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Minnesota on pace for fewest traffic deaths in 67 years

MORNING EDITION ALSO: New plan to save moose; Pawlenty’s financial report; clipping Regis’ costs; Target expands electronics trade-in program; a new “family threat”; and more.
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We may see the fewest traffic-related deaths in this state in 67 years. Pat Minelli’s story for the Shakopee Valley News says: “Minnesota road deaths hit the 200 death-mark for the year following a deadly July and a tragic first week of August, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. The figure represents an 18 percent drop in deaths compared to the 244 deaths at this time in 2010. At this rate, DPS projects 362 deaths for 2011. In both 2009 and 2010, the state reached the 200-death mark in mid-July. There were 411 total deaths in 2010, the lowest annual number of traffic fatalities since 1944. The 2011 fatalities include 24 motorcyclists, up from 22 at this time in 2010; 14 pedestrians, down from 19; and two bicyclists, down from six.”

We have a new moose plan. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune tells us: “The plan, two years in the making, seeks to bolster research into what is killing moose faster than they can reproduce and then strives to find what, if anything, the state can do to turn the population around. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimates about 4,900 moose are in Northeastern Minnesota, down 11 percent from last year and down from more than 8,000 a decade ago. In Northwestern Minnesota, the population crashed from thousands of animals in the 1970s to fewer than 100 today.”

By my Montevideo High School math, T-Paw is worth about 1/320th of what Mitt Romney is worth. The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick O’Connor reports: “The former Minnesota governor reported roughly $715,000 in income last year, according to disclosures released by the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday. Mr. Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, also disclosed at least $471,000 in assets, mostly in retirement savings. Those totals are a sliver of what some of the other candidates are reporting. At the high end of the wealth scale, Mitt Romney, who made millions through the private-equity fund he founded, is worth as much as $250 million, his campaign said last week. A little closer to earth, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich claimed assets of at least $7.2 million, according to his own disclosure forms. Mr. Pawlenty owed most of his income last year to his salary as the governor of Minnesota ($121,260), speaking fees and book royalties totally $342,000, according to the forms.” But the overseas DVD sales of his action-flick campaign ads will goose that number next year.

Dave Hanners of the PiPress covers the drop of the other shoe in the story of a blackmail scheme that led to the victim’s suicide. Says Hanners: “[Ricky] Pouncil, 47, of Rosemount, was sentenced to 13 months in prison on a single count of coercion. He must serve at least two-thirds of that time behind bars before he can be released on probation. He also must pay $165,000 restitution. ‘If I could sentence you to a larger sentence, I certainly would be doing that,’ Bush told Pouncil. Susan Kreye, the widow of Bloomington businessman Dan Kreye, watched as sheriff’s deputies aligned Pouncil’s muscular arms behind his back, clanked handcuffs around his beefy wrists and led him away. Moments later, she said the scene was ‘wonderful.’ But she also said the punishment was lenient compared with the strain her husband’s death and the revelations about his private life have caused her and her two adult children. ‘It would be nice if his sentence equaled what mine has been,’ she said of Pouncil. The sentencing brings to a close the legal aspects of what Bush called ‘a sad, painful and tragic’ saga. It involved an extortion plot in which Pouncil and a woman blackmailed Kreye, a founding partner of High Five Erectors Inc., a steel-construction company in Shakopee.”

A hedge fund wants to see a 32 percent cut in administrative costs (i.e., jobs) at Edina-based Regis hair. Says Tom Webb of the PiPress: “An activist hedge fund put Regis Corp. in its sights Tuesday, urging the hair-care giant to slash its “bloated cost structure” — especially at its Edina headquarters — and to shed its noncore businesses. Starboard Value, one of Regis’ largest shareholders, also nominated its slate of three candidates for election to Regis’ seven-person board, to be chosen at Regis’ 2011 annual meeting, which has not been scheduled. ‘We believe that Regis is deeply undervalued and that opportunities exist to greatly improve both operations and stock price performance,’ the managing member of Starboard Value, a Cayman Islands-based fund, wrote to Regis’ executives and directors.” And folks, those are the “job providers” we hear so much about.

Kara McGuire of the Strib notes that Target is expanding its electronics trade-in program: “The trade-in service, now available at nearly 1,500 stores, now accepts calculators and DVDs. It has always accepted iPods, iPads, iPhones, cellphones, Nintendo DS units and video games. Items will be evaluated on-site, and swapped for a Target gift card that can be used immediately to replace a quirky calculator or stock the dorm room fridge. The trade-in service is available through a partnership with NextWorth, which offers electronics trade-ins at Target and online. NextWorth’s website offers instant quotes if you’re curious about what that first generation iPad will net you.”

Talk about a pre-determined survey. Jeremy Olson of the Strib writes: “The rise of unmarried, cohabiting parents is ‘the largest unrecognized threat’ to the stability and well-being of children in the U.S., according to a pro-marriage group’s new report, co-authored by University of Minnesota professor William Doherty. Released Tuesday by the Institute for American Values, the report highlights the fact that American children are now more likely to live with unmarried, cohabiting couples by age 12 than to see their parents divorce by that age. In fact, the parent divorce rate in America has returned to levels it hasn’t seen since the 1960s. In many ways, the report found, children living with two unmarried parents are as likely to experience problems as children living with single parents. While children living with unmarried, cohabiting parents are more likely to be secure economically, they are equally as likely to abuse drugs and have behavior problems as children living with single parents, the report stated.”

Josephine Marcotty of the Strib writes about a clever concept for cleaning metro lakes: “Next week seven floating islands will be launched in Spring Lake in Minneapolis that will help clean up  that little polluted body of water. They’re made from recycled plastic water and soda bottles, planted with native species that clean excess nutrients and other pollutants in the water — while attracting birds, butterflies and just looking pretty. … The plan to clean it up was hatched by a bunch of organizations that include the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association, the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Minneapolis Parks, Blake school and the St. Paul company that  makes them, Midwest Floating Islands. The islands look and act like miniature bogs — dense webs of brown fiber. They mimic natural floating islands to create a concentrated wetland effect. The plants on top grow roots through the fiber into the water below. The roots help clean the water of nutrients and toxins by attracting microbes that break down pollutants.”

Who does he think he is, the mayor or something? Andy Post at Minnesota Democrats Exposed has another blockbuster expose. He writes: “Dedicated readers of MDE found Mayor R.T. Rybak’s vehicle parked in a no-parking zone in front of the Minneapolis Convention Center this morning. Readers confirmed the Mayor did exit from the vehicle before leaving it unattended illegally.” A photo of Rybak’s space-hogging Prius comes with the story.