Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Caucuses begin process of thinning gubernatorial herd

PLUS: More Michele Bachmann on health care reform, a glimmer of good news on housing, and an inventive mother-son team.

The culling of the massive 25-plus herd of gubernatorial candidates has begun. After last night’s caucuses, the expectation is that the field will begin to thin as realistic contenders emerge … as opposed to those running on name-recognition polling and ego alone. WCCO-TV’s AP story — by Briana Biersbach and Brian Bakst — has R.T. Rybak and Margaret Anderson Kelliher in a near dead heat among DFLers (with Mark Dayton not on straw poll ballots) and Marty Seifert holding a double-digit lead over Tom Emmer. Reporting on Anoka precincts, the story says, “… the ‘uncommitted’ option was the easy winner in two of the biggest Democratic precincts. Voters like nurse Eileen Rathbun helped explain the trend. Entering the caucus, she was having trouble choosing among 14 candidates from her party. Rathbun ruled out Rybak and wasn’t high on Kelliher, two candidates who have vowed to give up the race without the party’s endorsement. Rathbun’s union favored Minneapolis Rep. Paul Thissen, but she wasn’t ready to commit.” Well, that’s getting somewhere, I guess.

The Strib’s coverage, by Rachel Stassen-Berger and four others, includes this classic scene from a southeast DFL precinct, “DFLers at Sanford Middle School in southeast Minneapolis passed resolutions against puppy mills, and for sex education that included gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. They called for a restoration of funds to General Assistance Medical Care, which pays for health care for the poor, and resolved that the state should divest all Israel bonds.” What? No demands for protection of the Namibian sand tortoise? These guys are slipping.

The secretary of state’s office has official stats. Here are the Republicans. And here are the DFLers.

No day is complete without something new from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She was in Rochester Tuesday speaking to a crowd of 200. Obviously not yet on board with all that cuddly bipartisan talk from President Obama, Ms. Bachmann was pitching fear of health care reform and the “socialist takeover” with as much zest as ever. Maybe more. Follow the sourcing and scholarship involved in this one, via Eric Roper and the Strib’s Hot Dish Politics: “… Bachmann warned that Democratic health reform proposals could eventually prompt the government to use health care as a tool to limit people’s free speech … she explained that a man recently approached her to say that in Japan, which ‘had the government takeover of health care,’ the government puts people who criticize the health system on ‘a list’ and denies them treatment. ‘And so people are afraid. They’re afraid to speak back to government,’ Bachmann said. ‘They’re afraid to say anything. Is that what we want for our future? That takes us to gangster government at that point and absolute abject corruption’.” So, a guy stepping out of a crowd is now good enough for a, uh, factual assertion. (Interestingly, Roper cites the Rochester Post-Bulletin, which has video of the speech but skips the “money quote” in its on-line piece.) She has a way with imagery though, doesn’t she?

The Pickwick, the grande dame of Duluth upscale eateries is being sold. The cozy old place, next to Fitger’s brewery, has endured bad labor relations — and worse PR — for the last couple of years, and then the recession. The current owner, Chris Wisocki, fourth generation down from the original, says he wants out, according to the Duluth News Tribune. “He said he has prospective buyers. But Wisocki declined to say more, including his asking price and whether he has a real estate agent.”

“While supplies last” is the key phrase.
But while they do, you can buy high(er) efficiency compact fluorescent bulbs for $1 apiece at quite a few retail outlets, under an Xcel Energy program. MPR’s story (via the AP), says, “Participating stores include Ace Hardware, Byerly’s, Costco Wholesale, Cub Foods, Eastside Food Co-op, The Home Depot, Lund’s, Mississippi Markets, Rainbow Foods, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart and Wedge Community Co-op … .”

Who doesn’t like good news, even if its just a glimmer? The Strib’s Kara McGuire reports that new home starts in the Twin Cities metro are up 49 percent over (a very grim) year ago, and she’s got one guy saying the bottom was hit some time ago. Her numbers are interesting. “The size of the new home inventory also continues to decline. At the end of the fourth quarter, there were 3,051 new houses in the Twin Cities market, a 30 percent decrease from 2008 and a 56 percent drop from 2007. Of those new homes, 1,548 were under construction, 1,115 were finished vacant properties and 388 were model homes. There is currently a 7.9-month supply. Six to seven months’ supply in the market is considered equilibrium.”

According to popular legend, all that stimulus money has done squat
. (Half of it hasn’t been spent yet.) But the Twin Cities continue to see in-flow from the giant program. Case in point; the Lowry Avenue bridge. Kevin Duchschere in the Strib says, “The Hennepin County Board on Tuesday approved the use of Build America Bonds — called BABS for short — to help pay for construction of the new Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis. The federal tax-credit bonding is expected to save county taxpayers $3 million to $5 million over what standard tax-exempt bonding would cost. ‘Like stimulus money or not, at the end of the day, at least you have infrastructure in place,’ said County Commissioner Mark Stenglein.”

A mother-and-son team
, once lauded for their work with low-income families have now been convicted of defrauding the state out of $2.1 million in tax revenue. You may need a tax attorney to explain how they did it, but the Strib’s Gregory A. Patterson takes a shot. “In 2000, when most of the events occurred, [the mother Carolyn] Louper-Morris and [son William] Morris operated a business called CyberStudy 101, which sold an online student tutorial to customers for $1,000 and in return promised to give customers free Internet access and a computer. The $1,000 would be paid to CyberStudy by way of a tax credit available to low-income Minnesotans. CyberStudy filed tax returns for its customers, directing the tax credit payments to itself. At the time, Minnesota law provided tax credit for supplemental educational expenses of $1,000 per child and as much as $2,000 per family.” As Patterson notes, Tom Petters would be proud of this one.

OK, so maybe the old guy really was too wounded to run on that last play. Joe Schmit at KSTP posts pictures of the nasty bruises Brett Favre is sporting after the New Orleans loss, including one from the hit later declared illegal … and for which the Saints should have been penalized … and the Vikings awarded a first down … and … oh, never mind. It is interesting though that Favre’s agent released the shots, isn’t it?