Remember when Kremlinologists used to analyze the order of the lineup atop Lenin’s Tomb and even leaders’ body language to determine who was rising or falling in favor? It’s a bit like that trying to figure out what Gov. Tim Pawlenty is really up to after he suddenly floated the idea of a new lottery to pay for a $800 million-plus Vikings stadium. Remember, this comes barely a month after former Sen. Dick Day announced that he had an ironclad deal for Pawlenty’s support on a racino (where Day has since gone to work). Pawlenty took about a half hour to deny any such thing. But now, according to Stribbers Rachel Stassen-Berger and Mike Kaszuba, the Gov is half-serious. OK, maybe one-third. Would you believe one-eighth? Says the Gov, ” ‘[T]here’s new games added all the time in the lottery’, Pawlenty told a radio audience. ‘There was one just added the other day called Mega Millions that’s going to generate $20 million a year’, the governor said. Although 40 percent of those funds — $8 million — is constitutionally dedicated to an environmental trust fund, ‘the other $12 [million] can be used for other stuff. People will say it should go into schools or roads or whatever, but … that’s another way to do [the stadium].’ “
So while we’re at it, talking about, “schools or roads or whatever … ,” Baird Helgeson of the Strib kicks in his report on the state’s contingency plan to borrow $600 million — from schools — in case Minnesota runs completely out of cash this spring. “The state must keep $400 million in the bank to manage cash flow, but in March the account is expected to dip to $227 million. A month later, the state would be $143 million in the hole. By May, the state would have just $19 million in the bank. To forestall that, state officials plan to delay $422 million in payments to public schools and $52 million to the University of Minnesota. They also will delay $60 million in corporate and sales tax refunds. The state has already borrowed $870 million from other state funds, including health care accounts and state colleges and universities. Add in Pawlenty’s decision to delay $1.7 billion in K-12 payments, and the internal borrowing tops $3.1 billion — roughly 10 percent of the state’s annual budget.” Pretty soon, you know, that all adds up to real money.
Oh, and what the heck, since we’re rolling in the dough, check out the co-bylined editorial in the Strib this morning from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Saints owner Mike Veeck. You guessed it. They see fabulous revenue potential if someone … the state … will just fork over $25 million to build a new Lowertown stadium for the Saints. Once they get rolling with their dreams, it all does sound pretty dang irresistible. “[T]iming makes the new ballpark a smart investment: 225 construction jobs; another 240 full-time and seasonal jobs, and $10 million annually generated in economic growth, spurred by 400,000 visitors and 50,000 new transit trips each year.” There’s also some gas in there about outdoor hockey, easy access for “mini-vans” and it being a boon to kids from ” … Maple Grove.” Did I miss where this St.Paul-centric editorial ran in the Pioneer Press?
If there is any justice in the world, Strib reporter Mark Brunswick’s altogether compelling series of stories from his month in Afghanistan will earn him both prizes and a fat raise from his new bosses. (OK, so maybe just prizes.) The series, the latest installment of which is available on-line, with Brunswick’s videos and photographer Richard Sennott’s visuals, has a narrative drive so noticeably lacking in other sprawling multi-part (prize-hungry) Strib features. The terse, descriptive prose and the pervasive sense of tension in the situation at hand obviously help. The lead from this latest edition: “Row after row of new dump trucks, front-end loaders, Ford Rangers and Humvees sit in neat rows at the Afghan military base here, the plastic wrapping still on the seats, the shipping tags still pasted on the windows. They’ve been idle since arriving a year ago. The Afghans don’t know how to operate them. The vehicles could be providing security and moving supplies … But a country with a near 70 percent illiteracy rate can’t produce enough soldiers capable of maintaining these vehicles, or even reading the owner’s manuals.” Truly excellent stuff. This is one project that delivered bang for the buck.
Speaking of the much-ignored Ford Ranger, the pride of Highland Park, it saw a 47 percent increase in sales in January. The trusty little truck hasn’t been redesigned since Grant was president and is scheduled for oblivion next year. Gita Sitaramiah files a short piece for the PiPress.
In another transportation-related piece, the AP reports that Delta will now begin service from here to Pierre, S.D., … uh, and back, thank God.
Somebody … that would be Phil Krinkie and the Minnesota Taxpayers League … is reliably opposed to any kind of spending at any time for any reason. In an editorial for Finance and Commerce Krinkie gets in his one cent’s worth (two would be an extravagant waste), railing against … um, Met Council Chair Peter Bell and the steadily escalating cost of the Central Corridor LRT. “With the number of lawsuits increasing, so are the costs of the project. However, a recent decision by the Federal Transit Administration has gutted the cost-effectiveness standards, in turn allowing the inclusion of the three additional stations. With the cost effectiveness standards all but gone, there will be no cap on the total project costs. For [Peter] ‘Build-it’ Bell there are only a couple of hurdles remaining to clear before the project receives final approval from the Feds, and with his ‘buy off the opposition’ approach, it is just a matter of time and money before we hear the ring, ring, ring of the trolley on University Avenue.”
Another conservative, blogger Speed Gibson, is as cranky as Krinkie. But he frames his argument well. He sees a semantic shell game hiding spending at every point of the compass, even where politicos are asserting cuts and relief. “Take a ‘targeted’ tax cut where you can get a break on your Minnesota Income Tax if your child pays tuition to attend a Minnesota Community College. Contrast this with a spending program that allows the college to discount their tuition for qualified taxpayers. Now do the math, to assess the effect on the three checkbooks involved: the State’s, the College’s, and the Taxpayer’s. The result is exactly the same either way. If you have to spend money in a particular way to get a tax break, this is the same as an incentive program.” You know, if you look at it exactly THAT way ….
We are now entering that phase of winter where we’re all really going to have to dig down deep and find that sense of humor that took such a brutal battering during the holidays and barely survived January. Dial up local videographer Chuck Olsen’s MnO (“Minnesota Original”) site (or not, because it seems a bit glitchy this morning). Here anyway — via youTube — is a piece from the recent Art Shanty project out on Medicine Lake. Email it to your smug relatives in Florida.
“Gimme Shelter,” the Haiti benefit organized by City Pages at First Avenue this Saturday, with an impressive roster of local bands, appears to have built into something like the real deal. “A lot has transpired, since we booked Solid Gold, Mark Mallman, Zoo Animal, Peter Wolf Crier, Jimmy2Times and Mike2600 to play the gig:
[You can also, they write:]
- Buy art (and t-shirts!) from locals who will give more than 50% of the proceeds from the artist marketplace to The American Red Cross Haiti Relief And Development Fund and/or Architecture For Humanity. Involved artists include Anthem Heart, Dwitt, Chuck U and more.
- Radio K and The Current have both become involved and will have booths at the show as well.”
Remember former Timberwolf Latrell Sprewell’s immortal line amid a struggle over his next $7 million contract, “I gotta feed my family”? Variations on that may run through your head as you read Frederick Melo’s PiPress story about the guy shoplifting … lobster tails … from an Eagan Cub Foods store. Writes Melo, “When personnel told him to stop [with the bag of stolen tails], he allegedly threw the bag and ran. The complaint states a worker chased him, then backed off a bit after being threatened with the knife, but continued following him from a distance so he could guide police to him. Eagan police caught up with [him] by a nearby school hockey rink. As he was being arrested, he allegedly said: ‘Wow, all this for a couple of lobster tails. C’mon woman’!” Yeah! I mean its a brutal economy. What’s a guy supposed to do? Eat Cheerios?
The PiPress’s football guy, Rick Alonzo, picks up on a sports radio website and an interview with ex-New York Giants great Tiki Barber talking about Adrian Peterson’s fumble problem. “I think with Adrian Peterson, he needs somebody with authority — with a strong voice — to tell him, ‘Look, as great as a player as you are, you’re a liability,’ Barber said. ‘And that’s what [Giants coach] Tom Coughlin did with