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Lousy economy may save Minnesota congressional seat

PLUS: Pawlenty on the move, online revenge fantasies, and more stadium news.

MPR’s Tom Scheck files a piece on how the stagnant economy may have slowed migration out of snow belt places like Minnesota to (former) low-tax, easy-mortgage paradises like Las Vegas and Phoenix enough that we may not lose a congressional seat in the next census as we’ve been told for so long. Scheck writes, “Minnesota is fighting to hold on to its eight seats. If the population has declined so much that the state loses a seat, it would be the first time since 1960. [State Demographer Tom] Gillaspy said 2008 population projections put Minnesota about 4,000 people short of keeping the seat, but he expects that number to shift when the 2009 figures are released. ‘Up until this last year, the bet was a little more than 50-50 against us that we would lose a seat … I would venture to say that [now, based on post-recession stats] it’s a little bit better than 50-50 that we would keep that eighth seat.’ “

We know someone who’s going to be hearing from The Tea Party. Hennepin County commissioners jacked up the property tax levy 4.95% starting next year, in anticipation of another round of nasty cuts of state funding. The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere quotes commissioner Jan Callison saying, “Today, we know that the state budget forecast is worse than we thought it was going to be. We don’t know what unallotment [the process by which the governor de-funds programs] is, but we know it’s still a very real threat.” A major part of the new money will go to prop up GMAC, the health care fund gutted by unallotment and causing mighty headaches for Hennepin County Medical Center.

A 7-1 vote by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency intends to build in new regulations to scrub out 30 percent of the haze over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the Superior National Forest and Isle Royale National Park and all of it … by 2064. “The rules may eventually affect coal-burning power plants and taconite plants in Minnesota but also pulp and paper mills and other industry which may be required to install new haze-cutting pollution-control technology,” writes John Myers in the Duluth News Tribune, who also notes an intra-agency spat over the vote. “Though he praised the MPCA’s call for a 30 percent reduction in emissions in Northeastern Minnesota by 2018, [Super National Forest supervisor, Jim] Sanders said in October the agency’s haze plan fails to require taconite plants to measure how much pollution they emit. It also fails to set standards for how much they need to cut, he said. The Voyageurs National Park Association said Xcel Energy’s modeling shows one central Minnesota power plant, Sherco, is responsible for haze over the BWCAW, violating federal Clean Air Act requirements about 227 days each year.”

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Posting revenge fantasies about a wastrel boyfriend/girlfriend where the whole world can read it? Never a good idea. The Facebook maunderings of a U of M grad student got her bounced out of class and into the face of local cops. Jenna Ross reports in the Strib that the 28 year-old … mortuary student … got dumped by her boyfriend and then wrote, “I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though. Hmmm … perhaps I will spend the evening updating my ‘Death List #5’ and making friends with the crematory guy. I do know the code …” [“Death List #5” is a reference to an over-the-top Quentin Tarantino movie.] No charges were filed, but the professor may now be the one with a problem. The student is quoted saying, “I got dumped, which is never a nice thing. I was bitter and really angry about it. For whatever reason, this professor took it personally.”

It’s good to know that despite his busy schedule — where all “the work is getting done”Gov. Pawlenty has time for coffee with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. An AP story has Vikings VP Lester Bagley saying Pawlenty and Wilf had a “very positive” chat, but “they did not get into specifics about stadium proposals or whether to take them up next year, when the state faces a severe budget crisis.” So what then did the two men talked about? Snow removal? Tiger Woods? The piece notes that on Thursday the Stadium Commission will unveil a rendering of its plan for a $954 million Metrodome replacement, the same day many of you will show the spouse that brochure for a new Bentley.

The pro-stadium study that produced the number $451 millio
n — the total of all tax revenue generated by every pro sports team here in Minnesota — got plenty of play. Here’s KSTP-TV’s report, with a good line from Sen. John Marty (gubernatorial candidate and longtime anti-tax-supported stadium guy): “But opponents of state funding for stadiums and arenas say it’s a hollow argument to claim all that tax revenue would disappear if not for the sports teams. Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville said, ‘That would only be the case if every fan and every advertiser and everybody who buys sports memorabilia would take the money they spend on the tickets and sports memorabilia and so on and put it in a paper shredder.’ “

The governor, by the way, tonight will be in … let’s see … Inver Grove Heights? Buhl? Montevideo? … no. He’ll be in New Hampshire, (again from MPR’s Scheck), giving a speech to New Hampshire Senate Republicans, who no doubt will have a lot of inventive ideas for Hennepin County Medical Center and Zygi Wilf.

The blog Real Clear Politics has a good piece on Pawlenty’s visit, noting that it is the first of the ’12 cycle and may be the earliest ever. More significantly, New Hampshire represents an interesting symptomatic split in the Republican Party, with “social conservative activists” so likely to dominate the Iowa caucuses, fiscal guys like Pawlenty may … may … be better suited for New Hampshire’s open primary. The piece quotes a former state Republican chairman saying, “The Iowa caucus is so dominated by the evangelical portion of the Republican base, and if you’re not going to be their darling, why even bother?”

Based on Minnesotans’ traditional affinity for young governors, Republican Marty Seifert, 37, should have a cakewalk into the governor’s mansion next year. Numbers, of course, can say many things. The Smart Politics blog lays out the data: “Since 1926, the younger gubernatorial candidate has won 23 of 30 gubernatorial contests in Minnesota, or a success rate of 77 percent. · Since 1904, the younger candidate has won 33 of 41 contests, or an 80 percent rate of victory.”
You know it’s a slow crime day in Duluth
when the cops are ticketing bicyclists picking up and delivering food … to soup kitchens. The Duluth News Tribune’s Brandon Stahl reports that the city attorney has dropped charges — for impeding car traffic — against three charitable workers, “because he didn’t think the case warranted going to trial. But he also said police were not wrong to issue the tickets, saying the three cyclists need to move over when they’re blocking traffic.” (Cops apparently told the three — toting bags of food … on snowy streets … to zigzag in and out between parked cars so as not to slow down the flow of SUV drivers blathering into their cell phones … (ignore that last part).

The PiPress’s Mary Jo Webster slogs through the detritus of Denny Hecker’s auto empire collapse and the effect of so many empty car dealerships on cities like Stillwater and Forest Lake. Devoted (obsessed?) fans of the Hecker story have read most of this before, but for a guy cashing in his retirement accounts to buy … trips to Vegas, facelifts, whatever … it’s amusing to note, down at the very end, that Stillwater will pocket $80,000 of Denny’s money here in a couple weeks if he doesn’t somehow fix the curbs and other things around his old Ford dealership.

A cougar, maybe THE cougar, has crossed Highway 5
and is working the Stillwater area now, perhaps intent on making Wisconsin by Christmas. Mary Divine of the PiPress writes, “Officials believe the cougar spotted in Stillwater is the same animal that had previously been spotted in Champlin and Vadnais Heights. ‘I think it’s unlikely that there is more than one cougar roaming around the Twin Cities, [said a DNR officer]. Based on the track size, they seem pretty consistent.’ “