Transit budget hits big bumps
Less taxpayer support … higher taxpayer fees. Pat Doyle of the Strib reports the Minnesota House has voted in favor of reduced subsidies for mass transit. “The Minnesota House voted Monday night to trim the state budget deficit by reducing spending on Twin Cities transit, a strategy that could trigger fare hikes and service cuts. The Republican-sponsored bill would decrease general fund money for Twin Cities bus, light-rail and commuter rail by nearly $130 million over the next two years, and reduce spending on outstate bus services by $7.6 million.”
Doyle’s colleague, Katie Humphrey files a story about Dakota county officials trying to get someone at the state Capitol to pay attention to what they’re saying. “[F]rustration reached a peak last week when the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee passed a bill that would take money from the fund set up by five metro counties to pay for light rail and other transit improvements and use it instead to pay for existing Metro Transit bus service. … Commissioner Paul Krause, who testified against the proposal, said, ‘They listened, but it just went right over their heads.’ He said taking the transit money would be ‘stealing.’ ‘The thing that’s really going to hurt us is that our constituents voted for this [transit sales tax] and they expected us to go out and do our transit job, which we did,’ he said.”
The San Diego crowd — sued Monday by Minnesota AG Lori Swanson for robo-signing affidavits and harrassing people, some of whom were not even indebted to the company — continues to keep a low profile, public response-wise. It did pump out a rather opaque PR note. Carolyn Okomo on a site called MyBankTracker writes: “In response to the Swanson’s suit Encore Capital made the following statement:
Encore Capital Group and its wholly owned subsidiaries, Midland Credit Management, Inc. and Midland Funding, LLC, take the allegations made by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson very seriously. The complaint appears largely to restate concerns raised in a 2008 lawsuit against the company, which was recently settled in principle. As a result of that case, Encore modified its affidavit process in 2009 and believes that its current practices are legally sound. The company looks forward to working with Attorney General Swanson to resolve this matter.
An Ohio judge approved a $5.1 million class action lawsuit filed against Midland Funding for similar fraudulent actions earlier this month, the New York Times previously reported. Midland funding also dropped more than 100,000 debt collection claims worth roughly $10.2 million against Maryland consumers through a class action settlement approved by a Maryland federal court this month, according to the Baltimore Sun.”
Just a heads-up here. Keep your eyes peeled for a trash bag with a body inside. ValleyNewsLive, from Fargo-Grand Forks, is reporting: “Griggs County Sheriff Bob Hook is asking people who live along possible routes from central Minnesota to Cooperstown, North Dakota, to keep an eye out for a body in a dark plastic trash bag. … Griggs County Sheriff Bob Hook is again asking for the public’s help in the investigation of the New Year’s Eve murder case in Cooperstown, ND. As reported, the investigation has spread to the Crow Wing County, Minnesota area. Through our investigation process, we have determined that [suspect Daniel] Wacht was likely in the Crosby, MN area on January 4, 2011 driving his 1995 red GMC Safari van. We believe Wacht traveled south and east cross country to Crosby, MN from Cooperstown, ND on state highways or secondary county roads and returning to Cooperstown, ND by way of MN Highway #10 possibly through Detroit Lakes, Lake Park & Hawley MN, into the Fargo / Moorhead area and back to Cooperstown. … The Griggs County Sheriff’s Office is asking everyone to keep their eyes open for any black or dark metallic gray plastic trash bags that may be lying about or partially covered with snow along roadways around Cooperstown, ND and in the area of interest between Cooperstown, ND and Crosby, MN.”
In the mood for yet another nurse-stealing-meds story? Marciella Miranda of the PiPress reports, “A Fairview Ridges nurse allegedly stole prescriptions from her patient, popped the pills herself, and then crashed into another vehicle in Burnsville, injuring the driver. The Dakota County Attorney’s office charged Jessica Rae Baird, 34, of Shakopee with two felonies and a lesser charge after her blood test allegedly came back positive for hydrocodone — an opiate derived from a pain reliever and a cough suppressant. Police responded to the crash shortly before 7 p.m. July 11 at Minnesota Highway 13 and Nicollet Avenue South, according to a criminal complaint filed today.”
There’s some kind of cable movie in the tale of Vern Gagne’s granddaughter required to register as a sex offender for relations she had with a high school boy. Dave Hanners’ PiPress story says: “Things could have been worse for Gagne, the granddaughter of Robbinsdale-born pro wrestling superstar Verne Gagne, whose career lasted three decades. When she was originally charged in December 2009, she was accused of two felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for having sex with the youth, identified in court records only by the initials C.L.C. Both sides, however, agreed to turn those two charges into a single gross misdemeanor count of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The 1 1/2-page stipulation said police reports and investigation would ‘establish beyond a reasonable doubt’ that from January to September 2008, Gagne was employed at Cretin-Derham in a position of authority over the student, then 16, and that she had nonconsensual sexual contact with him in September 2008.” … “non-consensual” being a legal definition in this particular matter.
The money quote from Randy Furst’s Strib story comes from Hamline law prof Joseph Daly: “Daly said he didn’t fault Freeman and that the plea agreement saves the victim further embarrassment. But he added that there’s an unfortunate double standard in such cases that prosecutors might have feared would influence jurors and get in the way of a conviction. While one ‘shouldn’t be thinking this way,’ Daly said, ‘almost everybody is going to be thinking, ‘What 16-year-old boy wouldn’t want to have sex with this very beautiful 25-year-old teacher?’ ” Uh, yes. While of course wrong, the thought does cross one’s mind.