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Dead last? Twin Cities home sales drop 42%

ALSO: Bed bug ratings, Pawlenty’s health care decision, schmoozing Ford execs, and a step backward for Mankato DWI crackdown.

We’re not used to being dead last. That’s what we’ve got South Dakota for, if you know what I mean. So news that the Twin Cities had the worst drop-off in home sales of 20 big metro areas (Vegas and Detroit NOT included) is kinda discouraging. The Strib’s real estate guy, Jim Buchta, pounds out the local story behind Tuesday’s gloomy numbers.

He reports: “Locally, economists and real estate agents were at a loss for the metro area’s particularly poor results. ‘It’s very confusing to me,’ said Scott Anderson, senior economist with Wells Fargo. Anderson’s theory is that Twin Cities home buyers tend to be fiscally conservative, so the tax credit had a bigger effect on demand here in the way of particularly strong sales during the last half of 2009 and early 2010.” He qualifies the misery by noting that “the situation in the Twin Cities might not be as dire as July results appear. Home sales so far this year are only slightly behind last year, down 3.8 percent compared with the first seven months of last year.”

Still, if you want to see a graph where Miami and Phoenix have better real estate sales records than us, The New York Times’ “Economix” blog has the day brightener you’re looking for.

We are, however, 15th when it comes to “the most bed bug-infested cities.” The AOL Health blog picks up on a story from Terminix, the pest control company. Not surprisingly, New York City, which recently saw infestations at upscale lingerie shop Victoria’s Secret and the Empire State Building, topped the list. Other major cities on the list included Philadelphia and Detroit, while Ohio was ranked the most bedbug-infested state.” (I always suspected that about Ohio.)

The delicious irony of Gov. Pawlenty having to request that $236 million in federal health care funds is moving to a head. Andy Birkey at The Minnesota Independent covers a letter DFL legislators sent Pawlenty Tuesday: “A continuation of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages was signed into law in early August and would result in $236 million in funds for Minnesota. But, under the law, Pawlenty — and other state governors — must request the funds. ‘Failure to accept the funds would result in residents paying federal taxes to pay for Medicare programs in other states,’ the legislative leaders wrote to Pawlenty. ‘In fact, you have previously raised the concern that Minnesota is a donor state, and receives only 72 cents for each $1 sent to Washington. Also, these funds do not increase the size of the federal deficit and are entirely paid for within the legislation.’ Minnesota Medical Association president Dr. Benjamin Whitten released a statement on Friday urging Pawlenty to ask for the money.” But really … what will the Tea Party Express think of that?

Michele Bachmann’s first ad of the season, with a wide-stance young dude called Jim the Election Guy ripping DFLer Tarryl Clark for lovin’ taxes, hasn’t yet been “fact checked” by the local newsies. Politico.com says: “In the spot, Jim dubs Clark “Taxin’ Tarryl” and shows off a graphic that reads “Tarryl Clark ♥ Taxes” in the style of New York’s famous “I ♥ NY” T-shirts. The ad accuses Clark of raising taxes every year since she has been in the state Legislature. Clark has been a state senator since 2006, and her campaign argues that she has voted to keep taxes down for the middle class.” Spoken like a tax lover! Love, LOVE, love ’em.

The “depression” affecting the construction industry explains the low bids for work on the Minneapolis side of the Central Corridor LRT project. Dave Orrick of the PiPress explains: “[T]he bid is $12.3 million under budget. The $113.8 million bid from a partnership between Ames Construction and C.S. McCrossan, for the Minneapolis portion of the proposed 11-mile line, would include building four stations, linking the Central Corridor to the existing Hiawatha line in downtown Minneapolis, strengthening the Washington Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River and laying tracks for the three westernmost miles of the line, including the portion through the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus.” The story is full of good wonky info on the number of cars being built and Ames’ apparently cleaned-up minority hiring record.

Apparently Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate, sponsored by the Minneapolis/St.Paul Business Journal didn’t create much in the way of headlines, other than, sort of, their varying positions on nuclear power. The Journal’s John Vomhof Jr. writes: “The candidates also split on the future of nuclear power in Minnesota; Horner and Emmer both said they’d support efforts to scrap a 1994 moratorium on new nuclear power plants in the state. Dayton said it would be ‘irresponsible’ to end the ban until questions over where to store nuclear waste are settled.”

MPR’s Tom Scheck files a short piece about Gov. Pawlenty, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Dan McElroy, commissioner of Employment and Economic Development, schmoozing Ford execs in hopes of keeping the Highland Park plant open beyond next year. The trio is offering “a variety of tax breaks that they hope will convince Ford executives to keep the plant open beyond next year. McElroy said he’s not confident Ford will reverse the decision to close the plant, but said it’s important to make the state’s case in person. ‘They’ve told us that they think it’s unlikely that they’ll have a product for the Ford plant, but we don’t give up easily,’ said McElroy.” A product? How about the diesel Ranger they sell in Asia and other parts of the world?

Another car-related item: Toyota has gone to court to demand Koua Fong Lee’s 1996 Camry. One problem. Lee doesn’t have the thing. The cops do. Emily Gurnon reports for the PiPress: “ ‘He can’t comply with it,’ said Lee’s criminal attorney, Brent Schafer. He and his wife ‘are beside themselves because they don’t know what they’re supposed to do.’ Schafer said he would file a motion to quash the subpoena, which was sought in connection with the civil suits Toyota now faces for the accident. ‘We just don’t want Toyota looking at this car by themselves, or having any (sole) access to it,’ Schafer said.” Gurnon adds, “The car is the subject of four federal lawsuits filed this spring by victims of the crash and their relatives.” If I were Lee, I’d stop opening my mail.

OK, one more. The cops are getting tough on DUI, at least through Labor Day, and Mankato has had enough of hard-drinking college kids and has its own crackdown going on. So one guess who gets nailed … in the Twin Cities? The mayor of Mankato. KSAX-TV’s story makes the incident a whole lot more exciting than just getting pulled over: “Just before 1:00 p.m. last Saturday, [uh … that’s in the afternoon] the state patrol says they issued an alert about Mayor John Brady’s car after they received a report that a gold Dodge with his license plate had been driving erratically northbound on I-35W near Lake Street.  Golden Valley police say about 15 minutes later, an officer spotted a car of the same description and license plate on I-394 near Louisiana Avenue and tried to pull the driver over, but the driver kept going until finally leaving the interstate at Hopkins Crossroads. Golden Valley Police Chief Stacy Altonen says there were a number of cars at the stoplight at the top of the ramp, and the Mayor’s car rear-ended one of them, and kept on going.  She says the car was finally pulled over a few blocks away and Mayor John Brady was given a breathalyzer test.” The mug shot isn’t going to make the mayor’s re-election any easier.

A PiPress editorial dips a toe in the Target-MnForward-Tom Emmer-gay marriage-MoveOn.org controversy. You know its heading nowhere in particular pretty quick when it asks at the top: “What, do you imagine, would the left-wing group MoveOn.org have said if Target Corp. had donated campaign money to a liberal organization favoring Mark Dayton (the Democrat) instead of to a conservative organization favoring Tom Emmer (the Republican)? Nothing at all, we imagine. Nothing at all.” So … would MoveOn have protested Dayton’s positions restricting full civil rights to … Republican businessmen? After the ritual association of MoveOn with George Soros’ name (hissssssss, boooooo … billionaire lefties) the piece gets off this line, “Nobody in his right mind would conclude that Target’s donation had anything to do with Emmer’s stand on social issues.” As in … nobody?

Target, meanwhile, has announced it is going more heavily into the electronics business, with cell phone sign-ups in many stores and a recycling program for some electronic toys. The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch provides the official press release. An ABC News story emphasizes: “Target started quietly testing a toll-free number, 877-myTGTtech, last month. The hot line is available nationwide to anyone who bought an electronic item at Target. All they have to do is provide a receipt number, although [a spokesman] said the operators would most likely still help people if they did not have their number.”