The GOP’s campaign to rid Minnesota’s schools of what I assume are hundreds, if not thousands, of incompetent teachers continues. The Strib’s Kim McGuire says: “Seniority would no longer be the only factor dictating teacher layoffs under a plan approved Thursday by the Minnesota House of Representatives. Sponsored by Rep. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, the legislation scraps the seniority-only provision in state law and replaces it with a system based on licensure, teacher performance and tenure. Under Petersen’s bill, teachers rated as ineffective would lose their jobs first, from least senior to most senior within that category. Opponents of the tenure change argue that it would encourage districts to lay off older, more highly paid teachers to save money. They also worry that without state seniority protection, layoff decisions would be left to administrators who might make arbitrary decisions that play to favorites.” But … that would be like, you know, human nature.
In St. Paul, Mara Gottfried of the PiPress covers the City Council’s decision to cough up $90,000 for a guy apparently mistakenly beaten by the cops: “Craig Spelbrink was wearing a red shirt when he said two St. Paul police officers beat him in a parking ramp. The shirt’s color had caught the attention of an officer who wrote in a report that he’d just received word that a robbery suspect in the area was wearing a red shirt. But another officer wrote in his report that the witness had said the robbery victim was wearing a red shirt. ‘According to one of the officers’ accounts, they basically tackled the victim of a robbery,’ said Jeff Storms, an attorney who represented Spelbrink and his friend, Robert Geistfeld, in their federal lawsuit against the officers. The St. Paul City Council approved Wednesday a $90,000 settlement to Spelbrink of Savage, Minn., and Geistfeld, of St. Paul.”
The Strib has more to say about the feds’ investigation into how the state is handling Medicaid payments: “There’s too much money at stake, and too little understanding of how the state pays the plans, to let that momentum flag. Legislators should have dived headlong into the issue last spring after UCare, one of the health plans that manages public patients, unexpectedly gave $30 million back to the state. … In 2010, Minnesota paid an average of $441 per month, per Medicaid managed-care enrollee, to the state’s four big nonprofit health plans: Medica, Blue Plus, HealthPartners and UCare. In Michigan, the average monthly amount paid to four big plans was $283. In Wisconsin, where Baumgarten had analyzed only 2009 data, the amount was $298. There was also a striking difference in the annual operating margins of the plans on Medicaid managed-care enrollees. In 2010, in Minnesota, the average annual operating margin was 8.9 percent; Michigan’s 2010 average was 2.4 percent, and Wisconsin’s 2009 average was 2.6 percent.” Those are very curious numbers.
Did you catch The New York Times’ story on how companies, like Target, can data-mine highly personal information on their customers? Like, for example, if youi’re pregnant? Writes Charles Duhigg: “Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: ‘If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that?’ … as Target’s marketers explained to Pole, timing is everything. Because birth records are usually public, the moment a couple have a new baby, they are almost instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the key is to reach them earlier, before any other retailers know a baby is on the way. Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. … Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy. ‘If you use a credit card or a coupon, or ﬁll out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,’ Pole said. ‘We want to know everything we can.’ ”
In D.C., Strib reporter Kevin Diaz says: “U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who has been swimming upstream to stop a $700 million “mega” bridge across the St. Croix River, took her fight Thursday to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, where she got a chance to cross-examine Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. … With Bachmann having recently suggested that bridge proponents like her ‘have the Obama administration on board,’ McCollum asked Salazar if that is indeed administration policy. ‘That is not my understanding,’ Salazar said. Referring to a recent delegation meeting with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Salazar continued, ‘My understanding is that Secretary LaHood and I offered to work with the congressional delegations from both states to see if we could find a common ground based on the alternative which you have proposed, and the alternative that other members of the congressional delegation have proposed.’ Salazar also did not back off previous testimony by Interior officials suggesting that the proposed span would have an adverse impact on the river. ‘Our position remains unchanged,’ Salazar said. ‘A wild and scenic river is a wild a scenic river.’ ” Salazar can expect a call from the National Association of Realtors.
The White Earth tribe is making serious noises about their plans for a stadium-boosting casino. The AP story says: “White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, at a Capitol news conference, said the 20,000-member American Indian tribe — the state’s largest — has desperate needs in health care, education and housing on its rural reservation about 250 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The tribe wants state lawmakers to vote to let them open a casino in the much more heavily populated Twin Cities, which Vizenor said would raise enough money to both alleviate tribal poverty and cover a taxpayer share of a stadium project that’s likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. … Most recently, the [Vikings’] chief legislative allies have indicated the state’s portion would come from new tax revenue raised by authorizing electronic games of chance in bars and restaurants. Under that scenario, the local government where the stadium ends up, the city of Minneapolis — or another local government, if the stadium ends up elsewhere — would also pay a share from local tax proceeds. But Vizenor said the casino would raise enough money to cover the entire public share, both state and local.”
The court case of the 36-year-old English teacher and his affair with a 17-year-old student produced interesting copy for the PiPress’ Emily Gurnon. She writes: “A former teacher at Spectrum High School in Elk River agreed with a prosecutor Wednesday that he was ‘emotionally vulnerable’ the summer he had sex with a 17-year-old student. Matthew Ellsworth, 36, taught the girl in his English classes in fall 2010 and spring 2011. After the school year ended, he no longer considered her his student, he testified at his trial Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court on a charge of criminal sexual conduct. That spring and summer, he was struggling to cope with his mother’s terminal cancer. He and the student became friends, but nothing romantic happened between the two of them during the school year, he said. In late June or early July, he said, she met him at his St. Paul apartment to discuss her pet-sitting for him. They talked about his mother’s condition. ‘I got emotional and started crying, and she hugged me and tried to console me, and then she kissed me,’ he said. ‘I was hesitant,’ Ellsworth said. ‘I said, ‘We can’t do this. We have to wait until you’re 18.’ Being emotionally vulnerable ‘had a lot to do with’ the affair, he said. ‘Did you see yourself as a victim?’ asked prosecutor Lawrence Schultz. Ellsworth hesitated. ‘Only in the sense that I was very adamant about waiting (to have sex) and she was very forward in her come-ons.’ ” Is Nabokov on the reading list in Elk River?
First Lumberjack Days’ money problems, now this … Mary Divine of the PiPress reports: “The organization that runs the Washington County Fair owes the state of Minnesota more than $120,000 in back sales taxes. But its president said Thursday that the lack of payment is a misunderstanding and he will work out a payment plan with the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The fair paid sales taxes until 2002, said Dan Dolan, who has been president of the Washington County Agricultural Society since 2006. At some point before the 2002 fair, fair officials were told they no longer needed to pay them, he said. ‘Our minutes simply say, “We’ve been advised that we no longer have to remit sales tax,” so we didn’t pay it from 2002 to 2009,’ he said. ‘So then in 2010, they came out and said you owe us back sales tax. Surprise, surprise. ’ “
Interesting exchange on Cathy Wurzer’s MPR radio program Thursday: “Host Cathy Wurzer sat down with Hamline University law professor Joseph Olson, who supports the [expanded Castle Doctrine] bill, and Dennis Flaherty, the executive director of Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, who opposes it.
Wurzer: Dennis, what do you not like about the proposed changes in the castle doctrine?
Dennis Flaherty: Well, Cathy, it is probably the most sweeping and unnecessary legislation that has come before the Legislature in quite some time. It goes way beyond what has been called the castle doctrine. It makes changes to who can carry guns in the state of Minnesota. This proposal, if passed, would allow permits from every state in the nation to be valid in Minnesota. Secondly, it prevents police officers from taking into custody any firearms except in an arrest situation. But officers all over our state are going to domestic disturbances or with mentally incompetent people where there are guns involved. Right now, we will take those guns until the tempers go down, until problems are dealt with.
Wurzer: Joe Olson. This has happened in the past, obviously in the recent past, where an officer has gone into a domestic violence situation. And those are very iffy, dicey situations often times. If under this bill, the individual in question has a gun, might the officer be in danger because this individual thinks the officer is encroaching upon his or her dwelling?
Olson: No. The officer can disarm the individual. There’s a Supreme Court case that allows that. This doesn’t change that at all.”
Right. But does the officer disarm the drunken abusive spouse before or after the guy unloads the full clip?