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‘Major flooding’ forecast brings flood of attention

PLUS: one option for spending an extra $10K, Sun Country’s foggy day in London town, and state may yell, “Cut,” on Film Board operations.

Never mind St. Patty’s Day, flood-watching is rapidly becoming the hottest news topic in the area. Paul Huttner of MPR has as good a set of graphs — with locations imperiled as the waters rise — as anyone. Says Huttner, “Flood forecasters at the Twin Cities NWS are burning the midnight oil these days. New flood forecasts late Tuesday evening predict that the Mississippi River will now reach major flood stage and now see a potential crest near 17 feet by next Tuesday. Previous forecasts had only moderate flooding expected. The new higher forecast could once again put Harriet Island at risk for being inundated by floodwaters early next week.” That “major flooding” thing tends to get people’s attention. Plenty of info on big waters just about everywhere you look.

It’s an interesting moment when the chief justice of any supreme court steps out to discuss the impact of funding cutbacks on the court system with reporters. It gets more interesting when that particular chief justice, Eric Magnuson of Minnesota in this case, is referring, if indirectly, to whackings to budgets that are part of a case he’s currently hearing. Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib has the chief saying, “We are running a really big engine with almost no oil in the crankcase, and things are going to start to break down if we get a significant cut in this legislative session.” She adds, “Early in his term as chief, Magnuson pulled together a coalition of sheriffs, county officials, prosecutors, public defenders and traveled the state to make his most important case — that the state’s justice system couldn’t withstand deep cuts and still thrive.” He isn’t suggesting a socialized justice system is he?

Got an extra $10,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann will be happy to relieve you of that dangerous wad. Jason Hoppin of the PiPress and others tell the story of the two heroes of the working class offering the ex-Gov of Alaska posing with you for … $10K … during her fund-raising appearance for Bachmann April 7. He gets this quote from Gina Countryman, a Bachmann spokesperson: “Congresswoman Bachmann’s record of fighting for Minnesotans stands for itself. She is standing firmly against a massive government takeover of health care, for smaller, more sensible government, and works every day to ensure the voices of her constituents are heard in Washington.” If they just happen to have an extra $10K, she’ll work even harder.

The Huffington Post reprints the actual invitation, where, to be fair, it clearly states that the $10,000 photo op is entirely optional. The actual per person fee to attend the “general reception” is a mere $500, or $50 less than attendance at last month’s Tea Party convention in Nashville. In other words, a bargain.

The Let Freedom Ring blog, on record supporting Tom Emmer for governor, highlights Emmer rival Marty Seifert for uh, well, flip-flopping on support for the Next Generation Energy Act. The one that mandates 25 percent locally created energy by 2025. The one also signed by Tim Pawlenty. It quotes an AP story saying, “Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall brings his bill to a House committee on Monday. It would erase the requirement approved two years ago, which he and a large legislative majority voted to put in place.” The blog then comments, “[T]he Next Generation Energy Act would hurt Rep. Seifert with the activists the most of all the votes he’s taken. I’d suggest that Rep. Seifert’s new legislation proves that the green energy issue is hurting him. Tom Emmer, the man that I’m supporting, got both votes right. Rep. Seifert didn’t. The bills that Rep. Seifert voted for will create higher energy prices. They also create new bureaucracies. For a man that constantly says he wants to right-size, downsize and economize, it sounds more like he voted to increase the size of Minnesota’s government.” If there’s a bigger threat to our “freedoms” than clean energy, I don’t know what it is.

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A 737 all the way to London? Yup. Sun Country, a Tom Petters survivor, got FAA approval to offer summer service once a week to London’s Stansted airport via a re-fueling stop in Newfoundland. Suzanne Ziegler’s Strib story says, “Spokeswoman Wendy Williams Blackshaw said Sun Country isn’t the first U.S. carrier to get the certification for 737s but is the first flying out of MSP to do so.”

The Wall Street Journal story adds, “Stan Gadek, Sun Country’s chief executive, said he believes the flights will be a first in that they will allow passengers to connect in Stansted to Europe’s two largest discount carriers, RyanAir Holdings PLC and easyJet PLC. ‘We think this is an interesting opportunity to pursue,’ he said. Flights will be operated using Sun Country Boeing 737-800s that carry 162 passengers in two classes.”

Denny Hecker might be looking at the inside of a jail cell sooner than a lot of people thought. Judge Jay Quam, who famously accused Hecker of lying to him about being too broke, as in flat broke, to pay overdue alimony is getting tough — again — with our favorite soap opera/car dealer. In Rochelle Olson’s Strib story, “Quam warned that if Hecker doesn’t come up with the money or ‘disclose complete [financial] information’ by 4 p.m. on March 23, he could face a 90-day jail sentence.” Olson’s story includes another immortal Hecker line. This one to ex-wife No. 2 (of four), to whom he owes $8,100 in support: “Sandy, you have had a free ride for over 30 years.” A word of advice, Denny, if you’re going to make cracks like that part of the official record, don’t go asking your female buddies to pony up for your legal bills.

It sounds frivolous and eminently delete-able until you do the math
. But the Minnesota Film Board may have to renege on guarantees to movie companies currently shooting or planning to shoot in Minnesota, because of Gov. Pawlenty’s veto pen. Like many states the Film Board rebates 15 to 20 percent of local shooting costs as an incentive to movie companies, many seeking locales other than Los Angeles. Graydon Royce of the Strib writes, “According to the board, Snowbate has used $2.9 million in state funds since 2007 to create the equivalent of 349 full-time jobs and approximately $30 million in direct and indirect spending in the state.” And, “Pawlenty’s supplemental budget proposal would cut the Snowbate allocation to $525,000 from $1.25 million in 2010 and eliminate it in 2011. Pawlenty also has proposed zeroing out the board’s $325,000 administrative budget by the end of June.” In other words, go away. How many other government programs are returning that rate on investment?

DFL Sen. Terri Bonoff is making modest progress in her bill to ban cell phone use in moving vehicles. It seems unlikely to get past the Governor’s desk. But Peter Bartz-Gallagher of Politics in Minnesota says, “Specifically, the bill would read ‘No person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic.’ ” The “device” part has already been amended to allow hands-free gizmos. The piece notes that six states and D.C. have such laws.

Show biz, baby. McClatchy News Service has the story of folks up in Duluth-Superior whipping together a movie to sell their towns as ideal for one of Google’s test sites for “super high speed fiber optic” Internet service. The end product is supposed to be a 30-minute “Twin Ports Google Movie.” According to the story, “The auditions Saturday were supposed to end at 1 p.m. but continued into the afternoon because of the number of people who showed up. Reasbeck, along with director Kenneth Kemp of Los Angeles, will choose the cast: seven speaking roles and six prominent nonspeaking roles. Kemp, who has done independent, corporate and industrial films and work for the 2002 Olympics, will arrive in Duluth on Wednesday for filming Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

The two towns have plenty of competition. As the Wall Street Journal writes, Google’s target service speed is one gigabit per second — far faster than anything Americans are familiar with currently. It goes on to say, “But details ranging from how Google intends to connect up to a half-million people to high-speed Internet connections via fiber, to whether the quixotic company may go as far as building its own network equipment as a part of its self-described ‘experiment,’ remain unclear. The atmosphere of anticipation is similar to what Google conjured after it bid for a valuable swath of licensed spectrum in 2008 — before it became apparent that the company had no intention of winning the airwaves, and instead only wanted to influence Internet competition policy,” and that, “Google’s experiment likely won’t be cheap … estimates of the cost to connect a home to fiber stand at roughly $1,500 per home. If Google covers 500,000 people with its fiber network, which it’s said is a possibility, that could cost well over $200 million.”