It’s Train Day, which sounds a bit like a Denzel Washington film, yes, but don’t expect to see Ethan Hawke staggering around downtown in an angel dust fog. No, instead, today marks the start of the Northstar commuter rail line, rumbling down the tracks from Big Lake to Minneapolis, and three Minnesota Public Radio reporters are liveblogging the event. So far, the trains seem to be running on schedule and with a fairly full load (“Most of the seats are now filled,” MPR reported at 6:20 a.m.; confirmed by a Twitter user who posted “Northstar Commuter train just went by. Looked pretty full.”)
There are at least two passengers who are likewise documenting their experiences via Twitter. User jhoium finds the train “too bright” but says, “The new ride is nice. It beats the bus but sleeping is not an option yet.” NordeastB, in the meanwhile, has been a bit more critical of the train, complaining when the train misses its schedule: “we sat for 3 min b4 opening doors. Only 1 exit door opened per car. LRT took 10 min to show,” she says, “improve please!“
Of course, this wasn’t going to occur without criticism, and you’ll find a good selection in the comments section of a Star Tribune story about the Northstar line this weekend. The rail isn’t for everybody, one commenter points out — “Because it serves less than 1% of the population. What good could 316 million do for the poor??” Another complains about the limited train schedule and the fact that it stops at Target Field: “The metrotransit website suggests that for me to get to 9th and Marquette by 6:55 I would have to take the 5:19 train (Im still sleeping at that time now) wait 40 minutes or so for the Hiawatha line and connect with a bus on Nicollet. Seriously? Who is going to do that?”; this commenter is immediately corrected by another, who allows that it seems like there are fewer options for commuters because the ” ‘arrive by’ approach on Metro Transit’s website sucks.”
Speaking of rumbles, and interesting one may be brewing: The six low-income Minnesotans that filed a lawsuit against Tim Pawlenty’s unilateral budget cuts might find themselves with an unexpected ally: the Minnesota House, according to Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck. According to the story, a committee will be meeting today to decide if the House should join the lawsuit, and it quotes DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, who is in favor of the move, saying, “If we allow this precedent to stand, it’s going to be bad for both sides of the political aisle and it’s going to be bad for the institutions and it’s going to be bad for the state.” MinnPost’s Eric Black looks into the case against Pawlenty’s unallotments, which can’t be summed up quickly, but Black clarifies the constitutional argument against the unallotments: “Pawlenty’s action alters the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches. If he gets away with this, the constitutional portion of the argument goes, he will have greatly increased the governor’s power over state spending and state priorities, at the expense of the Legislature’s power.”
In unrelated Pawlenty news, City Pages points out that the story of Tim Pawlenty’s appearance at the hunting opener last week is getting some traction, but not the sort that the governor is expecting. You might remember that Pawlenty showed up long enough to shoot a buck, but had to head out of state for a speaking engagement before he could track the wounded animal, leaving that task up to his hunting party (according to the PolitcalPulse blog, they never found it). Now Pawlenty is finding himself criticized by hunters on a site called DeerHuntingChat.com; City Pages quotes one commenter as saying, “What kind of slob hunter goes out opening morning and shoots a deer knowing full well you won’t have time to retrieve it or tend to it? One whose presidential ambitions override his hunting ethics, that’s what kind.”
On the subject of hunting, according to Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Robertson, hunters are spending less, and bag limits may be in part to blame. Previously, hunters could shoot as many as five deer, but now, according to Robertson, “bag limits were tightened in many areas to just one deer.” The Associated Press says that about 5 percent fewer deer are being legally bagged and, in a related story, says that illegal deer baiting — luring deer with food or a salt lick — is up. The story cites a conservation officer as saying that in North Minnesota, deer baiting has become “epidemic.” Authorities are fighting back by seizing the firearms of hunters found baiting; as some firearms are worth upward of $1,000, that punishment can really sting a hunter.
Dameon Gatson of Hopkins has been sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole in an unusual case: He had his friend punch his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach to kill the fetus of his six-months-pregnant girlfriend, as the Associated Press reports. As you might expect, this ruling is already being hailed by the pro-life end of the spectrum, as demonstrated by a post from conservative blogger Tar Heel Red, who says, “You see, you can not be convicted of murder if there isn’t a life that was ended. Clearly, a life was ended. And this man took it.” It’s not the first time that Minnesota’s fetal homicide laws have made national news: Back in 1990, a Minnesota man was charged with two counts of murder, one for shooting his girlfriend, and the other for the related death of her 28-day embryo; the case, and the issues it raised, were covered by the New York Times; Salon also offered a feature on the thorny issue of fetal homicide laws, quoting Minnesota professor Dr. Jeffrey Edelson, who described the laws as “cynical.” “He believes if women are adequately protected by society, so too will their fetuses,” Salon says.
In sports, the Vikings beat Detroit in a game riddled with errors, causing Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune (or whoever authored his headline) to dub the game an “unclean sweep“; “It wasn’t pretty,” the Pioneer Press’ Rick Alonzo said of the game.