. By December 2008 I collected almost 400,000 pounds of food from hundreds of food drives I organized. Most food shelves do not have the resources to organize food drives and continue an effort to this degree, so this direct support – and development of those business partnerships – ceased as of February 2009.

    Annual cost of this project: $80,000.
    Funds United Way raised during Campaign 2008: $91 million.
    Annual salary for CEO Lauren Segal: $285,000.
    Me: Former food shelf supporter now unemployed, uninsured and using a food shelf.

    Something’s really wrong when the one of the largest United Ways in the country discontinued a productive $80,000/year Hunger Project as food support needs soar, and the unemployed project manager herself needs food support.

    If Frank Forsberg needs any tips about “how to survive,” I can share those I’ve recently had to learn.

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