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New political issue: Representation by telecommuting?

Road construction season; flood repairs, too; Nolan’s “retail politics”; Top 10 art galleries; thoughts on Instant Runoff Voting; and more.

Another inevitability for all concerned …Dan Kraker of MPR reports: “The use of video conferencing software by a councilmember to attend meetings raises questions about how elected officials should face their constituents. Dennis Blankensop, a councilmember from the northeast Minnesota town of Cohasset, has for the past couple months been ‘virtually’ attending council meetings via Skype software from his condo in Palm Springs, Calif. On Tuesday evening, he plans to also cast his first vote using Skype since the state decided last week that video conferencing does not violate the Open Meeting Law. Its use, however, puts Cohasset at the front lines of a growing debate over technology and democratic participation.  Blankensop spends four months every winter in sunny Palm Springs. Before he ran for re-election last year, he wondered if his absence was fair to his constituents.” Don’t tell Best Buy about this …

Can we at least wait until this snow clears out of here? Tim Harlow of the Strib says: “Minnesota motorists will have to cope with more than 300 road construction projects, including several large projects in the Twin Cities area, state officials announced Wednesday. The $1.1 billion price tag includes an interchange reconstruction for I-694 and Hwy. 10 in Arden Hills, construction of an interchange at Hwy. 36 and English Street in Maplewood, and pavement, bridge and guardrail work on I-35 and I-35E from Eagan to Elko. Vacationers heading to cabins and resorts via I-94 will have to account for a resurfacing project between St. Cloud and Clearwater.”

Speaking of … Steve Kuchera at the Duluth News Tribune reports: “Nearly $6.9 million in state grants will help repair environmental damage this year from last June’s flooding. And partners in the more than 175 projects are well-prepared to make as much progress as possible this coming construction season, Duluth Mayor Don Ness said Tuesday. The Minnesota Recovers Task Force has authorized more than $6.86 million in grants for the projects in Duluth and seven Soil and Water Conservation Districts to help public and private landowners repair their properties this year. Projects include a $500,000 effort to stabilize a section of Lake Superior shoreline threatening two homes; stabilizing 11 landslides near Jay Cooke State Park with native grasses and trees; and stabilizing stream banks in the Silver Bay municipal golf course.”

So a guy swipes two six-packs of beer … from the Science Museum? The WCCO-TV story says: “A 52-year-old man has been accused of stealing two six packs of beer and a teacher’s wallet at the Science Museum, according to charges filed by Ramsey County. … after being confronted with the video evidence against him,[Mark Paul] Murto [of Woodbury] stated that he wanted a lawyer because he needed to talk with someone who could ‘tell him what to say.’ He continued to talk, and said ‘The beer thing, OK. I don’t even remember where I got that, but I got some beer and they showed me carrying two things of Heineken, I think,’ according to the complaint.”  After that, it really was all a blur …

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Sen. Al Franken is going full national pro for campaign manager. The AP says: “Franken’s campaign announced Wednesday that they hired Matt Burgess, a veteran of Democratic campaigns around the country. Most recently, he managed the successful campaign of New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who was elected to the post last November. Burgess worked for four years in the political department of EMILY’s List, a Washington group that helps elect women candidates around the country. He also previously worked for the Service Employees International Union.” Now all Franken needs is an opponent.

In the Strib, Pat Reusse lets fly on the matter of Tubby Smith being “too normal” to coach big-time college basketball: “The online headline for the commentary read: ‘Tubby Smith is too decent, too ‘normal’ for what major college hoops coaching is now.’ The headline came from the second paragraph which read: ‘Of all the major basketball coaches I’ve covered, Smith is the most ‘normal,’ the personality that seemed the most-balanced. In a profession now rife with cut-throat workaholics and deal-cutting confidence men, I wonder whether that normalcy has become an insurmountable weakness.’ … is Tubby supposed to be congratulated for working less hard and being less obsessed with winning than competitors? If you weren’t supposed to be a workaholic, the job wouldn’t pay $2 million a year.”

Now this is an example of retail politics … The Duluth News Tribune reports: “A group of University of Minnesota Duluth students in Washington, D.C., working on a service project had an unexpected run-in with someone from back home. Senior Luke Wohlwend was on a five-city trip during spring break arranged by the nonprofit Students Today Leaders Forever, where service projects were done in each city. He said the students, who wore UMD apparel, were walking down a street in Washington when a vehicle stopped and someone yelled, “Duluth, Duluth!” from the window. ‘We were all very confused, and then a man in a suit jumped out of the passenger seat and the vehicle drove away,’ wrote Wohlwend in an e-mail. ‘The man that jumped out of his vehicle in the middle of traffic was … Congressman Rick Nolan.’ ”

Sheila Regan at City Pages has a list … of the better galleries around town. She says: “[W]e  narrowed down our top picks to 10 great spaces. The wide variety of artwork showcased at these locations demonstrates the incredible diversity of arts available here.

The Soap Factory
The Soap Factory is great, not in spite of its grungy interior, but because of it. The building dates back to 1882, when it was erected by the Union Pacific Railways Storage Company. It went on to be used for industrial purposes over the years, before turning into an art gallery in the 1980s. The history of the space serves as a backdrop to all of its exhibitions, be it the annual Haunted Basement; group shows like the recent “R.U.R.,” which explored the concept of robots as metaphors for industrialization, work, and identity …

Midway Contemporary Art
The GleanYou may not ‘get’ everything that makes its way to Midway. The types of artists shown at this southeast Minneapolis gallery tend to be very conceptual, experimenting with what is even considered art. But don’t worry too much if you kind of scratch your head and go ‘Huh?’ upon viewing the artwork here. It’s all part of the experience: to challenge yourself to look at art in a different way than you have before.” Remember, there’s a reason why they call some of this stuff “experimental.”

On the topic of Instant Run-off Voting, Tony Petrangelo of the blog leftMN, says: “While I personally have no experience with IRV, it’s a concept that deserves to be looked at for the upside it brings. Among its advantages, IRV will help to reduce the third party spoiler effect, reduce negative campaigning and the winner will win with a majority of the votes. … Because of this need for a broad support among the electorate, and candidates needing to appeal to as many voters as possible, IRV reduces negative campaigning. When you have to build a majority coalition to win, even if it’s based on second-choice votes, there is much less of an incentive to attack your opponent because you want his supporters to put you down for number 2.” Makes sense to me.