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Minnesota revenue numbers up nicely

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Vetting stadium numbers; state would lose 7 Ag offices; support for Judge Zimmerman; Target switches agencies; Senate panel to review ed benefits; and more.
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Easy. Easy. We can only take so much good news. But Baird Helgeson’s Strib story says Minnesota’s revenue numbers continue to improve: “Minnesota appears to be lifting itself out of the economic doldrums a little faster than expected. Minnesota’s general fund revenues totaled $2.91 billion in November and December, about $62 million more than what state budget officials had predicted. State finance officials attribute the healthy numbers to stronger-than-expected income tax payments, in part reflecting the state’s lower unemployment numbers. Individual income tax receipts were $25 million better than forecasted. Minnesotans were not spending a lot more, however. Sales tax receipts for the last two months of the year were $1 million less than forecast, and corporate tax receipts were $8 million above forecast.”

At least one key player in the Vikings-to-the-U of M-while-a-new-stadium-is-built-on-the-Metrodome-site idea wasn’t given a heads-up on the idea. At KARE-TV, Jay Olstad writes: “[T]he U of M Chief Financial Officer, Richard Pfutzenreuter, was surprised by Tuesday’s letter, saying he didn’t know where the Vikings’ numbers were coming from. ‘We did not know the letter was coming. We are not familiar with what makes up the numbers,’ he said. ‘I just think it is best that all the parties that could be impacted have a chance to vet some of these numbers.’ He says the university is more than willing to work with the Vikings, if they need to use TCF Stadium, but both sides agree there will be a lot of work that needs to be done before then.”

That reported USDA retrenchment will result in seven closed offices in Minnesota. Mark Steil at MPR reports: “The U.S. Agriculture Department plans to close seven offices in Minnesota, including a food safety office in Minneapolis, which serves five states. The decision is part of a nationwide plan to shutdown 259 USDA offices. The Minnesota closings affect 23 employees, according to a USDA official in Washington who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the number publicly. The offices handle everything from farm subsidy programs to food stamps. The biggest office in Minnesota is a Food Safety and Inspections Service office in Minneapolis. The district office oversees operations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. It’s one of five being consolidated.”

What? No Visa? Says Kevin Duchschere of the Strib:The world’s most popular credit card is no longer welcome at Hennepin’s seven service centers, thanks to Visa’s policies and a recent state mandate requiring a 2.45 percent credit card transaction fee to be charged to the customer. Visa doesn’t allow such fees to be charged at the point of sale, but MasterCard and Discover do. That’s why those cards suddenly have become the plastic of choice in Hennepin and other counties looking to implement the new state rule. ‘It’s kind of shocking, because everyone has Visa,’ said Casey Manthie, another service center customer. She had already heard about the new policy, so she came prepared with good old-fashioned cash. Checks also work.”

Judge Lloyd Zimmerman gets more support for his position demanding weapons inspections in county court rooms, this time from a Strib editorial: “The 11-year veteran of the bench refused to hear cases beginning this week at the county’s satellite court in Brooklyn Center without additional security measures, such as weapons screening for those coming into the facility. The response from court administrators could not have been more tone-deaf, especially after the recent Cook County courthouse shooting. … Zimmerman’s rotations through Brooklyn Center — an aging first-ring suburb — provide him firsthand knowledge of the risks there. He is to be commended for standing up for the safety of attorneys and the hundreds of people commanded to appear there and at the county’s two other satellite district courts: Minnetonka and Edina. In seeking the additional security, Zimmerman is merely asking for the same level of protection provided for most courtrooms at Hennepin County’s main facility in downtown Minneapolis and at most courthouses around the metro area — including some satellite suburban facilities.”

Oh, good lord … MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar writes: “A Plymouth nursing home had to re-train its staff in wound care after a male resident was found to have wounds on his feet that were infested with maggots. The Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Health Facility Complaints in October investigated the incident at Mission Nursing Home in Plymouth, according to a report made public this week. A Health Department investigator found that even though an aide had reported a blister to the nurse at the beginning of September, nurses at the facility did not follow up with treatment. Six days later, another aide noticed two open wounds on the resident’s foot and saw maggots in both wounds, according to the report. The maggots were also in the resident’s sock and shoe, the report said.”

This would be an account you wouldn’t want to lose. Thomas Lee of the Strib is reporting: “The Minneapolis-based retailer said Tuesday that it ended its six-year relationship with lead agency Wieden+Kennedy, based in Portland, Ore. Instead, Target will rely more on its internal team to craft strategies that underpin its trademark campaigns. Normally, a large retailer like Target relies on one or two lead agencies and then farms out work to smaller firms. Instead, Target said it will use a larger stable of boutique firms. … Target also recently cut ties with Peterson Milla Hooks, a Minneapolis-based boutique agency that crafted its Missoni and Alexander McQueen campaigns. Wieden+Kennedy, known mostly for its work with Nike, was responsible for ‘Life Is a Moving Target’ campaign. It also was behind the ‘Christmas Champ’ character, in which an overenthusiastic holiday shopper, played by a Twin Cities actor, prepares for Black Friday in the spirit of Rocky.”

As promised, a Senate panel led by Mike Parry, also currently running for 1st District Congress, will investigate … profligate spending by educators. Says Tim Pugmire, also at MPR: “The Senate Subcommittee on Employee Relations announced today that the hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19. The hearing will also provide an update on union contract negotiations. According to a news release, Senators plan to ‘gather more information on the depth and extent of reported allegations, review the current compensation plans, and address any inadequacies in the system.’ Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, announced back in November that he would hold a hearing to address the issue. ‘Recent reports suggest that MnSCU administrators and employees in other areas of the government workforce have received excessive vacation and sick time payouts upon leaving or retiring from their position,’ Parry said at the time.” A couple of educator pelts will look good in the campaign brochures.

Dave Hanners of the PiPress continues to follow the curious case of the Wisconsin religious cult … the one with the virulent anti-Catholic defendants and attorney. He writes: “The Mobil station at Grand and Smith avenues in St. Paul has sat derelict for months, victim of a bankruptcy involving a Wisconsin group that some former members call a religious cult.  But as the city of St. Paul reviews a business license application for the property’s new owner, neighborhood groups are concerned that the new owner is actually the old one with a different name. The doubts are voiced because Minneapolis lawyer Naomi Isaacson was president of Yehud-Monosson USA Inc., the bankrupt company that owned the gas station, and was also listed as purchaser on behalf of the new owner, Nir Yitzhak LLC, when the property changed hands Sept. 1. Nir Yitzhak was incorporated in New York last year by Hastings lawyer Rebekah Nett, who represents Yehud-Monosson and is connected to the Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology Inc., or SIST, the Wisconsin-based religious group wehre Isaacson serves as chief executive officer. Neighborhood groups express worry about the connection between past and present owners. ‘Over the last several weeks, we’ve realized it basically appears to be the same organization that owns it, and I think there’s a lot of concerns about the viability of that business and whether they’d be able to follow through with what they’ve promised,’ said Tom Brock, founder of the Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association. ‘I don’t think anybody wants to see it returned to a crappy gas station,’ he said.” Have I missed the feature story on this crowd?