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’12 motorcycle deaths spike as Minnesota traffic fatalities rise

Rep. Gottwalt to resign; Ponzi scheme co-conspirators sentenced; electric carp barrier nixed; vacation photo helps solve child porn case; and more.

There was an uptick in traffic fatalities in Minnesota last year. The Duluth News Tribune story says: “378 people were killed in 2012, according to the department’s Office of Traffic Safety. The final total won’t be known until final crash reports are submitted, but could be around 390. That would be a 6 percent increase from 2011, when there were 368 traffic deaths statewide — the lowest number since 1944 and a 44 percent reduction from a decade ago. Wisconsin also saw an increase in traffic deaths. According to preliminary numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the state had 601 traffic fatalities in 2012, an increase of 36 (about 6 percent) from 2011 and two more than the previous five-year average. Despite the increase in Minnesota’s traffic deaths, 2012 will be the second safest year on the state’s roads since 1944, which saw 356 traffic deaths.”

Tim Harlow of the Strib adds: “[P]reliminary data show a 26 percent jump in the number of motorcyclists killed last year compared with 2011. Warm weather led to a longer riding season, one factor officials attribute for the 53 deaths last year compared with 42 the year before. The number of bicyclists, six, also was up one from 2011. Pedestrian deaths — 38 — equaled the 2011 total. The number of people in motor vehicles who were killed dropped by two, from 283 in 2011 to 281 in 2012.” Insert helmet debate here.

Upon further consideration … GOP Rep. Steve Gottwalt, lobbying legislator extraordinaire, has decided to resign from the government game. Tom Scheck of MPR says: “Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, announced [Thursday night] that he’s resigning from the Minnesota Legislature. The announcement comes after Gottwalt took a lobbying job with the Center for Diagnostic Imaging of St. Louis Park. Gottwalt had planned to lobby in states other than Minnesota to ensure there was no conflict of interest but he said that the new job would prevent him from fully serving his constituents. … Governor Dayton will have to call a special election to replace Gottwalt. Dayton will order that election after he receives Gottwalt’s resignation letter.”

Justice has been served… Dan Browning of the Strib reports: “Jason ‘Bo’ Beckman will serve 30 years in federal prison for his role in the state’s second-largest Ponzi scheme. Co-conspirator Gerald Durand will serve 20. Two others are still awaiting sentencing Thursday afternoon in federal court in Minneapolis as one of the most complicated white-collar crime cases in memory comes to a close. Beckman also was ordered to pay restitution of $155,359,411.77 — the lion’s share of the $194 million that the scheme cost more than 700 investors nationwide.” And to quote Randy Moss, we’ll take that in “Straight cash, homey.”

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The plug has been pulled on the electric carp barrier. Josephine Marcotty of the Strib says: “An electric barrier at the Ford Dam in St. Paul is not a feasible option to stop the spread of Asian carp up the Mississippi River and into Minnesota’s northern lakes, state officials announced Thursday. … The DNR said it would, nonetheless, recommend that the state fund a light and bubble barrier, which will cost $12 million to $19 million for construction and $250,000 per year to operate.”

Interesting piece of police work … The AP reports: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say a photo taken at a resort in west-central Minnesota helped them solve a child pornography case and rescue a girl from her abuser. Gene Paulauskas, assistant special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in Minneapolis, said agents in Oregon were investigating a case when they came across a photo labeled ‘Our Minnesota Trip.’ The image was sent to agents in Minnesota, who distributed it among resort owners. The former owner of a resort in Richville, Minn., in Otter Tail County, identified the property, and investigators tracked the alleged abuser to Illinois. She was arrested there in May and later convicted on child pornography charges.”

The Fed is bullish on Minnesota. Annie Baxter of MPR writes: “Minnesota is poised for stronger employment growth in 2013, according to a forecast from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The bank’s economists expect job growth of 2.2 percent in Minnesota this year. That’s higher than the historical average growth rate of 1.4 percent. The forecast is based on statistical models. But the Fed also polled business leaders about hiring. Fed economist Rob Grunewald said even though employers are slightly less optimistic this year than they were in 2012, they still plan on increasing payrolls.”

While the politicians are professing great confidence in filling the hole, Curtis Gilbert of MPR asks around about the reality of replacing Macy’s in downtown St. Paul: “Dave Brennan, a professor who studies the retail industry at the University of St. Thomas, said there are not enough shoppers in downtown St. Paul to support a big department store. ‘The number of retailers that have been downtown has declined over the last 20 years,’ Brennan said. ‘And in our holiday spending survey, only about 1 percent of the people in the total metropolitan area indicated that they would do some of their Christmas shopping in downtown St. Paul’. … [Councilman Dave] Thune would like to see the existing building reused in some way. But that may not be the best option, said real estate consultant Jim McComb. ‘It needs to be looked at as an opportunity, and find a way to reutilize the site,’ McComb said. ‘Too many times I’ve seen department store buildings attempt to hold on and use the existing building until it becomes clearly obvious that it isn’t going to happen and then they tear it down.’ Few businesses are interested in a downtown building with no windows, McComb said. That means a major renovation at the very least, if not an outright teardown, to allow a new office tower to rise in its place.”

From a week back … Michelle Bruch of the Southwest Journal reports: “Inspired by late-night donut shops on the west coast, Teresa Fox and Arwyn Birch are opening one of their own next to the Black Forest Inn. Glam Doll Donuts aims  to open Feb. 1 at 2605 Nicollet Ave., offering Intelligentsia Coffee and more than 20 different donuts every day. The shop will remain open until 2 a.m., perhaps later. Fox said she and Birch often vacation in Seattle and Portland, where they first came across the donut shop concept they’re adopting. ‘We stood in line at 1:30 in the morning for a half-hour to get a donut,’ Fox said. ‘Minneapolis totally needs something like this.’ Fox said the owners are combining all of their passions for music, vintage clothing and food into one shop.” Maybe they can come up with an Asian carp recipe.