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Cops to target Minnesota’s 13 most DUI-prone counties

ALSO: Arguments against referendum “abuse”; money flows into amendment battle; Red River impact; Block E’s “Plan B”; Target Center expenses; and more.

Call it “county profiling.” Cops are targeting 13 Minnesota counties for extra DUI patrol because of their boozy history. The Fox9 story by Scott Wasserman, says: “The 13 counties targeted account for nearly half of the state’s alcohol related deaths from 2008-2010 — that’s 202 fatalities. These counties also combined for more than 65,000 DWI arrests. … The Department Of Public Safety announced they’ll increase patrols in the 13 counties with the highest combined totals of alcohol-related traffic deaths and serious injuries from 2008 to 2010.”

Arvonne Fraser and Jack Ditmore make their argument against abusing referendums to avoid basic legislative work. In a Strib commentary, they say: “We must resist a focus on the tactics that circumvent the principles on which a government of laws has been built. When our country was founded, the Constitutional Convention developed the path to government that derives its powers from ‘the consent of the governed.’ … In the Federalist Papers, Madison warned: ‘There are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn.” The Legislature should recall that when proposing constitutional amendments. In other words, messing with a constitution is dangerous. Constitutional amendments can have unintended consequences, as most notoriously demonstrated in California’s experience under Proposition 13, which capped real-estate values for tax purposes and required a two-thirds vote for increasing taxes. Constitutional amendments should not be political tactics to avoid the checks and balances of a healthy representative democracy.”

Schedule another windfall for local TV stations. Rupa Chenoy of MPR reports: “The largest group working to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage said it has raised more than $1.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions. A campaign finance report provided by Minnesotans United for All Families shows it received contributions from more than 5,100 people in 2011. According to the documents, Minnesota Twins owner Jim Pohlad gave $10,000. Marilyn Carlson Nelson of Minneapolis-based Carlson Companies gave the largest single contribution — $40,000. Carlson Companies owns hotels, restaurants and travel businesses. Other gay rights groups gave tens of thousands of dollars. About three-fourths of the money came from donors within Minnesota, said campaign manager Richard Carlbom.”

The Red River, besides flooding Fargo and Grand Forks nearly every spring, is also killing Lake Winnipeg. Dan Gunderson of MPR writes: “The lake is a major fishery in Manitoba, but it’s health is declining because of nutrients like phosphorus flowing in through the Red River. The nutrients cause large algae blooms. The problem has been building for decades, said Lance Yohe, Red River Basin Commission executive director. ‘The new research is indicating we’re getting closer and closer to a tipping point where the lake would start to deteriorate rather fast,’ he said. ‘If we solve the problem and make progress, this is the best tool to do that.’ The Red River drains a large area, and the first step is to identify where nutrients are coming from, Yohe said.”

Did you catch the story by the PiPress’ Brady Gervais last Friday? The one about the former St. Paul cop who’s records were accessed hundreds of times by other cops around the state? “A Driver and Vehicle Services employee told an Eden Prairie internal affairs investigator that several officers queried or called [Anne Marie] Rasmusson about dating her after her divorce, according to an internal Eden Prairie report. In Eden Prairie, one officer wanted her address. Another looked her up to see her photo. Rasmusson believes the interest was in her picture. While working in Eden Prairie, she underwent a significant physical transformation and lost about 100 pounds. After she retired from St. Paul, she entered fitness competitions for a short time. ‘They weren’t looking me up to see my personality,’ she said. … On average, fewer than 10 citizens a year report concerns about database misuse to Driver and Vehicle Services, a spokesman said. But it happens. In one case, a former neighbor of a Ramsey County deputy contacted the sheriff’s office in 2009 and complained after the deputy yelled at her son about paying outstanding tickets in another county. An internal affairs investigator found the deputy ran 152 checks through the driver’s database on individuals such as friends, family and colleagues related to the neighbor. He also ran the names of new neighbors on a street where he planned to move. He got five days without pay.”

At the Strib, Janet Moore and Eric Roper’s story on a “Plan B” for Block E — assuming the casino idea isn’t going anywhere — says: “Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC, which bought Block E for $14 million in 2010, says it wants the building to be a “clean slate” as the company fights for the right to build a $400 million casino, a plan that Mayor R.T. Rybak says is getting no traction at the Capitol. But executives explained Friday that another plan is waiting in the wings if gambling falls through: heavily branded office space with retail and restaurant components. … Alatus executives concede more office space downtown won’t be as ‘transformative’ to the city as a casino, but could still prove to be a ‘unique destination’ on its own. ‘Nothing is going to transform or change downtown the way we believe the casino can, in a positive way,’ said Alatus principal Phillip Jaffe. ‘We believe if we went to Plan B, it’ll be something that we’re proud of and is a nice improvement to the city, but it’s … not going to change downtown.’ Alatus would gut most of the inside of the building to make way for 75,000 square-foot plots of office space and possibly build an additional floor. A business moving there could advertise itself in signage wrapping around the exterior, a rare branding opportunity allowed only in limited areas of downtown.”

In another Strib business story, Eric Wieffering’s column on the Target Center connection to the Vikings stadium drama, there was this: “Minneapolis agreed to buy the arena to keep the Timberwolves from moving. In addition to making the debt payments on the property, the city was contractually bound to spend a certain minimum amount on capital improvements every year. On Thursday, Council Member Gary Schiff characterized that council vote as ‘the single worst decision we’ve ever made.’ It’s hard to argue with him on that. Minneapolis has invested more than $100 million in Target Center. The building will gobble up an additional $75 million or so in tax increment financing subsidies between now and 2025, but that will still leave the city on the hook for a projected $69 million in operating losses and capital improvements between now and then. And those totals don’t include the $155 million the city estimates it needs to renovate and upgrade what is widely considered one of the most outdated professional sports arena in the country.”

The generally conservative Washington Times mulls Our Favorite Congresswoman’s re-election prospects. Says Andrea Billups: “ ‘In politics, there are some losses that make you stronger and others that hurt you fundamentally,’ observes Wayne Garcia, a political consultant and journalism professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. ‘I think this presidential bid, and the resulting parody of herself that she has become thanks to folks like ‘Saturday Night Live,’ means that Michele Bachmann will not be a serious public officeholder, but will be a serious voice in public affairs, much like Sarah Palin.’ … ‘Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann’s presidential bids didn’t do much to help their image back home,’ according to PPP President Dean Debnam. ‘Both are unpopular and would have a hard time getting elected to statewide office in the future’.”

If you want a whiff of the internecine warfare going on within the modern conservative “movement,” give Gary Gross’ “Let Freedom Ring” blog a read … or take my word for it. In his latest, Gross writes: “Romney’s disdain for the TEA Party is evident. He hasn’t lifted a finger to court TEA Party voters, which is one of the dumbest decisions a political strategist could possibly make. It’s almost to the point that a third party needs to be created. It’s painfully obvious that the GOP Establishment opposes the fundamental changes that need to be made as much as the corrupt Left. If there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between them, then it’s time to extricate ourselves from their halfhearted semi-conservatism and build a new party based on what’s best for America, not what’s best for Mitt Romney, President Obama and their Wall Street fat cat financiers. During his time as corporate raider at Bain, the first question Mitt asked was ‘what’s best for my shareholders?’ It wasn’t ‘what’s best for America?’ … if Mitt’s the nominee, it’s time for the TEA Party to torpedo Mitt’s general election campaign.” Did I miss where TEA became an acronym for something?