Musicians, Orchestra board make cases in battling Strib op-eds

The Strib op-ed pages have a point/counterpoint between battling Minnesota Orchestra parties. The locked-out musicians say: “The Star Tribune reports (“Orchestra walked thin line on finances,” Nov. 26) that management chose to delay the incurring of deficits so as not to affect fundraising and state bonding requests, according to minutes from the orchestra board meetings. In fact, the minutes reveal that members of the board hired a public relations firm that helped determine ‘what size of deficit to report publicly …’ This confirms why we musicians contend that we cannot and should not make a financial counteroffer without a full, joint, independent analysis of the orchestra’s finances. No one is more vested in the financial health and future of this orchestra than the musicians. Unfortunately, the musicians have neither the access to financial data needed to make a more detailed offer nor the transparency that the Star Tribune and the city have urged management to provide.”

While the board says: “Recently, orchestra musicians shared board meeting minutes with the Star Tribune in an effort to criticize financial decisions made by our board — decisions that had been made expressly to protect the Minnesota Orchestra. We shared those board minutes, amid 1,200 pages of documents, with musicians in our negotiations last summer as part of the orchestra’s longstanding commitment to transparency with our players. That musicians chose to give these documents to a reporter is not our issue; rather, it is that they feigned surprise at the revelation of our financial situation. Contrary to a quote from musician Tim Zavadil (“I’m not sure we were ever told how big this cliff was going to be”), the musicians were fully aware that we could no longer manage our deficit with precarious endowment draws. “Feigned,” did they?

The Koch brothers are digging in their heels over that proposed pipeline to Superior. Dave Shaffer’s Strib story says: “A Canadian pipeline company’s plan to add a surcharge to all North Dakota oil piped into Minnesota has drawn objections from key energy interests. Two Twin Cities oil refineries and others are protesting Enbridge Energy’s plan to add the surcharge, which would pay for an additional $2.5 billion pipeline to carry even more oil. … The major complaint: All oil shipped from the Bakken fields into Minnesota would pay a $1.45 per barrel surcharge, even if it didn’t travel on the new line to Superior. Another concern is that the new pipeline — designed to eliminate a bottleneck in northern Minnesota — may be not fully utilized if other rail and pipeline projects are built in North Dakota. ‘[Koch-owned] Flint Hills has never opposed paying for its fair share of the cost of expansion’, the owner of the Rosemount refinery said in its filing.” In fact, I bet if you asked them, they’d say all they do is give.

We are the envy of the nation. According to an AP story: “Minnesota is the first state to make buying [lottery] tickets even faster, at gas pumps and ATMs. With a debit card, driver’s license and cellphone number, buyers can try their luck at a touch screen. The system is being piloted at nine gas stations and 19 ATMs in the Twin Cities, allowing people to buy quick-pick Powerball and Mega Millions tickets without going inside to a counter. Since October, about $5,260 worth of Powerball tickets have been sold that way.” So is it possible to play a couple hands of blackjack while I fill up?

Twenty-eight state arts organizations are getting NEA money. Kristin Tillotson of the Strib writes: “Mixed Blood Theatre Company is top dog among 28 Minnesota arts organizations awarded 2013 grants from the National Endowment of the Arts. The small Minneapolis-based theater company will get $100,000 — out of $877,500 coming to the state — to develop two new plays and send two commissioned works on tour. Other top winners are three independent publishers located in the Twin Cities. Graywolf Press will receive $90,000, while Milkweed Editions and Coffee House Press each will get $65,000.” Was Tony Sutton’s blog in the running?

This may change if they never play another game … Forbes magazine says the Minnesota Wild are worth $218 million … more than the New York Islanders: “[O]wner Craig Leipold dug deep and gambled on two long-term contracts this summer, signing free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Both deals were for 13 years and $98 million and included $25 million in CBA-protected signing bonus money upfront. Although the Wild have been losing money, the team needed to take a chance as their season ticket base, which fell to 12,000 last season, has been declining. The team also is investing about $1 million to build 24, four-person loge boxes tied to a Scandinavian theme that will be part of an all-inclusive package selling for between $48,000 to $53,000 a year. The loge boxes will replace 100 club seats.” A “Scandinavian theme”? Really? Like with krumkake beer cups?

Madeleine Baran of MPR serves up some background info on Little Falls shooting suspect Byron Smith’s professional career: “Smith, the Little Falls man who authorities say admitted killing two teenagers because they broke into his home, was a highly trained State Department security engineer responsible for protecting U.S. embassies from terrorism and espionage. … Security engineers oversee construction and repair work in U.S. embassies and consulates to prevent spies and terrorists from breaking into State Department buildings or installing secret recording devices, said retired U.S. State Department political officer William Davnie. Unlike security officers, who patrol embassy grounds and offer advice about personal safety to Americans living abroad, security engineers are focused on technical issues, such as building layout, wireless networks, locks and alarms. ‘These are people who are very security conscious,’ said Davnie, who does not know Smith. The job also requires an extensive background check, medical review and a top secret security clearance.”

Boomer geezers will be dismayed to read this. A Gawker item by Neetzan Zimmerman sums up the flap in Madison, saying: “A Madison-based cancer support group named after legendary Saturday Night Live player Gilda Radner has announced that it will be changing its name to accommodate younger patients unfamiliar with the iconic comic, who passed away of ovarian cancer in 1989. Gilda’s Club — so named for Radner’s famous remark likening cancer to membership in ‘an elite club I’d rather not belong to’ — boasts some two dozen affiliates across the country. But, in a tragic sign of the times, at least four, including Gilda’s Club Madison, have recently undergone a name change due to Radner’s lack of name recognition among potential new members.”

Tom Crann of MPR had James Norton of The Heavy Table in to talk artisanal beer … coffee, and other foody matters. A sample:
MPR News: And it’s not all beer, right?
Norton: Right. I met with Eric Faust from the Duluth Coffee Company. He has been micro-roasting beans and working with restaurant accounts for the past couple of years and has just now opened an elegant ‘third wave’-style coffee cafe on Superior Street in Duluth.
MPR News: When you say third wave, what do you mean?
Norton: Think of diner coffee and Folgers as first wave: sweet, a bit nutty, often watery or characterless. Starbucks really typifies the second wave: higher prices, dark roasts; specialized coffee drinks, many of them very sweet or flavored. Third wave is parallel to craft beer or artisan cheese. The beans are roasted much more carefully. The cups of coffee are often brewed on demand, one cup at a time. The roasting is often much lighter to show off natural flavor notes of the beans. There are a lot of interesting methods used to brew: Chemex, pour-over, or French press, for example. You’ll often see latte art, not just as a ‘wow that’s cool’ thing, but as a sign that the milk was properly frothed.”

Guys like this make no friends within the court system. David Hanners of the PiPress reports: “Some smart people might go their entire lives without ever using the word ‘asseverate.’ It means ‘to assert strongly,’ and the defendant accused in the ‘Man in Black’ string of bank robberies — who is representing himself in his federal criminal case — has taken to using it with some regularity in the scores of motions, letters and other communications he’s filed on his own behalf from jail while he awaits trial. Mark Edward Wetsch’s writings to the court have ranged from evidentiary issues to complaints about the caloric count of his jailhouse meals. He’s filed 48 documents since early August and they finally prompted U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson to issue an order telling him that if he wants something or has some legal beef, he has to follow the rules and put it in the form of a motion.” It seems he’s been performing his hermeneutics. … look it up.

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