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Mitt Romney’s Eagan visit

Light rail “subsidy” hit; more wings; more Target stores; disturbing “rape tag” game; 30 years later, a wrongful death verdict; and more.

Mitt Romney stopped in Minnesota Wednesday, got glitter-bombed, didn’t mention Newt Gingrich or Michele Bachmann … or our caucuses next week. Megan Boldt of the PiPress says: “Romney didn’t mention Minnesota’s precinct caucuses once. And probably for good reason — they don’t hold much weight. A strong showing does help candidates demonstrate momentum, but the caucuses are nonbinding. That means delegates don’t have to commit to nominating a certain candidate at the national convention. … Two prominent Minnesota politicians, former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, joined Romney at the Eagan rally. Pawlenty became the co-chairman of Romney’s national campaign after his own failed bid for president. Pawlenty lauded Romney as someone who isn’t a Washington insider, a businessman that knows what it takes to be successful in the private sector but also a proven public leader who cut taxes, reduced spending and grew jobs while governor of Massachusetts. And Romney’s a man of character, Pawlenty said in his introductory remarks. … Brooklyn Park resident Lonnie Sandberg came out to the Romney event at the behest of his wife, Barbara. She made her mind up a long time ago to back Romney because she believes he’s a man of integrity who will limit government’s reach by reducing corporate regulations. ‘I like my own little life,’ the 59-year-old Barbara Sandberg said. ‘I don’t like all that government intrusion.’ ”

Mark Zdechlik’s MPR story includes a bit more from Our Guy, T-Paw: “In a conference call with reporters earlier in the day, Pawlenty tried to lower expectations for Romney in Minnesota. He said he wasn’t sure the former Massachusetts governor would win the straw poll on caucus night. Four years ago Romney did win in Minnesota, defeating eventual Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who was Pawlenty’s favored candidate at the time. Among those who turned out to see Romney at the Freightmasters warehouse was Dick Lane of Shorewood. ‘I’m an enthusiastic supporter,’ he said. Lane said one reason for that is that he thinks Romney is moderate. He also likes Romney’s business background. He called Romney ‘a good man.’ ‘He’s got a lot of experience,’ Lane said. ‘He’s created jobs. He’s a guy that I could trust to be a good president.’ “

The GOP, um, fixation, on light rail continues. In a Strib commentary, state Senate candidate Dave Osmek of Mound says: “Using the Met Council’s 2010 report, the cost of a single ride on the Hiawatha light-rail line is $2.46. Riders pay only 99 cents of this cost, leaving almost 60 percent to be subsidized by the public. But this is not the true cost of a ride, as it does not include the 30-year amortized costs of bonding for the build-out of the line. Adding those costs in, at a 4 percent bond interest rate, a single ride actually costs $6.42, which means each ride is subsidized by 85 percent. If a family of four rides the Hiawatha Line to a Twins game, the public is paying a total of $43.36, while the riders are contributing $3.96. … Proponents will cite the fact that light rail will create jobs. But so will building lane miles and bridges. Minnesota Department of Transportation studies have proven that roads have a benefit/cost ratio greater than one, meaning that the economic benefit of a project outweighs the actual cost of the improvement and will pay for itself over time.”

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Is this exciting? Mike Hughlett of the Strib reports: “Hurricane Grill & Wings, a Florida-based chicken wing chain, announced Wednesday that it has signed up its first Minnesota franchisee with plans to open its inaugural restaurant here in October. Willmar-based Torgerson Properties, which owns several restaurants and hotels in Minnesota, plans to open at least 12 Hurricane Grill outlets in the Twin Cities area over the next five to seven years.” Why, I bet I only have 15 choices for wings in a 10-minute walking radius.

Target’s Canadian expansion can begin. The Toronto Star story, by Dana Flavelle, says: “Giant U.S. discount department store retailer Target Corp. has settled a naming and branding rights dispute with a group of Canadian specialty retailers, removing a crucial obstacle to Target’s entry into Canada in March 2013. The move settles a $250 million lawsuit launched by the owners of Fairweather Ltd. against the American retailer a year ago January saying Fairweather owned the rights to the Target name in Canada. …Target Corp. was faced with either buying the naming rights from Fairweather or fighting a lengthy court battle. A trial over the trademark dispute was scheduled to begin in November. Fairweather bought the name from now bankrupt Dylex Ltd. 10 years earlier. Dylex had registered the name in 1981.” Whatever the dollar amount, it’s pretty good jing for nothing.

Better over-reaction than under-reaction, I guess. Kremena Spengler of the New Ulm Journal reports: “An alarming game played at Washington Elementary School has set off a storm of reaction. ‘Speculation’ has spread on Facebook about a game called ‘rape tag.’ It is described as similar to freeze tag, except it apparently involves ‘hip thrusts’ to unfreeze a person. A parent called Washington Principal Bill Sprung on Jan. 9 to notify him that the game was being played by fifth-graders at the school, Sprung said Tuesday night. … To give parents accurate information and end speculation, Sprung sent a letter about the matter home with students on Monday. … The letter in itself appears to have triggered some discomfort. Since it went out, Sprung said, he has been contacted by 15-20 parents, disturbed by the fact they now need to talk about sexually explicit issues such as rape with unaware children.”

Thirty years is a long time to wait for justice. Emily Gurnon of the PiPress reports on a wrongful death case: “The family of Barbara ‘Bobbi’ Winn cried silent, happy tears in a Ramsey County courtroom Wednesday as Judge Dale Lindman found Aaron Foster civilly liable in her death. Foster did not show up for the hearing, nor did he respond to the wrongful-death summons and complaint. The attorney for Winn’s family had asked Lindman for a judgment by default, plus damages. Lindman ordered Foster to pay $6 million, or $2 million to each of Winn’s three children. … Winn died of a gunshot wound to the chest May 8, 1981, at her home in the 300 block of Dorland Road in Maplewood. She was 35. Winn and Foster, her boyfriend at the time, were in a violent struggle just before the gun went off. Two of her three children, ages 15, 13 and 12, heard the fight. The other heard the shot. Foster claimed Winn committed suicide. He initially was not charged in the crime; after the case was reopened, he was acquitted of murder charges in 2008. The Maplewood police lost or destroyed virtually all the evidence in the case.”

Another 1,100 ash trees are coming down in St. Paul. Frederick Melo of the PiPress says: “St. Paul Parks and Recreation will resume removing aged and declining ash trees this month from about two-dozen streets to get ahead of the emerald ash borer, a tree-killing beetle making itself at home in two St. Paul neighborhoods. The goal is to remove 503 ash trees by spring and replace them with elm, maple, oak, linden, hackberry or river birch saplings. An additional 500 to 600 trees likely will be removed in the fall, after the beetle’s summer flight season … Among the most targeted streets, city crews plan to remove 70 ash trees along York Avenue from Barclay to Flandrau streets; 54 trees along Saunders Avenue from Fairview to Cleveland avenues; 62 trees along Euclid Street from Wilson to White Bear avenues; and 48 trees along two Johnson Parkway medians from Hudson Road to Wilson and Fourth Street to Minnehaha Avenue.”

Five hundred … 500 … people filed sex abuse suits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Wednesday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story by Annysa Johnson says: “It is the largest number of claims among the eight Catholic dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection since 2004 in response to sex abuse allegations, and on par with a Jesuit bankruptcy that covered five states. Victims and their attorneys called the numbers staggering and just the tip of the iceberg, noting that statistically only a small percentage of sex abuse victims come forward. … The archdiocese has asked the court for permission to establish a $300,000 therapy fund to assist those who were abused but whose claims are dismissed. [Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry] Topczewski said the fund could be replenished as needs arise.”