Missing records — where have millions in Legacy $ gone?


Oh, come on. MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar reports that a straightforward accounting of how Legacy Fund money has been spent is a tough thing to come by. “Nearly three years after Minnesotans authorized a new sales tax to send additional money to conservation, arts and parks, there is no public comprehensive list of the funded projects and their outcomes. Moreover, a quarter of the $456 million allocated in the first two years of the Legacy Amendment is missing from the state website required to be the resource for displaying where and how the tax money is spent, according to an MPR News analysis. And while the website lists broad programs that received money, details are often lacking about which groups or projects received grants and whether the work was finished. For example, none of the nearly $9 million in clean water funds the Minnesota Department of Agriculture received in the first two years appears on the website. And a website visitor can’t find out which groups received part of an $8.4 million Department of Natural Resources conservation grant.”                                            

Today in Bachmannia:  Where else do you go when you want to set the record straight, put an end to scurrilous rumors and accentuate the positive? If you’re Our Gal, you go on Sean Hannity’s show. Here’s a snippet of their discussion:

“HANNITY: All right. It appears that you’ve got New Hampshire staffers lashing out at the national campaign, and the national campaign saying, it’s not true. Is this a bump in the road? What’s going on here?
BACHMANN: Well, we are in the process of hiring new people in New Hampshire. We are hiring new people in South Carolina and Iowa, but quite honestly, nobody asked me about the staffing and what is going on. What they talked to me about is my real jobs right now plan. That’s my plan to turn the economy around. People can find that at MicheleBachmann.com. I am much more than a tax plan, I’m a comprehensive job creation plan. And people have been very excited about it wherever we’re going around the country.
HANNITY: All right. Just stay on this for one second. I don’t want to — it but you are saying that nothing happened, that there weren’t staffers, that there’s no conflict with the national and New Hampshire staff at all?
BACHMANN: No. What I’m saying is that we are replacing people in New Hampshire as new hires, and we’re very excited about where the campaign is at right now. We are adding new people in all of the states and we are growing. So, we are very excited.But just this last week, I gave a major economic address at the commonwealth club in San Francisco and I laid out my economic plan for turning the country around. I’m a former tax lawyer. I started to run a successful, profitable company. I understand what needs to be done and people can find that on MicheleBachmann.com.” And yes, in case you’re wondering, you can contribute at that web address.

Meanwhile … Holly Ramer of the AP reports:In keeping with the scant attention she has paid to New Hampshire, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has signed up by mail to get on the state’s presidential primary ballot instead of showing up in person or having someone else do it for her. Though Bachmann could have traveled to New Hampshire herself, sending a staffer wasn’t an option after all five of her paid New Hampshire staffers quit last week, complaining that they were kept out of the loop and treated rudely by her national campaign team.”

Breaking down Tuesday’s “Jobs Summit,” Bill Salisbury of the PiPress writes: “At the end of the day, the moderators for the 15 sessions gathered in the hotel ballroom, where each one listed one or two steps its group generated for immediate job-creating action. For instance, Tina Smith, Dayton’s chief of staff, said her panel on reducing government costs for businesses embraced the idea of an ‘unsession’ where state officials would identify the bureaucratic red tape, overlapping reporting requirements and other unnecessary hurdles and, in Smith’s words, ‘stop doing them.’ Dayton, who had previously suggested that idea, quickly backed it, joking that he’d like to start by getting rid of the Legislature. Other ideas from the panels ranged from increasing export training for businesses and designing programs to acquaint high school students with career opportunities at an earlier age to boosting deposits in state banks that provide capital for startup businesses and identifying energy-wasting commercial buildings that need job-creating retrofits.”

U.S. Steel is closer to a serious expansion at its Keewatin plant. Steve Karnowski of the AP writes: “United States Steel Corp. moved a step closer to a $300 million expansion of its taconite mine and processing plant in the Iron Range town of Keewatin on Tuesday when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens Board unanimously approved the project’s water quality permits. Project supporters touted the 120 permanent jobs and 500 temporary construction jobs the expansion is expected to create but environmentalists questioned whether the permits had enough teeth. Much of the discussion dealt with how U.S. Steel would make its Keetac operation comply with the state’s water quality standards for protecting wild rice, which grows downstream from the plant. The last major regulatory hurdle U.S. Steel has left is a wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel’s board gives final approval once all permits are secured, Keetac’s capacity would increase by over 50 percent to 9.6 million tons of iron ore pellets per near.”

The company set to build the Vikings’ Arden Hills stadium is saying it can finish it in 2015. Mike Kaszuba of the Strib writes: “Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction, which has built the last three major stadiums in the Twin Cities, said that should legislators approve the Arden Hills project by the end of this year, the stadium would be ready by the team’s 2015 season. John Wood, a senior vice president for Mortenson, said in a letter released Tuesday that the schedule was aggressive but was ‘very adequate.’ Two weeks ago, the Metropolitan Council and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission concluded that the proposed $1.1 billion project in Arden Hills was ‘aggressive’ and ‘unrealistic.’ “

Now, how does a nice boy from Minnesota fall in with this crowd? A Strib story by Paul Walsh reports: “A Minnesota man whose drug-dealing ways were associated with an intimidating and violent Mexican cartel has been sentenced to more than nine years in prison. Benjamin M. Saxton, 32, of Isanti, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis for distributing methamphetamine. Saxton, who pleaded guilty, is the fourth Minnesotan now serving time for their drug activities tied to La Familia, one of the newer Mexican drug cartels that is blamed for thousands of killings and even beheadings.”

We are no more than six weeks away from the first of some major howling. Steve Brandt, in the Strib, writes: “Snow-shoveling scofflaws could be on the hot seat this winter in Minneapolis. Not only does the city plan to get out more quickly to see whether a property owner has complied with an order to shovel, but it’s likely to hit repeat violators with a $75 fine. By city ordinance, walks at single-family and duplex homes must be cleared of ice and snow within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall. For apartments and businesses, the deadline is four daytime hours after snow ends. … The city encourages people to call 311 to report unshoveled walks this winter, and also to enlist its housing inspectors to report them. The city is assessing more than $52,000 in unpaid charges from last winter on next year’s property tax bills.”

Here’s a family that probably won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving. Maricella Miranda of the PiPress reports: “Antoine Willis never gave his uncle permission to open bank accounts to help pay for his medical costs after he was burned by his mother’s boyfriend, the 19-year-old told police. That’s because he doesn’t trust his uncle, the young man said. Now, the uncle, Jeffrey Allen Stewart, 44, and Willis’ mother, Jodi Ann Stewart, 40, are suspected of taking $2,500 in donations for Willis and spending it on gambling and drugs, according to Dakota County criminal complaints filed Tuesday against the pair. ‘It’s hard to think of a more significant breach of trust than the actions that are alleged to have occurred here,’ Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.” Nicely understated, sir.

Blasting for bucks. Tom Scheck at MPR says: “GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers and the House Republican Campaign Committee will be hunting for more than big dollar contributions today. Zellers and GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean are headlining a Pheasant Hunt Fundraiser for the HRCC. The event, which is at the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club in Prior Lake, is hosted by Pawn America CEO Brad Rixman. It will also feature Minnesota Bound host Ron Schara, who is also a member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. A fundraising invite obtained by MPR News says a $5,000 contribution will allow a donor to bring along three other hunters. They will also be joined by a legislator. A $2,500 contribution will allow a donor to bring along one other hunter. A lawmaker will also join them on the hunt.”  I was hoping for $25,000 you could hunt with Dick Cheney.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/26/2011 - 03:16 pm.

    Nicely done on that last sentence, Brian…

  2. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 10/26/2011 - 03:48 pm.

    MPR Elizabeth Dunbar’s account of missing Legacy funds in the state’s website appears to be spot on. I looked up funds my county received. There’s an appropriation to hire a historian to evaluate whether a house in the county should be included in the National Register of Historic Places. The appropriation was made in 2010 so I would assume the task would be completed now.
    The record doesn’t say who received the money and was responsible for doing the hiring, who was hired, how much the historian was paid for the work or how much time the historian spent evaluating the house, and whether the house was found to be “historic.” Nothing!
    It appears the money went to someone and then disappeared down a black hole.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/26/2011 - 08:11 pm.

    Regarding the legacy fund reporting web site, I heard the same report and was left with the impression that the state expects to have full reports eventually, but had cut considerable slack for those entities that were having trouble getting their reporting mechanisms up and running.

    We probably need to remember, as well, that the same agencies through which this money is passing have undergone LARGE staffing and budget cuts over the past decade and NO additional money was allocated to assist them with administering the Legacy funds or reporting their results.

    Regarding the HRCC event, I wouldn’t really want to hunt with Dick Cheney, but I could nominate a few OTHERS I might like to see tramping through the fields with him (assuming Cheney’s artificial heart allows for such things).

  4. Submitted by Brian Hutchins on 10/26/2011 - 09:04 pm.

    It is about time we started fining people who do not shovel. Having lived in two other cities with long, snowy winters I have to say that Minneapolis is the worst when it comes to snow removal. It seems to be part of the culture here. To make sure winter is as unpleasant as possible. How about making the sidewalks, and streets, passable so that we can get out and enjoy the season. Winter really can be great if you can get around in it.

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