Minnesota home sales up 11.2%

Unless you’re a buyer, this is good news. Jim Buchta at the Strib reports: “Record-low mortgage rates and increased optimism about the economy in some parts of the state gave Minnesota home sales a healthy bump in May. The Minnesota Association of Realtors, which tracks activity for 11 economic regions, said sales were up 11.2 percent from last year to 8,446. The median sale price of those deals increased 9.9 percent to $150,000. Agents attribute higher prices to an increase in move-up houses, a decline in distressed sales and a general shortage of listings. Monthly year-over-year sales have increased for 11 months, with most of those gains coming in parts of the state where there’s been meaningful job growth, including Duluth.”

Jay Cooke State Park is taking another beating. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports: “A portion of embankment along a man-made diversion canal has washed out into the water above the Thomson Dam, Minnesota Power officials said Thursday. The problem poses no threat to the dam and doesn’t affect water flow in the raging river, said Amy Rutledge, spokeswoman for the Duluth-based utility. The move sent more water through the river at Jay Cooke State Park, which is closed because of the high water. The canal diverts water from the main river into the electrical generating station that’s part of the system of dams along the lower
St. Louis River.”

The News Tribune has several photo galleries of flood damage. Check out these aerial shots, especially the sediment flow into Lake Superior.

Post-storm rainwater is making trouble for Mississippi boat traffic. Paul Walsh at the Strib says: “The three lock and dam systems on the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities are closing Friday morning to recreational vessels because of increasingly high water flow, officials said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers added that the same will likely apply to commercial traffic as well before the weekend is over. This is the second time this year the locks have closed due to excessive rain.”

Your average local weather forecaster/meteorologist is notoriously reluctant to risk a flame war with climate change deniers (or human-caused climate change deniers). At MPR, Paul Huttner blogs today: “As I said in my post early Thursday, my read is that this type of event ‘fits’ in the overall picture of Minnesota’s changing climate. What we can’t credibly say in my opinion is that this entire event was ‘caused’ by climate change. What we can credibly say is the extreme rainfall events are increasing in frequency in Minnesota, and that climate changes favoring a warmer wetter atmosphere may have enhanced or ‘juiced’ rainfall totals in the flood. We’ve always had active warm fronts that have spawned MCS [mesoscale convective systems] and heavy nighttime rains in Minnesota. The meteorological set up would have occurred anyway. But CC may have ‘enhanced’ the Duluth flood event. Now the real question is, did a warmer & wetter atmosphere ‘juice’ this particular event to produce more rainfall than would have occurred without CC? That’s the real question … and how do you quantify how much ‘extra’ rain fell as a result of a warmer/wetter climate? We know, and I have blogged/discussed on MPR that 3″+ rainfall events have doubled in frequency since about 1960. According to a report from climatenexus.org there has been a 31% increase in extreme rainfall events in the Midwest since 1958.”

The GleanBrother Ali, the singer-songwriter, was arrested at an Occupy protest over a south Minneapolis home foreclosure. The Current’s Andrea Swensson reports: “Brother Ali was among 13 protesters arrested in South Minneapolis last night. Ali’s act of civil disobedience was part of an ongoing occupation of a foreclosed home in South Minneapolis, and occurred as over 125 people rallied in support of a family fighting against a bank error to keep their home. According to Occupy activists and witnesses, Ali was the first to willingly cross police lines and be arrested last night for trespassing on the foreclosed property, and was one of the only protesters to be arrested without making a public statement. Instead, Ali remained silent and stoic as police placed him in handcuffs.”

The local version of The Onion died last night. At The Minnesota Daily, Sarah Harper writes:The A.V. Club, Twin Cities announced today that their coverage of local entertainment is ending. The Onion won’t circulate in the Twin Cities anymore either, as editor Jason Zabel explained in his farewell post, ‘Good-bye from The A.V. Club, Twin Cities.’ Both The Onion and The A.V. Club will continue to exist on a national-level but they won’t join City Pages and Vita.mn as part of your coffee shop holy trinity ever again. I can’t be the only shmoe around here who uses The A.V. Club, Twin Cities for a home page — between whistle-blowing sessions with local back-patters and diligent coverage of hack research, there’s always a juicy read. Zabel, who worked at the Minnesota Daily back in the day, put it best: “The best part of writing for The A.V. Club is the freedom. During my time alone, we’ve wondered why there are so few openly gay athletes, written about a man who turned his house into a town, interviewed an all-male Britney Spears cover band, and run-through all of the crazy [bleep] Bob Dylan has done, all while using as many curse words as we pleased.” Well, this will free up a lot of cheap talent to make lists of “Best Bartenders, Sushi Chefs and Places for Romantic Strolls.”

Steven Verburg of The Wisconsin State Journal looks at how pension costs might likely rise because of the collective bargaining crackdown last year: “Wisconsin’s controversial 2011 collective bargaining law may add $87.5 million to state retirement system costs next year due to a little-noticed change that will boost employee benefits. The unanticipated costs aren’t a back-breaking amount for the massive retirement fund, but they illustrate why laws that alter the complex retirement system should be examined carefully before enactment, said Robert Conlin, secretary of the Department of Employee Trust Funds. Conlin’s predecessor, David Stella, stepped down in January saying that elected officials disregarded his plea for a thorough examination of how changes in the law would affect the $82 billion pension fund. Under provisions of the collective bargaining law, government employers — state agencies, local governments and school boards — are saving money because they no longer pay the employee’s portion of payroll contribution to the pension fund. But they are saving a little less than earlier believed, according to new financial projections provided to ETF board members Thursday.”

Also at MPR, Euan Kerr looks at the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s “Rembrandt in America” show, opening Sunday. He says: “Amidst the dozens of paintings collected for ‘Rembrandt in America’ it’s near unavoidable to be astonished by the beauty and the power of the pictures. The portraits are almost 400 years old but they are so vibrant they almost shimmer. The subjects stare out into the room. The effect of those ancient eyes is frankly unsettling. … The exhibit spans Rembrandt’s career from student to rising star in Amsterdam, one of the artistic centers of the world in the 17th century, to the point where the work from his studio was the most sought after of its time. There are also the later works when as an older man he lost everything, but even in bankruptcy continued to paint. One of the finest examples from that period is the MIA’s Lucretia, painted in 1666 in just one day but considered one of the two best Rembrandts in the U.S.” The master’s ability to guide the viewer into the subject’s eyes is a marvelous thing to behold. It’s quite a good show.                                                

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