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Tom Petters buddy/restaurateur Dean Vlahos $11.8 million in debt

Business leader Bill George opposes marriage amendment; more GOP convention fallout; a state baseball first; farm land prices climb; and more.

Not only a best buddy with an eerie physical resemblance, restaurateur Dean Vlahos now, too, is a Tom Petters casualty. David Phelps in the Strib writes: “Tom Petters and Dean Vlahos laughed together and anguished together. They spent lavishly on each other and did joint business deals. Today, Petters sits in the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., serving a 50-year sentence brought on by the demise of his $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme. And because of his association with Petters, Vlahos is trapped in his own financial box, virtually broke and owing millions of dollars that he has no hope of repaying. Earlier this month … Vlahos was in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minneapolis making a Chapter 7 filing to wipe away more than $11.8 million in obligations. It has been a stunning fall for Vlahos, the dashing Minneapolis restaurateur who created Champps, the successful sports bar chain, then developed Redstone, the upper-end casual dining chain, and more recently unveiled BLVD, a Minnetonka bistro he manages but doesn’t own.”

Former Medtronic CEO Bill George is the latest adding his voice in opposition to the GOP’s marriage constituitonal amendment. In a Strib commentary, he writes: “My interest in this issue is twofold. First, I believe in freedom of association for all Minnesotans. Second, as a former CEO of Medtronic, I know firsthand how important and challenging it is to recruit and retain talented people. Doing so requires a culture that accepts people as they are — not in spite of differences, but because of them. Defeating this amendment is essential not only to provide civil rights, but also to ensure that Minnesota is open and welcoming to everyone — regardless of religion, gender, race, national origin or sexual orientation. Would Medtronic’s new CEO, who is a Muslim born in Bangladesh, have left General Electric had he not believed that Minnesota was open to people with diverse life experiences? To sustain their growth, local companies like Target, General Mills, 3M, U.S. Bancorp, Best Buy and Cargill must attract creative professionals from around the world. In his 2003 book, “Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida found that tolerance — openness to diversity regardless of race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation — is one of two key factors in recruiting creative people. He ranked Minneapolis No. 29 on diversity, well below competing cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, New York and Boston.”  

Still digesting the Ron Paul impact in Minnesota, Ken Rudin at NPR writes: “[A]s Romney’s competitors slowly dropped out, Paul was the last challenger left standing. But for what purpose? He wasn’t going to win in Tampa. It  wasn’t about a prime-time speaking slot at the convention. It’s probably not about influencing the party platform, though he will certainly try to get his views about monetary policy and foreign policy represented. And for all the talk about well, maybe he can win on the second ballot … that is a fantasy that’s just not going to happen. No Republican nomination has gone past a first ballot since 1948. He undoubtedly knows that as well. And it wasn’t just to get enough delegates to disrupt the convention. … For most of the past year, nearly every journalist who interviewed Paul felt compelled to ask him if his ultimate goal was to run as the Libertarian Party nominee (as he did once before, in 1988). Paul kept saying he had no ‘intention’ to do so, but few believed him. Everyone seemed to miss the obvious: It is all about the future of the Republican Party.” … i.e. his son, Rand.

The GleanAt MPR, Mark Zdechlik follows the story, writing: “[GOP Senate candidate Kurt Bills] told [MPR’s] The Daily Circuit he shouldn’t be considered someone who agrees with Ron Paul on every issue. ‘I had somebody ask me, ‘are you a Ronald Reagan Republican or a Ron Paul Republican?’ And I said ‘I’m a Kurt Bills Republican,’ Bills said. ‘Whatever your name is within the party, you’re that person.’ Bills says he’s looking to raise roughly $5 million for the campaign but acknowledged he’ll be outspent by Klobuchar. The latest campaign finance reports shows her with more than $5 million in the bank, much more than Bills has raised so far. Policy-wise, Bills said cutting the federal workforce is one of the ways he’d reduce the federal budget deficit. Bills didn’t offer many specifics but said he would look at the budget plan put forward by Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. He compared the success of North Dakota’s economy to the federal government.” Things to do when elected: Discover Texas-size oil under every state, especially those with low population and little infrastructure.                                           

As bad as the Twins are this year, no pitcher can claim they struck out five of them … in one inning. Eric Ebert at the Minnesota Baseball Hub reports, La Crescent ace Eric Veglahn headed to the mound in the bottom of the seventh searching for his first complete game win of the season. He left the field having accomplished something no major league player has done and affirmed his place in state baseball lore by striking out the side. All five batters. After fanning eight through six innings, Veglahn continued his dominance in the seventh. He struck out the first two batters looking. The third batter went down swinging, but the catcher couldn’t field the breaking pitch, allowing the runner to reach first. ‘That should have been the third out,’ La Crescent coach Rick Boyer said. “Then the next one got away and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’  Veglahn struck out the fourth batter, but another passed ball allowed him to reach base. With runners at first and second, the tying run came to the plate. Veglahn struck him out, too.”

Dead certain to be “breaking news” on your TV set tonight … Jessica Fleming of the PiPress reports on … cute puppies: “The Minnesota Zoo’s latest spring birth announcement boasts two litters of endangered dhole pups. Before the Apple Valley zoo births, just nine litters of the Asian wild dogs — their species is pronounced ‘dole’ — have been recorded in the United States. The zoo is one of three in the United States to exhibit the dogs. The zoo’s exhibit opened in December in the former Mexican gray wolf space on the zoo’s Northern Trail. The pups, born April 12 and April 14, are just starting to move about the exhibit. Keepers expect them to spend more time outside the den in the coming weeks. Because they were still keeping close to their den, keepers don’t know the number of pups but think there are four. The pups are best viewed from the exhibit’s gazebo.”

From a distinctly conservative perspective, Peter Nelson of the Center for the American Experiment likes what he saw in the recently concluded legislative session. In an MPR commentary, he says:  “Characterizations in the media were all over the map. Over at, Steve Dornfeld called the session “long on rhetoric and short on results.” The Star Tribune took the middle ground and concluded that the Legislature avoided the “do-nothing” label by passing the bonding bill and a stadium bill, but spent much of its ink outlining opportunities lost. On a more positive note, the Pioneer Press highlighted the business perspective and identified “key accomplishments forged despite deep political divisions.” I tend to side with that last perspective. It is certainly true that a few opportunities were lost, but that happens every session. … In the end, more was accomplished over the course of the session than anyone could have reasonably expected. All of the immediate problems facing the state were addressed. Most of these issues related to public health care programs and were taken care of in the HHS finance bill. … And, regardless of my opinion on the bills, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the successful passage of the bonding bill and the stadium bill.

The farm land bubble continues to inflate. At The Mankato Free Press, Dan Lincoln writes: “Agricultural property values in Blue Earth and Nicollet counties continue to shoot up while homes and businesses stay the same or fall slightly in value. Overall, property values for 2012 rose in Blue Earth County by 3 percent to 4 percent and in Nicollet County by 6.5 percent. Farm values are rising by 19 percent in Blue Earth County and 25 percent in Nicollet County. Assessors in both counties said sale prices for farm land continue to rise.”

At the Ripple in Stillwater blog, Karl Bremer (justifiably) toots his own horn: “I’ve been notified by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists that I have won two of the organization’s 2012 Page One Awards: one for ‘Best Use of Public Records’ and one for ‘Best News Portrait.’ The ‘Best Use of Public Records’ award — the second year in a row Ripple in Stillwater has won in this category — was for my series ‘Lawyers, Guns & Money: An Inside Look at the Political Pardon of Frank Vennes Jr.’ The ‘Best News Portrait’ award was for my photo of convicted money launderer and GOP donor Frank Vennes Jr. on the run through the streets of St. Paul trying to flee from my lens after a federal court appearance in September 2011.” Silly bloggers in their basements with their permanent bad-hair days …