Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


A bank with a heart, and businesses with a problem

PLUS: more good rankings for Twin Cities, more Hecker news, and “family values” on display.

TCF chief Bill Cooper is no one’s idea of a squishy soft progressive, politically speaking. But at first glance, he’s out-Barney Franking the biggest consumer-hugging liberals with his plan to scrap those usurious $35-per-overdraft fees for a much smaller daily overdraft penalty. What a sweetheart! The Strib’s Chris Serres reports that “In scrapping the unpopular overdraft charges TCF is going a step further than most of the banking industry — and even what congressional leaders have demanded — in addressing the growing public backlash over overdraft fees.” Not that the crusty Cooper has gone completely soft on his legendary opposition to regulation. Serres quotes him saying: “The good news … is the Federal Reserve actually knows something about the banking system, as opposed to [Connecticut Sen.] Chris Dodd [who wants to restrict overdraft fees to one per month]. It’s more likely that we’ll get rational regulation as opposed to political posturing.”

3M and Flint Hill Resources (formerly the Koch refinery) were nailed Wednesday as the state’s two worst polluters by the group Environment Minnesota, which keeps an eye on crud companies dump in public waterways. The story, by Bob Geiger in Finance and Commerce, says,”3M Co. and Flint Hills ranked first and second among state companies for dumping just over 1 million pounds and 610,000 pounds, respectively, into the Mississippi River.”

Gov. Pawlenty is in D.C. ginning up money for his likely presidential run. MPR’s Tom Scheck says the Guv had a “low dollar” event at a bar before moving on to more fertile turf at the home of a deep-pocketed party activist. Says Scheck, “This is the first large fundraiser for Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC, which he started earlier this month. Pawlenty said he plans to use the money to build the Republican Party nationally.”

The Central Corridor LRT project picked up another organized group of adversaries Wednesday when owners of some of the numerous Asian restaurants and businesses along University Avenue in St. Paul came out swinging because of what they figure construction will do to their bottom line. Laura Yuen of MPR reports that the leader of the coalition, “has been lobbying the Met Council and the city to provide loans or other forms of financial assistance for small businesses like hers so they have a better chance of surviving construction” but says “the agency has downplayed the threat of lost business. She thinks the torn-up sidewalks, loss of parking, and overall dust, debris and commotion will keep her customers away.”

Remember when a former president dismissed charges that the American health care system is an unaffordable mess on the grounds that anyone who got sick could always go to the emergency room? Well, if the ER thing doesn’t work for you, go on national TV, like the Colorado family whose 22-pound, 2-year-old was denied coverage by our own UnitedHealth. Chen May Yee has the story for the Strib. The girl, “who weighs 22 pounds, was turned down by UnitedHealth’s Golden Rule subsidiary for not meeting height and weight standards.” But after a media whirl that included the “Today” show, a Denver TV station and The Huffington Post, UnitedHealth had the opportunity to, uh, review its decision. “After an ‘additional review’ of her medical records, the company said it will now offer [the child] coverage if her family wants it.” The story does not mention at what cost.

A day after The Daily Beast linked to a survey of “Best Cities for Meeting Single Men” (which found the core burgs of Minneapolis and St. Paul fifth best) another survey appears declaring us one of the “least stressful” places to live, right down there with foreclosure-wracked Miami and Las Vegas, godawful sprawling Dallas and something called Cincinnati. The story, picked up by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Business Journal says, “The top-five things Americans do to de-stress at the end of the day are changing their clothes, laying down, kissing their spouse/partner, playing with their pet and reading a book or a magazine.” So I should stop throwing beer cans at Glenn Beck?

Speaking of brew … the folks over at Heavy Table are always a good source for the latest in chow and drink news. Via a link to, they remind us to keep next Wednesday night (and Thursday morning) open for the debut of the latest Minnesota brew — Fulton beer. The bash will be held at The Happy Gnome in St. Paul. Sure, do the “Star Wars” fan-boy thing and camp out.
Monday’s scheduled auction of Denny Hecker’s chi-chi wristwatch collection
hit a snag when WCCO-TV revealed that some of the watches were fakes, or “replicas,” as his attorneys prefer to describe them. Hecker’s problems Wednesday involved a federal judge waving off his argument that the bankruptcy trustee trying to comb through his finances and make sense of his over-the-top spending should be stopped because … there’s a grand jury coming after his business practices. The PiPress’s Jason Hoppin and Mary Jo Webster note Hecker and his girlfriend cutting out of court and report on yet another Hecker real estate move. “In one of his complaints, trustee [Randall] Seaver filed alleged Hecker used one of his “alter-ego” companies to obtain a mortgage from Wells Fargo Bank against a condo in Los Cabos, Mexico, for more than $651,000. Seaver attorney Matt Burton said in court Wednesday the condo is worth $2 million. Seaver claims that money should be part of the bankruptcy estate because the mortgage was granted at the end of April, when Hecker was insolvent.” Insolvent, but still good for $651K from a major bank. Now that’s what I call due diligence.

OMG! Under the heading(s) of “Things You’ll Never Read in Your Mother’s Paper” and “Can You Imagine What Michele Bachmann Would Say?” City Pages’ Emily Kaiser produces a feature on an Inver Grove Heights kid, Chad Fjerstad, making it big in the porn business. (Well not “it” and “big,” and not really “big” … but, well … oh never mind.) It’s a good read. You gotta admire the scene-setting like the one where the kid watches his first dirty movie: “He was seven and he was spending yet another day stuck at home with his five-year-old sister, Nicole. Dad was passed out on the couch, clutching a bottle of vodka. Digging around in a closet in their Inver Grove Heights home, Chad and Nicole discovered a box of their dad’s dirty videos. ‘I think we knew what they were, but we asked if we could watch them anyway,’ Nicole recalls. Their dad, still half asleep, gave them the thumbs-up.” Ahh, family values.

Article continues after advertisement

The splatter of warm mammal blood is an acquired taste, but you can’t deny the Strib’s Dennis Anderson has a talent for painting a picture of the moment of mortality. In the latest case, a Minnesota bow hunter brought down a 32-point buck up near Camp Ripley. Writes Anderson, with all the Jim Harrison/Tom McGuane prose he can muster: ” …[D]ream and reality blurred last week at Camp Ripley when a 32-point buck — bearing perhaps the largest non-typical rack ever taken by archery in Minnesota — ambled toward [the hunter]. Forty-four yards from [his] perch, the statuesque whitetail stood a moment, shaking snow from its back as leaden skies drizzled rain … Oblivious to being watched, the buck with the ornate antlers stepped away. As it did, a carbon arrow carrying a razor-sharp stainless steel broadhead caught up to it from behind, entering just beneath its rib cage and piercing its heart. Death followed instantly.”