A long battle has ended, apparently anyway, for Mankato and Rochester. Mark Fishenich of the Mankato Free Press says: “A controversial plan to run as many as 13,000 additional trains through Mankato each year has been mothballed by the owners of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, an apparent end to a 15-year effort by the railroad to become a major coal-hauling carrier. Weakening demand for coal has prompted the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. to place on ‘indefinite deferral’ any plans to extend the DM&E network into Wyoming’s coal-rich Powder River Basin — an apparent death knell for a plan that prompted fierce opposition in Mankato, Rochester and some other towns along the route.” Blame … or thank … cheap natural gas.
You may have heard … St. Paul’s Union Depot has had a makeover. The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere offers this prior to Saturday’s grand opening: “The $243 million project to retool the Roaring ’20s structure for the demands of 21st-century travel — led by Ramsey County and funded in large part by the federal government — gives the east metro a hub that can adapt to various transit uses for years to come, officials said. Those possibilities include high-speed rail to Chicago, as well as additional light-rail and bus rapid-transit lines. And when Central Corridor light-rail trains start arriving from downtown Minneapolis in 2014, the terminal station in St. Paul will be on the plaza outside Union Depot. … the most important event will occur about 7 a.m., when Metro Transit buses begin service at the depot that will include a weekday schedule of 300 arrivals and departures. Next month, Jefferson Regional Bus Lines will open at the depot. It will be joined later in the year by Amtrak, which will move its Twin Cities service to Union Depot from the Midway area.”
Another serious topic the Legislature has avoided in recent years … Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press says: “A recommendation from a recently formed sex offender task force should force legislators to start doing some serious work with the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, according to a lawmaker from one of two cities where offenders are now treated in costly facilities. … Lawmakers have discussed providing sex offender treatment in regional and residential settings in the past, [DFL Rep. Terry] Morrow said. The discussions didn’t get very far. ‘I think the first question is whether the Legislature is going to have that serious discussion about the program and its sustainability, its stability and its legality,’ he said.” After a nuclear waste dump, it’s the ultimate NIMBY.
Talk about a ‘tude problem … David Hanners of the PiPress reports: “A Hastings lawyer who peppered legal filings with religious slurs and discourses on dark conspiracies blew off her own disciplinary hearing. Rebekah Nett was to appear at a tribunal Tuesday, Dec. 4, called by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility to determine whether her written attacks against judges and court officials amounted to misconduct. But Nett’s lawyer, Zorislav Leyderman, told a court referee that Nett called him late Monday afternoon to say she refused to attend the hearing that could determine whether she remains an attorney.” She probably should consider another line of work.
Speaking of blowing off court dates … Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune writes: “A state district court judge on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for a former Minnesota Power official accused of stealing from the company, but who for 22 months has repeatedly failed to appear in court to face the charges against her. Susan Kay Thompson, 54, is charged with the theft of more than $100,000 of corporate property. The defendant worked as director of customer service for Minnesota Power for more than 20 years until resigning on Jan. 25, 2010. St. Louis County prosecutor Nathaniel Stumme said Thompson has an ‘extraordinary history of failures to appear.’ Thompson failed to appear for her scheduled arraignment on the charges on Feb. 3, 2011, saying she didn’t receive the summons and complaint. Her attorney then asked for a postponement of her next arraignment because he said his client suffered heart pains that morning and was hospitalized. According to court records, Thompson has had at least five failures to appear for court.”
Conservative professor Kent Kaiser says there’s no good reason to enhance “early voting.” In a Strib commentary, he says: “Secretary of State Mark Ritchie recently suggested that Minnesota should institute a system of ‘early voting.’ This is an ill-conceived idea. Minnesota has a system of absentee voting that, with one small legislative change, would be far superior to early voting. … ‘early voting’ systems such as Ritchie has suggested have major flaws compared to our current absentee voting system. For one, an early voting system does not allow voters to change their minds after casting their ballots like the current absentee voting system does. Many more voters change their minds than most people recognize … Another downside to early voting systems is that the running vote totals approaching Election Day are knowable and tracked closely by politicos and the media. With all the reports from early-voting states this year, media outlets were basically calling the presidential race before Election Day.” O-O-OK.
The irony that charities would likely be collateral damage to protect the Warren Buffets of the world should we go over the so-called “fiscal cliff” isn’t lost on local nonprofits. Jean Hopfensberger of the Strib says: “As Congress wrangles with plans to avoid the fiscal cliff, the tax deduction for charity donations is getting the tightest scrutiny of its nearly 100-year history. Alarmed Minnesota nonprofit leaders are in Washington this week, lobbying to preserve the deduction that supports one of the most vibrant nonprofit sectors in the nation. ‘About 860,000 [Minnesotans] reported making charitable donations on their taxes in 2010,’ said Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, who was among those in Washington Tuesday for ‘Protect Giving’ day on Capitol Hill. ‘People donate because they are generous, but the amount is determined by tax policy.’ “
The Strib editorializes on the case of the Minnesota State football coach and those “porn” charges: “[Judge Krista] Jass, one of the limited number of people who have reviewed the video, decisively dispensed with the legal case against Hoffner in her ruling. She pointed out that the law does not consider nudity on its face to be pornographic. And, that the state failed to identify what elements in the video were ‘sexual in nature,’ a key component of legal descriptions of pornography. She also applied some welcome common sense, refuting prosecutors’ over-the-top contention that one child was masturbating simply because he touched his genitals. It’s impossible to read the ruling without concluding that an injustice has been done. The judge’s ruling has done much to set it right. But the reaction from the Blue Earth County attorney’s office in its wake continues to undermine confidence in that office and in the criminal justice system itself. There are serious questions being posed across the state about why prosecutors did not reconsider the charges as the case weakened, something they could have done at any time.”
According to the Winona Daily News, a frac sand mining company will not be allowed to operate while the county maintains its moratorium: “Wabasha County Judge Terrence Walters ruled late last week not to lift a stop work order issued by Houston County for the mine, known as the Erickson Quarry and located a few miles southeast of Rushford. Minnesota Sands LLC, along with mine owners Tracie and Michelle Erickson, had argued that the company should be able to mine sand because of a 1992 conditional-use permit. The group asked the judge to lift the stop work order, which Houston County issued in July, arguing that the permit doesn’t cover the scope of the operation or the amount of sand the owners want to mine. The 1992 permit allowed for the extraction of 8,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of sand for a bridge construction project. Minnesota Sands had proposed extracting 2 million cubic yards of sand, according to court documents.” Oh come on, what’s a couple of extra zeroes?