Court to decide if private firms must disclose public data

Now this is a case with interesting angles. Brian Bakst at the AP reports: “When Minnesota governments farm work out to private companies, state law presumes most data “collected, received, stored, used, maintained or disseminated” for those projects is available to the public just as if the work was done by public employees. That open-records principle is at the heart of a dispute before the state Court of Appeals. The court takes up a case Friday, July 20, testing the reach of Minnesota’s Data Practices Act when it comes to outsourced work. The case springs from a small-town newspaper editor’s effort to access data from a construction management firm and its subcontractor on a major school buildings project. It’s the first significant judicial look at that part of the records law in about a decade. … Lawyers for the firm, Johnson Controls Inc., argue that an adverse ruling for them could open private companies to unneeded scrutiny by forcing them to divulge sensitive pricing and strategic information to anyone who asks, including competitors. In turn, they say it may lead some companies to charge taxpayers more or make others less likely to bid on public work.” So maybe it would be cheaper if public employees did this kind of work?

$336 million here … $336 million there … and pretty soon … Bill Salisbury of the PiPress writes: “Minnesota collected more in taxes last fiscal year than state officials expected, but they warned that the state isn’t out of fiscal danger. The state collected $336 million, or 2.1 percent, more revenue in fiscal 2012, which ended June 30, than finance officials forecast in February. Tax collections for the year totaled $16.5 billion. ‘This is good news, but it doesn’t mean that the state’s financial problems have gone away,’ Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said in a statement. ‘A lot of the additional revenue came from one-time sources.’ Individual income tax collections showed the largest increase over the forecast, $115 million over the February prediction. Corporate and sales tax receipts also were higher than projected.” The story comes with several key equivocations.

This one will reverberate for a while. The Strib story by Mary Lynn Smith says: “Three young girls were found dead in their River Falls home Tuesday and their father was taken into custody in connection with their deaths. The sisters, ages 5 to 11, were found dead inside the home, which smelled of gas when police entered. The 34-year-old father turned himself into police. The mother, who was not home at the time, called police when she became concerned for their safety because of statements made by the children’s father. Police said Tuesday night that they haven’t positively identified the victims but it appears the victims match the description of the three children.”

Sounds like this guy is a case of “breaking bad.” The AP says: “A 26-year-old man who used to be in charge of packaging at a North Dakota sugar plant pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to organizing a ring that supplied drugs across two states. Noah Bergland, of East Grand Forks, Minn., entered his plea to money laundering and continuing criminal enterprise charges. Investigators, who dubbed the case Operation Noah’s Ark, said Bergland was the leader of an operation that has resulted in 19 indictments. The plea deal calls for Bergland to forfeit $250,000 in drug sale proceeds. His drug-trafficking ring supplied heroin, cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy across North Dakota and Minnesota, authorities said.”

After the recall, it has been a quiet summer across the river to the east. Pretty humdrum. But things seem to be picking up. Andy Rathbun of the PiPress writes about one free-spirited gal: “A 56-year-old woman from St. Croix Falls, Wis., was arrested last week after she passed out naked on the front steps of her home, police said. A St. Croix Falls police officer responded to a report about 6 p.m. Friday, July 6, of a naked woman in the 400 block of North Washington. The officer found Michelle Knutson apparently passed out and ‘completely naked with her legs open exposing her genitals to passing cars and pedestrian traffic,’ a police report states. Knutson did not attempt to cover herself until the officer directed her to do so, according to the report, which states she appeared intoxicated but refused a breath test. Knutson, who could not be reached for comment Monday, told police she always walks around naked and had walked onto her porch before realizing she was locked out of the house. She said her husband locked her out — something he denied to police, the report states. After realizing the front door was locked — although the back door was not — Knutson said she decided to lie down on the front steps and ‘get some sun,’ the report states.” … Where it usually don’t shine.

Ol’ Sooch smells “Democrat” meddling all over this title-changing business. Says Joe Soucheray in the PiPress: “You would think that a secretary of state who has preened as much about clarity and simplicity on behalf of the voter as Ritchie would have found that title about as clear and simple as even lawmakers could have made it. But because he fears that it might pass, Ritchie wants to change it to ‘Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples.’ Proponents of the amendment find that to be muddying and obfuscating. The word ‘limiting,’ for example, might give one pause, for we certainly don’t want to be limiting anybody’s rights, however real or imagined. Opponents of the amendment find that a dose of muddying and obfuscation is just what the doctor ordered, and in Ritchie they have a doctor with advanced degrees in mischief. Remember the Franken-Coleman recount when a precinct in Minneapolis ‘lost’ 133 ballots and a precinct in Maplewood had 171 more ballots to count than their totals from election night? The lost ballots got ignored and the newly discovered ballots got counted.”

It was “love.” But Emily Gurnon of the PiPress says the judge didn’t buy it: “The attorney for former high school English teacher Matthew Ellsworth, who will be sentenced Wednesday, July 11, for having sex with a 17-year-old student, argued in a court brief that Ellsworth deserves ‘mercy’ because the circumstances were unusual. ‘Put simply, (they) fell in love,’ attorney Allan Caplan wrote. Mr. Ellsworth is not a pedophile. He is a man who made a poor decision at a particularly difficult time in his life when his mother was dying of terminal cancer.’ Caplan noted that the young woman ‘does not consider herself to be a victim.’ … He argued at trial that because he was no longer the girl’s teacher and would never be again, he was not in a ‘position of authority,’ one of the elements of the criminal offense. The judge disagreed.”

If they wait, there’ll be thousands of copies for sale at Half Price Books … Madeleine Baran of MPR says public libraries have a long waiting list for “mommy porn.” “If you want to check out a copy of the novel Fifty Shades of Grey this summer, get in line. The erotic best-seller is the Hennepin County Library system’s most requested book right now. All 317 copies have been checked out and 2,063 people are waiting for a copy. Another 414 people have placed requests to check out one of the library’s 25 copies of the audiobook. There are 98 requests pending for the large print version. Hennepin County’s top ten most-requested books of the moment includes two other books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Some libraries in other states have refused to stock the book. The New York Times spoke to Ken Hall, a library director in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who ‘said he would rather spend precious library funds on books that had literary or artistic value’.” … And look good sitting on the shelves.

Who was the first guy you thought of when you heard President Obama was cracking down on synthetic drugs? Up at WDIO in Duluth, they report: “The Last Place on Earth, a well known, controversial business in Duluth, plans to fight a new federal law banning more chemicals found in synthetic drugs. Jim Carlson, the store owner, has told Eyewitness News he sells millions of dollars of incense, which is also known as synthetic marijuana, every year. A bill containing language banning more chemicals was signed by President Obama Monday. That language, bans 2C-E chemicals, which caused the death of a Minnesota teen, and hospitalized several others. It was added by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.” Why back in my day, incense was just something you burned while listening to your King Crimson LPs.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 07/11/2012 - 09:41 am.

    Ol’ Sooch

    Guess Ol’ Sooch didn’t smell anything political when the GOP Legislature insisted on passing inaccurate titles to their proposed constitutional amendments–when drafting of titles is normally the pervue of the Secertary of State. I guess checking facts ain’t necessary when you’re just a columnist, not a reporter.

    • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 07/11/2012 - 01:42 pm.

      marriage amendment title

      Limiting marriage to “one man and one woman” isn’t the best idea either. For one thing, that would mean that divorced people can’t remarry. Or would the amendment framers like to add “… at a time” to be more clear? The whole amendment idea is so stupid that there isn’t much anyone can do to make it more so.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/11/2012 - 01:52 pm.

    Sec Of State

    The office of the Secretary of State will be a long time in regaining any level of credibility after Mssr. Ritchie has gone on to a well deserved SorosRetirement©, but sadly, due to his baldly partisan perniciousness there is no amount of time enough to allow any thinking observer to conclude that he wasn’t responsible for creating a Senator Franken.

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