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Chris Coleman not happy about ‘scraps’ for east metro

Money pours into marriage amendment campaigns; baby blood storage issue; family thanks cruise ship searchers; no progress at Crystal Sugar; and more.

The two mayors might need a happy hour together. St. Paul’s Chris Coleman has gone public with his displeasure at that $150 million tab for fixing up Target Center. In Frederick Melo’s story in the PiPress, he says: “Coleman told a large conference roomful of St. Paul business leaders that one aspect of a proposed stadium package — $150 million in fresh funding for the Minneapolis Target Center — would be a ‘very huge threat’ to the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. Coleman, who delivered remarks at a St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at the University of St. Thomas, referred to a key piece of the stadium deal being proposed by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. … Coleman called the Xcel an important ‘anchor’ for downtown St. Paul and West Seventh Street, and said it would be unfair of the state to help one arena flourish at the expense of the other. He said the Twin Cities needs to functon more as a region and compete against markets throughout the country and even the world, instead of pitting Minneapolis against St. Paul. ‘Regionalism does not mean the west metro gets everything, and St. Paul and the east metro gets scraps,’ said Coleman, encouraging the audience to take their concerns to the Capitol. ‘We’ve got to stand up and we’ve got to fight.’ “

Fund-raising for the anti-gay marriage crowd here in Minnesota is rolling along well, too. Rachel Stassen-Berger and Brad Schrade of the Strib report: “The lead group pushing to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota raised $830,000 in 2011 in the latest signal that a fierce, high-dollar contest is taking shape over the proposed constitutional amendment. Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of groups formed in an effort to get the marriage amendment approved this November, said that in addition to its fundraising, it also recruited more than 10,000 volunteers in 2011 to help. … The lead group in the effort to defeat the proposal, Minnesotans United for All Families, reported over the weekend that it raised $1.2 million in 2011 from more than 5,100 donors.”

I’d like to know a bit more about the nine families who sued over this baby blood storage/testing issue. Elizabeth Dunbar of MPR writes: “Nine families had filed a lawsuit saying state law prohibited the department from keeping their babies’ blood samples indefinitely as part of the state’s Newborn Screening Program, and the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the parents in a ruling in November. But the issue is far from being settled. The health department made clear in a news release that it will seek changes to laws that govern the newborn screening program, including genetic information statutes. … Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, has supported the legal action and is now concerned that health officials will try to reverse parts of the Supreme Court ruling. ‘We have a great genetic privacy law that requires informed written consent, and the fact that the health department wants to seek changes can only mean that they want to undo the consent requirements,’ she said. ‘That’s truly troubling.’ “

A news release from the Minnesota Department of Health adds a bit more context: “In the case known as Bearder vs. State of Minn., the Minnesota Supreme Court said the department could retain the blood spots only as long as necessary for ‘testing the samples for heritable and congenital disorders.’ The court concluded that the 2006 Genetic Information Act mandated that any other use, storage, or dissemination of the blood samples required written informed consent from parents or legal guardians. … Due to the court’s restriction on the use of the blood spots without consent, MDH officials said the program will be hampered in its ability to:

  • Conduct routine quality assurance and quality control tests of existing screening methods
  • Evaluate improved tests to screen for current disorders
  • Validate testing procedures or calibrate instruments to run new screening tests

For example, under the limitations of the court ruling and the Genetic Information Act, implementation of a new screening test for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) will be delayed. MDH will have to purchase previously consented specimens from another state to test the lab methods and instruments in order to validate the test. A test must be validated before it can be used to provide results to patients. Additionally, specimens from another state will not be representative of the characteristics of Minnesota babies, such as race or ethnicity, so the validation may not be as robust for Minnesota’s population, program officials said.”

With rescue workers calling off their search for more victims of the Costa Concordia cruise ship accident, the Heil family of White Bear Lake is preparing to move on. Jon Collins of MPR reports: “The family of two White Bear Lake residents who are among the missing in a cruise ship accident off the coast of Italy thanked rescue workers for their efforts after the Italian government called off search efforts Tuesday. ‘We are certainly disheartened to hear this news but understand and accept the decision to bring the search operation to a halt,’ the family wrote late [Tuesday] afternoon on the blog they’ve used to communicate with the media. … The family said they planned to hold a memorial service in the coming weeks and thanked the public for their prayers and support: ‘As we struggle to come to grips with this tragedy, we find comfort knowing Mom and Dad are now in a better place free from any worries. They have always been obedient to God’s plan and now we must do the same.’ “

Progress in the American Crystal Sugar lockout up on the Red River appears nonexistent. MPR’s Dan Gunderson says: “For months, a key stumbling block has been proposed language that would allow the company to replace union workers with subcontractors. American Crystal workers also opposed a company proposal that they pay a greater share of health insurance costs. Union President John Riskey said at a meeting Monday the union made concessions on health insurance and the use of outside contract workers. He declined to offer specifics. But company Vice President Brian Ingulsrud said the union’s offer didn’t go far enough. As a result, prospects for ending the contract dispute appear to be fading as both sides make plans for a long struggle.”

Environmentalists want a loophole closed that allows the huge Sherco plant to avoid retrofitting. Leslie Brooks Suzokamo of the PiPress writes: “Sherco, located in Becker, 45 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, is the state’s largest power plant, capable of producing 2,400 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 1.8 million households. But the plant burns 30,000 tons of coal a day, and the environmental groups say its emissions are the main contributor to the haze that hangs over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and other natural areas. Estimates for the cost of retrofitting the Sherco plant range from less than $50 million to several hundred million dollars. If a retrofit is required, Xcel would ask state regulators for a rate hike to cover the cost, an official said. The environmentalists want the EPA to make Sherco follow strict air pollution rules tied to the Clean Air Act of 1977. But the EPA has proposed an exemption for about 150 coal plants in 28 states in the eastern United States.”

My theory as to why Our Favorite Congresswoman was always so nice to Mitt Romney is solidifying. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post reports: “A candidacy that seemed ascendant in Iowa following a win in the Ames Straw poll fell apart amidst staff departures, insufficient public interest and — we now know — money woes. On Tuesday, the Bachmann campaign filed its fourth-quarter fundraising report showing it had $358,724 cash on hand and $1,055,924 in debts and obligations. In other words: the campaign ended 2011 about $700,000 in the red. But if the bank account was drying up, not everyone was feeling the pinch. A number of high-profile consulting shops were paid big money by the Bachmann campaign even as the Minnesota Republican accumulated debt. … It’s no secret that the consultant class views presidential campaigns as cash cows. But when the candidate performs as poorly as Bachmann did, and those consultants still rack up impressive fees, the discrepancy underscores how useless those services can be.” But if you know a really, really rich guy who needs someone to warm up a Tea Party crowd for him …

Aaron Klemz, at the liberal blog The Cucking Stool, recalls the time Mitt Romney came to Cannon Falls: “In 1997, Bain purchased an equity stake in Midwest of Cannon Falls from its private owners. At the time, Midwest employed 500 people worldwide and had a distribution center in Cannon Falls. Despite statements like ‘employment levels are not expected to change,’ in July 1998, Midwest laid off 40 Minnesota employees in a reorganization. From a July 2, 1998 Star Tribune article:

‘Giftware distributor Midwest of Cannon Falls has eliminated 40 jobs, mostly in Minnesota. The company, which employs about 500 people worldwide, said it needed to streamline its ‘internal processes’ to better compete in the giftware business. The positions were eliminated as job descriptions were revised and duplication of processes minimized, said company spokeswoman Keri Smith. In September, Bain Capital Inc., a Boston-based private equity investment firm, bought an undisclosed stake in Midwest of Cannon Falls. Bain officials have said the investment is ‘financial in nature’ and that day-to-day operations are left to Midwest’s management team.

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“Bain held its investment until 2001, when Midwest was acquired by Blythe Inc. Eventually, after being sold to Blythe, Midwest closed its distribution center in Cannon Falls in 2009. Now Midwest employs approximately 60 people in Minnesota.” It’ll be a fascinating campaign with stories like this bubbling up literally all over the country.