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Big day as federal funding for Central Corridor LRT arrives

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: We’re now home to Aflac duck; crop planting way behind; Ming Sen Shiue civil commitment stands; Lawson sale confirmed; and more.
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There were those who said we’d never see this day. But the feds have (finally) come through with full funding for the Central Corridor LRT project. MPR’s Dan Olson reports: ” ‘The federal grant commitment of $478 million is the largest federal grant ever received in Minnesota for a transportation project,’ Met Council chairwoman Susan Haigh said in a news release. Central Corridor is also Minnesota’s largest public works project ever. The Met Council goal is to have trains running by 2014. Construction on the 18-station line is under way with deals signed on all the major construction contracts. … The project will employ as many as 3,400 construction and other trades people.”

We are so proud. A Minnesota guy is the new Aflac duck. Stuart Elliot at The New York Times “Media Decoder” blog reports: “Dan McKeague of Hugo, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, was chosen from among more than 12,500 people who auditioned online and live. Mr. McKeague is a sales manager for two Minneapolis FM radio stations that are part of Citadel Broadcasting, KQRS and Love 105. Mr. McKeague, who is 36, has also performed voice-over work in commercials for local advertisers. Aflac found it necessary to search for a new voice for the duck after the company fired the comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who had supplied the character’s squawking cry of ‘Aflac!’ since the campaign began.” This’ll look good on those big “Welcome” signs at the border.

Speaking of ducks, find me even one of them that likes this weather. The Grand Forks Herald’s Stephen J. Lee has a story on the (latest) delay to the growing season: “Last year, 22 percent of the spring wheat and 76 percent of the sugar beets in North Dakota [were] planted by April 24. This year it’s zip for any crop and weeks away for many farmers with water still standing inches- or feet-deep on fields. In Minnesota a year ago, 56 percent of the corn was in the ground and 81 percent of the spring wheat was planted by now. But this year, the statewide survey found the only things planted by Sunday were 4 percent of the oats and 1 percent of the barley. … Historically high prices for corn since last summer have convinced farmers to plant 300,000 acres more this year in Minnesota … The prices, in fact, were pushed even higher Monday because of the news of delayed planting in several states, market analysts said.”

Neil deMause, blogging at “Field of Schemes,” looks at the latest variations on Vikings stadium financing — Gov. Dayton’s readjusting the share coming from the team and the state — and writes: “[T]here are lots of ways of counting shares — the Vikings could, for example, pay more cash up front but get more at the back end by getting a bigger cut of stadium revenues — but still, it looks like things are headed in a direction that is not going to make Wilf happy. … there’d still be plenty of public cash — about half a billion dollars of it — and Dayton spoke to that as well: He said he disagreed with sports economists who say the economic impact of a sports stadium is negligible. As many as 8,000 people could be employed for three years building the stadium, he said. So, half a billion dollars, to create 8,000 jobs — that’s $62,500 per job. That would be almost semi-respectable, except that the jobs only last three years. The long-term full-time equivalent job creation is likely to be in the low thousands, which would put the job creation numbers in the more typical for stadiums $100,000-$250,000 per job range, or as economic development analysts call it, ‘despicable.‘ “

The mothers of the two teenage girls who died recently in a suicide pact were on “The Today Show” this morning. Seamus McGraw writes: “Certainly the two 14-year-olds faced struggles, Haylee’s mother, Tracy Fentress, told Lauer. Both had been counseled for depression, and Haylee was taking medication. And both had confided to family members that they had been teased and ridiculed, not so much in the middle school where they had become fast friends, but on Facebook. ‘Bullying now is different than the traditional sense,’ Tracy Fentress told Lauer. ‘Kids are so mean and cruel to each other, the things that they say to each other. It’s horrible’. … Perhaps, Fentress said, there is a lesson that can be drawn from the tragedy. ‘I hope that the school will implement some kind of program to teach the kids about this stuff. The harassment between girls at this age is horrible.’ ”

Ming Sen Shiue will see no freedom from his civil commitment. The AP’s Amy Forliti writes: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the civil commitment of a Minnesota man who kidnapped his former teacher and her daughter more than 30 years ago and killed a 6-year-old boy who saw the abduction. Ming Sen Shiue, 60, repeatedly raped his former teacher during her seven weeks of confinement and videotaped some of the attacks. In a 19-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said Shiue is a sexually dangerous person who was fixated on his victim and is ‘highly likely to reoffend.’ ‘Appellant has stated that he felt that his fixation was not voluntary and just part of his ‘consciousness,’ if that is the case, then a similar situation could arise without any conscious intent or warning,’ the appeals court found.”

As had been rumored, Lawson Software of St. Paul has agreed to be purchased by two companies. Steve Alexander’s Strib story says: “There is uncertainty about the future of Lawson Software’s 3,800 employees, including more than 700 in St. Paul, following Tuesday’s announcement that the company is being acquired for $2 billion, or $11.25 a share, by Golden Gate Capital and business software company Infor. Lawson officials ‘don’t know, frankly,’ whether the combined Lawson-Infor business software company will need all of Lawson’s workers, or whether Lawson’s St. Paul headquarters will remain an important company location, said Lawson spokesman Terry Blake. Infor is based in Alpharetta, Ga. ‘There’s good and not so good in deals like this,’ Blake said.”

Housing prices in Minneapolis have had one of the steepest declines in the country since the beginning of the year. The AP story by Derek Kravitz says: “Detroit was the only market to show a monthly gain, although the Motor City is one of five cities where home prices are now below their January 2000 levels. Prices in Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Tampa are all at their lowest point since 2006 or 2007, at the height of the housing boom. The cities with the steepest declines from January were Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami.  In most deprssed markets, a significant percentage of buyers are investors and private equity firms looking to cash in on cheap real estate. The housing sector is struggling even while much of the economy is recovering slowly but steadily.” I think this means we can’t even make Detroit jokes anymore.

If it works, it’ll be terrific. Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress reports on a collaboration between Medtronic and the Lilly drug company: “Fridley-based Medtronic announced this morning a collaborative agreement to develop a new treatment for Parkinson’s disease with Eli Lilly and Company, the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant. The companies hope to develop a new medicine for the neurological disorder that an implantable drug delivery system from Medtronic would deliver to the brain. The treatment would feature a biologic product from Lilly that’s a modified form of glial cell derived neurotrophic factor along with a drug pump and specially designed catheter.”