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Electronic pull-tab proceeds falling short

St. Paul seeking crime lab funds; restaurant’s new rooftop patio; former Northrop school for sale — again; downbeat Orchestra board meeting likely; Isle Royale haze; and more.

Apparently we may need electronic pull-tabs at gas pumps, too. Tim Nelson of MPR says: “Proceeds from expanded gambling are not filling up the state’s account to help pay for a new Vikings stadium as quickly as had been hoped, finance experts say. … the market for gaming in the state may have reached a new limit. The Minnesota office of Management and Budget offered the first hint of that [Wednesday] when it scaled back the size of the account set up to pay the state’s stadium bills. Finance experts pared the balance from $34 million to $16 million for the 2013 fiscal year because revenue from new pull-tab games is weaker than expected. That’s how the state intends to fund its $350 million contribution to a new billion-dollar stadium in Minneapolis. ‘The pull tab revenue is down because we don’t have as many sites up as previously expected,’ said Jim Schowalter, state budget commissioner.” I’m not saying you should raid your Personal Seat License fund. But good god, people, this is serious. We’re talking football here.

Meanwhile, St. Paul, which has been digging deep for money for a new Saints stadium, needs another $1 million for a decent crime lab. Laura Yuen of MPR reports: “The city is considering spending more than a million dollars to fix its troubled crime lab. Some of that could pay for physical upgrades that St. Paul city officials hope will help restore the lab’s credibility. The lab suspended drug testing months ago amid accusations of sloppy work and possible contamination of evidence. … The proposed budget action, which is not final, could pay for new equipment, reorganized or expanded lab space, and staff training. The crime lab’s current annual budget is about $750,000.”

Stribber Tom Horgen, the paper’s night-life guy, talks with MPR about the latest hangout for people way cooler than I am: “A new restaurant with a rooftop patio opens in downtown Minneapolis just in time for below freezing temperatures.
Horgen: When you have millions of dollars to spend and a retractable roof — that’s when you open a rooftop patio in the middle of winter. The owner is Kam Talebi, who operates the Crave empire of restaurants. He already has a Crave rooftop in downtown, just one block away. For this project he worked with Shea architects on redeveloping the old Shinders building at 8th and Hennepin.
MPR News: He probably wanted to go really big with this one to stand out in the crowd?
Exactly. It’s really like nothing else in the Twin Cities. Before you go up there, however, you’ll enter the street level restaurant, where the former Shinders sold a ton of magazines. It’s been completely transformed, dark and moody with big leather booths, but it’s sort of an afterthought compared to the rooftop.”

You know the economy is picking up when the school district tries (again) to sell off abandoned buildings. Steve Brandt of the Strib says: “Minneapolis Public Schools is putting the old Northrop school block up for sale again, hoping that an improving housing market will create a viable proposal for redevelopment. Proposals will be accepted through Feb. 5 for a property that has been vacant since 2005, when the school at 1611 E. 46th St. closed. … Wes Butler, the city’s multifamily housing manager, said the city hopes that the building boom in some parts of the city will spill over to Northrop. ‘We’re testing the waters to see if it can be sold for something that would be useful to the city,’ he said.  The city is handling the marketing of the property for the school district.”

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There will be precious few cheery notes at today’s Minnesota Orchestra board meeting. Graydon Royce says in the Strib: “It might be the most downbeat meeting in the orchestra’s 110-year history: Its musicians have been locked out for 10 weeks in an intractable labor dispute, a record deficit that preliminary reports have put at $6 million will be reported and concerts have been canceled through the end of the year. … The orchestra’s endowment is made up of various pots of money, with different rules governing their use. The Minnesota Orchestral Association endowment was valued at $61.2 million at the end of July; an Oakleaf Trust was created many years ago and is at $57.3 million. Think of the Oakleaf as a trust fund, ruled by an independent board, that sends the orchestra a check every year. Then, there is a $7.7 million fund mandated by a 1997 remodeling project, a $1.2 million St. Paul Foundation fund and a new Building for the Future Fund of $8.2 million. Add those up and you get about $135.6 million. A 5 percent draw on that total would add $6.78 million in revenue for the orchestra. Last year, that figure was $9 million, plus another $2.9 million to cover a deficit, for a total of $11.9 million.”

The haze over Isle Royale, way up off the coast of Canada? Leslie Brooks Suzukamo of the PiPress reports: “Environmental groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make Xcel Energy take potentially expensive steps to clean up emissions at its Sherco coal-fired power plant that another government agency says obscure the scenery over two Minnesota national parks. The suit, filed Wednesday, Dec. 5, in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, asks the court to make the EPA act on a 2009 finding by the U.S. Department of the Interior that identified the massive coal-fired plant in Becker, Minn., as a source of the haze floating over the Voyageurs and Isle Royale parks.”

Also at MPR, Catharine Richert puts a Keith Ellison claim to her PoliGraph and declares the congressman to be “mostly right”: “ ‘Social Security is solvent through 2037,’ Ellison said. ‘Does it need to be fixed? Yeah. It is true that there is slightly more money going out than coming in. But when you look at all the money that is owed to Social Security and you have the interest payments that are being made on it, it more than pays for itself for now.’ Ellison’s claim is correct, but deserves further explanation. … Ellison is incorrect that the program is projected to remain solvent until 2037; that’s an old number. According to the most recent Social Security Trust Fund report, interest earnings won’t cover those shortfalls any longer by 2020, and the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2033. But overall, his claim is basically correct, said Virginia Reno, who is the National Academy of Social Insurance’s Vice President for Income Security Policy.”

I guess this would be helpful … According to Rupa Chenoy at MPR: “Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank has reached an agreement that will allow its customers to set up bill payments by taking a picture of paper bills with their mobile phone. … The  bank’s vice president and mobile channel manager, Chris Peper, said the new service will save customers several steps. ‘What’s the payment address? What’s my account number at this merchant? We can now essentially turn the phone into a keyboard for the customers, take a picture of that payment coupon and get all that information into Bill Pay without them having to do data entry on their mobile phones,’ Peper said.”

Meanwhile, next door. Steve Schultze of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan — who lost his home state, home county and hometown in the November election — also has a minor problem with a county supervisor. “A Nov. 5 rally for Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan at a county-owned Mitchell International Airport hangar violated county rules and lease terms for the firm that rents the space, a county supervisor said Wednesday. Supervisor Patricia Jursik called Ryan’s election eve rally ‘a highly inappropriate use of hangar space.’ She said the rally violated the county’s hangar lease with Sterling Aviation, where Ryan spoke to more than 2,000 supporters. … Tim Kraskiewicz, an assistant corporation counsel, said the event was pitched to the county by Sterling Aviation as ‘a marketing activity. They said Ryan was on an airplane visiting Milwaukee.’ ‘I don’t think they called it a rally,’ Kraskiewicz said.”  Of course, the whole campaign was kind of a “marketing activity,” wasn’t it?