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Minnesota is No. 13 in highest-taxed states

School districts’ hiring is way up; “angry” man arrested in church vandalism; wooden coffins a big seller; Joan Growe criticizes voting amendment; and more.

We’re No. 13! Bill Salisbury of the PiPress reports: “Minnesota state and local taxes were 13th highest in the nation per capita in 2010, while the state ranked 15th highest in spending per person. Those were among the findings in a new Minnesota Taxpayers Association annual report on state and local taxes and spending that was released Wednesday, Sept. 26. It was based on recently released U.S. Census Bureau data for 2010. ‘The findings suggest that Minnesota’s moderate increases in tax collections were largely similar to the experiences of other states,’ the report said. Minnesota’s state and local taxes per $1,000 of income increased 2.5 percent from 2009 to 2010 — a rise small enough to drop the state down one spot in the national tax rankings.” Was this before or after all our millionaires moved to South Dakota?

Fresh hiring by Minnesota school districts is improving the jobs picture. Mila Koumpilova of the PiPress reports: “After a couple of years of job losses, hiring in public schools is markedly up this summer over last year. District payrolls last month hit 106,975 jobs, up more than 7,500, or 7.6 percent, over August 2011. Jobs were also up over July’s numbers — unusual because district payrolls rarely start rebounding so soon after the spring ritual of laying off employees for the summer. In fact, public education outperformed all other sectors in hiring over the year, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which released an otherwise lackluster August jobs report last week. The numbers include all district and charter school jobs, from teachers to custodians and counselors to administrators.” So, we’ve finally met the “job creators” … and they are us.

It was his “anger with God” that made him do it? The Strib story on the Buffalo church desecrations, by Tom Meersman and Paul Walsh, says: “Police in Buffalo say doors and windows were broken with rocks between noon and 3 p.m. Monday at four church buildings — St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Seventh-day Adventist, Hosanna Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and Buffalo United Methodist. Posters with troubling messages were left starting Saturday night at two of those churches — St. Francis and Hosanna Lutheran — and two others, Zion Lutheran (ELCA) and Buffalo Presbyterian, said Chief Mitchell P. Weinzetl. On Wednesday night, police arrested the man, who is from rural Buffalo, after announcing earlier that they had identified a ‘person of interest,’ based on surveillance camera images of him.”

I always said death was a recession-proof business. Richard Chin of the PiPress says: “Your friendly neighborhood coffin shop is holding a Halloween sale. Last January, Mike Zoff opened a small storefront on Smith Avenue on St. Paul’s West Side to sell the affordable wooden coffins he makes in his garage. It was supposed to be a part-time second business supplementing his full-time job as a real estate broker. Apparently, coffins are selling better than homes. Zoff said he is going full time in the coffin racket, and while most of his products end up underground, he’s found that the business seems to be diversifying of its own accord. For example, one customer wanted a 4-foot-long coffin with legs to use as a coffee table.”

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What West Bank bar isn’t a site of historical significance? Steve Brandt of the Strib writes: “Few vestiges remain of the frothy heritage of a former tavern in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside. Gone are the bar, the plate-glass front window, the Gluek Brewing logo of a six-pointed star surrounding a G. Nevertheless, Minneapolis preservationists are saying not-so-fast to a developer who wants to raze the building for a 259-unit project next to Mixed Blood Theater. The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission has ordered a survey of Gluek’s ‘tied houses’ to determine just how many of the saloons, which were owned or controlled by the defunct northeast Minneapolis brewer, remain in the city. While that happens, the $48.5 million development proposed by Fine Associates will be on hold for the second time.” Build over it. They do it all the time in Manhattan.

If it weren’t for the fact that it may well pass, ripping at the bogus rationales for the voting amendment would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Former Secretary of State Joan Growe takes her turn in a Strib commentary: “As someone who spent decades in charge of Minnesota’s election system, I know that we must ensure that only legal votes are counted. But effectively disqualifying legal voters would be even more damaging to the integrity of our elections. And while the amendment’s backers have no persuasive evidence of widespread fraud (a national investigation by Carnegie-Knight’s ‘News21’ program found that voter fraud is “virtually nonexistent”), we do know that its passage would place hurdles in front of law-abiding Minnesotans wishing to cast legal ballots. In a state where we are rightly proud of our clean elections and vigorous civic participation, allowing false allegations to frighten us into supporting such a flawed amendment would be a grievous mistake indeed.”

Professional audiologists aren’t happy with UnitedHealth. Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress writes: “A hearing-aid manufacturer in Arden Hills says it will be the supplier for an expanded program at Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group to make low-cost hearing aids available to the insurance company’s health plan members. But the program is proving controversial among hearing health professionals who say UnitedHealth has tried to save money at their expense. ‘They’re pretty much trying to provide the device and cut out the health care system,’ said John Coverstone, an audiologist in New Brighton who is president of the Minnesota Academy of Audiology. ‘The time we spend with the patient is what makes the difference between using an instrument successfully and having a device that’s not appropriately fit.’ UnitedHealth said in a statement, however, that it encourages members to work with audiologists and other hearing health professionals, including those employed by the insurer.” Especially those employed by …

Only 29 points? The latest Strib polling story has Amy Klobuchar with an LBJ-like lead over her GOP opponent. Rachel Stassen-Berger writes: “Klobuchar captured support from 57 percent of the electorate, with Bills drawing 28 percent. Another 7 percent said they would vote for someone else, while 8 percent remain undecided in the U.S. Senate race. The poll shows the first-term senator with a solid advantage in all areas of the state, outpacing Bills by more than 40 percentage points in the Democratic urban areas that include Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. Klobuchar’s weakest numbers come in southwestern Minnesota, where 46 percent say they would vote for her, compared to 26 percent who favor Bills and 19 percent who are undecided.” Bills needs to personally drive all the Ron Paulites to the polls.

Local writer Ann Bauer isn’t a “freak for ‘Fifty Shades.’ ” In her MPR commentary,  she says: “What is happening to the women of America, my wise friend would ask, that they are obsessed in huge numbers with a badly written book about sexual deviance and abuse? I would merely shake my head and try to calm my anger. Because that’s the truth. That’s what I felt … utter fury that this is the writing our culture values at this point in time. My objection isn’t to the sex. It isn’t to the overnight success of the author. I am, in fact, a huge fan of both of those things. My objection is to the reductive message: the ‘romance’ that blossoms between an abuser and his captive. The ugly language. The fact that this is writing — so far as I know, because I must admit I cannot bring myself to read more than a few pages — that reinforces ignorance and closes off inquiry into the greater world. So here I am, howling about this in writing. Which is, of course, what I do. But I’ve also had time to calm myself and decide that fighting this tide is ridiculous. And there is — whether I can see it or not — value in a book that speaks to more than 5 million people worldwide. I just don’t know where that leaves me, and the other quiet, literary writers I know. Do we operate at a loss, book after book, or give up and become florists?” Or maybe a dominatrix?