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Zygi Wilf better off staying, even without tax money, says DFL Sen. Marty

Gambling bill touted; Amy Senser case in jury’s hands; courthouse screenings turn up array of “weapons”; manufacturing data stay positive; and more.

DFL Sen. John Marty may be the anti-Sid Hartman, the guy who never saw a taxpayer-subsidized stadium he liked, but he gets far less mainstream press play. In an MPR commentary today, Marty says: “ Public funds can create construction jobs, but those projects should serve a public purpose, constructing public facilities, not subsidizing private business investors. The need to employ construction workers is not an excuse to subsidize wealthy business owners, especially when there is such great need for public infrastructure work. … The only reason for this debate over a public subsidy is that many politicians think that [Zygi] Wilf will break his promise and move the team, or sell it. Both of the stadium financing proposals in Los Angeles are privately funded, without taxpayer money. … If Minnesota refuses to force taxpayers to subsidize a new stadium, he would be better off keeping his fan base and privately financing a new stadium here.” But let’s concentrate on the impact to our sense of “major leagueness” if they jump at that irresistible offer in California.

Ted Grevelis, writing for The Daily Racing Form, is pretty upbeat about the expanded gambling bill on Gov. Dayton’s desk: “An amendment to a bill allows a significant expansion of gambling at Canterbury Park as well as Running Aces Harness Park. Under provisions of the amendment, the maximum number of table games at the tracks can be increased from 50 to 80; betting limits will rise from $60 to $100; the limit on the number of poker tournaments and tournament tables the tracks can run will be removed; and the rules of playing many of the table games will change from being “player banked” to being “house banked.” … The switch to a house-banked game would allow players to compete directly against the house, the same way table games are played in Minnesota Native American casinos as well as casinos around the country. Another key provision … allows for the existing racetracks to conduct simulcasting and off-track betting at Native American casinos. It is the first time that the racetracks and Native American casino interests, longtime adversaries, have worked together on legislation.

As of mid-afternoon, the jury in the Amy Senser trial was still out. KARE-TV’s story said: “Closing arguments took just over 2 hours before judge Daniel Mabley issued jury instructions and handed the case off for deliberations just after 12:30 p.m. Prosecutor Deborah Russell said in her closing argument Tuesday that evidence shows Amy Senser must have known she hit a man last August near a freeway exit ramp in Minneapolis. Anousone Phanthavong died in the crash. Russell reminded jurors of testimony about Senser’s daughter asking her if she had been drinking that night. She also mentioned that Senser deleted several text messages from her phone the day after the crash, and painted the family as one that did not want to face up to an unpleasant situation. … Defense attorney Eric Nelson, understandably, had a different view of the case for jurors to consider. ‘This is not a question of whether or not she knew she hit something nor is a question of should she know, Nelson maintained in his closing argument.”

The GleanAt the PiPress, Emily Gurnon writes: “Nelson also slammed the Hennepin County attorney’s office for filing charges against Senser just weeks after the accident. ‘The state has rushed to judgment,’ he said, suggesting the office’s reasoning: ‘Amy Senser is a public figure. Her husband is a public figure, and we (the state) want to make an example of her.’ … Prosecutor Russell countered that Amy Senser’s husband, former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser, testified that it would not be out of the ordinary for her to change her plans at the last minute. … If she actually did attend the concert, as she said she had — until the noise and lights gave her a headache — why didn’t she let her daughters know when she was leaving, Russell asked. ‘She couldn’t manage to send a single text to her daughter when she decides to leave the concert? Does that make any sense whatsoever?’ “

For the Strib, Abby Simons and Larry Oakes report: “Nelson also asked jurors to pay attention to how the crash scene bore no signs that a driver knew they were encountering a pedestrian. ‘If you know you’re about to hit something, you slam on the brakes; you take evasive action,’ Nelson said. Once the Sensers all were home, their actions continued to be those of a family going about its normal business, Nelson argued, noting that Amy Senser parked the car in the drive ‘for all the world to see’
and went to sleep on a couch on the deck. ‘There was no nervous plotting, no ‘What do we do now?’ No calling lawyers at 1 in the morning,’ he said. In a short rebuttal, Russell countered that Amy Senser’s actions that night were anything but innocent. She said the evidence supports the conclusion that ‘she was intoxicated, home asleep on her porch after failing to pick up her daughters.’ “

The Strib’s unscientific poll on the jury’s decision was running 45% toward conviction, 35% acquittal and 20% hung.

The new “weapons” screening at suburban courthouses scored a lot of stuff, not all particularly threatening. Paul Walsh at the Strib writes: “Dozens of prohibited and potentially dangerous items were confiscated in the first week of weapons screening at Hennepin County District Court locations in Brooklyn Center, Edina and Minnetonka, officials said. The electronic screenings were put in place on April 23 at the Brookdale, Southdale and Ridgedale facilities on an interim basis at the urging of the Sheriff’s Office. The 70 or so items taken during about 3,000 screenings last week included knives, box cutters, scissors and Mace.” … And quite a few fingernail clippers.

The feds busted ex-Viking Michael Bennett on identity theft and tax fraud charges in Miami. Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald writes: “The two ex-NFL players charged with defrauding the federal government and ID theft are: William Joseph, a University of Miami defensive tackle drafted in the first round by the New York Giants in 2003, and Michael Bennett, a University of Wisconsin running back also drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2001. The third defendant, Louis Gachelin, is the half-brother of Denver Broncos star Elvis Dumervil. …
All three were questioned after their arrests Monday by FBI agents at the bureau’s North Miami Beach regional office. They were then transferred to the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami for court appearances Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Dube, according to the clerk’s office. Details of the alleged scheme are expected to be disclosed in a criminal complaint to be released later Tuesday.”

This morning’s Strib editorial, lamenting the gridlock over connecting a bonding bill with the stadium morass, said: “[O]ngoing talks among Dayton and legislators indicate that a ‘win-win’ finish to the 2012 session is still possible. From our vantage, it doesn’t look all that difficult. The tax cuts in the GOP bill are not overly large in the next year. Neither is their focus on business tax relief objectionable at a time when the economy needs bolstering. It’s the size of their future ‘tails’ that’s most troublesome. If the bill’s authors were to make their biggest tax cut — a statewide business property tax freeze — expire after one or even two years, Dayton’s signature would be easier to win. If they were to add one or more revenue-raising measures that Dayton and legislators in both parties support — for example, requiring more online retailers to collect sales taxes — better yet. This year’s tax legislating should end with a mutual vow to return to the negotiating table in 2013.” Those vows are almost worth the air they’re muttered into.

It’s not exactly a booming bull sort of thing, but 32 months of expansion is still positive. MPR’s story, by Annie Baxter, on new manufacturing data says: “Minnesota manufacturers are projecting a pickup in business and employment over the coming months, according to the Creighton University Minnesota Business Conditions Index for April. The index climbed from about 57 in March to 61 last month. April was the 32nd consecutive month that the index stayed above 50, which signals economic expansion. Creighton University Economics Professor Ernie Goss says Minnesota’s employers are hiring and increasing the hours worked by current employees.” We’ll take it.