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No need to involve voters in Vikes stadium bill, sponsors say

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: State HMO deal; Ventura talks CIA on CNN; one new case of possible voter fraud; scary rural demographics; a three-year college plan; and more.
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You knew this was coming. The Vikings stadium plan will include language allowing proponents to skip that pesky public-voting part. It worked for Target Field, so it’ll work again. Right? The Strib story by Mike Kaszuba and Kevin Duchschere says: “Five years ago, in a move that may have been the difference between success and failure, the Legislature allowed Hennepin County to levy the countywide sales tax that now pays for much of Target Field without a voter referendum. The outline of the bill, which was released last week, does not address a referendum. But on Monday Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said their formal plan, expected to be introduced later this week, will detail such an exemption for any local government that wants to help fund the stadium. ‘If they want to put it to a vote, they can do so,’ said Lanning. ‘[But] they will have the option’ of avoiding a referendum. Voter opposition to public funding of stadiums in the past has led some advocates of those projects to say that an exemption from voter referendums is crucial. … Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who opposes public stadium subsidies, said that taking it out of the voters’ hands would add insult to injury. ‘We have a [state] law in place that if a locality wants to [raise its sales tax] they can, but they have to have a referendum. Skirting it is wrong,’ he said.”

The state HMOs that did so nicely profit-wise the last few years have agreed to a deal to cap their future profits at 1 percent and rebate anything over that to the state. The PiPress story by Christopher Snowbeck says: “The announcement this morning from Gov. Mark Dayton comes after the health plans released last week financial results showing that operating profit from the state health programs surged to $130.8 million during 2010, up by about one-third compared with the 2009 total. Dayton struck the agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica and UCare. … The profit margin on state programs was 3.8 percent in 2010, state officials said, adding that the margin ‘increased substantially’ from 2.6 percent in 2009. Last month, Dayton announced a series of reforms meant to make the state a ‘smarter purchaser’ of health services from the plans. Minneapolis-based UCare announced last month that it would provide a one-time $30 million contribution to the state in light of 2010 profits.”

Need a Jesse Ventura fix again today? Here’s a link to video of him on Piers Morgan’s CNN show. Warning! He has deep thoughts about Wikileaks and, “He also tells Piers why he allowed someone to say President Obama is a CIA operative on his show. ‘It’s an entertainment show,’ he said. ‘…. We just use reality.’ ” No problem Bod, there’s a lot of that on cable.

The Austin Daily Herald writes an editorial lamenting proposed cuts to Twin Cities mass transit: “Republicans in the Minnesota Senate let their ideology get ahead of good sense on Monday when they voted to cut $32 million in funding for metropolitan bus and rail operations from the next budget. That’s a budget decision that makes almost no long-term sense and which highlights, again, that there is no underlying vision for success coming from the Capitol.”

The major, unchecked scandal of voter fraud finally has a face. FoxNews’ Eric Shawn has found a —- as in one — young, mentally disabled Minnesota man who has been exploited. “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 16 million Americans have limited cognitive function, and federal elections officials say it is up to the local boards to safeguard the voting process. … ‘This is a personal cause for my son,’ Alan Stene insists. … Alan Stene thinks the voting issue ‘is just the tip of the iceberg on how vulnerable adults are exploited,’ and he has asked for a special prosecutor to investigate his contention that there was indeed voter fraud in the case. He is also calling for stronger legislation to protect vulnerable adults when it comes to voting.” It gets tougher, of course, when you have so many candidates appealing to the mentally disabled vote.

Good story from Monday by MPR’s Tom Robertson on an aging workforce in rural Minnesota: “Demographers say the loss of baby boomers from the workforce will be nothing short of transformational. The number of young people entering the workforce will decline. By the 2020s, the state’s labor force growth rate will reach record low levels. State economist Tom Stinson says that means more counties will see population declines. But he said some aging communities could see rejuvenation, as young immigrants come to Minnesota to fill jobs. ‘This is not something to be feared. It’s something to be aware of and to plan for,’ Stinson said. ‘And the individuals, the firms, the communities that figure out how to deal with it, they’re going to be furthest along toward success in the next two decades. Most of the increase in 65 and older population in Minnesota during this decade will occur in the Twin Cities metro area. The baby boomer retirement trend will be largely over by 2030.’ ”

Today, Tim Post (at MPR) files a story on college programs that squeeze a four-year degree into three: “It’s not a new idea, although in the past the chance to earn a three-year degree hasn’t been popular with students. Richard Vedder, the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, said it’s time for three-year degrees to get a fresh look. ‘With rising costs, and new consciousness and new promotion of the concept it might have a chance,’ Vedder said. ‘I would certainly hope we do more experimentation with the three-year degree.’ The University of Minnesota started its first three-year undergraduate degree program this year. The program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs is for students who plan to go into graduate school immediately after they receive their undergraduate degree.” Personally, the eight years I spent on my four-year degree were the best years of my life.

Today’s voting in Wisconsin will be a big story whichever way it cuts. Kevin Brennan of The National Journal writes: “What To Watch For: Voter turnout in Dane County and Milwaukee County could hold the key to the outcome of the election. Kloppenburg’s core supporters reside in these two counties, which contain the cities of Madison and Milwaukee. If the energy of the anti-Walker movement can lead to high turnout rates in these areas, Kloppenburg will be in good shape. Voter turnout in off-year judicial elections is typically very low — often between 20 and 30 percent, according to Madison-based lobbyist Brian Schimming. Thanks to the media blitz of the past few weeks, that number could be much higher in this race. Schimming, who previously served as chief of staff to Prosser when he was the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, said he plans to keep his eye on the numbers coming out of Dane County, in particular. If turnout is higher than 50 percent there, Prosser could find himself in serious trouble, Schimming said.”