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Yawn! Most ignore elections

It was close. I mean the part about finding out what would happen if you held an election and no one showed? But despite a ridiculously low turn-out — as of 7 a.m., the Secretary of State’s Office was showing roughly 45,000 out of 231,000 registered voters in Minneapolis — R.T. Rybak won re-election to a third term and St. Paul’s Chris Coleman to a second, both by 2-to-1-plus margins. A snooze, in other words. Coverage is widespread but less riveting a read than an old Denny Hecker car ad. But then as a reporter handed this job, what can you do? The Strib’s Steve Brandt slogs through the statistics here.

Lucky Brandt also draws the assignment of assessing the debut of Ranked Choice Voting or Instant Runoff Voting, whichever you prefer, arguably the story with the most long-term consequences for third-party-candidate weary Minnesotans. The trickle of voters will make the break-in of that system a bit easier, and most people — emphasis on most — found it simple enough. However, in Brandt’s piece there is this observation, ” ‘There are always going to be people who don’t understand 1, 2, 3 and A, B, C,’ said voter Valerie Powers.” No kidding. (We, of course, wonder what might happen when Joe Soucheray is required to use the accursed IRV system, narrowly approved by St. Paul voters Tuesday.)

In St. Paul, a mere 34,000 exercised their hard-won democratic rights. The PiPress’s Dave Orrick covers the results, noting that, “turnout was the lowest for a city in a mayoral election since at least 1993. Since then, no race has fallen below 59,000 voters.”

Very sad and odd story about the three North Dakota softball players, two from California, found drowned inside their Jeep at the bottom of a 12-foot-deep pond — in the middle of a farm field — outside Dickinson, N.D. The Associated Press story quotes the local sheriff saying, “he believed the women were on a stargazing trip in the Jeep when they called for help, but he did not know whether it already was under water when the calls were made.”

You can bet far more than 80,000 are following the events of the Tom Petters trial
. Stribber Jon Tevlin, who was tracking Petters before he became a metro columnist, has a good piece today drawing a line to an obvious enough but rarely noted characteristic of the alleged Petter Ponzi scheme, namely that it embodies an entire era in American entrepreneurship. Writes Tevlin, jurors were watching “a microcosm of the American economy where the workers lived on other continents, phantom money was borrowed from one another, mortgages were given from the over-leveraged to the under-funded, the Play Station IIIs behind the big box signs didn’t really exist.” Once you factor in the skepticism-free eye of the mainstream press and the cheerleading of so-called business magazines and journalists, the picture gets even clearer.

One of the mysteries of the Petters scheme
in a town the size of this with such a relatively small group of deep-pocketed investors is why no one paid much attention to the Paulie Walnuts-like crowd Petters was hanging with. In Tuesday’s proceedings, we learned that Petters thought he might be hit (i.e., “whacked”) by Robert Sabes and his son Jon — a couple of well-heeled strip club owners into Petters for $19 million. The David Phelps- Jennifer Bjorhus story in the Strib gives the basics.

But if you want the real-orld vibe, the unsanitized stuff, ripe with Bada Bing!-style dialogue forbidden at family newspapers, you’ll have to check in with Ken Avidor at City Pages. Also note Petters writing himself a check for $90,000 for a new Bentley as a kind of Christmas present.

Bjorhus also files a short piece on the elder Sabes’, um, colorful career as a “philanthropist” and … strip club operator. You gotta love stuff like this: “The Sabes Family Foundation is known for charitable contributions, particularly to Jewish causes. Robert Sabes (pronounced SAY-biz) is also known for running the Minneapolis strip club Schieks Palace Royale (formerly Solid Gold) … Back in 1994, a former business associate of Sabes, strip club magnate Michael J. Peter, was indicted in Florida on charges of racketeering and selling hidden interests in one of his many strip clubs, called Thee Dollhouse III, to reputed members of the Gambino crime family. Peter had managed Solid Gold in Minneapolis, which was part of a national chain, for Sabes.” Somehow the appeal of a guy like (accused Ponzi scheme operator) Petters becomes more apparent, doesn’t it?

And no, we’re not forgetting Denny Hecker. Baffled by where he keeps coming up with $25,000 here and $50,000 there for facelifts and jaunts off to Hawaii for R&R, prying eyes (public and legal) learned Tuesday that Denny has been tapping his 401(k) account, or at least $125K of it, paired with loans — yup, more loans — he dumped into yet another new business, this one with the ironic “Twilight Zone”-tinged name of “New Dimension Advisors.” The PiPress team of Mary Jo Webster and Nicole Garrison-Sprenger note that in what has been revealed to be typical for a Hecker enterprise, “The deposits also included more than $54,000 in ‘reimbursements’ that were not otherwise explained and about $700 listed as ‘unknown.’ Four deposits, adding up to about $25,000, designated as consulting fees listed in the divorce filing don’t indicate the names of the clients.” 

Route 3A wins! The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority declared 3A the victor in the contest to choose a route for the Southwest light-rail line in from Eden Prairie. The key issue here was Uptown, as in whether to go there or not. That’s where the ridership and demand probably are, sure, but also much higher costs. The winning 3A skirts Uptown, coming in from St. Louis Park through Cedar Lake/Lake of the Isle and into downtown by Target Field. Here is MPR’s Madeleine Baran’s story.

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Comments (11)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/04/2009 - 10:40 am.

    “The Sabes Family Foundation is known for charitable contributions, particularly to Jewish causes.” For those who aren’t able to connect the dots, the Sabes JCC (f.k.a. Minneapolis Jewish Community Center) is named for said philanthropist. Do the strippers at Shieks get free memberships and workout at the fitness center?

  2. Submitted by Paul Scott on 11/04/2009 - 12:48 pm.

    Boy was the fix ever in on the lousy choice of that there rail route. The County Board just turned local light rail into the bedroom community express. What an abjectly mercenary move. “‘This was an open process, with rigorous debate worthy of a project of this magnitude,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman in a statement.”

    If you have to say so, you probably have a problem.

  3. Submitted by Jill Trescott on 11/04/2009 - 01:19 pm.

    I’ve been impressed with the vigilance of the bankruptcy trustee in the Petters case; the trustee seems quite vigilant in identifying the assets and holding on to them on behalf of the creditors.

    But what the heck is going on in the Hecker case? Hecker keeps popping up with magical assets and income that he sees as “his” when they really should be accounted for in the bankruptcy proceedings. Is this because Hecker is a sneaky weasel or because the trustee isn’t paying enough attention?

  4. Submitted by Steve Fester on 11/04/2009 - 01:30 pm.

    The light rail route from Eden Prairie should not serve Uptown, high-demand or not. A long, suburban-originating line such as this should have minimal urban core stops. If you’re familiar with Chicago, picture the Ravenswood Brown Line train extending all the way out the Arlington Heights. It would take forever to travel the entire line, reducing ridership. Train lines that serve far suburban areas should have limited urban service. Lines such as Hiawatha that serve primarily urban areas should and do have more frequent urban stops. Also, Uptown is excellently served by existing bus service. You can’t have one line be everything to everyone.

  5. Submitted by Susan Lesch on 11/04/2009 - 04:02 pm.

    Nice of you to mention the election. I checked the Star Tribune site twice today. Once there was a second headline that said Rybak won, but now it’s a photo of Sarah Palin. What the heck happened to the Minneapolis newspaper?

  6. Submitted by jim hughes on 11/04/2009 - 04:06 pm.

    “Uptown is excellently served by existing bus service.”

    I don’t even know what that statement means. I would have no clue how to get to Uptown by bus and am not even interested in trying to figure it out. It’s just too much hassle and confusion.

    Now that suburbanites are clamoring for their rail lines – after opposing the idea for decades – LRT is being ‘repurposed’ to serve bedroom communities. Not all bad, but disappointing.

  7. Submitted by Steve Fester on 11/04/2009 - 05:01 pm.

    Metro Transit has an excellent trip planner on their website at There are many routes from downtown to Uptown and beyond. I believe there is even SW Metro Transit service from Eden Prairie to DT Mpls. which stops in Uptown. I’m not sure what the problem is, except maybe some tired urban vs. suburban ideology. City dweller here, by the way.

  8. Submitted by Paul Scott on 11/04/2009 - 05:19 pm.

    I agree that the “Uptown is excellently served by bus service” comment is beyond belief. Especially in January! All transit buses should be buried in a remote part of the desert outside of Laughlin, Nevada, simply to undo the horrible seasickness they induce upon their helpless ridership. Metro Transit buses are the greatest of the many small insults heaped upon the urban poor on behalf of the state. I especially loved their convenience in regards to job seeking trips. But the comparison about Chicago also really makes no sense. I regularly rode the Blue LIne from the airport all the way into the Loop, and it beat traffic every time.

  9. Submitted by jim hughes on 11/04/2009 - 08:26 pm.

    “There are many routes from downtown to Uptown and beyond. I believe there is even SW Metro Transit service from Eden Prairie to DT Mpls. which stops in Uptown.”

    That’s my point. Who wouldn’t rather just get on the train than try to figure out all those bus options?

  10. Submitted by B Maginnis on 11/04/2009 - 10:23 pm.

    Please identify any valid reason to ride a bus to “Uptown”, from the “suburbs”.

    Thank you.

  11. Submitted by Dick Novack on 11/05/2009 - 08:59 am.

    “Yawn! Most ignore elections” ARTICLE

    Of the 10 comments above mine at this writing, only one mentions “election” – – the lead article. A 10% interest – amongst we supposidly highly educated and community involved readers of MinnPost!

    Meanwhile, Minneapolis boasts 19.5% voter turnout for the city elections. Minneapolis is often touted as the less educated inner city (with 48% graduation rate – proudly up from previous 45%).

    Should we conclude that it is the uneducated who care about elections? and the educated who now don’t care?

    Unfortunately the statistics fight that conclusion where Edina, the perennial highest percentage voter turnout in Minnesota, drew out 30% of registered voters for the only thing on the ballot – to choose 4 out of 5 running for the 1/2 school board seats up this term. Edina boasts a just under 100% graduation rate and 85% going on to college annually.

    Perhaps there are other conclusions, such as we all got so burned out with elections news in 2008 that we are trying to ignore elections writers/commentators/articles for 2009?

    Brian Lambert: That must be it!

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