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Amy Senser’s attorney wants no talk of ‘drinking habits’

Mellencamp not happy Walker uses his song; Minnesota Orchestra’s tough year; Brick nightclub revamping; mom defends son’s driving; constitutional amendments draw attention; and more.

If her defense lawyer gets his way, there’ll be no talk of Amy Senser’s drinking habits at her trial this month. David Hanners of the PiPress writes: “Defense attorney Eric Nelson also seeks to keep prosecutors from using any “testimony about impairment, DWI references or other testimony that defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs” on the night she struck and killed a man. … Nelson this week asked that Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Mabley limit evidence prosecutors can introduce. He also filed a notice that he intends to call at least 20 witnesses. The list of potential defense witnesses includes Joe Senser, two chiropractors, two physicians, a dentist, an accident-reconstruction expert, a ‘human factors’ expert and an expert in cellphone technology. There are also six character witnesses, as well as the youngest two of Senser’s four daughters.”  I’m not a lawyer, nor do I even play one on TV. But that sounds like a pretty restrictive strategy.

GOP candidates trying to give a sense of “hipness” to their campaign events might be better sticking to Lee Greenwood or Ted Nugent. The AP reports that John Mellencamp has some thoughts about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker using his song “Small Towns”: “Liberal rocker John Mellencamp wants Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to know he supports collective bargaining and union rights and says Walker should be aware of that before using his song ‘Small Town’ on the campaign trail. Mellencamp’s publicist Bob Merlis told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he sent Walker’s campaign an email not asking him to stop using the song, but to inform him of Mellencamp’s beliefs. ‘He’s a very liberal person,’ Merlis said of the singer. ‘He appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. His wife at the time was a delegate at large. He’s very pro-collective bargaining and the fight for a living wage.’ Merlis said he sent an email to Walker’s campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews. She did not immediately return a message to AP seeking comment. … ‘Small Town’ and ‘Pink Houses’ are two of the most frequently used Mellencamp songs by politicians, Merlis said. ‘More often than not it’s right-wing candidates who use his songs, which is somewhat paradoxical,’ Merlis said.” Kind of like T-Paw professing to be a big Bruce Springsteen fan.

The Minnesota Orchestra is in for a tough year. Graydon Royce of the Strib writes: “In concert, the band has rarely sounded better. Backstage, the Minnesota Orchestra faces a year of living dangerously. Last December, the organization reported its biggest annual deficit ever. In June, the band evacuates Orchestra Hall for a yearlong face-lift of its iconic home on Nicollet Mall. A shortened 2012-13 season opens in October in the acoustically challenged Minneapolis Convention Center. The greatest challenge comes even sooner. On Thursday, high-stakes negotiations begin on the musicians’ contract, which expires in September. Management says it must resolve ‘unsustainable fiscal practices’ by cutting costs. Musicians hear that and wonder how the organization can spend $50 million on the building project and continue touring and recording plans. Musicians’ salaries account for 48 percent of the orchestra’s $32 million budget for fiscal 2012.” And the musicians are why we attend …

What makes me think someone hadn’t really thought about putting on a show in the place? Chris Riemenschneider of the Strib reports on another music venue undergoing major alterations: “Three weeks after its overcrowded opening rock concert left fans crying foul, the Brick nightclub in downtown Minneapolis announced renovation plans Tuesday — and the relocation of four more of its sold-out concerts to other venues in the meantime. The three-story Warehouse District facility, which is run by concert industry giant AEG Live, will lower its ticket-sale capacity, add risers to improve sightlines in the balcony and install 25 new TV monitors. The club has already raised the height of its stage by a foot and started work on doubling the front entrance to four doors. While all the improvements are finished over the next two months, the club’s operators have found new homes for its biggest shows. Last week, they announced that Friday’s sold-out gig with No. 1 band fun. would relocate to Myth nightclub in Maplewood, a venue with a 3,000-person capacity.”

The great thing about moms is they’ll stand by you no matter what. Madeleine Baran and Jon Collins of MPR report: “The mother of a 17-year-old who was driving a motor home that crashed two weeks ago in Kansas said Wednesday that her son is a hero.  Five members of the Kerber family of Minnesota died after the vehicle veered off Interstate 35 and plunged into a ravine. Thirteen other people riding in the motor home were injured. Pauline Kerber said in a statement released by Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare that her son, Adam, who was driving, ‘did everything he possibly could to save 13 lives.’ Adam Kerber and his 8-year-old brother Nick are in ‘fair’ condition at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. A preliminary investigation by the Kansas Highway Patrol failed to find any mechanical problems with the vehicle.”

Need a pro-Voter ID argument? Over at MPR, Owen Riess, “author and Vietnam era vet,” writes: “I think Mark Ritchie is just playing politics. Minnesota’s secretary of state is a Democrat who opposes a voter I.D. requirement; he estimates that more than 215,000 Minnesotans lack either identification with a current address or any identification at all. Ritchie and other opponents of requiring voters to have I.D. say the rules will make voting harder for seniors, college students and people who are homeless. I spent Easter with extended family in Rochester, Minn., and I had the opportunity to talk with some senior citizens. I think Ritchie fails to realize that all of our senior citizens collect Social Security income. The Social Security Administration is making a transition away from sending checks in the regular mail. To receive Social Security income, a person will have to have a bank account that will accept direct deposits from the Social Security Administration. To get a bank account, a person has to have a valid identification card. Among the senior citizens I visited with, even those who could no longer drive had a valid state I.D. card. … The argument against producing a valid identification card at the polls is lame at best and ridiculous at its core. The proposal allows for the poor to get a free identification card. Anyone who wants to vote can get proper identification. The vast majority of Minnesotans will have no problem producing a valid I.D. at the voting booth. If the requirement eliminates any questioning of who voted and adds integrity to the process, it makes you wonder whom Ritchie and the opponents are trying to protect.”

Also at MPR, Sasha Aslainian reports that the William Mitchell Law School has voted to oppose the gay marriage amendment: “Taking a stand against the marriage amendment on the November ballot, faculty at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul voted today on a resolution to oppose the constitutional amendment that would define marriage as one man and one woman, and prohibit same sex couples from marrying. William Mitchell faculty members voted by secret ballot 24-7 in favor of a resolution that opposes what they call ‘the anti-marriage’ amendment. The resolution says the ballot initiative discriminates against gay and lesbian students, staff and faculty, and that limitations on civil rights should not be enshrined in the constitution.”

A Strib commentary, by Beverly Luther, says: “I am reminded that tax policy necessitates a closer look at the proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage. There are 515 rights and benefits, including tax benefits, which are denied to unmarried Minnesotans in same-sex relationships due to the current state definition of marriage and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. These tax benefits will be permanently denied in Minnesota if the constitutional amendment is passed. For example, same-sex couples cannot file their income tax returns jointly or pass wealth tax-free to their partner at death the way heterosexual married couples can. Why should this concern married heterosexual Minnesotans? Because, due to legal nonrecognition of their relationships, unmarried same-sex couples (and unmarried heterosexual couples) may also qualify for certain tax advantages that married couples may not access. In some cases, unmarried couples may be paying less in taxes than they would if they were legally married. A marriage amendment will set in stone relationship nonrecognition, lack of marriage choice, and tax advantages for some Minnesota same-sex couples.”  

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s focus on the North Side as the catalyst for improving the entire city gets coverage by Maya Rao at the Strib, who writes: “Noting that the area’s disproportionate need warrants disproportionate investments, Rybak said, ‘If the city wants to grow, the key will be North Minneapolis.’ Hundreds of people crowded into the recently renovated Capri Theater on W. Broadway Avenue to hear the speech, which called for greater focus on improving safety, housing, jobs, and opportunities for youth in the North Side. … Rybak’s speech voiced dismay at last year’s Census figures that showed that the city’s population had barely changed because, while downtown and other areas gained population, more than 7,700 people left north Minneapolis in the last decade. ‘Our city can grow fast, right away … just by getting more people to move to north Minneapolis,’ the mayor said. He said the city would begin several new programs to address those challenges.”