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Duluth’s economy is looking better

MSP flying is pricier than average; White Bear Lake people suing DNR; drug kingpin gets 26 years; Ramsey to develop Arden Hills ex-ammunitions plant; and more.

Duluth is doing better … and it’s not just the number of new taprooms on Superior St. Dan Kraker of MPR reports, “A giant aircraft maintenance hangar at Duluth International Airport that has sat idle for six years is springing back to life this week, a sign that the region’s economy is on the upswing. AAR Corp. is servicing jets from Air Canada in the facility, originally built in the 1990s for Northwest Airlines. … After years of economic struggles and budget deficits, Duluth may be poised for a new era of prosperity. The city has announced several major industry investments in the area, the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.9 percent and the local economy is diversifying. … In September, Mayor Don Ness announced another major new project: a new downtown office tower to be anchored by the clothing retailer Maurice’s. The company plans to add 100 jobs in Duluth over the next few years.”

Tell me what I don’t know … . Tim Harlow of the Strib says, “People have long grumbled that the cost of flying in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is expensive, and a new report out by Lets Fly Cheaper confirms it. … The average round trip domestic ticket in the Twin Cities is $448.70, which would have landed it fifth on the list had airports with lots of regional carriers been factored in. The average round-trip domestic fare in the United States  is $384.81. So the Twin Cities is way above the national average when it comes to flying, no matter if it’s on a regional airline or mainline airline. It could be worse. Topping the list are three United Airlines hubs, Houston Bush ($517.50) , Washington Dulles ($504.20) and Newark Liberty ($480.30) airports.” But the service is so good … .

You gotta blame somebody … . John Brewer of the PiPress writes, “A group of White Bear Lake residents and business owners have filed suit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, claiming the state agency shirked its duty to protect the namesake lake and underlying aquifers by allowing excessive municipal groundwater pumping. The White Bear Lake Restoration Association, represented by the firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, filed suit Tuesday, Nov. 27, in Ramsey County District Court. It brought its claim against the DNR and Commissioner Thomas Landwehr under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, which allows citizens to bring suits for civil remedies to protect air, water, land and other natural resources … from pollution, impairment or destruction,’ according to state statute.” So in other words, are they suing the DNR for allowing them to pump too much water?

The GleanThat’s 26 years in lock-up for Minnesota’s drug kingpin. Says Paul Walsh of the Strib, “Jesus ‘Jesse’ Mendoza, 45, whose convicted co-conspirators include his wife, was sentenced Monday in federal court in St. Paul after pleading guilty last summer to trafficking in cocaine and thousands of pounds of marijuana, as well as money laundering. To date, law enforcement has seized more than $2 million in assets related to Mendoza’s drug organization. … From January 2005 through most of 2010, Jesse Mendoza led a drug-trafficking organization that moved the narcotics from California and other states, and distributed them throughout Minnesota. Upon his arrrest in December 2010, he admitted coordinating shipments of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. The drugs were shipped in cars, commercial trucks and private aircraft.”

The Strib also reports that Ramsey County has purchased a not so attractive-sounding piece of property. Kevin Duchschere writes, “The Ramsey County Board voted Tuesday to buy and redevelop the former ammunitions plant site that the Minnesota Vikings targeted for a new stadium last year before agreeing to rebuild in downtown Minneapolis. On votes of 5 to 2, the board approved a joint development agreement with Arden Hills, where the 427-acre site is located, and the $30 million purchase of the highly-polluted tract that makes up the state’s biggest Superfund site. It’s the largest undeveloped property in the state’s smallest-sized county.” Maybe a dog park … ?

Or, as Tim Nelson of MPR puts it … “Ramsey County has decided to buy 427 acres of the most polluted land in the county … .”

Dave Peters at MPR looks at rural crime numbers in the wake of the Little Falls killings and says, “ … the overall crime rate in Minnesota as a whole is just over half what it was 30 years ago and is about equal to what it was in the late 1960s. The number of burglaries in the state peaked in 1981 and last year reached about half that peak — 25,153. For all the talk about unprotected rural areas falling victim because of tight budgets and great distances, (a real concern that has resulted in people installing everything from farm security systems to guard llamas) you nonetheless are considerably more likely to be a burglary victim in the city. The crime rate in Morrison County last year was below the state average and lower than the crime rate in neighboring and similarly rural Todd County, for example.”

The head-to-head competition between Microsoft and Apple out at the MOA wasn’t much of a contest. Olivia LaVecchia of City Pages says, “The team, led by Gene Munster, camped outside the Apple store for eight hours, as it’s done for the past five years. This year, they also tallied shoppers across the hall, at Microsoft, for two hours.The results? Foot traffic: 47 percent less at Microsoft than at Apple. Purchases: 3.5 per hour at Microsoft, and 17.2 per hour at Apple. The content of those purchases is even more telling. All but two of the Microsoft buys were Xbox games, while Apple shoppers shelled out for 11 iPads per hour. No one bought Microsoft’s new tablet, the Surface, in the two hours Piper Jaffray watched. The news wasn’t all positive for Apple, though. While traffic was up 31 percent over last year, sales were down. Munster speculates that shoppers wanted to look at the new iPad mini, but that its still-limited supply prevented purchases.”

Dan Feidt, a key player in Minnesota’s Occupy movement and the go-to-guy for media commentary on the flap over Drug Recognition Evaluators (DRE) the program in which cops solicited Occupy kids for drug surveys, writes today on the public release of the BCA’s 513-page report on the matter. He says, in part, “Many of the officers discuss a general sense of unease across their entire class, of trespassing certain obvious moral or ethical boundaries (‘your morals are gone,’ pg 428). As Minneapolis considers dissolving the Civilian Review Authority oversight board, many connections to the Minneapolis Police Department including the 5th Precinct have not been reviewed. … While everything in this strange report should be taken critically, disturbing themes of emerge of relatively young rural police officers being sent around Minneapolis to find the chemically dependent & mentally ill, turn them loose again after they’re intoxicated, without any help like medical or social support, and connections to further gray areas like developing informants in the drug world (pg 381), and a methamphetamine-addicted informant handled into performing an evaluation by a Ramsey County deputy.” My question is, “Was it all more stupid or weird”?