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NFL stadium loan to Zygi Wilf could be $200 million

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: State jobless rate under 6%; Hornstein touts cell phone ban; lutefisk champion; pep rally prank draws national (unwanted) attention; adjusted tax rates; and more. Read Thur. Morning Edition


The more precise figure of what the NFL would throw into the pot — as a loan — for a new Vikings stadium is $200 million. Mike Kaszuba’s Strib story says: “The vote, at an owners’ meeting in Texas, brought additional clarity to where the Vikings would get the team’s $425 million contribution for a proposed $1.1 billion stadium. That plan is awaiting state and local approval amid heavy political infighting. The new loan program was the latest effort by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf’s fellow NFL owners to push a new stadium forward. ‘We’re not guaranteed to get all $200 million,’ said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president for stadium development and public affairs. The loan amount, according to NFL documents released Wednesday, would depend on the total cost of a new stadium and the team owner’s personal contribution. Wilf has pledged the team would contribute $425 million, but has not specified how much would come from his personal fortune, team operations or league financing.” Given the NFL’s new TV contract, it would seem the league would be the most well-collateralized client imaginable for a, say, $1.1 billion “loan.”

Minnesota unemployment rate dropped last month. At MPR, Bill Catlin reports: “Minnesota’s jobless rate fell by half a percentage point to 5.9 percent in November even as employers cut nearly 14,000 jobs in the state. That’s the third month in a row Minnesota has seen both declining unemployment and shrinking payrolls. The unemployment rate was the lowest in Minnesota since October 2008 and well behind the U.S. rate of 8.6 percent in November. State employers eliminated 13,700 jobs in November, and October figures were revised to reflect an additional 1,200 jobs lost during that month. The state has lost 22,900 jobs over the past three months, even while the unemployment rate was falling from 7.2 percent to 5.9 percent during that period. State officials say the mixed results make it difficult to draw clear conclusions about the state of the labor market.”

The “talker” of the week, the NTSB’s recommendation that all 50 states ban the use of cell phones while driving, spurs a commentary at MPR from DFL Rep. Frank Hornstein: “Some will argue that banning the use of cell phones while driving is an infringement on personal rights and individual choice. Yet this choice can often be a danger to others as well as the individual choosing to talk on the phone while driving. For example, a University of Utah study showed that using a cell phone delays driver reactions in ways similar to alcohol impairment. The National Transportation Safety Board directive is a game-changer. The agency most directly charged with keeping our roads safe has confirmed that distracted driving is an urgent and critical issue. In fact, a study released just last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that at any given moment, approximately 13.5 million people are using their cell phones while driving.” Heck, at least 2 million of them are dialing while trying to park at Lund’s.

Oh, good lord! This is the guy we blame if we have to endure another siege of stale Minnesotans-eating-lutefisk jokes. Carol Stender of AgriNews reports: “Jerry Osteraas loves lutefisk. At Christmastime, he tops it with melted butter and eats it with boiled potatoes, lefse and flatbread. But put him in a competition, and he becomes a lutefisk eating machine. All he needs is butter to top the translucent fish and this Madison [Minnesota] native can put the best Scandinavian’s lutefisk eating efforts to shame. Osteraas has won all but three lutefisk eating competitions at Madison’s Norsefest since the town started the event in 1988. He set the event record when he ate 8.25 pounds at one contest. After the first contest, Osteraas took part in the national lutefisk eating competition in Polsbo, Wash., where he took first place.”

What’s the old line about how “It’s like kissing your sister”? Well, how about making out with … your mom … or your dad? Rosemount High School is getting national publicity for a pep fest prank that really needed more adult supervision. Andy Mannix at City Pages writes: “Officials from Rosemount High School are apologizing for a so-called “prank” that will almost surely lead to a lifetime of awkward family gatherings and thousands of hours of therapy for the students involved. At an end-of-the-year pepfest last week, a group of winter sports captains were blindfolded in the school gym in front of their peers, and told they would be receiving a kiss from a ‘special someone.’ These poor kids reasonably assumed they were about make out with their classmates. But the assembly organizers had something else in mind: their parents. Footage of the assembly shows a scene that would make even Sigmund Freud cringe. Dads kissing daughters. Mothers kissing sons. And these are not just innocent pecks on the lips. The parents are intimately lip-locking their children for several seconds. One even progresses to rolling around on the gym floor. In another instance, a mother moves her son’s hand south so he’s grasping her butt.” Video is included at the link.

Gawker, the uber-snarky website that lives for stuff like this, notes the City Pages story and adds: “One YouTube commenter who claims to be a student at Rosemount says that it’s a ‘tradition that only happens every six years or something,’ which makes it sound like an ancient pagan Norse ritual brought to America by sick incestuous vikings. Like hotdish, or passive-aggressiveness.” BTW … the “parents” were not blind-folded.

But before you go getting all high and mighty, the local paper down there, the Rosemount Town Pages editorializes about the incident saying: “Rosemount High School principal John Wollersheim issued an apology this week to anyone who might have been offended by a joke played on some winter sports captains at an RHS pep fest last week. The move makes sense considering the reactions expressed in some places to video of the event. But we hardly think RHS has anything to apologize for. … The parents hammed it up as they played their part. At least, we assume nobody was making out as intensely as the video seems to show. Wollersheim and others who were there say they weren’t, and we tend to believe them. Parents have taken the opportunity at many other RHS pep fests to make their kids a little uncomfortable, but we suspect they’d all draw the line at the kind of passionate kisses the video seemed to show. … we think it’s an argument in Rosemount’s favor that the parents here were willing to play along so thoroughly. There is a lot of talk about Rosemount High School feeling like a community, and events like last week’s pep fest are a big part of that. It was fun for everyone involved, and that’s nothing to apologize for.”

The state revenue department adjusted tax brackets today. A story in the Alexandria Echo Press says: “The Minnesota Department of Revenue announced today that the state’s individual income tax brackets for tax year 2012 will expand by 2.4 percent. State law requires the department to adjust the brackets to compensate for increases in inflation. … The brackets apply to tax year 2012.” It’s not immediately clear how many job creators will be forced to move to South Dakota.

The fraud du jour probably has to be Bixby Energy. In Business Week, Amy Forliti reports: “A Minnesota-based alternative energy company admitted Wednesday that it defrauded investors of up to $7 million in a scheme that involved former officers lying to investors and using much of the money for their own salaries and commissions. In an agreement with prosecutors, Bixby Energy Systems Inc., of Ramsey, accepted a charge of one count of securities fraud and took responsibility for the actions of its former officers. The agreement allows Bixby Energy to avoid prosecution, and if the company complies with terms of the deal, the government will seek to have the charge dismissed. ‘We think this is good news and we are pleased with the development,’ said Tom Heffelfinger, attorney for Bixby Energy. ‘In essence … the federal government has agreed not to prosecute the company for actions by people who are no longer associated with the company.’ Bixby agreed investors lost anywhere from $2.5 million to $7 million in the fraud.”