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St. Paul to be ‘rebuilt’

Capital city projects ready to go. Also: political ad fact-checking and, um, a “controversial” GOP video.

It turns out the announcement that St. Paul had come to terms with developers (using stimulus money) for a condo complex that would include a supermarket for downtown was just part of major-looking/sounding plan for 15 big-ticket projects in the capital city. Frederick Melo of the PiPress says: “[Mayor Chris] Coleman said a combination of $15 million in city loans and millions more in private investment will boost a number of long-delayed developments that were nearly given their last rites during the recession. They run the gamut from the 30,000-square-foot Lunds grocery in the Penfield development on Minnesota Street to artists lofts, affordable senior housing and a health clinic. ‘We are rebuilding our community. We are rebuilding our city,’ said Coleman. … Dubbing the effort ‘Rebuild Saint Pau,l, Coleman said the city’s tax-increment financing funds had drawn millions of private development dollars. Both pots were further boosted by federal stimulus money, as well as state and federal infrastructure improvements related to the Central Corridor light-rail project, the Lafayette Bridge and other public works.” This is all good news, but that “Rebuild St. Paul” thing might need a little work. You don’t want people thinking Dresden and The Marshall Plan.

KSTP’s Tom Hauser gives the latest Alliance for a Better Minnesota ad, the one accusing Tom Emmer of missing one of every five votes, of work a “C+” for truthfulness.

WCCO’s Pat Kessler doesn’t have a catchy grading shtick for his “Reality Check,” but he is clearly unimpressed with Mark Dayton’s assertion that school districts all over the place are switching to four-day weeks in reaction to Tim Pawlenty’s budgets. Says Kessler: “It’s all about transportation and energy costs. Buses cover a lot of ground in those large rural school districts with low student enrollment. By closing one day a week, districts say they’ll save heating costs at the school building and fuel costs on the road. That’s not the whole story. Even if schools cut the number of class days by 20 percent, it won’t save 20 percent off the budget. Only a fraction of that. That’s because the longer *four* days of school won’t affect the *five* day a week salaries for teachers and administrators.”   

So Denny Hecker files an objection to the judge in his bankruptcy proceedings — separate from ongoing divorce and civil suit(s), remember — and then doesn’t bother to show up in court. The Strib’s Dee DePass reports: “In his stead was his clearly displeased bankruptcy attorney, Barbara May, and a baffled Judge Robert Kressel. The judge asked May why she was in court when it was Hecker who filed and signed the motion request. May said she found out Hecker had filed the motion on his own only an hour before the hearing started after she returned from vacation. She did not advise Hecker on the motion, she said. Hecker is well known in Minnesota’s auto dealership and legal community for his fondness for filing civil lawsuits, motions, objections and other proceedings that ultimately frustrate opponents.” This latest scuffle comes over the court-ordered sale of Hecker’s Medina house. Denny Hecker … dyin’ by what he lived by.

Meanwhile, Tom Petters may be watching (from afar) a coordination of the payback phase of his fraud. DePass’s colleague David Phelps explains that authorities there have agreed to pour all of Petters’ victims into the same pool in order to save administrative costs and, hopefully, speed up what money they can recover. Phelps quotes receiver/trustee Doug Kelley and reports: “ ‘This means we won’t have intramural battles where different arms of the government are suing the receiver and the trustee,’ said Kelley, noting that the case involving the massive Bernard Madoff fraud has been rife with legal battles between the government and the receiver. Kelley said the largest sums of money from the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme will come from ‘clawback’ efforts to collect earnings from early investors who were paid with the funds of later investors. Kelley said the clawbacks could total $500 million. ‘That’s where the real money is,’ he said.”

Local economist Ed Lotterman’s column in the PiPress assesses the economic plans of the three gubernatorial candidates. For a moment, you think he’s going to swim into fresh, deep water. He does at least remind his readers that national and international economic factors will have a powerful effect on Minnesota’s economy no matter who cuts or raises taxes here. His logic flounders though when he gets into Mark Dayton’s “tax the rich” message. Says Lotterman: “A handful of economists would favor this, largely because a remarkable proportion of the increase in total national income in the past 20 years has gone to the highest-income 10 percent of all households. But many others would oppose it, especially at the state level, for a variety of reasons. First of all, competition between states in regard to tax burdens is real. High-income individuals tend to migrate to states where taxes are lower — again, all other things being equal. And personal and business tax levels are a factor when businesses plan new factories or offices. Regardless of one’s personal views on the just distribution of a tax burden, what other states do is important, and there are dangers in edging too far toward the high-tax end of the spectrum. More generally, the idea that any tax increase should be concentrated on a small minority of households makes a mockery of the ‘shared sacrifice’ that other Democrats called for, especially in the 2008 campaigns. The idea that only a few should be asked to give up any benefit or to pay higher taxes is at the root of our economic malaise.’ ” Upon closer inspection, someone will remind Lotterman that “the many” have been “sharing the sacrifice” to the advantage of the few for quite a long while.

Target’s second quarter has ended and the new numbers show what someone like Alan Greenspan might call “acceptable flatness,” or modest gains in a still tight economy. A commentary in the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch says: “Expectations tend to be high for Target, which has been tweaking its operations, assortment and strategy. Investors were likely hoping to see those changes bear fruit in the second-quarter results. It’s also rolling out a program giving Target credit card holders a 5% discount. Citi analyst Deborah Weinswig said that the discount program could be a ‘powerful loyalty tool,’ and cited Target management’s belief that 5% off seemed to ‘be the tipping point that improved Target’s price perception and enticed consumers to shop at Target versus its competitors.’       
With so many changes under its belt, Target should be in a good position to grab sales and share during the back-to-school season. Assuming people are buying.”

Assuming they would be gnawing at the “9/11 mosque” story like a starving dog on a soup bone, I had to check out Power Line this morning. The mosque (and community center) stuff is there. But the best is John Hinderaker’s entirely, um, unique perspective on reports that a growing number of Americans think Barack Obama is a Muslim. One guess who Hinderaker says is to blame. “So, what is going on here? First, we are seeing fallout from the Jeremiah Wright affair. [“The Jeremiah Wright affair!?”] I would never presume to pass judgment on Obama’s spiritual life. But one thing I will say with confidence: Jeremiah Wright is no Christian. His ideology of hate disqualifies him. So many millions of Americans, learning that Wright was Obama’s spiritual mentor, must have wondered where Obama himself was coming from. I think that is the main source of confusion, coupled with Obama’s lack of connection to any identifiable Christian tradition. The second factor, I think, is Obama’s effort to project a post-American, above-America persona. Obama postures as a citizen of the world who has graced America by condescending to be our President and to instruct us. Some liberals accept this posturing gratefully, but most Americans don’t. Obama has defined himself as literally exotic. Small wonder that some Americans attribute exotic qualities to him. We’re not sure who he is, exactly, but he certainly isn’t one of us.” I say again: “The Jeremiah Wright affair?” Talk about a dog with a long-chewed bone.  

Proving once again that it is a razor-thin line between crass satire and head-slapping, unintentional self-parody, the Minnesota Senate District’s GOP’s video, “Republican Women vs. Democrat Women” is a classic. Mother Jones checks it out and explains, “Comes information that the Minnesota state GOP, which insists that you take Rep.Michele Bachmann and this guy [a photoshopped Norm Coleman] seriously, put its true womanly feelings on YouTube. Shorter version: GOP babes are BABES with Tom Jones’ endorsement … and Dem womyn are ugly fat butch dog lesbians, especially when you Photoshop them onto pictures of hairy Arab detainees and other man bodies!”

So … the Women’s Media Center is demanding an apology from our local Republicans. It says, “An outrageous lapse in judgment was made by the Republican Party of the 56th district of Minnesota yesterday when they posted a highly offensive YouTube video that plays the song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” over unflattering pictures of Democratic women, after first playing the song “She’s a Lady” over Republican women’s pictures. This incident is symptomatic of a larger illness: the widespread sexism and objectification of women in politics. Though the video clearly prefers Republican women over Democratic women, it does a disservice to women across the political spectrum by evaluating them solely based on their appearances rather than on their merits or platforms.”

Minnesota Independent has been all over it. Paul Schmelzer writes: “[Republican] candidate Andrea Kieffer, calling the video “juvenile,” says she’s requesting the video be removed. [Randy] Brown, the [GOP] site’s webmaster, says he published the video. Why? “[I]ts only intention was to bring a smile to a few peoples faces, and possibly irritate a few others. Is it fair? Does that matter? It wasn’t intended to be fair. It was intended to be funny.” Right. We got the part about it not being fair. That’s not what worries us. What worries us is that the frat boy factor at the GOP actually thinks “hot” equals “better qualified for public office.”