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Lots of media commotion over Jacob Wetterling story

ALSO: Bye-bye, Cyndy; maybe another national political convention; and the MVP case for Jared Allen.

A lot of media staff and chopper time went into Wednesday’s coverage of whatever authorities were looking for near the site of Jacob Wetterling’s 1989 abduction. And we still don’t know much. All the reporting tells essentially the same story. What rates as a nugget is a comment from WCCO’s Don Shelby, who said that Patty Wetterling reminded him that Jacob’s last footprint was leading into the driveway of the farm being searched Wednesday. Wetterling tells Fox9’s Maury Glover that she regards the owners of the farm — neighbors — as “wonderful people” and remembers them being in Europe at the time of the abduction. The couple has an adult son, now 54, who also lives on the property.

This morning’s Strib story, by Richard Maryhew and James Walsh, has been refreshed to add: “Authorities involved in the investigation said the search came after two young agents working the case took a fresh look at the file. There were no new tips that sparked the search, ‘no nothing, just young cops looking at the file and they said “Maybe we should go take a look,” ‘ said an official familiar with developments. Asked if the agents were merely working off a hunch, the official said, ‘Yeah.’ “

The St. Cloud Times story, by Kari Petrie and David Unze, is as thorough as anything in print right now. They write: “For the first 14 years of the investigation, authorities had focused on a vehicle that a witness reported seeing near the abduction site. The driver came forward in 2003 and was ruled out as a suspect. Authorities decided it was likely that the abductor hadn’t used a vehicle. They then changed their theory of the abduction to focus on the likelihood that the abductor was a local resident. Patty Wetterling said Wednesday that she hadn’t been told by investigators about the search at the [nearby] residence. She said she was ‘pleased for a lot of reasons’ by the search. Both families have ‘been traveling on parallel tracks,’ she said, because they both want answers to what happened on that road more than 20 years ago. Both families could receive some form of closure from the search, she said.”

Cyndy Brucato is leaving again. The veteran TV anchor who came back to KSTP six years ago is leaving to resume work on her communications company, she tells the PiPress’s Amy Carlson Gustafson. “After a successful run at the station nearly three decades ago, Brucato returned to KSTP in 2004 and took over the 6 and 10 p.m. newscast when the station dumped its lead anchors at the time — Kent Ninomiya and Harris Faulkner. Since then, Brucato, who served as deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Arne Carlson in the ’90s, has found her role at KSTP dwindling. About a year ago, she went from anchoring two newscasts to anchoring just the 6:30 p.m. show solo.” MinnPost’s David Brauer wonders if we’ll ever see a woman age on an anchor desk like such guys as Dave Moore and Don Shelby have. The answer there would be: “What do you think?”

Tom Emmer will be hearing some cat-calls after, um, rethinking his attitude toward taking state (big government, taxpayer) money for his election campaign. An AP story explains that while Emmer did criticize his one-time rival, Marty Seifert, for taking such dough, he “was ‘under the false impression’ then that taking the step would have tied his hands financially.”

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Emmer, on one of those barnstorming tours around the state, was in Rochester Wednesday where he also displayed a shift in thinking on a number of large-scale rail projects he has regularly voted against while in the Legislature, like, for example, high-speed rail (which would be heavily subsidized by … big federal government). Tom Scheck at MPR, reports: “Emmer told reporters in Rochester Wednesday that he’s staying out of a dispute over several rail projects being considered in southeastern Minnesota. He says he’s concerned about high speed rail, but is open to considering projects like a line from Chicago to the Twin Cities. ‘I haven’t been a fan of it in the past which is no secret,’ Emmer said. ‘But again, when you’re governor, you have to wait until local people do the work and figure out whether it’s something the state should be facilitating or not.’ During his six years as a legislator, Emmer voted against legislation that would fund light rail and high-speed rail projects and also supported efforts to strip funding for light rail projects.”

Sally Jo Sorenson, aka the Bluestem Prairie blog and a devoted Emmer-watcher, gets some one-on-one time with the candidate at a Hutchinson appearance: “Perhaps one of the oddest things Emmer did was to razz the local newspaper reporter (a consummate professional who continued to work throughout the evening) and call out the DFL tracker by name. After the speeches, Emmer made his way through the crowd of perhaps 75 local Republicans. When he came to me, I extended my hand and introduced myself. He remembered me from a forum at Mankato State last November, where he had mentioned me in his opening statement. ‘I know who you are,’ he said tonight, quite cordially, and knew my blog as well. ‘I thought I’d come out to see you,’ I said, ‘I live here.’ ‘I know that,’ Tom Emmer said.  After a beat, he said, ‘I didn’t out you.’ He meant as a blogger, I gathered.”

If they say this is great news I guess we’ll believe them, but Minneapolis has a shot at getting the 2012 Democratic convention. Rupa Shenoy’s MPR story says: “The four finalists were revealed by national Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine in an e-mail sent on Wednesday. Also contending are St. Louis, Cleveland and Charlotte. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the event could bring jobs and millions of dollars to the city. ‘It also is especially important to have a convention for the re-election of a sitting president of whatever party because there’s less focus on horse trading and more focus on the parties, the hospitality and the things that generate the real money back to the area,’ the mayor said.”

Derek Wallbank’s story here on MinnPost breaks it down, saying, “Some of the decision making will surely be political, as conventional wisdom holds that putting a convention in a swing state increases the focus on said state. It doesn’t always work (Minnesota in 2008 is an obvious example), but that’s the idea. [In that context] Minnesota’s case looks relatively weak. President Obama carried Minnesota, Ohio and North Carolina in 2008. He just barely lost Missouri. Of the four states, Minnesota currently has the fewest electoral votes (10), while Ohio (20) has the most. And Minnesota, while having a history of electing Republicans at most levels, has gone blue in more consecutive elections than any other state.” Still, come on … Cleveland?

It’s time to cash out some equity! The constantly quoted Case-Shiller Index of real estate statistics says Twin Cities home prices popped up 9.5 percent from April ’09 to April ’10. Sam Black’s Business Journal story says: “The market’s 9.5 percent year-over-year price increase was the third-best in the country among 20 of the largest markets tracked by S&P. It ranked behind an 18 percent increase in San Francisco and an 11.7 percent jump in San Diego. The Case-Shiller index uses a base value of 100 for January 2000. Therefore, a current index of 118.89 translates to a 18.89 percent appreciation rate since the start of 2000 for a typical home within a given market.” For buzzkill, factor in Chris Snowbeck’s PiPress story from Tuesday: ” ‘With the [federal tax] credit [program] now behind us, the housing numbers are taking a beating,’ [IHS Global Insight economist Patrick] Newport wrote. Sale prices as reported by Case-Shiller ‘are likely to rise for another two-three months, but then start to decline. In our view, the housing glut and foreclosures will drive the national Case-Shiller index down another 6 percent to 8 percent with prices bottoming in 2011.’ ” So in other words, no new boat?

Interesting story by Charley Shaw over at Politics in Minnesota on the coming re-districting of Minnesota. He talks with state demographer Tom Gillaspy, who sees the Twin Cities’ exurbs growing in political clout this next time around, at the expense of the Iron Range. (Translation: More conservative.) ” [L]awmakers will have to react to growth on the fringes of the Twin Cities metropolitan area by cramming more of the state’s 201 legislative districts in the outer suburbs and semi-rural areas that are situated just beyond the metro. Gillaspy refers to the area as ‘the doughnut.’ ‘The doughnut ring around the Twin Cities has been growing rapidly’, noted Gillaspy, ‘and much of the rest of the state outside of that has not grown as rapidly. The central cities and inner ring suburbs have not grown as rapidly. Some have declined.’ ” But … “[T]he exurbs’ elevated political standing might not be long-lasting. An aging population is one factor, said Gillaspy: ‘As more people retire and become empty nesters, all of the growth in households will be older people living alone. Those generally aren’t the people who buy the starter mansion out on the prairie.’ Another factor is the collapse of the decade-long housing bubble, which drove an enormous amount of new residential construction on the fringes of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.”

Did you catch “Cold Hard Football Facts”, the Sports Illustrated column by Kerry J. Byrne, laying out — in exhaustive detail — why the Vikings’ Jared Allen should be the MVP … if the league gave MVP awards to anyone other than quarterbacks (and mainly Peyton Manning)? The column, however, boasts a statistic that measures the performance of each team’s defensive front: “We call it the Defensive Hog Index, an incredible indicator pioneered one night while waiting in the Taco Bell drive-thru lane. (The Defensive Hog Index, for you CHFF newbies, measures each defense in three areas: ability to stop the run, ability to force Negative Pass Plays — sacks and INTs — and ability to get off the field on third down. ) In the three years since we’ve offered the Defensive Hog Index, the No. 1 team in the indicator has twice won the Super Bowl (the 2007 Giants and 2008 Steelers). The No. 1 team last year went 11-5 and reached the playoffs (Green Bay). Not a bad performance considering the indicator came between bites of a 99-cent chalupa. In addition to identifying great teams, the Defensive Hog Index allows us to prove that Allen is the NFL’s MV non-QB P.” Somehow the Taco Bell drive-thru thing makes this whole thing work.