Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Rivers — and news coverage — on rise throughout region

PLUS: Franken in the spotlight, credit for our credit scores, and the unending Hecker saga.

“One of the Top 10 floods of all time” for St. Paul. That’s the prediction of the city’s director of emergency management, Rick Larkin, as it braces for the Mississippi to hit flood stage Friday and continue rising all next week. MPR’s Laura Yuen reports Larkin going on to say, “The thing about St. Paul is we’re down river from all the activity that’s happening in the Minnesota River. So everything that’s you’ve seen in the news over the last several days — all that water needs to come through St. Paul to get to New Orleans. That’s why you’ll see the rise in St. Paul come a little bit later than what you’ve seen in other places.”

The Strib team of Bill McAuliffe, Chris Havens and Kevin Giles provides a survey of flood status around the region. They note that St. Paul received $800,000 in federal aid in 2001 to help with some of the costs of flooding. (Socialized disaster assistance!) But waters this spring will have quite a ways to go to beat the Flood of ’65. Stillwater has put up a concrete barrier to keep the water out of downtown businesses, and at least one official up in Fargo is sounding optimistic about preparations there.

TV coverage aplenty of course. (There are such better pictures than that unallotment case at the Supreme Court.) KSTP’s Mark Albert is up in Fargo. A classic bit of understatement in his report, as the Corps of Engineers builds a dike, “The trick now is to get this levy built BEFORE water rises … .”

WCCO’s James Schugel has an early morning (today) report from downtown St. Paul where he says the water was at 11 feet 4 inches at dawn, expecting to hit 18 feet early next week.

KARE’s Scott Goldberg answers a question on a lot of people’s minds, namely, “Why hasn’t Fargo built a diversion channel by now?” The answer is that unlike Grand Forks, which requested a formal study before the devastating ’97 flood, Fargo only made its request in 2006, and the Corps is just finishing it now. Big government will pay two-thirds of the $1 billion-plus cost, but there is also, as Goldberg reports, the problem(s) of two wars, a deep recession and that it is more difficult now “to get Congress to act.”  That last one could use a bit more “why” and “who,” but, hey, it’s TV. KMSP’s Judy Ambroz delivers her report from Delano.

Al Franken gets a long-ish look by the Washington Post today. The gist is that the former comic has been “abrasive” at times in his first year, even “irascible” and “nasty.” Says the story, “The fits of pique reinforced Franken’s image as a champion of the liberal left, in the purposeful tradition of his Minnesota idol, Paul Wellstone. The Al Franken edition of the “Political Power” comic book series is due out in May. (“There is a two-page confrontation with Barbara Bush that shows the beginnings of his animus,” said Jerome Maida, the comic’s author.) And this month, the Netroots Nation named Franken keynote speaker at its annual convention in Las Vegas. But within the Senate chamber, the outbursts derailed Franken’s strategy of keeping his head down.” Given the complete deadlock of the Senate, “abrasive” and even “nasty” might be considered virtues.

Calling it “corporate fiction”
(kind of a variation on “pulp fiction”), by which he’s referring to companies that exist in name only, the bankruptcy trustee in the Denny Hecker case sued two of the ex-car dealer’s ancillary corporations Wednesday. This is yet more in the ongoing quest for recoverable assets. Dee DePass and Rochelle Olson file for the Strib. Denny also has a hefty stack of legal bills it appears he has no way of paying. The Stribbers write, “Hecker is behind on alimony or support payments to two former wives. He pointed to the latest documents as evidence that he’s broke, asking, ‘If you clearly look at the economics of those pages, does it look like I’m a wealthy guy?’ He said that as of last week, he owed $500,000 to criminal defense lawyer Bill Mauzy, $350,000 to Fredrikson & Byron, $250,000 to Skolnick & Shiff and $50,000 each to Halberg Criminal Defense, and Kaplan Strangis and Kaplan.” Also revealed in court were $201,500 in, “personal loans, mostly from Ralph Thomas, Hecker’s friend and former associate from the early days at the Minneapolis Auto Auction. He also claims loans from James Plummer and from Jim Gustafson, a former employee under investigation.”

MPR’s Martin Moylan reports that after Tuesday’s news that Hecker owes his second wife $8,100 in alimony, wife No. 4, Tamitha, now also has her hand up in court demanding support payments she says she’s owed. Better get in line, ladies.

Chris Newmarker at the Business Journal reports that Minnesotans are second best in the nation in handling their credit during the recession. “Minnesota had the second-best score, at 91.5, among the states in TransUnion’s Credit Risk Index for the fourth quarter of 2009. North Dakota was best, at 84.76; Vermont came in third, at 92.97.” Dead last? Mississippi.

The chi chi neighborhood of Linden Hills in southwest Minneapolis is (sort of) losing a major attraction — the Linden Hills Co-op — which is moving a dozen or so blocks west to the border of Edina. Burl Gilyard in Finance and Commerce explains the expansion benefits for the co-op and checks out what the neighborhood would like to see replacing the wholesome store in the middle of their business district. “[Owner Dave Luger] has listed the building for sale for $3 million. At the same time, he has set up a blog ( to solicit suggestions regarding the building’s best use. Ideas floated include calls for a pet-related business, a family practice clinic, a yoga studio and another grocery and/or convenience store. Luger said that the most popular idea so far has been for a neighborhood pub, but that could face hurdles with city licensing guidelines.”

City pages’ Hart von Denburg picks up on the Chicago Sun-Times story of the local creep who was arrested for allegedly pimping out his wife. Says the Chicago story, “He was arrested Sunday night by Cook County Sheriff’s Police as he arrived to pick up his wife from a downtown Holiday Inn where he made her stay for the weekend, prosecutors said today. Though he’d planned for her to fly home Monday, he called to tell her he was disappointed by how little money she’d made over the weekend and was personally driving to Chicago to confront her, authorities said.” Von Denburg adds the part about how “[t]he pair met five years ago, when she was 17 and he was a 27-year-old church youth counselor.”

A well-known St. Cloud conservative radio commentator/blog presence and economics professor, King Banaian, announced that he’ll run against DFL Rep. Larry Daws. The WJON story is brief. But Minnesota Democrats Exposed can barely hide their delight. “King will make a great state representative that will help restore fiscal sanity to Saint Paul.”

The Star Tribune editorial page offers what for it is a bold assertion in saying that, “Health care reform is a costly fix, to be sure, but it’s one that will provide coverage to 30 million Americans, protect those who currently have coverage, and start to reorganize the system to reward quality and efficiency, the key to bringing down costs. If the political courage isn’t there now to tackle health care, when will it ever be?” Next thing you know they’ll be choosing one side’s argument over the other’s … at which point the skies will be filled with migrating pigs.