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Orono investment banker Scott Honour to challenge Dayton

Old Log Theater sale imminent; coal-plant upgrade challenged; state not considering health exchange for workers; Lowertown road work; and more.

Aaaand we have an opponent … The AP story says: “Minnesota’s slow-starting 2014 governor’s race got its first serious Republican contender on Wednesday when a successful businessman and political newcomer launched a campaign. Scott Honour revealed his plans in an email and the launch of a campaign website. A Minnesota native and investment banker who lives in Orono, Honour started several businesses and has been a prolific political donor mainly to Republicans, though he has also given to Democrats. Honour, who is not well known even among state Republicans, declined interview requests on Wednesday. He planned a round of interviews on Thursday that guaranteed a second day of media attention.”  An investment banker from Orono … not exactly another Wal-Mart Republican.

Yesterday, Hoigaard’s. Today … The Old Log. Graydon Royce in the Strib says: “The sale of the Old Log Theater in Excelsior appears imminent. The west-metro playhouse is closing its run of “Mahalia” on Sunday, and the theater will go dark for a month before opening the next production. The respite will be used for renovations to the state’s oldest professional theater, which includes a restaurant and sits on 11 acres near Lake Minnetonka. Don Stolz, who has owned the theater since 1946, said Wednesday that he and his sons are considering a bid from a potential buyer. He declined to say who the buyer is. … Others close to the deal, however, indicated that Twin Cities software developer Greg Frankenfield has the inside track.”

In the Duluth News Tribune, John Myers files a story on anti-coal activists arguing for the retirement of one of Minnesota Power’s big burners. “Minnesota environmental groups on Wednesday asked for a formal environmental review of Minnesota Power’s plans to spend $350 million to add pollution control equipment to one of four coal-burning units it operates in Cohasset. The groups, which would rather see the Boswell Energy Center Unit 4 shut down and retired, want an assessment of what impact upgrading the unit and continuing to burn coal will have on the state’s environment and human health. … The groups urged Minnesota Power to instead spend the $350 million on developing larger renewable energy projects in Minnesota.”

Another AP story says: “Minnesota has had no discussion of moving state government workers onto the state’s new health insurance exchange, said John Pollard, legislative and communications director for Minnesota Management and Budget. ‘No one that I know of has proposed or asked about doing this,’ Pollard said. … Minnesota’s State Employee Group Insurance Program has about 50,000 state and other public employees in its pool, including workers in executive branch agencies, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the judiciary and the Legislature, he said. It covers about 110,000 people after dependents are added in.”

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On DeSmogblog, Brendan Demelle reports: “Enbridge’s Line 2 pipeline has leaked an estimated 600 gallons of crude oil at its pump station near Viking, Minnesota. Line 2 was built in 1956 and has a history of spills. Regulators ordered Enbridge to reduce its Line 2 operating pressure in October 2010 following the company’s Kalamazoo River tar sands spill. The Enbridge Viking pump station also receives oil from the Alberta Clipper (aka Line 67 pipeline) that carries heavy crude oil and tar sands bitumen from the Alberta tar sands region south from Hardisty to Superior, Wisconsin and refineries in the midwestern United States.”

Heck, even fish need warmer weather than this to spawn. Dave Orrick of the PiPress writes: “The late spring has delayed sturgeon spawning in key Minnesota and Wisconsin waters. While not believed to be an issue for fish survival, the late spring could mean fish will be smaller heading into the winter — and the change in schedule has thrown a wrinkle into biologists’ schedules. For an angler hoping to take home a monster sturgeon, the harvest season on the Rainy River on the Minnesota-Canadian border begins Wednesday.”

It’ll be crowded next week … . Andy Greder of the PiPress tips readers to a meat deal: “Signage consists of white sheets of paper taped to the interior walls of a brick building on the University of Minnesota’s sleepy St. Paul campus. The sheets say ‘meat lab salesroom’ with arrows pointing down a hall and stairs to Room 26. In the windowless, concrete basement, employees in white lab coats fill orders for a dozen customers. Ground beef, bacon, apple brats, brown-sugar-cured hams, jerky and other meats are bagged. Quality is high and prices are low, but quantities are limited, so you gotta get there when the gettin’s good. And that would be from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, the only time the sales room is open.” No quills on the tenderloin, right?

The Glean Uh, now they’re talking a fresh $3.38 million? Frederick Melo of the PiPress reports: “St. Paul will make $3.38 million in improvements this year to Prince Street, a narrow Lowertown road that runs by the Central Corridor maintenance site to the Lafayette Bridge area. For drivers coming off U.S. 52 or Warner Road, the street is seen as an important access point for the future Lowertown regional ballpark that opens in 2015. But some city officials question why the improvement costs were not factored into the estimated $54 million price tag for ballpark construction. City Engineer John Maczko took tough questions from the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday, April 24, regarding the resolution to fund the Prince Street improvements.”

Jim Anderson of the Strib gets into the background check failures in the case of Nhan Tran, the Oakdale spree shooter: “Tran, 34, who faces six felony charges — including a count of second-degree murder in the death of Devin Aryal — was found to be mentally incompetent last month by a court-appointed psychologist. Yet he was able to clear the background check that enabled him to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer. … There is no such court record, no documented red flags, for Tran relating to mental illness or a propensity for violence. And aside from a 2006 speeding ticket, no criminal record, either. None of the 18 restrictions on the state gun purchase permit, which set into motion the background check when he bought the gun, applied to Tran.”