Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Glum times — and bad news — for Best Buy and Supervalu

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Grand Forks paper opposes bonding — except one project; Mankato, meanwhile, feels slighted.


The website 24/7 Wall Street has a story up titled “Ten Companies Running Out Of American Customers.” Their primary example? Best Buy. “December same-store sales for the consumer electronics company fell 4%. For the same period, sales at Best Buy stores open for at least 14 months declined 5% in the United States as competing retailers offered deeper discounts. Profits for Best Buy … decreased 4.4% in the third quarter compared to last year. The company risks further loss in market share as more consumers turn to mass merchants and online shopping for their electronics needs. Best Buy offered a weak forecast for the quarter ahead when it announced earnings. The firm’s stock fell from $42 to $34 the day of the disclosure. Best Buy will specifically face greater future competition with like Wal-Mart [and]” Not what you’d call “good pub.”

Another local business giant, Supervalu, gets some unflattering inspection from Mike Hughlett at the Strib: “Supervalu is one of the nation’s most troubled grocery operators, its sales falling at precipitous rates and it profits eroding, too. The company’s stock has plunged more than 70 percent in the past five years, and about 50 percent in the past year alone. Supervalu is far underperforming peer grocery firms, and its shares recently hit a low not seen since the 1980s. … Last month, it posted its 11th-straight quarter of declining same-store sales, a key gauge that measures performance at stores open at least one year.”

The Grand Forks Herald takes a dim view of Gov. Dayton’s bonding proposal. Tom Dennis writes an Op-Ed saying: “Dayton’s bonding bill would pay for some fine projects. But Minnesota just can’t afford most of those projects right now. If the state were flush with cash or even facing a stable and balanced budget outlook, that would be one thing. But it’s not. Instead it faces a $6.2 billion deficit, as every Minnesotan knows. So, now is not the time to be borrowing a billion more dollars. Now is the time to be negotiating budget fixes to the near-exclusion of everything else.” Including “jobs, jobs, jobs,” I guess.

Oh, Dennis — from Grand Forks, remember — does offer one exception to reckless deficit spending: “In Minnesota’s case, flood control projects qualify, so those components of the governor’s bonding bill should be retained. Importantly, even Republican lawmakers who strongly oppose Dayton’s billion-dollar bonding bill accept the need for flood mitigation spending.”

A Mankato Free Press editorial is taking rejection personally. “[F]or some reason, the people of the Mankato area are apparently not as influential as those in other areas of the state with regard to the Republican majority. In 2008, planning money of $975,000 for Mankato’s project was vetoed while the governor approved projects of $80 million for othersb … Mankato tried again last year but was rejected in its request for $14 million for the performing arts center in downtown Mankato next to the Verizon Wireless Center. As Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges noted, while Mankato continues to face rejections, other cities, including St. Cloud and Rochester, are on their third helpings at a friendly Republican dinner table of bonding. The other cities are gorging themselves while we wait for scraps.”

In that context, MPR’s Tim Pugmire asks if Minnesota can afford Dayton’s $1 billion worth of projects: “In last last November’s forecast, the projected 2011 costs of debt service on bonds was $478 million. That’s the money it will take this year to make payments on the state’s total debt from bonding, which is about $6 billion dollars. If Dayton were to succeed in passing a billion-dollar bonding bill, it would add about another $18 million dollars to debt service in the next two-year budget. Those interest costs would escalate in subsequent budgets. Part of the reason Minnesota is able to borrow at low interest rates is consistently high assessments from national rating agencies. State officials announced this week that Standard and Poor’s will continue its AAA rating for Minnesota. Still, Republicans aren’t convinced. House Majority Leader Matt Dean said his party has great concerns about racking up more debt. He used a familiar analogy to make the point. ‘It is the wrong time to take out the credit card to get the state moving,’ he said. ‘We need need to talk to job creators across the state of Minnesota in the private sector.’ ”

MinnPost’s Jeff Severns Guntzel’s dive into who spent how much lobbying in St. Paul is worth your time to read: “All told, lobbying organizations reported spending close to $11 million dollars in 2010. At nearly $1 million, Minnesota Business Partnership spent more money than any other organization working to influence legislative action, which can include action by committees, subcommittees, resolutions, nominations, appointments, and even gubernatorial response to a bill. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce comes in a close second at $918,000 with Education Minnesota at a distant third at $700,000.”

According to the AP, the average debt of Wisconsinites calling into a gambling addiction hotline in 2010 is … $44,000. “The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling says … [t]hat’s an increase of $8,000 from the previous year. Council executive director Rose Gruber says that while the economy played a big role in the soaring debt, another reason is access. Gruber says it’s getting easier to find places to gamble, such as online or at a corner bar.” And, lord knows, there’s a lot of them in Wisconsin.

You know your options are pretty limited when your attorney’s best move is asking for eight years in prison instead of 10. But that’s Denny Hecker’s situation. The Strib’s Dee DePass continues her service in the Hecker trenches, reporting: “[Attorney Bill] Mauzy has also asked the court to recommend that Hecker participate in the residential drug abuse program. It is a program that could offer his client several points off his sentencing. ‘There is ample evidence that alcohol and prescription drug abuse played a role in his offenses, particularly his bankruptcy fraud convictions,’ Mauzy said. Mauzy’s brief also stated that ‘Hecker requests this court to find that economic factors beyond [his] control unduly aggravated’ his sentencing under the guidelines.” I got $20 that says Denny finds The Lord by the time the door slams behind him.

The victory of a DFLer in Tuesday’s special House election in the Hibbing area has state Republicans accusing the winner of residency violations. Tom Scheck at MPR writes: “Republican Party Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb said in a news release that [Carly] Melin isn’t meeting the residency requirements to be a candidate. ‘Is DFL candidate Carly Melin trying to pull a fast one on the voters of House District 5B? While Melin now claims she lives with her parents, state records show she may have a serious residency problem.’ ” She apparently was living in St. Paul last summer.

From the outer limits of blogdom, we have a post today on the conservative “Let Freedom Ring” site. Frankly, it gets a little murky. The issue, I gather, is heavy union spending into Mark Dayton … after the election, during the recount phase: “It’s worth noting what’s conspicuously missing from Gov. Dayton’s expenditures. In fact, it’s incredibly conspicuous in its absence. It’s missing advertising. If you look at most races, especially statewide races, advertising consumes 50+ percent of a statewide’s expenses. The biggest reason why Gov. Dayton could get away with that type of spending can be summed up in 5 words: [Dayton’s ex-wife] Alida Messinger and powerful unions. Actually, it can condensed further into an acronym: ABM, which is just another way of saying Alida Messinger and powerful unions. I can’t prove coordination between ABM and the Dayton campaign but I can say that it’s extremely unusual for the Dayton campaign to not have major advertising expenses coming from their wallets. …The pattern that’s emerging is that Dayton is great at pulling PR stunts while he lets his political hacks and union thugs do the dirty work.