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Bad teeth on the Iron Range

PLUS: St. Paul crackdown on “loafers,” a new beer for “Nordeast,” and a catfight in kiddie land.

An oral health crisis? On the Iron Range? Because there aren’t enough dentists? And the state is going to kick a fast $240,000 to lure a couple up there? In THIS budget? That’s the gist of Baird Helgeson’s story in the Strib, which is really about the kinds of programs very much like dentists-to-the-rescue that are getting whacked every day. Writes Helgeson, “The Iron Range, like other rural areas in Minnesota, faces a slow-rising health care emergency as dentists near retirement. Already, most of the dental offices on the Range are small ones, with only a few dentists. As those people retire, patients face long drives and long waits for dental care, prompting many to go without. When people start skimping on oral care, experts say, the number of costly emergency room visits soars as people arrive with dental trauma.” The idea is to slice a small chunk off the taconite tax … to buy a couple of dentists.

” ‘Dentists?’ said Senate Minority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, after being told about the plan. ‘I think we do know dentists in rural areas are hard to come by; I am just not sure about the appropriateness of using taconite tax money for this. This sounds like a stretch to me.’ ” Hmmm. Probably not a lot of gum disease in Rochester.

Bob McNaney’s KSTP-TV story about loafing city workers is still rippling around St. Paul. The latest reaction is a memo sent out Tuesday by, um, “transferring” Public Works Director Bruce Beese. The PiPress’ City Hall Scoop blog offers a link to his memo, which admonishes employees who apparently can’t find enough potholes to fill that smoking and napping in city vehicles is not allowed. It also notes: “There shall be no visiting of convenience stores or other establishments to purchase beverages, snacks or other convenience items during work break periods.  Any food or drink desired for work break periods must be purchased before the work day begins or brought from home in the morning.  Gas stations or convenience stores may be used for personal restroom needs only during the prescribed work break periods.” Dang! I suppose that means no 2 p.m. happy hour at The Dubliner?

McNaney added to the piece last night, noting that the investigation into the loafing will cost from $10,000 to $15,000 … which could fill how many potholes?

Al Franken’s “rape amendment” is doing what it was intended to do. Kellogg, Brown, Root (parent company of Halliburton) dropped its Supreme Court appeal and will meet, in court, a now 25-year-old woman who says she was gang-raped by co-workers in Baghdad five years ago. Franken’s amendment allows workers for companies operating under government contracts to sue, instead of accepting arbitration. Kevin Diaz’ Strib story notes that the bill actually received 10 Republican votes last October, although some GOP senators were irritated that by voting in favor of arbitration — for government contractors facing such charges from employees — Franken made it appear they were supporting rape. Franken has denied that was his intention. Heh, heh, heh.

Something tells me we’ll being tipping back the brewskies
at TCF Bank Stadium pretty soon. Given the jing from booze the University is giving up by not allowing alcohol sales anywhere in the stadium, it seems only a matter of (a little more) time before our local Carrie Nations relent. Mike Kaszuba’s Strib story says, “a group of influential athletic boosters and lobbyists, including former Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, want that decision reconsidered. In reviving the debate at the Legislature, Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, told lawmakers Tuesday that the University — at a time it is facing $36 million in legislative cuts — also is losing at least $1 million a year because of its alcohol policy. The measure, which would go into effect this fall if passed, will head to another Senate panel, and still faces an uphill fight at the State Capitol.”

Speaking of beer … Sam Black at the Business Journal reports that Schell’s, which owns the Grain Belt name, is introducing “Grain Belt Nordeast’ on April 7. “The new beer helps ’round out’ the Grain Belt family of beers, said Jace Marti, a spokesman for the family-owned Schell Brewing, which is based in New Ulm, Minn. ‘We have premium, which is our full-calorie American lager, our Premium Light, which is a light American lager, and now Nordeast, which is an American amber lager.’ ” Nothing in the announcement unfortunately about re-lighting the classic sign at the north end of the Hennepin bridge.

Remember the “Seinfeld” episode about “catfights”?
Well, a pretty good-sized crowd, including a lot of kiddies, got to see one up close and personal when two women went at it at the Science Museum last Sunday. The PiPress’s Mara Gottfried files a short story that says, “No serious injuries were reported. One woman said she had some hair pulled out, said Sgt. Paul Schnell, police spokesman. A woman was pushed into a sheetrock wall, causing a large hole, he said. Damage was estimated at $300, Schnell said.The museum was especially crowded when the fight happened in the lobby Sunday … .” Not exactly “role model” behavior, I dare say.

Michele Bachmann has lost her health care!
Or, at least that’s what she’s telling anyone who cared to listen in on her constituents’ conference call Tuesday. The PiPress’ Jason Hoppin, a bit less credulous than Ms. Bachmann probably preferred, notes that she, of course, hasn’t really lost her health insurance. It’s simply been re-arranged under the new bill … but still paid for by the government. He says, “Under the bill, members of Congress will receive coverage either through a health care plan created by the bill (without the public option, that doesn’t exist) or purchased through the health insurance exchange that was created by the bill. So she’s not losing coverage, but the federal government is providing Congress with coverage purchased through the exchange.” Typically, this tidbit plays only online.

WCCO’s Dark Star has taken a buy-out
, almost a year and a half before his contract was to expire, and is gone, like that, after 25 years. The Strib’s Neal Justin was first with the news. But MinnPost’s David Brauer filled in some of the context, namely the scent of still more whacking at the once grand old station. “Contract negotiations are going on right now to replace the three-year deal signed in 2007, and there’s plenty of cost-cutting doom and gloom over there, I hear,” says Brauer. So do I.

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An AP story picked up by Finance and Commerce says we’ve got something in common with Oklahoma City and Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y. Like what? Tornadoes? Snow? No. Apparently we four were the major metro areas feeling unemployment the least during The Great Recession. ” … a government report shows they’ve had the smallest increases in joblessness over the past two years among cities with at least 1 million people. None of the four relies on heavy manufacturing industries, such as autos or steel, which have been hit hard by the downturn. And all have avoided the extremes of the housing boom and bust that devastated much of California, Florida and Nevada.”Perhaps related … I’d have to think about it for a while … The Business Journal’s Kenny Smith reports a study that says techie towns like ours are more vulnerable to cyber-crimes than others. We here in the Twin Cities in fact are No. 7 among “cyber-crime hot spots.” “The 10-city list of Cybercrime hot spots was determined through Symantec’s data on cyber attacks and potential malware infections and third-party data about online behavior, including online shopping. Number one on the list was Seattle, followed by Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Raleigh, N.C., Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore.”