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Soap and cosmetic antibiotics going toxic in Minnesota waters

Tax “guru” Myron Frans; Dinkytown development fight; fix planned for Highway 100 bottleneck; Kellogg Square sold; Macalester expansion; and more.

And where did we think it was going? Josephine Marcotty of the Strib says: “An antibiotic widely used in soaps and cosmetics that mostly goes down the drain is slowly converting to toxins at the bottom of many of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. A new analysis of sediment in eight lakes and rivers used by municipal wastewater treatment plants found that amounts of the antibiotic triclosan and the toxins it forms have been steadily increasing since it was first used in Dial soap in the 1960s. The research by scientists at the University of Minnesota and the Science Museum of Minnesota is the first to show how pervasive the contaminant has become in tiny lakes and giant rivers, and that the same is likely true across the country.”

Bill Salisbury of the PiPress has nice things to say about our “tax guru”: “Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans is a popular guy around the Capitol. Democrats and Republicans alike describe the state’s top tax collector as smart, savvy, friendly, hard-working, respectful and — the adjective most often applied — cheerful. … Minnesota taxpayers might not be cheerful, however, after Frans and his boss, Gov. Mark Dayton, unveil their plan for overhauling the state’s tax system Tuesday … They will call for tax increases. Dayton says the state needs more money to erase a projected $1.1 billion shortfall and increase spending on education and other programs he considers essential. While Frans wouldn’t reveal what’s in the tax plan during an interview last week, he cautioned against assuming that everyone would be asked to pay more taxes.”

Speaking of taxes … Brian Bakst of the AP says: “Milky Way candy bars are taxed in Minnesota, but Twix bars — because of their flour content — are not. An Elvis album bought from a record store is taxed, but one downloaded from the Internet isn’t. Shoppers pay tax on presidential biographies and tap-dance shoes, but not history class textbooks or wing-tips. Such contradictions are rife throughout the state’s tax system, which governor after governor has said is ripe for a remake. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to become the latest to seek a top-to-bottom overhaul Tuesday.”

The fight is on to keep Dinkytown low-rise. Eric Roper of the Strib says: “A development boom reaching into the University of Minnesota’s Dinkytown area has ignited efforts to protect the neighborhood’s vibrant fabric of small storefronts and eclectic businesses that have catered to generations of students. Neighbors and business owners poured into the basement of a church earlier this month for the first glimpse of Opus Development Company’s plans to replace half a block in the heart of Dinkytown with a six-story apartment building. Down the block from Al’s Breakfast, a culinary award-winning eatery, the massive proposal represents one of the first attempts to significantly alter the four-block area that makes up Dinkytown.”

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In arctic news … Marianne Combs of MPR says: “[A]t Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center, the homeless were being encouraged to stay indoors all day. Program manager Gerry Lauer said the center usually shuts down for a couple of hours for cleaning but remained open all day for the safety and well-being of its clients. … The weather was taking a toll on cars, too. Matt Hail, the public relations manager for AAA Minneapolis, said that as of 1 p.m. his office had responded to 520 road service calls, twice the average volume for a typical winter Monday. … While the Twin Cities had a low of minus 10 on Monday morning — its lowest temperature in two years — things were far chillier up north in Grand Marais. Kate Watson woke up to a wind chill of close to 50 below.”

Good news for west siders … Tim Harlow of the Strib says: “The bottleneck that develops almost daily on Hwy. 100 between Interstate 394 and 36th Street in St. Louis Park is enough to drive motorists mad. News that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) plans to reconstruct one of the most congested segments of freeway in the Twin Cities should bring cheers from the thousands of drivers who make that trip each day. Starting in late 2014, MnDOT will begin reconstructing the intersections at Hwy. 7 and Minnetonka Blvd. (also known as County Road 5), replacing the structurally deficient bridges at those two intersections and widening Hwy. 100 to three lanes in each direction between 36th Street and 25 1/2 Street, which is just south of I-394.”

Further proof some kind of recovery is afoot. Janet Moore of the Strib writes: “Kellogg Square, a signature apartment tower in downtown St. Paul, has been sold for $51 million, a sign of confidence that the market for downtown apartments in the Twin Cities will remain strong. The tower was sold by Sentinel Management to Bigos Management of Golden Valley, a big player in the Twin Cities apartment market that owns or manages more than 42 apartment communities, according to its website. Company officials did not respond to requests for comment Monday. The deal was finalized Dec. 31.
The sale comes at a time when downtown living, whether in Minneapolis or St. Paul, is gaining steam among downsizing baby boomers and debt-addled millennials.”

More and better art space is coming to Macalester. In the PiPress, Frederick Melo reports: “The college has pulled a building permit with the city of St. Paul for a $20 million renovation and expansion of its studio arts space, including half of a new third floor. The addition will be completed by McGough Construction of Roseville. ‘The construction begins this month,’ said Barbara Laskin, a spokeswoman for Macalester. The project is expected to be completed by January 2014. The renovated arts space will be the latest example of St. Paul’s college construction boom, but it’s not the only project on the horizon. Metropolitan State University has plans for a new three-story science education building at 654 E. Sixth St., which would connect to the main campus through a new skyway over Sixth Street.”

At the conservative consortium blog True North, Mitch Berg goes after our Eric Black on the issue of … “gun grabbin’ ”:  “Last week, you wrote about Dr. Carl Bogus’ assertion from fifteen years ago that the Second Amendment was written to protect slavery.  Now, my friend and frequent commenter Joe Doakes — who actually is a lawyer — pointed out that Bogus’ theory is given no weight by the legal academy, because it’s been pretty soundly debunked and, more signally, ignored by legal scholars; Bogus’ theory is only kept alive by anti-gunners who like, as Doakes put it, to ‘borrow his degree to lend them legitimacy.’ So here’s what I’m curious about. Bogus published his theory fifteen years ago.  It was roundly shredded in short order.  It was substantially ignored (beyond a few trivial references to incidental research) in the SCOTUS’ debates that led to the Heller and McDonald decisions, which respectively adopted the ‘individual right’ definition of the 2nd Amendment and incorporated that definition onto the states. And yet somehow last week Bogus’ theory was pulled from legal history’s scrap heap and restored to glorious prominence by the gun-grabber left.” The sweat stains are showing among our gun-fondling friends.