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Twin Cities real estate may have finally touched bottom

The Strib’s real estate watcher, Jim Buchta, is making something close to bona fide positive sounds. He writes: “The era of double-digit price declines and slack sales may finally be over for Minnesota home sellers. The market got off to a strong start this year, according to several reports released Wednesday. Statewide, there were 4,345 closed sales in January, a 6.4 percent increase from last year. Pending sales, meanwhile, rose 14.5 percent, according to the Minnesota Association of Realtors. Most promising, the median sale price of all homes that closed in January was down just 0.5 percent from a year earlier, to $125,660. With the exception of two months when prices rose while a home buyer’s tax credit was available, January’s decline in prices was the smallest since the housing downturn began. ‘I’m feeling good going into the spring,’ said Chris Galler, chief executive of the Minnesota Association of Realtors.”

Related … Ann Harrington of the PiPress has a story saying: “Minnesota’s community banks are in significantly better shape than they were a year ago but they still have a long way to go to get back to the profitability they saw in the last decade, the Minneapolis Fed’s Ron Feldman said today at a media briefing. Feldman, a senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, predicted that Minnesota’s banks will continue to get stronger in 2012, but that median levels of profitability and loan growth still will fall short of what was typical before the financial crisis. Banks chartered in the Twin Cities continue to face more challenges than those in the state as a whole, he said, and loan balances overall are still shrinking, though not as sharply as they have in recent years. The lack of loan growth is bad news for banks and the economy in general, Feldman said. Banks’ core business model is making money off loans, ‘and there’s not much action there.’ “

Pro Voter-ID guy Jeff Davis, of the Minnesota Majority, pops up in the Strib saying: “Voting is a qualified right that comes with responsibilities. The Star Tribune editorial on Feb. 20 (‘A voting solution in search of a problem‘) takes the absurd position that voters should bear no responsibility in the exercise of that right. They apparently shouldn’t even be so inconvenienced as to identify themselves, to give the rest of us confidence in the outcome of our elections. … When not calling people who disagree with them racists, opponents of Voter ID repeatedly return to their claim that thousands of people will be disenfranchised by voter ID. But that hasn’t happened in the other states that require photo ID. To the contrary, voter turnout has increased. Voter fraud is a real threat to our democratic process that’s been proven by nearly 200 convictions in Minnesota courts. In fact, Minnesota currently leads the nation in voter fraud convictions. Additionally, our research into county attorney prosecutions suggests that only a small fraction of ineligible voters are actually being charged with voter fraud, due to a provision in our election laws that requires prosecutors to prove intent, thereby allowing individuals to simply plead ignorance.” So, contrary to all evidence, voter fraud is rampant.

Speaking of … Cara Spoto of the Racine Journal Times reports: “A local man wasn’t allowed to use his veteran’s card to vote in Tuesday’s primary and he’s pretty steamed about it. Gil Paar, 69, of Mount Pleasant, said he went to his polling place, Peace Lutheran Church, and when asked by poll workers to provide the ID, he handed over his U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs card. The poll workers said the ID, which includes Paar’s photo, wasn’t considered an acceptable form of identification under the state’s new voter ID law, Paar says. They asked him if he had a driver’s license he could offer. He did, he said. But he refused to show it and didn’t vote. ‘Basically I was trying to make a point,’ Paar said. ‘I gave them four years of my life, why shouldn’t I be able to use my vet’s card?’ Paar said he was shocked to learn that the card, which he uses to receive his VA benefits, isn’t an acceptable form of ID under the law, noting that VA cards are the only form of identification some veterans have.”

Well, that basic skills test for teachers is now law. Rachel Stassen-Berger and Kim McGuire of the Strib write: “A law signed on Wednesday by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton requires would-be teachers to pass a college-level basic skills test before they can lead a classroom. ‘We want the new teachers, that are going to work side by side with the current great teachers that we have, to be as well-qualified and well-prepared as we can,’ said Sen. Ted Daley, R-Eagan. ‘It is a tangible step in the right direction.’ The new law is the least controversial of several changes the Republican-controlled Legislature has proposed for the state’s schools. Unlike plans to upend current teacher tenure rules, the teacher testing bill had overwhelming support in the House and Senate, with only one member voting not to send it to Dayton.” I assume some savvy reporter will follow up to see how many prospective teachers fail the test.

The Penfield luxury condo project in downtown St. Paul is a “go.” Frederick Melo of the PiPress says: “The Penfield, a proposed $62 million, 254-unit luxury apartment building at 10th and Minnesota streets in downtown St. Paul, received its final funding approval Wednesday from a divided city council. Construction could begin in June. The council voted 4-3 to approve a tax-increment financing district for the building, which will effectively recycle $15 million — 25 years of property taxes generated by the site — back into project development. The city’s loan agreement with Dougherty Mortgage is expected to close July 15. The city will act as developer on the six-story apartment building, which will be bounded by 10th, 11th, Robert and Minnesota streets. A Lunds grocery has signed a long-term lease for the Penfield’s ground level, but it will not receive any TIF money or city subsidy. Lunds would be downtown St. Paul’s first upscale supermarket.”

He ripped off the Hoo-Hoo? Maricella Miranda of the PiPress reports: “An Inver Grove Heights man will serve 180 days in jail for swindling more than $150,000 from the local nonprofit the International Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoo. Donald Peter Boehmer, 60, also was sentenced Tuesday in Dakota County District Court to 20 years’ probation, according to court records. District Judge Richard Spicer ordered that Boehmer pay $157,727 in restitution to the International Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoo, a fraternal organization of lumbermen and others in the forest-product industry. He also must serve 40 hours of community service annually for five years of his probation and write an apology letter to the organization.”

It’s still not quite the London Tube, but the LRT system will officially be known as the “Metro.” Matt Sepic’s MPR story says: “Under a plan the Metropolitan Council approved Wednesday, the light rail and rapid transit lines will be known as ‘Metro’ once the Central Corridor line opens in 2014. The system will feature a ‘T’ logo instead of an ‘M,’ said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. The decision was made after brand testing a variety of logos. … Lamb says the Hiawatha light rail line will become the blue line and the Central Corridor will be the green line.”

At The Cucking Stool blog, Aaron Klemz has his moment of amazement at the latest from the Legislature’s least publicity-shy member: “In yet another moment of utter tone deafness, on Tuesday Rep. Steve Drazkowski proposed that any money that might be gained by taxing online retailers be used for a sales tax holiday on guns and ammunition. What intrigues me is how Rep. Drazkowski arrived at the conclusion that of all things that are taxed, guns and ammunition are the items that he believes are most in need of sales tax relief. … Drazkowski’s first thought about which industry needs a little boost is the guns and ammunition industry. Late today, we might have discovered why.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski just pointed out to me his new legislative district looks like a gun.
— Heather J. Carlson (@PBhcarlson)

Well, in that case, it all makes sense.” 

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/23/2012 - 07:36 am.

    Supporting data needed

    When folks like Jeff Davis of the Minnesota Majority make statements such as “But that hasn’t happened in the other states that require photo ID. To the contrary, voter turnout has increased”, that qualifies as a statement that requires support rather than simply being taken at face value.

    I don’t personally know what the stats are on this. But if someone wants to present this as a “fact”, it shouldn’t be that hard for them to get documented voter turnout numbers for “Before ID” and “After ID” elections. Oh – and to actually be credible, the data would have to include numbers for both Presidential and midterm elections in each case.

  2. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/23/2012 - 09:30 am.

    Pat Berg makes a good point

    For those actually interested in facts, I highly recommend the collection of papers on the subject that are available at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

    A link to the Center is:

    I note that the first paper listed there is entitled:

    “The Disproportionate Impact of Photo-ID Laws on the Minority Electorate ”

    This collection is a real gem and includes statements like:

    “This essay supports previous studies in finding that VoterID Laws impose a real burden on voter turnout.”


    “This Essay finds that voter ID laws impose a real burden on millions of voters.”


    “ID at the Polls: Assessing the Impact of Recent State Voter ID Laws on Voter Turnout” Shelley de Alth, Harvard Law and Policy Review, Vol III, p. 185 (2009).


    Thus, the facts about the pernicious effects of VoterID on voter turnout are readily available for those who want to have an honest discussion about them. Unfortunately proponents of such laws seem willing to sacrifice the voting rights of millions in the name of “voter fraud” of a minuscule nature.

    Such behavior may be prompted by right wing organizations whose motives have been revealed by the late conservative activist Paul Weyrich who has proudly admitted: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

    Mr. Weyrich was involved in founding the American Heritage Foundation as well as the ALEC organization that is responsible for writing a VoterID script widely promulgated by predominantly right wing state legislators.

    The VoterID ALEC script has been compared to the VoterID legislation in the Minnesota House and Senate by Common Cause.


    See p. 78.

    I sincerely hope that a wide discussion of VoterID, should it appear on the ballot, be held by citizens who are made fully aware of the implications of this legislation as well as its source.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/23/2012 - 01:45 pm.

      Responsibility to support an argument

      Let me expand a bit on what I wrote this morning. When folks like Jeff Davis make quantifiable claims such as how voter turnout changed following an event such as the imposition of voter ID, the onus is on THEM to provide the data to support those claims. This is in no way meant to diminish the generosity of Mr. Gleason in tracking down information related to this, but the fact is that claims such as the one made by Mr. Davis get put out there without providing any substantiation, they get repeated in a variety of forums, and before you know it, we’re in the land of “truthiness” where the claim is being accepted on face value simply because it is so “widely known”.

      We need to be relentless in demanding supporting data and refusing to be brushed off with evasions or talking points right at the outset as well as each and every time such claims are repeated. Who the “we” is will vary depending on the situation, but the need is there and must always be kept at the forefront of any such discussion.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/23/2012 - 03:24 pm.

      Agreed, Pat

      Perhaps my response was overkill.

      But I am getting tired, like you, of seeing unsupported statements made by the right to justify actions like VoterID. Especially when the agenda is something other than what is claimed in support of new legislation. Here we see VoterID masquerading as an attempt to stamp out voter fraud. In fact the agenda is to decrease voter participation by those who are, almost overwhelmingly, likely to vote Democrat. The number of illegitimate votes that will be stamped out pales in comparison to the number of legitimate voters who will be denied their rights.

      To pre-empt the question of whether voting is a right, the Fifteenth Amendment of the US constitution states: “”The right of U.S. citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged…”

      As you note, we should “be relentless in demanding supporting data and refusing to be brushed off with evasions.” That’s what I try to do.

      I think most MinnPost readers are immediately suspicious of unsupported claims that appear to be contra-factual. Often even the most cursory research shows why. Orwell had a descriptive phrase for this kind of behavior, he called it the Big Lie.

      Thank you for your admonition to keep our eyes on the ball.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/23/2012 - 04:23 pm.

        Not overkill at all!

        I’m sorry if what I wrote came off at all like an admonition to you. It was not intended that way. I absolutely appreciated the time you took to track down that data.

        It’s just I realized I’d failed – in my initial post – to carry my point through to what it was I actually had in mind. Not so much the data itself (although the data is always important). But rather, remembering that it is ultimately the responsibility of the person presenting the “fact” to accompany it with the data which supports it.

        But the information you supplied was definitely appreciated!

  3. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 02/23/2012 - 09:39 am.

    Voter Fraud

    The voter fraud convictions discussed in the Minnesota Majority report referenced were felons who voted illegally – not voting with false ID. The report goes on to make a number of assumptions about the relationship between convictions vs. occurrences of felons voting (probably valid) and the relationship between felons voting and other voter fraud (speculative).

    The fact does remain that we’ve had 2 recounts in recent history where votes were challenged in exhaustive detail, yet few occurrences were identified.

    Personally, I think some form of voter ID is a reasonable solution – but to a non-existent problem. I’m more concerned about the type of dirty tricks we’ve seen (at least in Wisconsin) where partisan groups distribute false information to voters.

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 02/23/2012 - 12:04 pm.

    Real estate prices bottomed out? Hardly. The quoted story says “…in the Twin Cities the median price of both foreclosures and traditional listings was down almost 7 percent compared with last year.” The Calculated Risk blog said the other day the bottom may be in sight, as new home construction seems to have bottomed and is increasing slightly. However, that blog says that if the past is any indication, existing home prices may continue to decline slightly for another four or five years after the bottom for new home construction.

  5. Submitted by James Hamilton on 02/23/2012 - 12:09 pm.

    If I pass the test, can I teach?

    Or do I still need to spend 4 or 5 years earning an education degree?

  6. Submitted by Charles Spolyar on 02/23/2012 - 02:27 pm.

    Basic Skills Test

    Can we get something passed that would require the Legislature to pass some kind of a knowledge test?

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