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Minneapolis council majority demands stadium referendum

Well, that Metrodome idea was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it? Eric Roper at the Strib reports: “One Minneapolis council member’s view that public funding for a new Vikings stadium must go before the voters put the brakes on Mayor R.T. Rybak’s proposed deal Thursday. Sandra Colvin Roy, whose stance on the mayor’s stadium plan was previously unknown, became the seventh member of the 13-member council standing against the proposal absent a citywide referendum. That vote is required under the city’s charter if the city spends more than $10 million on a stadium, but the mayor and council President Barb Johnson would like the Legislature to override it. … The majority council opposition is a major blow to the mayor’s plan, though he maintains he can muster the seven votes to pass it. ‘It’s not going to be a slam dunk here or at the Capitol or anywhere else, but we can see a way to get there,’ Rybak said. ‘We’re not going to do a referendum in the city,’ the mayor said. ‘We are going to have a referendum in a couple years when I stand for re-election.’ ” Be careful what you wish for, Mayor.

And, oh by the way, the NFL … isn’t happy about the Vikings playing three years at TCF stadium. Brian Murphy in the PiPress says: “The NFL is annoyed with the idea of the Minnesota Vikings playing up to three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium. There is the $67 million financial hit, not to mention potential logistical nightmares while waiting for Metrodome 2.0. And league owners still would have to sign off on this concept before the Vikings play a single down at the University of Minnesota. ‘I can tell you there won’t be a lot of happy campers among the membership (owners),’ said a person close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of stadium negotiations. ‘TCF is a gem, but it’s not an NFL stadium.’ ” How about somebody yanks up their big-boy pants and tells the NFL that until it puts a lot more skin in the game they can …

Three leaders of public employee pension systems respond to the Taxpayers Association, and everyone going all Chicken Little about retirement funds. In a Strib commentary, they say: “We agree with the Minnesota Taxpayers Association (“A worse-case scenario,” Jan. 22) that pension reform should not be based on envy or hostility toward dedicated public employees, but rather should be rooted in principles of sustainability, sound management and good government. However, to rely on this group as the definitive source of information on the state pension system’s financial status is to have a distorted view of the plans’ health. … You’ve read the “worse-case scenario.” Here is the accurate scenario:
• The funded ratios for all three systems have increased significantly since 2009. PERA’s general fund has improved from 53.8 percent in 2009 to 76 percent in 2011. MSRS has gone from 65.6 percent funded to 87 percent funded. And TRA has jumped from 59.8 percent funded to 78 percent. Cost-of-living adjustments for PERA and MSRS members have been lowered until the plans are 90 percent funded; at TRA, the adjustments were withheld for two years, then will also be lowered until the plan is 90 percent funded.”

We have a major breaking-news story from St. Paul. It seems two kids have had not “an inappropriate relationship” but instead engaged in “inappropriate behavior,” which in this case sounds a lot like the same thing. In the PiPress, Mara Gottfried writes: “Two juveniles had sex several times in different restrooms at a St. Paul school and another student recorded it on a cell phone, police said. It appears the teenagers had been ‘in an ongoing relationship of some sort,’ said police spokesman Howie Padilla. Two students at Humboldt High School ‘were alleged to have engaged in inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature on school grounds,’ Toya Stewart Downey, a spokeswoman for St. Paul Public Schools, said in a written statement. ‘The alleged incident did not occur during the regular school day.’ The case is being investigated as lewd conduct, Padilla said.” What is that other case being investigated as?

While neither paper has as yet designated a reporter to the burgeoning atheist beat, area disbelievers in organized religion have mounted a billboard campaign to spread their word. At the PiPress, Richard Chin reports: “Minnesota atheists are using an image of a cute baby — in an imitation of an anti-abortion billboard campaign — for its new billboards in the Twin Cities promoting godlessness. ‘We are all born without belief in gods. Learn how to be a born-again atheist,’ reads the billboard near the corner of University and Lexington avenues in St. Paul. ‘Please don’t indoctrinate me with religion. Teach me to think for myself,’ reads the billboard at 725 Washington Ave. N. in Minneapolis. Both feature the picture of a smiling baby.‘Some people thought the design was a little amateurish,’ said Eric Jayne, a board member of the Minnesota Atheists organization who came up with the billboard idea. ‘The idea was to satirize the pro-life billboards.’ “

With voter fraud rampant upon the land, the state GOP is vowing to bring Voter ID to a ballot near you. Says the Strib’s Jim Ragsdale: “Republican legislators plan to take their case for a photo ID requirement for voters directly to the voters themselves. Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who oversaw Minnesota’s voting system as secretary of state from 1999 to 2007, and Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, have introduced the photo ID concept as a proposed constitutional amendment. It would require all voters to produce an ‘approved form of photographic identification prior to voting.’ If it passes the Republican-controlled House and Senate, the proposal would go directly onto the November ballot for voters to decide. … Kiffmeyer, who sponsored last year’s vetoed photo ID bill, said this week that she had considered reintroducing it as a bill this year. But, she said, in light of federal action to block an ID law in South Carolina, she now believes submitting it as a constitutional amendment is necessary.”

Have you seen the AP’s statistical portrait of your state Legislature? Some highlights: “MAN’S WORLD?: Still mostly the case at the Capitol, where men outnumber women about 2 to 1 in each chamber. EDUCATION: It pays to be a college graduate if you want to break into the Legislature; 87 percent of Senate members hold at least a bachelor’s degree; in the House, it’s 81 percent. AVERAGE AGE: It’s 53. Longest serving House members are 74-year-old Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and 71-year-old Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, both first elected to their seats in 1972. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, is 74 and the longest-serving senator, now in his 10th term. HOW DIVERSE?: Not very. This session only 7 legislators out of 201 are self-reported minorities: 4 black, 2 Hispanic and 1 American Indian. Still, this may be an improvement in diversity — official legislative records list only 31 confirmed minorities in legislative history. OCCUPATIONS: More legislators list ‘business’ as their occupation than any other — 21 percent of senators and 22 percent of House members. The second largest chunks in each chamber? Educators make up 15 percent of the House, and 12 percent of senators work in finance. Attorneys make up 10 percent of the Senate and 11 percent of the House.” … And not a single super-sizer or big-box greeter?

Also … high on the state GOP’s job-creating agenda … slot machine inspections. Tony Kennedy at the Strib writes: “State public safety officials will be called before the Legislature to explain why slot machines and blackjack games at Minnesota’s Indian casinos have operated with little to no state inspections in the past four years, lawmakers announced Wednesday. ‘State regulatory employees are refusing to even visit some of the casinos, much less test a slot machine or monitor a blackjack table,’ said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who has been quietly monitoring the issue. … Drazkowski’s announcement came three days after the Star Tribune reported that slot machine inspections at the state’s three largest casinos ceased at least four years ago.”

Dave Durenberger’s commentary from the National Institute of Health Policy has several provocative sections. For a taste try this: “Who Are These Republican Voters? Theda Skocpol is a chaired professor of government and sociology at Harvard who has long written on health policy. She recently teamed with a Ph.D candidate at Harvard named Vanessa Williamson to produce a most readable book on the Tea Party called The Remaking of Republican Conservatism. In a nutshell, their research shows that these ‘new’ Republican voters, like the Utahans who threw conservative Republican U.S. Senator Bob Bennett out of office and threaten to do the same to Senator Orrin Hatch,  believe that Barack Obama is the face of a future they fear. They are predominantly older, white, educated, well-off, evangelical Christian Americans who believe that government  income re-distribution policies favor people not at all like them. And that the growing sum of our national dependence on undeserved income substitution is endangering the economic futures of Americans like them and their children. Exit polling of South Carolina primary voters also sums up why it is that a Newt Gingrich stands a chance to be their standard bearer. Just about half the voters said their choice for president on the Republican ticket is the person best able ‘to beat Obama.’ In second and third place at 23% and 19% are experience and moral character. Can you believe these people capable of understanding what it takes to be president? Can you believe that Mitt Romney’s going to be able to elevate experience and character enough to win the endorsement battle?” Is that a trick question, Senator?

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