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Rep. Chip Cravaack consents to a town meeting … in Duluth

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Excelsior Energy co-CEOs respond; high school parking scam; Chippewa artist irked to see his UND logo go; new book highlights 35W bridge collapse; and more.
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It took some hasslin’, but freshman Congressman Chip Cravaack has agreed to hold a town hall meeting … in his district’s largest city. Says John Myers at the Duluth News Tribune: “Chad McKenna, field coordinator for the North East Area Labor Council, said the town hall meeting is a victory for the protesters who he said are trying to hold Cravaack responsible for votes in Congress. But some said the meeting still falls short. ‘For the meeting at Grandma’s (Tuesday) people got a month’s notice. But Cravaack gave 28 hours notice for a public town hall, held during the workday,’ said Zach Sias, a Duluth resident, in a statement from the North East Area Labor Council. ‘While he is agreeing to finally meet with constituents, he is making it as difficult as possible.’ Sias said he can’t attend the Cravaack meeting because of work obligations. Michael Bars, Cravaack’s spokesman, said the meeting was called Tuesday because some time unexpectedly opened up for this afternoon.”

Previously … Cravaack was still taking flack for “charging” for constituent interaction. John Myers again writes about Tuesday’s events: “Opponents of U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack say they will protest today near Grandma’s Saloon and Grill in Duluth, where the freshman congressman will speak to Minnesota members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Labor leaders and other DFL-leaning groups say the Grandma’s meeting is another example of Cravaack, R-North Branch, ignoring common Northlanders in favor of raising campaign money or meeting with his Republican-leaning allies. The National Federation of Independent Businesses supported Cravaack in his bid last November to unseat incumbent Democrat Jim Oberstar. But Mike Hickey, Minnesota state director of the business owners’ group, told the News Tribune that the $10 members will pay … ‘is for our members to pay for lunch and soda. It’s absolutely not a fundraiser.’ ”

The co-CEOs of Excelsior Energy write a commentary in  today’s News Tribune responding to reporter Peter Passi’s two-part series and an excoriating editorial. By way of blaming Big Gummint, they say: “The high costs and extraordinarily long timeline to permit a base-load power facility, as reported in the articles, are unfortunate realities in today’s business climate. The costs and risks of complying with myriad regulations and requirements to obtain dozens of permits from multiple state and federal agencies in order to construct a facility are a major obstacle to building even the cleanest plant using the most state-of-the-art technology. Proposed new coal plants around the country have spent similar amounts, and in some cases double or more the amount, cited by the News Tribune before being cancelled or put in the ‘too hard’ pile. The regulatory logjam on clean, new facilities does nothing to enhance our environment and harms any effort to create or maintain jobs in our state and nation. It threatens our global competitiveness in the long run. The project is nearing the end of this complex governmental-approval process and has much to show for it.”

What? They should have flipped hamburgers? Joy Powell of the Strib reports on some too-savvy for their own good teenagers: “The case started last winter, after students tipped off school adminstrators. A police liaison officer soon found his proof in the lot of Sibley High School:  parking tags — all bearing the same numbers and not matching the color used for student passes. Using the school database, the officer identified the car owners and summoned the 11 students to talk with him and the associate principal. Ten of them said they’d bought the passes from one of two sellers, getting a steep discount from the $125 the school charges. One claimed to have found his forged pass on a hallway floor. Now the two sellers, both 18, face felony charges of aggravated forgery for what prosecutors are calling a unique scheme to counterfeit school parking passes.”

The Chippewa artist who created the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux logo is not happy his work is heading toward the scrap heap. The AP story says: “[Bennett] Brien, who is Chippewa, created the American Indian head emblem for UND in 1999, when controversy over the school’s nickname was heating up and critics objected to earlier logos they found to be demeaning. The state Board of Higher Education recently decided to retire the nickname and logo by year’s end, after the NCAA refused to back down on threatened sanctions against the school. The NCAA considers the nickname offensive, and officials have said it also might hamper UND’s attempt to join the Big Sky Conference next year as part of its switch to NCAA’s Division I. Brien said he does not consider his emblem to be a logo but a symbol of many things, including bravery, personal growth and the search for truth. ‘It’s not like a ‘Gopher’ or a ‘Badger’ — it’s way above that,’ he said. ‘The politically correct people misinterpreted it.’ “
There is still an establishment GOP, and those who were once with T-Paw are migrating elsewhere. Alexander Burns of Politico reports: “The sorting out of Tim Pawlenty supporters continues, as Vin Weber, the former Minnesota congressman and certified member of the D.C. power elite, jumps to Mitt Romney. ‘It is an honor to again work with Mitt Romney. At such a critical time in our nation’s history, it is important that we have someone with his background to lead the country,’ Weber, a former Pawlenty campaign co-chair, said in a statement. ‘After three years of failed policies, Mitt Romney’s record of leadership is what we need to strengthen the country both at home and abroad.’ ”

MPR’s Phil Picardi talks jobs creation with a guy actually charged with doing just that: “[T]his year’s state budget nearly doubled the size of a relatively small and little-known program called the Minnesota Investment Fund. The fund got an extra $3 million to give out in low-interest loans to businesses that want to expand in or relocate to Minnesota. Mark Lofthus, who directs the Minnesota Investment Fund and other job creation programs at the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, spoke with MPR’s Morning Edition about the fund. …

Picardi: I guess $3 million is a lot for you or me, but if you compare that to the overall state budget, it seems like a drop in the bucket. Do we need to be doing more?

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Lofthus: We probably do need more resources. For a long time the Minnesota Investment Fund has been starved for new money. The $3 million we got last session is the first new allocation we’ve gotten in at least eight years. $3 million is not very much compared to what other states offer. There are many states that have economic development funds that are dedicated to that purpose in the tune of $250 or $100 million. So it’s a small amount of money for Minnesota. We’ve never been a large player in the economic development incentives …”

A new book on the country’s infrastructure problems features the I-35 bridge collapse. Mike Lindblom of The Seattle Times writes: “After the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed four years ago, killing 13 people, investigators blamed the disaster on undersized steel ‘gusset plates’ that connected its giant beams. The episode infuriates author Barry LePatner, who accuses the National Transportation Safety Board of avoiding the larger picture: Minnesota officials, citing tight budgets, procrastinated by delaying a strengthening project until 2020, despite warnings by independent engineers I-35W could fail. LePatner, a New York construction attorney, argues the entire nation is in similar denial.”

Gregory Pratt of City Pages returns to the tale of the woman who fought the recording industry and lost … spectacularly: “Attorneys for the RIAA appealed federal judge Michael Davis’s July decision overturning an earlier court ruling penalizing Thomas-Rasset $1.5 million dollars in fines for downloading 24 songs. Davis ruled that the original $1.5 million penalty against Thomas-Rasset was ‘appalling’ and lowered it to $54,000. Former City Pages staff writer Nick Pinto chronicled her experiences in a February cover story. We caught up with Thomas-Rasset after Davis’ ruling in July, and she told us that her attorneys hope to take the case to the Supreme Court. With Thursday’s appeal, the RIAA took one step closer to the highest court in the land.”