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Giant cartoon cats OK for Grand Avenue

Giant cartoon cats are cool on Grand Avenue. Curtis Gilbert at MPR reports: “The St. Paul City Council has given a toy store permission to build two 18-foot-tall cartoon cats in front of its entrance. Creative Kidstuff needed a variance to build the sculptures because, at 225 square feet, they are nearly three times the size allowed for signs on Grand Avenue.  Planning staff, a local neighborhood association and the Board of Zoning Appeals opposed the variance out of concern that it would set a precedent and detract from the character of the historic neighborhood. But Dave Thune, who represents the area on the City Council, said the lion and tiger images should count as artwork, not signage.” And when the liquor store wants to put up 50-foot “artwork” of Keystone Light?

Before the Verso company abandons Sartell and its still-smoldering paper mill, there is that matter of the $350K tabKari Petrie of the St. Cloud times reports: “Public safety agencies that responded to the Verso paper mill fire on May 28 have listed expenses that will mean a $350,000 bill to the company for reimbursement. The bill includes costs associated with the response, including equipment and time. Of the 93 fire departments that responded to the Memorial Day fire, 59 have sent invoices to Sartell seeking reimbursement. Firefighters from various departments were on scene for more than a week. Sartell Finance Director Mary Degiovanni said she doesn’t know if those remaining cities will send bills. Some cities might have sent just one responder and might not have incurred much cost.”

In an MPR commentary, Samantha Chadwick of Environment Minnesota writes: “I’m disturbed by what’s happening to wilderness protections in political arenas today. Nowhere is the issue of corporate influence in politics more relevant than in the realm of environmental issues. And it really hits home in Minnesota, with the push to roll back laws that protect the Arrowhead from unregulated sulfide mining. We have a U.S. Congress right now that is no friend to the environment, voting more than 240 times to weaken environmental protections. I’ve been looking at bills that threaten public lands — measures to abolish, circumvent or otherwise water down laws that govern lands like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the Superior National Forest, Voyageurs National Park and other public lands across the country. Bill proponents are actively working to make it easier for logging, mining, and gas drilling companies to access areas now set aside for conservation.”

At LeftMN, Aaron Klemz describes another financial gimmick used by for-profit colleges: “Documents released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Monday show Minnesota’s State Grant program for higher education was used by Rasmussen College to maintain its federal financial aid eligibility. A series of emails sent by Rasmussen executives demonstrate how money from the Minnesota State Grant program was used to artificially inflate figures at Rasmussen’s Florida campuses, technically avoiding violations of federal financial aid laws. … Minnesota’s State Grant program is uniquely generous to for-profit colleges. Minnesota’s state grant program is ranked 5th in the country in terms of the portion that goes to for-profit institutions. Now we know that Minnesota’s 2nd largest for-profit recipient of state grant dollars has used them to game federal financial aid regulations. Attorney General Lori Swanson, who is already suing Education Management Corporation for violating the False Claims Act, should open an investigation into Rasmussen’s conduct.”

The FratersLibertas fellows (I think they’re all male) have spent a lot of time lately discussing beer. Amid all the suds was this post by “chad” on home-schooling:

“[A]fter a year of homeschooling under our belt ourselves (I say that collectively with full acknowledgment that all the hard work here has been performed by my lovely wife), it’s rather easy to argue that socialization may be one of the strongest arguments for homeschooling. Implicit in the concerns expressed about socialization for homeschooled kids is an assumption that socialization is an obvious good. While no one can deny the benefits of learning how to get along with others and make friends, there are a lot of aspects of socialization (in the context of attending school with other children your age) that are not so grand such as peer pressure, group think, and bullying to name a few. … Dennis Prager likes to say that parents should not be raising kids, we should be raising adults. And as the author of the piece notes, do we really think the best way to teach kids how to be adults is to have them spend significant amounts of their day with other kids? Parents like to think that they have a lot of influence in how their kids will turn out. The truth of the matter is that nature has more influence as do the peers who their children spend their time with. The die has already been cast when it comes to the genetic side of things, but by homeschooling you can at least have some control over the influence of the peer angle.”

In the realm of comments not ready for prime time … Christa Lawler of the Duluth News Tribune reports: “A local TV news director’s Facebook comment about a ‘drunk, homeless, Native American’ who wandered into his yard caused a stir on social media websites Thursday and provoked a request for an on-air apology from two city of Duluth commissions. Jason Vincent of Fox 21 wrote on his personal page Wednesday night: ‘Add drunk, homeless, Native American man to the list of animals that have wandered into my yard … Then he proceed (sic) to wave at me and give me the peace sign when he spotted me in the window. Wow …’ A screen grab of the status update was posted on the Fond du Lac People’s Forum. It was shared at least 60 times and had 136 comments by Thursday afternoon. Vincent did not return phone calls from the News Tribune, but issued an apology that briefly appeared on Fox 21’s Facebook page.” I always love the part where the embarrassed news pro refuses to answer reporters’ questions.

The Glean And this just in from Wisconsin … Maria Lockwood of the Superior Telegram says: “A 21-year-old man accused of punching and biting a police dog with the Superior Police Department faces charges in Wisconsin. Police say Brandon DeMario Shaw, 21, punched the left ear of the K-9, Blek, then grabbed both ears, raised the dog’s head and appeared to bite the dog on the head during a pursuit on July 26. That was after Shaw emerged from a stolen car and tried to flee Superior Police Officer Todd Maas, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.” … Which leaves the dog thinking, “Do I really have to put up with these animals?”

Also, under “People you had almost forgotten,” the AP says: “A prosecutor says an ex-girlfriend of O.J. Simpson plans to plead guilty to stealing pain medication while working as an in-home nursing assistant. Clay County Assistant Attorney Jenny Samarzja says Christie Prody plans to enter guilty pleas to second-degree burglary and drug possession. The 37-year-old Prody is accused of stealing prescription pills on two occasions from the home of a Moorhead couple, who had installed a surveillance camera after medication went missing. Prody is a Minnesota native who had a 13-year relationship with Simpson after the NFL Hall of Famer was acquitted in the 1994 slaying of his ex-wife and her friend in Los Angeles.”

Dave Orrick of the PiPress says state parks are having a pretty good year despite computer crashes and record flooding. “[R]ecord storms wrecked portions of a number of parks and trails, forcing the indefinite closure of popular Jay Cooke State Park, south of Duluth, followed by storms that blew down old-growth trees in treasured Itasca State Park, to name a few of mother nature’s impacts. Yet 2012 is shaping up to be one of the best years for state parks, at least in terms of camping popularity.
Despite the closure of Jay Cooke, overnight stays (mainly camping) at Minnesota’s state parks are ahead of the pace of each of the past four years, through mid-July, according to data from the Department of Natural Resources. As of July 15, state parks logged 127,679 ‘occupied site nights,’ up from 110,879 this time in 2008 (only data from 2008-12 was readily available).”

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