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What is this Susan Thornton political story really about?

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Update on injured hockey player; Bloomie’s bargains; racino prospects; McCollum on Stillwater bridge; a look at the GOP’s Pat Shortridge; and more.


Obviously the real story behind the firing/un-firing/non-firing of Susan Thornton has yet to be told. At the Strib, Doug Smith writes: “Susan Thornton, director of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), hasn’t been fired after all. In a letter she received Friday from Greg Hubinger, director of the Legislative Coordinating Commission, she was told that her firing had been ‘suspended,’ said Mike Banker, communications manager for the LCCMR. Jeff Broberg, a vice chairman of the LCCMR, announced the surprise turn of events at a public meeting of Department of Natural Resources ‘stakeholders’ Saturday in St. Paul. Thornton’s firing was to have been effective Tuesday. But it’s unclear whether Thornton was ever fired. Her attorney maintains that those responsible for attempting to fire her — including House Speaker Kurt Zellers — had no authority to remove her.”

At the PiPress, Dave Orrick writes: “Vincent Louwagie, Thornton’s attorney, … confirmed that his client received a letter from Zellers and Senate President Michelle Fischbach stating Thornton’s termination had been ‘suspended’. ‘I’m not sure what that means,’ said Louwagie, who practices in employment law, referring to the notion of suspending a termination. ‘I’ve never heard of that before.’ He said Thornton took personal time off work this past week but was never actually terminated as scheduled. ‘I think the letter vindicates our position but it doesn’t make up for what happened,’ he said. Louwagie, who declined to furnish the letter, said it was signed by Zellers as vice chair and Fischbach as chair.” So, in other words, no one outside of those directly involved has any idea what is really going on?

The Strib, though, doesn’t like the smell of it. It editorializes: “The suspension of Thornton’s termination is a better-late-than-never attempt to rectify a bad decision. But critical questions still need to be answered. The suspension-of-termination language suggests Thornton’s tenure is temporary. Clarity is needed about the stability of her leadership and what employment procedures govern staff. Thornton did not respond to requests for comment. Explanations are also needed from Zellers and the legislators on the panel who were involved. The panel’s citizen members have said they were not consulted about Thornton’s ouster or the ‘new direction’ in project funding that was given by Hackbarth as a reason for Thornton’s termination. These legislators need to show that they understand this is a unique panel that gives citizens input into how the lottery money is spent. It is not another legislative fiefdom.”

The update on injuries to that second area prep hockey player offers some hope of improvement. The PiPress story by Will Ashenmacher says: “The St. Croix Lutheran High School senior who was hospitalized after suffering what might have been a paralyzing injury during a hockey game Friday night seemed to be doing better Sunday evening. Gene Pfeifer, the president of St. Croix Lutheran, said he heard from the family of 18-year-old Jenna Privette around 6 p.m. Sunday. He said they told him Jenna had feeling and some movement in her arms and that she was in pain, which was an indication that she may not be paralyzed.”

John Ewoldt, the Strib’s bargain beagle, files a story on the going-out-of-business sale at Bloomingdale’s. “For Joy Kooistra of Burnsville, who plans to shop early in the sale for bedding and dishes, 40 percent off is the minimum discount wanted. That isn’t unreasonable, said Burt Flickinger, president of Strategic Resource Group in New York, although brands such as Kosta Boda, Tumi or Breville have smaller discounts of 10 to 20 percent. Discounts range from 10 to 40 percent. …
Candidates for the best bargains:
Winter apparel, especially outerwear: Many winter coats were already marked down 40 or 50 percent last week, but no cold-weather gear has been reduced further yet. With a tolerably warm, dry winter so far, many buyers have decided to wait until next year before buying a coat, said Flickinger. That should mean aggressive markdowns soon on coats, hats, gloves, scarves and boots. But hold off until the discounts are 60 percent or more.
Bloomingdale’s brands: Exclusive private labels typically are more profitable for a retailer, so bigger markdowns can be taken on labels such as The Men’s Store at Bloomingdale’s, Aqua, Hudson Park, Sky and C by Bloomingdale’s cashmere.
Bedding: No retailer wants items as bulky as bedding or towels left at the end of a sale, so expect deeper discounts early. Most are currently discounted 20 and 30 percent, which is less than a good sale. Men’s suits: Many are only discounted 40 percent, as they were after Christmas, so wait for 60 percent or more.” I’m thinking Bloomie’s fall collection of Vikings jerseys has also been heavily discounted.

KSTP-TV’s Jay Kolls calls the switch in Senate leadership “a major change” that bodes well for racinos. He leads viewers to believe that a racino bill will very likely make it out of the Senate this session, and repeats the $125 million-per-year figure in revenues to help pay for … a new Vikings stadium.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum offers her thoughts on the St. Croix “megabridge” in a Strib commentary: “In my own east-metro congressional district, there are 53 structurally deficient bridges. By volume of traffic, seven of our state’s 10 busiest and worst bridges are in Ramsey County, which I represent. Of course, my district is not unique. My U.S. House colleagues Tim Walz and Chip Cravaack have a combined total of more than 600 substandard bridges in their southern and northeastern Minnesota congressional districts. Unfortunately for the millions of Minnesotans traveling over these deficient and potentially dangerous bridges every day, there is one bridge replacement project that appears to take both political and funding priority over all other local bridges — the proposed $700 million replacement for the antiquated Stillwater Lift Bridge that would connect to Houlton, Wis. (pop. 1,660). … Building a single $700 million megabridge is a policy decision that ignores the larger infrastructure crisis facing our state. With scarce federal and state transportation dollars, every extra million dollars spent on this mega-bridge, rather than on a less expensive alternative, is a million dollars lost. Minnesota needs to build and repair bridges in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Rochester and Ely as well as in Stillwater. In these tough fiscal times, Minnesota taxpayers and motorists just can’t afford the financial and safety costs of a megabridge.”

Jim Ragsdale of the Strib checks out the the new chairman of the state GOP. “Pat Shortridge is a 44-year-old political pro who lives in Lino Lakes and who was deeply involved in both the 1994 Republican Revolution and the 2010 Tea Party Revolt. Now he is taking the helm of a wounded state party that is nearly $2 million in debt and facing a wild election year. Shortridge said that elections are won on ideas and, as broke as it is, that the Republican Party of Minnesota is rich in bedrock principles. … In 2001, Shortridge became a federal lobbyist for Enron, which collapsed in scandal shortly after he signed on. He left after six months and eventually found his way back to Minnesota, working for U.S. Rep. Kennedy and dividing his time between Washington and his Lino Lakes home. “He’s one of the sharpest political minds I know,” [Mark] Kennedy said, noting that 2006, when he lost to Klobuchar by 20 percentage points, was the exception.” Shortridge, the story reminds us, was Kennedy’s campaign manager.

A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel team files a long story on one of the two Scott Walker associates indicted for embezzlement last week. The story says: “[Tim] Russell, 48, was known at the courthouse as one of Walker’s top lieutenants as he moved in and out of campaign jobs, posts in Walker’s county office, other county jobs and his own real estate business. He worked on Walker’s campaigns for county executive but also popped up in informal roles on campaigns of conservative County Board candidates who had Walker’s support. … Various employees who worked with Russell at the county said he was perceived as part of Walker’s close circle, along with John Hiller, a property developer who has been at Walker’s side since Walker’s first try for office; Bob Dennik, a political consultant and fundraiser for Walker; Jim Villa, who served as a chief of staff to Walker at the county and also worked on Walker campaigns; and others. Walker returned the loyalty, promoting Russell and bringing him back onto the county payroll twice after Walker re-election campaigns as county executive. Russell held eight different jobs during Walker’s eight years as county executive, including executive assistant, several economic development positions, deputy chief of staff and housing director. The development jobs paid more than $80,000 a year.” Eight different jobs in eight years?