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Prognosis unknown on Thursday’s planned one-day nurses strike

ALSO: Shock, outrage — and no surprise. Cub vs. Walmart. And a “California Gurls” spoof.

Thursday’s big story will be the one-day nurses strike. Until then, it’s all guessing and prognosticating on the effects and outcome. MPR’s Jessica Mador offers a fairly comprehensive view of preparations being made by affected parties. “Dr. Penny Wheeler, chief clinical officer for Allina Hospitals and Clinics, told reporters that all emergency rooms and obstetrics units at striking hospitals will be fully staffed. Twin Cities Hospitals officials say they also plan to have fill-ins for all nursing roles subject to the walkout. As part of the plan, they will deploy 2,800 replacement nurses to the 14 affected hospitals. Wheeler maintains the replacements are all experienced and trained in the specialties where they will be working, and existing hospital staff will also help out.” All the same, I think I’ll hold off on quintuple bypass for a day or two …

One of the hoariest traditions of the political game is the “shocked!” and “outraged!” press releases
and quotes fired off at the slightest whiff of a semblance of a hint of transgression by the rival camp. Who this stuff is supposed to impress I’ll never know, since no reporter worth his Capitol parking space is ever fooled by the faux indignation. But that has never stopped ’em. Witness the Republican state office’s formal complaint against Independent Tom Horner, covered by Tim Pugmire on MPR’s Poilinaut blog. Writes Pugmire, “Michael Brodkorb, deputy chairman of the state Republican Party, says Horner needs to explain how his campaign obtained information from a statewide poll on the race for governor that had not yet been made public.” Horner’s people respond, “If the Republican Party sincerely believed there was a violation, it would have asked for this background instead of wasting the time of the Minnesota Campaign and Finance Disclosure Board. Instead, the party of no ideas now also seems to have no campaign strategy or message for Minnesotans.” Now, kids …

Talk about arcane contract details. So Cub Foods and Walmart share a parking lot over in the Midway Marketplace. Kind of face to face. And Walmart expands its grocery department … too much, says Cub … beyond the 7500 square feet allowed. The PiPress’s Tom Webb explains, “Supervalu [Cub’s parent company] disputes Walmart’s space calculations. So does an outside supermarket analyst, who counts far more square footage devoted to groceries than Walmart does. ‘It’s less than Cub has, less than the Rainbow has, but they’ve got more square footage devoted to groceries than the Aldi does nearby,’ said John Dean, a Twin Cities grocery analyst. By Dean’s math, the grocery space is now the equivalent of a 27,000-square-foot grocery store, if you include items like candy, paper products, pet food, perimeter aisles and stockroom.”

This flare-up comes days after a Wall Street Journal story detailed how Supervalu and other Walmart competitors had gone the astro-turfing route and hired organizers to lead some of those spontaneous populist demonstrations we’ve seen so much of recently (Tea Party rallies). Wrote the Journal, “Local activists and union groups have been the public face of much of the resistance. But in scores of cases, large supermarket chains including Supervalu Inc., Safeway Inc. and Ahold NV have retained Saint Consulting [in Chicago] to block Wal-Mart, according to hundreds of pages of Saint documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with former employees.”

One couple allegedly ripping off the state (aka you and me) for $559,000
is kind of impressive. John Vomhof Jr.’s Business Journal story on the Stueckens of Lake Elmo says, “The Stueckens each were charged with two counts of failing to file returns for the tax years 2005 and 2007, and three counts of filing fraudulent returns for tax years 2003, 2004 and 2006. James Stuecken, owner of Stuecken Enterprises Inc. and Nutrition City Inc., also was charged with five counts of failing to file corporate tax returns for tax years 2003 through 2007 and three counts of failing to pay sales tax for tax years 2007 and 2008. Stuecken Enterprises claimed gross sales of more than $6 million between January 2004 and November 2008, according to Department of Revenue records. The company last filed a corporate tax return in September 2001.” The PiPress story also includes Stuecken’s line from the complaint, “When asked about the disparities between reported income and estimated living expenses, James Stuecken said, ‘It’s tough, but I get by.’ ” I could, too, with an extra $559,000 or so.

Lake Vermilion State Park is finally a reality … or at least will be once the state puts in all the usual state park infrastructure. The Strib’s Doug Smith offers a recap of the long and winding road the park took to reality. “Some limited use of the park could occur this summer, and more opportunities for visitors will be available next year, said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Holsten. But development of a visitors center, campground, boat landing, dock and trail system, which could cost $30 million, might take six to 10 years, he said, depending on how quickly money becomes available.” KBJR in Duluth offers some video of the lake.

The PiPress blog “The Usual Suspects,” a collaboration of a handful of reporters (a majority of what’s left in the St. Paul newsroom?), plays with one of those e-mail scammers. Maybe you too got the plea from “Val,” stranded in a hotel in England? The concept is better than the execution … I mean, since it’s a blog, why not play the string out a little more? But the non-traditional pursuit of so familiar an annoyance is commendable.

Pop singer Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” is the hit of the minute on iTunes, but a response-video titled “Minnesota Gurls” featuring two cute … Minnesota girls, is really pretty good. Fox9 has a link. I mean, besides the visuals, you have to like lyrics like these: “Minnesota girls / We’re unforgettable / Waterproof boots and flannel on top / Wind-chafed skin will turn your legs to Popsicles / Oooooh Oh Oooooh … “

“No new taxes” means more big tuition increases at the U of M
, following last week’s round of increases at MnSCU schools. The Strib story, by Jenna Ross, notes that the U is looking at smaller increases than Wisconsin and a lot smaller than basket-case California, but still, “The U’s proposed $1.53 billion operating budget is expected to be the last to rely on one-time stimulus funds to soften tuition increases. Without it, undergraduate tuition would rise 7.5 percent this fall. After next year, tuition will be built on two years of full increases. In short, even if the U froze tuition for 2011-12, without stimulus money, students would pay 7.2 percent more, or $11,094.”

Laying the groundwork for Gov. Pawlenty’s appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” Thursday night, WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler offers a tongue-in-cheek “Reality Check” on TPaw’s comedy chops. Kessler remembers and grades: ” ‘The only thing growing faster than the federal debt is Chris Matthews’ man crush on Barack Obama,’ Pawlenty told Republican audiences last year. That get’s a COURTESY LAUGH funny. Pawlenty is big on current event jokes that mix with politics: Did you hear the one about Tiger Wood’s wife chasing the golfer with a 9-iron?  ‘I think we should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government in this country!’ Pawlenty thundered to a conservative group. SHANKED IT.” Talk about the critical knives out for this one … for Stewart, too, if he lets Pawlenty slide around the impact of ideological rigidity.

Cue the “teachers are overpaid” crowd
and last week’s echo chamber complaint about the disparity between government and private sector workers. The new Minneapolis school superintendent is looking at a $190,000 base salary with three $10,000 bonuses based on reaching goals. Anthony Lonetree writes for the Strib, saying, “The remaining provisions are much the same as those given to Green, whose three-year deal in 2007 was heralded as a break from the hidden fringe-benefit costs awarded to some Minnesota school chiefs. Like Green, Johnson will receive a $400 monthly car allowance, severance equal to three months’ pay and 28 vacation days. But she will get 12 sick days per year, compared with 10 for Green under his 2007 deal.”