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Broadband to every Minnesota house still has a ways to go

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Pawlenty’s “wheel-spinning” campaign; static over cell phone tower; a new DFL leader; care-givers’ response; a raccoon tale; and Bachmann lets loose out West.


Still a ways to go. That’s the report on the state’s promise of delivering broadband Internet service to every home and business in the state by 2015. The Strib’s Nicole Norfleet reports: “Minnesota is average in broadband speed and availability. It must emerge from the pack because high-speed Internet accessibility attracts businesses, students and residents, said JoAnne Johnson, head of the task force that prepared the report. While the report shows that 84 percent of households meet the state goal of having download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second — fast enough for basic telecommuting — fewer people in rural areas have high-speed access than do those in the metro. One report says 7 percent of rural Minnesotans lack broadband access, vs. 3 percent statewide.”

Hamline professor Dave Schultz, a familiar source for local reporters, blogs about Tim Pawlenty’s wheel-spinning campaign thus far: “Pawlenty is a derivative candidate. He has yet to carve out a narrative that distinguishes himself from the other more famous candidates running. He is thus far a boring, bland, GOP governor from somewhere in the upper Midwest; a candidate who never won a majority of the votes as governor. Pawlenty has tried several narratives for the last couple of years but none seem to work. He is against taxes but so are other candidates. He opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, but so do others. He in so many ways has run for president on the narrative ‘Me too’ when referring to his positions that ape his more famous competitors. Pawlenty has simply failed to carve out a distinct set of political views that distinguish him from the pact.”

If the locals are up in arms about a cell phone tower, I wouldn’t bet on that giant, honking bridge over the St. Croix. A Kevin Giles story in the Strib says,:“AT&T spokesman Tom Hopkins said the company chose a site more than a mile from the river, in dense tree coverage, in an effort to keep it as unobtrusive as possible. ‘We are very sensitive to the concerns of residents and others for both aesthetics and cell coverage,’ he said. … ‘We think that we have maintained the integrity of the river’s aesthetics while delivering a level of wireless services that residents demand and expect.’ A conflicting point of view comes from the superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a unit of the National Park Service. Chris Stein wrote in a Jan. 19 letter that the tower in its current design isn’t in the public interest. Its top would stand 1,060 feet above sea level, he wrote, compared with the St. Croix River in the Franconia area at 690 feet. Computer models showed it might be visible up to 3 miles south on the river, he wrote.”

Perhaps the key piece of information is that he “ran unopposed.” That’d be Ken Martin, the new chairman of the state DFL. Reeling out of a disastrous cycle, there wasn’t exactly a lot of demand for the job after Brian Melendez’ departure. Of Martin, Rachel Stassen-Berger writes at the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics”: “He said he would bring that statewide campaign mindset, which he said had been lacking, to the party spot. ‘We have to do a better job of appealing to voters in the suburbs and exurbs. If we just keep trying to talk to Democrats in the Twin Cities or Democrats on the Range, we are going to lose races,’ Martin said. When he spoke to DFLers assembled in a western Minnesota high school Saturday, Martin said he knew the problem intimately. ‘We have to find ways to connect to people like my brother. … Republicans have convinced him to vote his fears, rather than his hopes,’ Martin said.” Maybe he can try a different tack than trying to out-Tony Sutton GOP Chair Tony Sutton.

Bill Salisbury at the PiPress adds that Martin has been around politics for quite a while: “Most of that work has been behind the scenes, not in front of a camera. For the past two years, he has directed Win Minnesota, a left-leaning political fund that raised $3.6 million, much of it in large sums from wealthy liberals. It poured most of that money into the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a Democratic front group that, independently from Dayton’s operation, waged an aggressive TV ad campaign against Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. In 2008, Martin ran a successful campaign to pass the ‘Clean Water, Land and Legacy’ ballot initiative that increased the state sales tax to fund environmental, arts and history programs.”

Two professional care-givers to seniors respond to a Jan. 30 Strib editorial that argued in favor of “reining in Medicaid costs” for the elderly. Gayle Kvenvold and Patti Cullen write: “While a recent report recommended moving fee-for-services waiver programs for people with disabilities into managed care, one of the waiver programs — Elderly Waiver — converted into managed care years ago. More than 90 percent of older adults on Elderly Waiver are covered by a health care plan, yet these same health plans are highlighting this as a runaway cost. We believe that if any Medicaid programs are going to have to prove their value to the state, all programs should do the same. This means managed-care plans should have to prove their value as well — in terms of care coordination efficacy, overall systems savings and percentage of state funds used for administrative purposes.”

Here’s a word to the wise, never rassle with anyone whose rassled with a raccoon. Or even been near one. The AP reports the story of a North Dakota high school wrestling team that was “pulled from Saturday’s tournament when officials discovered the athletes had been exposed to a live raccoon. Grafton Police Sgt. Anthony Dumas says the team picked up what members thought was a dead raccoon on the way to the tournament in Grafton and stowed in the storage area of their bus. Dumas says when the compartment was opened later, the raccoon ‘just trotted away.’ ” So … what were they planning on doing with a dead raccoon?

No, that was not the soon-to-be-Super Bowl champion Minnesota Vikings getting showered with confetti in Texas last night. It was our beloved neighbors to the east. The headline on the Green Bay Gazette website shrieks, “CHAMPIONS,” and the copy reads, “The Green Bay Packers are world champions again. Champions! Champions! Champions! Champions! Champions! The word won’t grow weary to the ears of the Packers and their fans, just as the sight of today’s Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers here and the countless replays won’t disturb the eyes.” What have we done to offend you, Lord? The winter has been long and miserable enough … and now this?

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The fans in a Gazette photo collage from Knuckles Sports Bar in Green Bay strike me as suspiciously good-looking. Like maybe they were bused in from the west.

Continuing her tour of “district work,” Michele Bachmann was the star of a fundraiser for a GOP Senate candidate in Helena, Mont., Saturday night. Charles S. Johnson of The Missoulian writes: “She criticized federal bailouts that began under Republican President George W. Bush and continued at a far greater level under Obama. ‘So now we the federal government still own Chrysler and GM,’ she said. ‘We own the largest banks in America. [What?] We own the largest insurance company in America … Then after that we bought lock, stock and barrel Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These aren’t just crazy aunts and uncles that you put up in your attic somewhere. These are largest secondary mortgage insurance companies in America, which means the federal government today owns over 50 percent of all private mortgages in this country.’ ” Being as it was the weekend, the fact-checkers are just now getting back to their desks.