Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Minnesota Chamber prods Legislature for Vikes stadium

Waitress gets her tip; Sen. Michel hearing is back on; “Tea” founder Mortenson “demoted”; Ordway project delayed; and more.

Not exactly a shocker … Tim Nelson of MPR writes: “The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is adding its voice to the efforts to win support for a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, pushing harder for a resolution of the debate at the Capitol. Business can support the plan because it doesn’t raise taxes and construction and the Vikings help generate commerce in Minnesota, said Chamber President David Olson. He said the Chamber is talking to Senate legislators, where the bill has been stalled for weeks. … ‘A pro football franchise is important to the overall quality of life, fabric of Minnesota. I think everybody seems to acknowledge that if a pro football team left, that chances are pretty good two or three years down the road, we’d build a new team a castle, and spend millions of dollars trying to attract a team here’, Olson said. ‘We have a team here, so if we can find a package to keep them here, that’s a good thing.’ ” Especially if, you know, the package doesn’t ask too much of the team we have.

At ESPN, Kevin Seifert is saying:Unbeknownst to many, the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium bill could have died a quiet, procedural death Thursday morning. A legislative committee kept it alive by granting a special waiver to proceed, but the bill now appears headed toward another holding pattern while state offices observe a one-week Easter/Passover break beginning Friday. … If anything, it seems clear that the Vikings’ urgency to resolve this issue isn’t matched in many Minnesota political circles. The team has already agreed to play at the Metrodome in 2012, even though its lease has expired, and no one from the Vikings’ ownership has suggested or even implied that relocation could be on the table after next season if no deal is reached this month.”

Did it really take the national media to make this happen? The Forum papers report: “After the story prompted national headlines, authorities here said today that police will return $12,000 to the Fryn’ Pan waitress who found it. In a news conference this afternoon, Assistant Clay County Attorney Michelle Lawson said the money could not be tied to a criminal investigation, and the waitress will get a check for the $12,000 later today. Stacy Knutson of Moorhead had contacted police after finding the bundled rolls of various denominations in a takeout container from a different restaurant at Fryn’ Pan in Moorhead. Police initially told her she could have the money if no one claimed it but later seized it, saying it was part of a drug investigation. … The story attracted wide media attention. Published on Tuesday and in The Forum on Wednesday, it has since been picked up by ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, USA Today and the Washington Post, among other news outlets.”

Also back on the burner after the recess … Geoff Michel. Rachel Stassen-Berger writes in the Strib: “The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct will continue discussing whether Michel breached Senate ethics rules at an April 16 hearing at 10 am. A Democratic complaint alleges Michel mishandled the affair between former Majority Leader Amy Koch and former staffer Michael Brodkorb late last year. The committee, made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, took up the complaint last month but deadlocked. Then GOP members failed to show up for a meeting scheduled to continue discussions. Since then, Senate Republicans had offered no clarity on if or when discussion would continue.” Much less how it is supposed to accomplish anything.

When “60 Minutes” comes after you, things usually end badly. Minnesota native Greg Mortenson, of “Three Cups of Tea” fame, may have gotten off easy. Matt Volz of the AP reports: “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson will remain the face of the charity the Minnesota native co-founded, despite his having to repay $1 million after an investigative report released Thursday concluded he mismanaged the organization and misspent its money. Central Asia Institute Interim Executive Director Anne Beyersdorfer said Mortenson will continue to draw a salary from the charity. But it won’t be as executive director and he is barred from being a voting member of the board of directors as long as he is still employed by the organization. A new title has not been created for the mountaineer and humanitarian, but he will continue to represent the organization in speaking engagements and work to build relationships in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the charity builds schools and promotes education, she said. … Mortenson and CAI in 2008 agreed to split book promotion costs, and he agreed to contribute the amount he received in royalties from the books bought by CAI, but he did not followed through on either agreement, the attorney general found. The organization spent more than $2 million on Mortenson’s charter flights to speaking engagements, even when the event host paid his travel fees or gave him an honorarium. Mortenson and his family also charged personal items to CAI in 2009-2010 amounting to $75,276 that included ‘LL Bean clothing, iTunes, luggage, luxurious accommodations and even vacations,’ according to the report.”

Demonstrating a bit of fiduciary prudence, the renovation of the Ordway in St. Paul will wait until … the organization actually has all the money. Says Graydon Royce in the Strib, “The Arts Partnership has delayed by one year the start of a $75 million building project at the Ordway Center in St. Paul. It was announced late last year that the project would break ground this spring, but officials said Thursday they have not raised sufficient funds to proceed. ‘This is a very tricky time for fundraising,’ said Patricia Mitchell, the Ordway’s CEO and president. ‘We’re confident we’re going to get there, but it has its own tempo.’ Mitchell said that $55 million has been pledged (up from $51.5 million when the project was announced in December). Even though that would cover construction costs of $35 million, Mitchell said the Arts Partnership wants to secure the entire $75 million before embarking.”

In the “Green Shoots” department … Jim Buchta of the Strib writes: “Housing construction in the Twin Cities is getting a big boost from robust demand for rental apartments and dwindling supplies of existing houses. During March, Twin Cities home builders were issued 234 permits to build 530 units, a 51 percent increase in permits and a 164 percent increase in units, according to a monthly report using data gathered by the Keystone Report for the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. Home building has been up in recent months amid improving consumer confidence, strong demand for rentals and a growing shortage of houses to buy. It’s not a wholesale recovery. The construction industry remains in one of the deepest and prolonged downturns. The increases represent a marginal improvement and construction activity remains significantly below historical averages.” Dang, for a second there, I was feeling pretty good.

Nothing to see here, folks. Keep it moving. In the PiPress, Elizabeth Mohr reports: “The Forest Lake police officer who shot and killed two young deer in January, outraging a man who had put collars on them, did not violate any laws, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has determined. County officials completed their review last month and called the complaint filed against the officer ‘not sustained,’ according to a statement from Forest Lake police chief Rick Peterson. Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton declined to comment and said all inquiries into the matter must go through Forest Lake police. Forest Lake police, citing data practices requirements, have not confirmed the name of the officer involved and have been tight-lipped regarding the incident. ‘I know you may want more information regarding this investigation, but because of Data Privacy Laws, I cannot discuss any of the details pertaining to this incident or the contents of it,’ Peterson wrote in a statement emailed to the Pioneer Press.” Do any of us have protection because of Data Privacy Laws?

Classy move, pal. Mary Divine of the PiPress says: “Rev. Steve Molin at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater has long kept a supply of Cub Foods, Holiday gas station and Target gift cards in his office. Molin distributes the cards — part of the church’s Grace Fund — to people who come to him and say they need financial help. But police say that one of the people Molin recently helped stole $600 worth of the cards from Molin’s hiding place behind some books on a shelf in his office. Blaze William Schultz, 22, of Stillwater was being held in the Washington County Jail on Thursday … and may be charged with gross misdemeanor theft and receiving stolen property.”