Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Minnesota gas prices slide back from peak

Search under way for U.S. attorney; Duluth may become mountain-bike mecca; job spurt in Thief River Falls; MPR PoliGraph finds tax claim “misleading”; and more.

Gas prices have reached the tip of the spike … for the moment. MPR’s Martin Moylan says: “Gas prices in Minnesota are falling, as more Midwest refineries that had shut down for maintenance resume operations. Fuel is also being brought in from other parts of the country.   Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA Minnesota-Iowa, said the average price in Minnesota is $4.05 as of Monday. ‘We expect [prices] to continue to decline, as we head into June. And as a result, probably about the second to the third week in June, we’ll be back around the national average,’ Weinholzer said.” Will someone calculate the profit in a one-month, 20 percent spike?

Curtis Gilbert and Sasha Aslanian of MPR report on Sens. Franken and Klobuchar searching for a new U. S. attorney: “B. Todd Jones, who has served as Minnesota’s top federal prosecutor since 2009, has a Senate confirmation hearing next week to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He’s been serving as acting director for that agency since 2011, in addition to serving as U.S. Attorney. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the committee includes a former U.S. Attorney, a police chief, and a county attorney, and will be chaired by a former head of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. … Klobuchar said she expects the committee to complete its work in about a month.” I suppose Rachel Paulose is not on the short list.

Think of it as a cold Moab … Curt Brown of the Strib writes: “Duluth is pouring taxpayer money into what city boosters hope will make it a mountain biking mecca.  Once the soggy spring relents, ski lifts will begin hauling heavy mountain bikes up Spirit Mountain in the next few weeks so riders can pedal down two new so-called gravity runs this summer. Professional designers have been hired to begin crafting berms and rollers from Mission Creek to Lester Park, part of an ambitious long-range plan to expand 28 existing miles of trail into a 100-mile ribbon for bikers traversing the entire city. They’ll use a $250,000 grant from state Legacy coffers, $60,000 in city tourism tax money and various smaller grants from biking organizations in what’s expected to grow into a $2 million investment in mountain biking by the decade’s end.”

The ying to the job growth yang in Thief River Falls … Adam Belz of the Strib says: “With the rise of a quiet giant called Digi-Key Corp. and a recent lift from the resilient Arctic Cat, Thief River Falls, population 8,500, has become a little fount of economic growth. Employment in Pennington County … has grown four times as quickly as the population since 2000, adding 1,857 jobs but only 490 people. … Among the results is a housing shortage that the city and its two dominant corporate citizens have yet to solve. … That has prevented more rapid growth in the workforce; both companies are expanding in other places — such as Fargo, N.D., and St. Cloud. School district voters narrowly approved … new elementary school and renovations to the high school to help attract more families, and Digi-Key plans to bus in workers from Crookston, more than 40 miles to the southwest.”

Article continues after advertisement

A Strib commentary by Hamline professor David Schultz looks at ranked-choice voting based on 2009 city elections in Minneapolis: “In all races, the first-round leader eventually won. In 2013, this may change. In the mayor’s race alone, there are six or so viable candidates. A first-round winner might not receive more than about 20 percent of the vote. In this election, the eventual winner might actually be a second- or third-place first-round finisher. Multiple rounds of balloting may also make it more difficult to finish counts in time for the Canvassing Board to meet and certify the results.” The piece says nothing about “rampant voter fraud.”

I missed this late last week:  MPR’s Catharine Richert gave her PoliGraph test to GOP claims that the new tax bill “raises taxes on everyone”: “Over the next few months, expect Republicans to hone this talking point in the run-up to the 2014 elections: Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature broke a promise to tax only the state’s wealthiest because they’ve passed a bill that includes taxes that will affect everyone. Versions of this talking point have already surfaced on Twitter with the hashtag #taxeveryonebudget, in press conferences and in videos. In fact, the effects of those new taxes are more complicated than that. … The income tax increase will only affect Minnesota’s wealthiest, the cigarette tax will only affect people who smoke, and the business-to-business services tax may result in job losses, not necessarily higher prices for consumers. And while changes to the corporate tax code could mean consumers are shelling out more cash for some products, the Department of Revenue can’t say how much or for which products. This claim is misleading.”

Sara Jane Olson news … Patrick Condon of the AP writes: “Sara Jane Olson, the St. Paul woman who served seven years in prison for her involvement in high-profile 1970s radicalism, is edging back into public life— this time voluntarily — as she and a friend petition the Obama administration to reduce disparities in prison sentences for crack and powder cocaine. … Olson said she decided to talk to the Associated Press because of strong convictions about her new crusade, which she said is motivated in part by her own time in prison. ‘I don’t really like to talk about my personal experience in terms of my family and all that,’ Olson said in an interview on Friday. ‘But when I was there, at some point I did adjust to it and I said, ‘I have to learn something from this.’ ” Bob Davis and Tom Emmer will get a week out of this.

The GleanAnd this, after surviving the crummy holiday weather … The La Crosse Tribune reports: “Eleven people were rescued from the Mississippi River early [Monday] evening when a house boat tipped near Lock and Dam No. 7 at Dresbach, Minn. Six people were taken to the hospital, but all are expected to live, authorities said at the scene. The other five did not need medical treatment. Everyone on the boat is accounted for, police said. Early indications are that power failed on the boat, which was swept into the rollers at the lock and dam.”

At Politico, Alex Isenstadt says Our Favorite Congresswoman is looking at an “existential” fight next year:  “The bomb-throwing conservative and onetime Republican presidential candidate is girding for what promises to be a ferocious reelection contest. Awaiting Bachmann is a serious Democratic opponent who has the full backing of his national party and a suburban Twin Cities electorate that six months ago nearly tossed her out of office. The most glaring problem for Bachmann, though, may be a swirl of investigations into her campaign finances. … National Democrats showed little interest last year in trying to take out Bachmann. … This year, party operatives say, is different. After providing Graves with just about no help in 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has taken a renewed interest in his candidacy. The DCCC has promoted Graves to an initiative for top recruits, and the candidate was in Washington last week to huddle with party strategists.”  Here’s an alternative scenario: Bachmann decides not to run, and Glenn Gruenhagen changes his residency to Big Lake.