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Erdrich, two other Minnesotans up for National Book Awards

Wolf hunt is on; astronaut Kelly on civil discourse; Hecker car site gets new owner; Duluth ballot fight; state revenues up for quarter; and more.

Louise Erdrich was only one of three Minnesota authors nominated for the National Book Awards. Marianne Combs at MPR writes: “Erdrich is nominated for her book The Round House, which was just published this month. Erdrich’s latest work was selected along with works by Junot Díaz, Dave Eggers, Ben Fountain and Kevin Powers. … William Alexander’s first book, Goblin Secrets, has shot straight to the final round for Young People’s Literature. Alexander teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and is a frequent contributor to Rain Taxi Review of Books. … In her collection of poetry Susan Wheeler reconstructs her mother’s voice — down to its cynicism and its mid-twentieth-century Midwestern vernacular — in ‘The Maud Poems.’ ” Why no love for “Courage to Stand” and “Core of Conviction”? … Quite a few available for $0.01, plus shipping on Amazon.

Strib columnist Gail Rosenblum interviews astronaut Mark Kelly (coming to town soon), husband to Gabrielle Giffords, on the topic of “civil discourse.” She writes: “Talk about a combat mission. But Kelly is pleasantly optimistic. ‘People have realized that we’re off-course here,’ he said, during a telephone interview Wednesday. ‘Regardless of who wins [the presidential election] next month, I get the sense that members of Congress are going to want to work together.’ … ‘We need to try to appeal to people’s better judgment, to discourage members of Congress from fighting for these huge majorities. We used to have a Congress that had a good number of people considered moderates, Democrats who could work with Republicans and Republicans who could work with Democrats. There’s no overlap anymore, no middle. Eighty percent of people are on the far left and far right.’ ” I hope Mr. Kelly comes with the full list of the 80 percent. I’d like to see how many are on each side.

The wolf hunt is on! John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune writes: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Wednesday, Oct. 10, said it will not stop the state’s upcoming wolf hunting and trapping seasons, denying a request for preliminary injunction filed by wolf supporters. The injunction had been sought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves, which claimed that the state Department of Natural Resources failed to follow administrative rules when developing details for the seasons, especially failing to take public comments on the seasons. The ruling by a three-judge panel means the first ever Minnesota wolf hunting season will start Nov. 3, with a trapping season starting Nov. 24. Up to 400 wolves can be killed under the state’s upcoming sport seasons.”

Denny Hecker’s holes in the local landscape — real estate craters — are slowly filling in. Mary Divine of the PiPress writes: “Fury Motors in South St. Paul and Lake Elmo announced Wednesday, Oct. 10, that it would open a Jeep dealership in the former Denny Hecker dealership at the northwest corner of Minnesota 36 and Osgood Avenue. Hecker went out of business in October 2008, and Fury co-owner Jim Leonard said the site is perfectly situated for a stand-alone Jeep dealership. … The 6-acre site has been in foreclosure since Hecker’s business closed; Leonard declined to discuss the purchase price. Leonard said he and his brother, Tom, hope to have the new dealership open for business in November after spending $300,000 to $500,000 on renovations.”

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The wake of DFL Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s dismissal/resignation is long and roiling. Brandon Stahl and Don Davis of the Forum papers report: “Jay Fosle’s name will not be printed on the Nov. 6 ballot in the House 7B race in Duluth. The Supreme Court denied his request to be listed on the ballot Wednesday, citing arguments made that state statute allows only a major political party to replace a name on the ballot. The court ruled in September that the DFL Party could take Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name off the ballot and replace it with the newly nominated Erik Simonson. Fosle — who like Simonson had stepped up as a write-in candidate after Gauthier dropped out of the race — appealed, saying the court should treat every candidate equally. He is running with no party endorsement.” I think Senators Scott Newman and Mike Parry should get Fritz Knaak on this one, too.

State revenues in the last quarter beat the forecast by 4 percent. Charley Shaw of Politics in Minnesota writes: “All of the state of Minnesota’s sources of revenue came in higher than forecast in the first quarter of the state’s 2013 fiscal year that began July 1. The overall $3.75 billion in revenue for the quarter was $41 million, or 4 percent more than forecast in February, according to the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget [MMB] economic update. The largest source of money, the individual income tax, brought in $1.994 billion, which was $42 million more than forecast. That was achieved despite a $10 million dip in the expected withholding receipts. Growth in estimated payments and smaller refund payments were key parts in the rise in income tax collections. The corporate income tax significantly beat the forecast by $41 million, or 15 percent, to finish the three-month period at $309 million. Most of the increase was from better than expected estimated tax payments.” I assume this means the job creators have been crippled.

There may be a downside to corn-based ethanol production, but overall, $5 billion in economic activity is impressive. Les Suzukamo of the PiPress says: “Minnesota’s ethanol industry generated more than $5 billion in total economic activity last year and supported more than 12,600 jobs, according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The department report, released Wednesday, Oct. 10, said that ethanol added $912 million to the value of the state’s corn crop in 2011, behind only the boom year of 2008 when it added $957 million. … According to agriculture department economist Su Ye, the state’s ethanol industry continues to play a critical role in bringing increased returns to the state’s largest crop. ‘While there have been ups and downs in the industry, the fact is it’s a huge advantage for us to keep more of the value of the corn we produce rather than ship it [to] another state or country as a raw commodity’, Ye said in a statement.”

Two prominent board members of the Minnesota Orchestra offer a defense of their position in a Strib commentary. Says Jon Campbell and Richard Davis: “How can a volunteer Board of Directors that is deeply committed to this orchestra ask its supremely talented musicians for wage concessions? It is because we are responsible for the future of the Minnesota Orchestra. … Why not raise funds for more endowment support for musicians instead of for Orchestra Hall? Our $110 million campaign, begun in 2005, does both. The $50 million renovation is part of the solution to our financial challenges and part of our strategy to broaden the orchestra’s appeal by improving audience experience. The other $60 million is being raised to support our musicians (through endowment support) and to fund the type of great artistic initiatives (touring, recording) that have made possible the great successes of recent years. … The musicians have requested that we agree to final and binding arbitration. But as prudent stewards of this organization, we cannot turn its future over to an individual who is not familiar with our business model and artistic aspirations — someone who will ultimately bear no responsibility for the decision once it is made.”

The Twin Cities housing market had another good month in September. In her story for MPR, Elizabeth Dunbar says: “The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors says pending home sales in September were up by 11 percent over the previous year. The median sale price was about 12 percent higher, at $174,000. The Realtors group says the missing component has been seller confidence — the number of properties brought to the market in September was down by 4 percent. And the total number of homes on the market in the Twin Cities was about 16,000 — near a nine-year low. Cari Linn, president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, said it’s possible the upcoming presidential election might be giving more people a wait-and-see attitude.”