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Time to turn it up … it’s Nigel Tufnel Day

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Wilf downplays Minneapolis site, contribution; Ramsey County locks up Arden Hills site; MF Global troubles are affecting locals; and more.
Read Thur. Afternoon Edition


Happy Nigel Tufnel Day. As Richard Chin of the PiPress needs to remind everyone other than groupies of The World’s Loudest Band: “Fans of the rock mockumentary ‘This is Spinal Tap’ have declared 11-11-11 to be Nigel Tufnel Day, in honor of the scene in which the band’s lead guitarist notes that the volume knobs on most amplifiers have a maximum level labeled 10, but his go up to 11, so they’re that much better. … Nov. 11, of course, is also Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada, the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. The date was honored earlier as Armistice Day, commemorating ‘the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month’ of 1918 when the ceasefire ending World War I commenced. Among the Veterans Day events Friday will be a ceremony at 11 a.m. at the First Shot Memorial at the state Capitol sponsored by the Twin Cities chapter of Veterans for Peace.”

This, of course, isn’t a surprise. The AP reports that should the Vikings stadium somehow migrate to downtown Minneapolis, the contribution the team will make to build … will significantly decrease: “Vikings owner Zygi Wilf tells The Associated Press that the team would significantly drop its financial contribution to a new stadium if it is built in Minneapolis instead of its preferred site in the suburbs. … ‘We’re committed to the Arden Hills site for what it brings to the fans, but we’re also committed to investing over $400 million in specific to the Arden Hills site for the experiences that everyone can get from Arden Hills,’ Wilf told The Associated Press in an interview. ‘Any other location besides Arden Hills wouldn’t justify near that level of commitment.’ ”

Meanwhile, Ramsey County and the feds have reached an agreement for that Arden Hills land. At the Strib, Rochelle Olson writes: “Ramsey County commissioners announced Thursday a tentative deal to buy the proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium site in Arden Hills from the federal government, giving that plan a much-needed boost — if the money can be found to do it. Commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega sent a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders saying that the price won’t top the budgeted $30 million for the property, including further pollution cleanup. They said that ‘should alleviate concerns’ about unknown acquisition and remediation costs. The 430-acre site at the northeast corner of Hwys. 10 and 96 is the largest Superfund site in the state and the biggest chunk of undeveloped land in the Twin Cities.”

Tim Nelson’s MPR story says, “There’s a second clause as well: the county says it has a fixed price quote from ‘an experienced local contractor with substantial experience on the TCAAP property’ that ‘caps the demolition, hazardous waste abatement and remediation costs at a dollar amount that is significantly less than the amount of credit available to the County against the GSA’s proposed price.’ And finally, the letter says that the offer commits the cleanup contractor to have the stadium footprint available within 9 months of signing a contract.”

The PiPress kind of got stiffed on its survey of legislator opinions on the stadium debate: “Gov. Mark Dayton has said it is now up to lawmakers to come up with a stadium plan that can get enough votes to pass, which led the Pioneer Press to survey the state’s senators and representatives directly on the key issues involved. Among the 3 percent of lawmakers who responded so far, using a sports memorabilia tax and electronic pulltabs to fund a stadium got strong support. Arden Hills got two votes as the best stadium site; the Farmers Market and Metrodome each got one. Acting in a special session and in the regular session each got one vote, and two lawmakers said they didn’t care when the issue was taken up. Those responding were Sens. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis and Carla Nelson, R-Rochester; and Republican Reps. Jim Abeler of Anoka and Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls along with Democratic Reps. Bev Scalze of Little Canada and Alice Hausman of St. Paul.” I blame deer hunting season.

I’m sorry. I missed this from Wednesday. The Chairman had his wrists slapped by Catharine Richert, MPR’s PoliGraph fact-checker: “Candidate attacks on earmarks and wasteful government spending are standard election year fodder. Opponents often accuse incumbents of loading up on pet pork projects with taxpayer dollars. A recent example is an Oct. 21 press release sent by the Republican Party of Minnesota regarding DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s spending record: ‘Since she took office, Sen. Klobuchar has grazed at every opportunity at the federal funding buffet heaping her plate with tasty treats like $6 million for a snowmaking machine in Duluth and $1.2 million to build a bike trail to Target Field. In all she’s supported over $1 trillion (with a “t”) in stimulus spending.’ ‘It was bad enough that past stimulus bills included things like bike trails and snowmaking facilities,’ GOP Chair Tony Sutton goes on to say. There’s a bit of truth to this claim. But it’s been distorted to the point of making it false. … The stimulus bill did not include earmarks, which are pots of funding meant for specific pet projects in lawmakers’ districts (though critics argue that some of the stimulus funding was specific enough, such as dollars to buy green vehicles, to be considered earmark-like). It’s true that Hennepin County got about $1.2 million in stimulus dollars to extend an existing bike trail to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. But, unlike the GOP’s claim implies, Klobuchar did not request the money for the specific project. Rather, the state got a share of a $1.5 billion pot of stimulus money meant to fund transportation projects nationwide. … So, aside from the ‘aye’ vote she cast in favor of the bill, Klobuchar had no control over specific projects supported by the stimulus bill.” Has either party ever done any research on who believes these claims?

I believe blogger Sally Jo Sorensen at “Bluestem Prairie” had her antenna up first on this one. But now Mark Steil at MPR is looking at the impact of the bankruptcy of ex-Jersey Gov. (and ex- Goldman Sachs exec) Jon Corzine’s MF Global investment fund: “The bankruptcy has frozen funds the grain traders say they need to stay in business. The 10 days since MF Global filed bankruptcy have been one of the toughest stretches ever in Chuck Mastel’s nearly 40 years in business. His Minneapolis company, Mastel Grain, was an MF Global customer. Mastel said when the New York securities dealer went belly up, nearly $10 million of his customers’ money was instantly tied up in bankruptcy court. Normally, his customers would use that pool of money to buy and sell grain futures. ‘We’re almost completely shut down,’ Mastel said. ‘Our customer funds are completely frozen with MF Global and we’re just unable to do any business until those funds are released.’ Mastel calls the situation unprecedented. He said the customers’ money does not belong to MF Global and should be released back to them by the bankruptcy court.”

Earlier, Tom Weber at the PiPress had looked at the impact still further down the food chain: “Bob Zelenka, executive director of Minnesota Grain and Feed, said 86 percent of the money in affected commodity accounts has been released but that plenty of worries remain. ‘We’re still frustrated, and we still have a lot of concerns about recovering 100 percent of our money,’ Zelenka said, ‘but they were certainly reassuring that they’re doing everything they can do [to] find the rightful owner and get it returned.’ Zelenka said that as far as he knows, ‘it’s a limited number of (Minnesota) elevators that are affected, but the amount of money at stake is pretty large.’ The Minnesotans involved in the mess are innocent victims, Zelenka said. The collapse of MF Global was triggered by the company’s disastrous bet on high-risk European debt. Commodity futures accounts should have been isolated from those problems, but that’s not what happened.” Uh, no. That is not what happened.

They do work, you know. Paul Walsh of the Strib reports: “More than four in 10 vehicle occupants killed on Minnesota roads from 2008 to 2010 were not wearing seat belts, the state Department of Public Safety said on Thursday. … In the three years, 932 vehicle occupants were killed in crashes; 409 — or 44 percent — of those were not buckled up. The state also highlighted the 20 counties where the highest percentage of vehicle fatalities involved occupants who didn’t buckle up. The list was dominated by sparsely populated counties with few total fatalities.”