A team of Stribbers, led by Mark Brunswick, has the irresistible tale of Sen. Al Franken abruptly canceling a fund-raiser at a St. Paul mansion after staff got wind of the host’s criminal-to-murky history. Among other incidents the guy has been charged with is one involving a Ponzi scheme that sucked $10,000 from in a Chisholm parish priest. (When your own uncle is quoted saying he wouldn’t do business with you, it’s bad.) “In May of this year, the IRS filed a tax lien against [Mark] Erjavec for $14,258. In 2007, a $137,821 judgment was issued against him in Hennepin County. He has been sued for breach of contract and consumer fraud and for violating federal truth-in-lending laws. A trademark infringement suit against him from General Electric ended in a permanent injunction. The truth-in-lending case was settled and the breach-of-contract suit ended in Erjavec’s favor.” Team Franken wouldn’t say how they found out about the guy, but Franken himself is quoted saying, “There is going to be a change in how we do things.” Maybe there ought to be, you know, a — real — change in campaign finance laws.
The PiPress is still loving the tale of the Metro Gang Strike Force. Today Mara Gottfried has the report on Wednesday’s hearing, which featured Legislative Auditor James Nobles trying valiantly to explain the inexplicable. At one point, he says to bewildered legislators, ” ‘I think you’re trying to make sense of a situation that doesn’t make sense.’ ” Another good exchange came when Andy Luger, who headed up the formal investigation, got into a discussion with Rep. Larry Haws of St. Cloud: “Luger said there were only a handful of complaints because the people who had money taken from them, including illegal immigrants, ‘most likely have a concern about challenging law enforcement.’ Haws said if something similar happened in his district, there would be a lot of complaints. ‘Can you imagine this happening in Edina?‘ he asked. ‘This didn’t happen in Edina,’ Luger answered.”
The City of St. Paul will come up with $5.2 miliion — somewhere, somehow, sometime — to build an “infill” station on the Central Corridor light-rail line. Despite an increase in funding (the vile federal government is paying for half the project) — there still wasn’t enough in the budget to create a stop around either Hamline, Victoria or Western avenues. Chris Havens reports for the Strib. Simultaneously a University Avenue business group launched a campaign Wednesday to create awareness — and angle for “mitigation” money — as business revenue takes a hit during construction.
Tad Vezner’s story for the PiPress on the LRT stop also includes reaction from several St. Paul politicos and community leaders. He adds, “Debate about the new stations was re-energized several weeks ago when the federal government performed an annual revision of a key ‘cost-effectiveness index’ for the project — allowing local bean counters to inject an extra $14.4 million into it and still receive federal approval. Community groups — arguing for the extra stations in the name of racial and economic equality for everyone along the line — reminded the committee of its February 2008 commitment to build a new station before all else with any added funds.”
Grabbing from its sister publication out in the Seattle area, the Minneapolis-St.Paul Business Journal runs a mildly encouraging story about a likely 17 percent decrease (year-to-date) in airfares out of the Twin Cities this Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. That is, of course, putting lipstick on a pig, to borrow a once-popular phrase. Why? Well because … “compared with the holiday season two years ago, air fares are either the same or slightly more expensive. Expect to see fuller planes with lower ticket prices this year, according to Bing Travel and don’t expect to see air fares decreasing as the holidays near.” Thanks for the good news, I guess.
Under the heading of “Why Are So Few People Reading Newspapers Anymore?” you may have missed Wednesday’s “editorial” in the PiPress about the health care/insurance reform debate. Maybe you’ve heard about it? Kind of a big deal. Anyway in these perilous times for papers, the first order of business is a bit like the Hippocratic oath, i.e., “Say nothing to upset anyone, ever.” The four-paragraph piece, half the length of the average Brett Favre practice report, says, or rather “reassures” us, that “There’s no short-cut to a project as challenging as health-care reform. No choice is without tradeoffs, and we have to count on a boisterous public debate to help identify them. Measure by measure, persistent people all over the ideological spectrum are demanding more substance from the discussion. And they’re starting to get it.” There … can’t we all just get along? Sheesh.
Out on the health reform front, Chris Steller of the Minnesota Independent has an amusing item about our own Michele Bachmann, the feisty, telegenic gal who could only spend 10 minutes at her 6th District town hall forum last week finding practically an entire weekend to speak on the subject and any others her audience might seek deep thoughts on — in Colorado. “Bachmann will appear for a full hour Saturday morning at the Steamboat Institute in Steamboat Springs. A bonus for staying through Monday: Bachmann is also booked to appear for an incredible 90 minutes at an Independence Institute fundraiser in Denver.” I’d go and pay if she promised to answer questions while dancing a tango with Glenn Beck.
This is how lore is created. Charley “Shooter” Walters had an item Wednesday in the PiPress — updated late last night — of Kirby Puckett “calling” his already legendary Game 6 ’91 World Series home run against the Atlanta Braves. And how do we know this now, 18 years later? Because Shooter chatted up Terry Crowley batting coach of the Baltimore Orioles, who was with the Twins back then, and Crowley says it happened. “Crowley was among the first people Puckett eagerly embraced on the field after the historic clout to left field. There was a reason, and most people were not aware. ‘On some replays of the tape, if the crowd noise is diminished,’ Crowley said, ‘you can hear Puckett tell me, ‘I told you so, Crow.’ Just before Puckett went to bat against Charlie Leibrandt, he told Crowley he was about to end the game with a home run. ‘Puckett told me, ‘Crow, if they leave Leibrandt in there, this game is over,’ Crowley said. ‘That’s the God’s honest truth. That’s fact, and that happened. If you listen (to the tape), he gives me a hug and says, ‘Crow, I told you.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you did.’ ” Good enough for any sports fan. Print it.
Elsewhere in the PiPress, food writer Kathie Jenkins runs a collection of “great” State Fair food ideas from readers. You might want to stop eating your egg and bagel while you read this one. Among the “bests”: “CHEESY DRINKS — Imagine if you will — my menu on Judson Street: 1. Cheese-Flavored Milk! “Real cheddar, blended with wholesome whole milk!” 2. Spam ‘n’ Cheese pureed just for YOU! “Delicious Drinkability!” — David “Navy Dave” Paulson, Bayport.” Tell you what “Navy Dave”, try sticking to “**** on a Shingle.”
The love it/hate it “Cash for Clunkers” program is history, and “about time” is the attitude of nonprofit charities who might otherwise have received the rusting, guzzling beasts. Jean Hopfensperger reports for the Strib on steep drops in clunker donations in the Twin Cities while the big federal program was running. “Car donations generate an estimated $8 million a year for Twin Cities nonprofits. But this year, Courage Center expects to raise $500,000 less from car donations. Nationally, major charities such as Volunteers of America and the Society of St. Vincent De Paul are reporting a 15 percent reduction during the monthlong period.” Minnesota was one of the leading states in terms of taking advantage of the “Clunker” deal, with 12,000 trades. Hopfensperger says Courage Center raises $2.4 million through its old car program.