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‘Parking lot naming rights’ option for Vikes stadium

More job numbers; corn seed shortage feared; anti-Catholic slurs case; home sales on the rise; and more.

Points for persistence, I guess … Tim Nelson at MPR reports: “Ramsey County is dropping its countywide sales tax plan to help pay for an Arden Hills stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, county officials are proposing new user fees and parking lot naming rights. They also hope to recapture proceeds from development spawned by the stadium project. … Ramsey County says new ‘user fees and site-specific’ taxes can generate up to $20.6 million a year. Over the life of the plan, that would add up to about $618 million. … There are seven revenue streams in total that county officials will pitch to the state:
• Stadium parking revenues
• Parking lot naming rights
• Admission surcharge
• Sales tax growth at the new stadium
• Stadium property fees comparable to those collected in Minneapolis
• Property taxes on stadium-related businesses at the site
• Debt service for Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site acquisition and cleanup.” I love the “parking lot naming rights.” Logically then we should be able to buy naming rights to individual manhole covers.

Meanwhile, Frederick Melo of the PiPress is writing: “Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s plan to finance a proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium would raise game day downtown parking meter rates to $25. It would add a tax on football tickets and extend existing restaurant and hotel taxes decades past their sunset date. One thing the package would not do, according to a recent financial analysis, is cover the $300 million the city has committed to the stadium project. The plan comes up $55 million short. ‘It’s this financing plan that is a really rotten deal for taxpayers,’ said Minneapolis City Council member Gary Schiff, who is leading the charge to kill Rybak’s financing proposal. ‘We (will) have gobbled up every sales tax we have, sold bonds, paid the interest, and there is still not enough money in this plan.’ “

Kevin Allenspach of the St. Cloud Times has employment numbers for a chunk of the 6th District: “Initial claims for unemployment declined 7.3 percent across Central Minnesota in January, a slightly slower rate of receding than the statewide dip of 8.8 percent, according to data released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The drop was much greater than during the same period last year, however. As the country continues to build its way back from the Great Recession, initial claims for unemployment in January 2011 declined by 1.4 percent. … Two positive indicators among individual occupations were jobs in food preparation and office and administrative support. While the hospitality industry sometimes slows in the first quarter, initial claims for unemployment in food preparation and service occupations dropped more than 23 percent. First-time claims in office and administrative support dropped more than 15 percent.”

At the website ColorLines, Brentin Mock writes: “The perennial swing state of Minnesota is the latest to be enthralled in debate over Republican-led efforts to create new voting restrictions that civil rights groups say will undermine voter access for low-income people of color, the disabled, youth and immigrants, among others. And a new watchdog report argues this week that the wealthy one percent of Minnesota are behind those efforts. The report, by the group TakeAction Minnesota, describes how Minnesota’s wealthiest finance institutions and their executives, lobbying groups, PACs and the chamber of commerce have been pooling funds together, sharing resources, and in some cases sharing office suite space in a collective effort that’s at least partially responsible for a Republican takeover of the state legislature in 2010. The group’s report shows more correlation than causation when it comes to the voter ID initiative. But it’s instructive in detailing the way serious money is shaping state-level politics where basic civil rights issues like the right to vote are at stake.” Curiously, there is a “Dan McGrath” on both sides of this Voter ID fight.

Despite record-high corn prices, Minnesota farmers are looking at a possible seed shortage. Mark Steil of MPR says: “The nation’s third-largest seller of seed corn, Syngenta, which has its seed headquarters in the Twin Cities, saw its production last summer fall 15 to 25 percent short of expectations, said Eric Boersma, corn genetics portfolio manager for the company. Boersmal said that already is limiting the company’s ability to supply farmers preparing for spring. ‘Certainly there are some hybrids that are getting to be tight,’ he said. ‘Some of your top-tier hybrids are probably close to sold out.’ Boesma said Syngenta could make up some of that lost production over the winter months, when the company buys seed corn raised in South America. But he said that won’t fill all the gaps.”

Things aren’t getting better for the plaintiff and lawyer in the story where they were ranting anti-Catholic slurs at the presiding judge. Says Dave Hanners at the PiPress: “The bankruptcy judge who last month ordered the arrest of the business leader of a Wisconsin religious group has now told her to pay attorneys’ fees in the case. Naomi Isaacson, of Minneapolis, must pay more than $10,300 in lawyers’ fees for the trustee who handled the bankruptcy of the company she headed, according to an order signed Thursday by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher. It’s unknown when or if she’ll pay. Although Dreher found Isaacson, 37, in contempt for failing to provide business records to the trustee — and issued a warrant for her arrest — U.S. marshals have yet to find her. Dreher had also fined Isaacson, a lawyer by training, $5,000 for filling legal pleadings in the bankruptcy case filled with anti-Catholic slurs accusing the judge, the trustee and others of being part of a conspiracy against the Wisconsin group, which many former members say is a cult. … Aside from the sanctions Isaacson and [attorney Rebekah] Nett face in federal court, the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board is investigating them. Isaacson has lost her ability to practice law in Wisconsin for refusing to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation.”

Gov. Scott Walker is telling his constituents his economic plan “is working.” Apparently it is working so well Wisconsin will use a chunk of its mortgage fraud settlement money … to patch a hole in the state’s budget. The AP reports: “Wisconsin plans to use about $26 million of its $140 million share of a national mortgage settlement to help plug a state budget hole, a move that drew criticism from Milwaukee’s mayor. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office made the decision in consultation with Gov. Scott Walker, and they announced their plan Thursday. The rest of Wisconsin’s share of the $25 billion national settlement will go toward helping homeowners affected by foreclosure abuses between 2008 and 2011. Walker told a news conference that just like communities and individuals affected by the foreclosure crisis, the state also has been harmed and the payment will go toward offsetting that. Walker has previously been critical of using so-called ‘one-time’ money from legal settlements to balance the state budget. He defended his own use of this settlement money Thursday by saying that this time it was different since the foreclosure crisis had a ‘direct impact on the economy.’ “

Also at the PiPress, Julie Forster reports that metro area home sales are increasing: “There were 3,149 purchase agreements signed in the 13-county Twin Cities metropolitan area during January, a 25 percent increase over January 2011. Driven by a mix of record-low mortgage rates, affordable prices and unseasonably warm weather, that’s the highest January pending sales figure since 2005, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, the group that released the numbers today. Sellers were less active, as new listings fell 9 percent from January 2011 to 5,112 properties. The number of homes for sale continued to drop, as well, down 28 percent from last year to 16,463 active listings — the lowest inventory reading for any month since 2003. ‘If you look deeper into the strong sales figures, you can see which segments are leading the charge,’ said Cari Linn, president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. ‘With inventory down, especially among foreclosures, and good purchase demand, buyers are finally looking harder at traditional properties’.”

And this, folks, comes from FoxNews. Peter Morici offers this opinion: “Rick Santorum’s victories this week in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota laid bare Mitt Romney’s weaknesses and the GOP’s fading prospects for defeating Barack Obama. Romney’s advantages are money and organization. … Mr. Santorum’s principal appeal is social issues and adherence to Republican economic fundamentalism. That plays well among Republican primary voters, who are dominated by rock-jawed conservatives, even in ideologically diverse states like Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota. If Santorum had Romney’s money, he could win the nomination but would still get trounced by Barack Obama. … If Mr. Romney does become the Republican nominee Mr. Obama will be able to hammer him on his “sins” as a financier and failed record as governor — and it’s Mr. Romney’s fault for making his experience, not what’s broken in the national economy and his solutions, the focus. Coupled with Mr. Romney’s occasional well-publicized gaffes — like not caring about the poor because the social safety net takes of them — he simply doesn’t appear to have the wits to be president.