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St. John’s bows to pressure and drops Nick Coleman

ALSO: Pawlenty the latest English language advocate; recession even harder on minorities; and a late discovery in the Camry court case. Plus Brett, of course.

Brother, I suspect St. John’s University will be able to ride it out, but could a big institution look much worse than it does in Erin Carlyle’s City Pages story? The one about the Collegeville school caving in to conservative benefactors demanding it fire senior fellow/ex-Strib columnist Nick Coleman? Writes Carlyle: “In September, Len Busch, who has given $20,000 to the St. John’s theology department each of the last three years, authored a handwritten message [to the school] about Coleman. ‘As long as St. John’s has this man on the payroll, I will no longer give my money to St. John’s,’ Busch wrote. ‘I will not support lies and false statements and half truths about anyone.’ “

Carlyle continues: “He hated [Coleman’s] December 5 column, which criticized 3M after company execs asked employees to send letters to Congress about health care reform. ‘You’ve got a company, if the company doesn’t exist, the workers don’t get a damn thing,’ Busch says. ‘They don’t have a job, they don’t have anything. This anti-corporation is terrible. They provide jobs. They provide everything. And someone takes their money and invests in them — but let’s badmouth the hell out of any corporation. Well, that’s stupid.’ [Not sure if this was what qualified as “lies.”] Busch was similarly offended by Coleman’s February columns, which criticized Gov. Tim Pawlenty for abandoning Minnesota to travel the country to further his presidential ambitions. ‘His tone is negative, negative, negative, negative.’ ” Obviously, someone was caught unaware that Nick Coleman comes with a point of view slightly different from your average general sales manager.

Oh swell, now Gov. Pawlenty is on record as seeing value in pushing the “English as official language” controversy. It’s hard to say if this “issue” is more relevant than his election-year(s) support of a ban on gay marriage, but I guess anything that smacks of getting tough on immigration works when you’re in his situation. Baird Helgeson’s Strib story says: “At a news conference outside the governor’s residence, Pawlenty said that as the country becomes more diverse, some people might question which language to use in official documents. He said it might be helpful to clarify that the official language is English.” Helgeson eventually cuts to “Vincent Martin, a Twin Cities immigration attorney,” who says: “English-only proposals overlook a key aspect of federal law: A person does not have to speak English to be a lawful, permanent resident of the United States. ‘Yet once they are here, they could be confronted with an English-only system,’ he said. ‘What are they trying to accomplish with this?’ ” Well, Vince, it’s like this … there’s this thing called “your base.”

If there were a buzz to be killed, Dee DePass’s story on recent polling done for the Strib would do it. (Very) basically, the story is that half of us aren’t doing so well financially, and the numbers for non-whites are startlingly worse. She writes: “Thirty-nine percent of all nonwhite respondents reported being laid off, compared with 15 percent of white respondents. Thirty-three percent of nonwhites had to take days off without pay, compared with 20 percent of whites who were in the same bind. Another 30 percent of nonwhites were forced into part-time work from full-time jobs, compared with 8 percent for whites. There is a ‘racial gap in our unemployment rate,’ said Minnesota Labor Market Office Director Steve Hine. ‘We don’t have a lot of information about why.’ ” We can guess, of course.

With so much made of whether Koua Lee, driver of the now notorious 1996 Camry that killed three people in that I-94/Snelling accident four years ago, was braking or not, you’d think experts would long ago have made a conclusive decision on if the car had an anti-lock braking system … which would explain the lack of skid marks. But on Tuesday, a defense lawyer said the car was so equipped. Emily Gurnon’s PiPress story says: “City of St. Paul mechanic Michael Churchich told the jury at Lee’s 1997 trial that Lee’s car did not have an ABS system. [Defense attorney Bill] Hilliard projected a large slide on a screen in the courtroom Tuesday, showing a photo of a car part; Sero used a laser pointer to show where the system was. ‘Any trained mechanic can walk up and look at a car and say, “Yep, it’s there,” ‘ Sero said. An anti-lock brake system equalizes the speeds of the wheels, Sero said, but a car in a wide-open throttle condition, as he believes Lee’s car was in, ‘doesn’t know what to do.’ ” For the record, I’m still amazed that Lee got eight years in prison for this accident.

Fox9’s Bill Keller reminds viewers: “In the original trial his attorney told a jury that Lee may have simply been confused. That he mistakenly pressed the gas when he thought he was hitting the brake. But Lee never gave his attorney permission to make that statement. “This is your lawyer telling the jury that you’re wrong,” said Hilliard. “That his client is wrong.” Samuel Sero, a forensic engineer testified that Lee’s Toyota Camry was equipped with ABS brakes at the time of the accident. But the jury that convicted Lee of criminal vehicular homicide was told the car did not have anti-lock brakes.” If this weren’t so serious, people would be making, “My Cousin Vinny” jokes.

While most moderately informed voters seem to know that DFL candidates Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton are wealthy, WCCO’s Pat Kessler provides a quick “Reality Check” primer on how politicians here can cloak the full picture of their millions. Says Kessler: “Minnesota candidates for governor can keep their personal finances secret if they choose because Minnesota’s disclosure laws are among the weakest in the country. Candidates must reveal the source of their income, and real estate holdings, but not the value. Or any of the assets held by their spouses.”

Did you catch the conversation between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Talking Points Memo’s Christina Bellantoni on reaction to Target and Best Buy getting wound up in Tom Emmer’s social ideologies? Bellantoni says the episode has “spooked” other corporations, but that of six other candidates queued to get ad support via Mn Forward, three are Democrats. Of a “pro-jobs” stripe to be sure.

The DC gossip site, “Wonkette,” amuses itself with Michele Bachmann’s new PAC, titled “MICHELEPAC.” 

The upscale “organic” supermarket chain, Whole Foods, is going to open its third metro area store, this one in Edina, barely six miles from its Minneapolis store. The Business Journal’s John Vomhof Jr. writes: “Dick Grones, principal at Cambridge Commercial Realty in Edina, said he thinks Whole Foods’ Edina location might be a little too close to its existing location in Minneapolis. The two stores are just six miles apart. ‘If I were them, I might have tried to get a little more separation between stores,’ he said. Edina’s demographics, however, are a strong fit for Whole Foods, which tends to attract more affluent customers, Grones said. According to data in Welsh Cos.’ marketing brochure for Centennial Lakes Plaza, 245,245 people live within five miles of the shopping center. The average household income is $93,130.” Hmmm, free-range, shade-grown, fair-trade plantains at $5 a pound? No problem.

And the Lord doth sprawl … Brian Johnson at Finance and Commerce reports on plans for a 30,000-square-foot church in what is now a cornfield in (more, but increasingly less) rural Afton: “The church, which has about 250 regular attendees, has a contract for deed on the land and is in the process of raising funds for the approximately $3 million project, according to [Pastor Trent] Redmann. He said that while the church hasn’t settled on a design yet, members of the congregation have been talking with a number of architects, sharing their vision for a building the fits the needs of numerous young families. “We are looking at a 30,000-square-foot facility that will be engaging for kids and adults,” he said. “We … value great music and having an experience with God that people will remember during the week.”

Dude … you’re a cop, and you’re ‘rodding around on your ATV on a non-motorized trail, when other cops spot you. So you do a 180 and lead a chase, then abandon the thing and go bushwhacking into a swamp? Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News-Tribune tells the tale: “[Lee] Gams is accused of running through a swampy area in the woods. His ATV was towed away. Gams was located by police sometime after 3 a.m. He was wearing jeans rolled up at the ankles. He had been consuming alcohol, but showed no signs of impairment, according to the complaint. Gams initially told an investigator that his ATV had been parked in his yard and the keys had been left in the ignition, suggesting that someone must have stolen it.” And how many times do you think Officer Gams has heard a variation on that story?

Oh, come on … Tuesday’s flash report that Brett Favre was retiring — really … someone tweeted it … and told a teammate … who told … oh, never mind — had, maybe, possibly, (do we really care this much?) gone sour again by nightfall, according to Ray Richardson and Brian Murphy at the PiPress. They have Favre buddy, kicker Ryan Longwell, insisting: “Favre was not the source of any retirement reports. ‘Like most Brett stuff, it really doesn’t come from him,’ Longwell said. ‘Unfortunately, he gets all the bad rap for having all this stuff. Certainly, it’s not something that came from him. He’s reached out to some of the teammates. We’ve talked a lot, but it’s more been about camp stories and jokes like that. ‘I talked to him between practices and didn’t get any idea from him that he was planning on retiring or announcing anything imminently.’ ”

The Strib’s Mark Craig, essentially required to spin something out of the latest Favre rumor, says he’s not buying the latest retirement buzz. But if it’s true … ” ‘[Without Favre] They’re a team that can still win 10 games,” ESPN analyst and former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. In their first five games this year, the Vikings play Dallas at home and the Saints and Jets on the road. What if they’re 2-3 without Favre? Simple. The boy who cried retirement unretires Oct. 18, giving him six full days to prepare for Game 6 in prime time at Lambeau Field.” Sillier things have already happened.