We have a shortage of empty … lots. Jim Buchta of the Strib says: “With new home starts up 53 percent in the Twin Cities, finding a buildable lot is getting a whole lot more difficult. Lot inventory is now at its lowest level since 2007, according to Metrostudy, a national research company with an office in Plymouth. Here are the highlights from the group’s quarterly survey …
Lot supplies across the 7-county metro area fell to just 33.4 months, signaling a return to pre-boom levels.
1,135 new homes were built, down 13 percent from the 4th quarter 2012, up 53 percent from last year. That was the fourth straight quarter during which starts exceeded 1,000.”
At MPR, Rupa Shenoy does a Q&A with Debra Crusoe, the new director of the Farm Service Agency:
“MPR News: if there were more information available, would more people seek the opportunities you provide?
Deb Crusoe: I think so. Obviously, the agricultural community knows who the farm service agency is but there are a lot of metro folks and folks doing niche farming that probably don’t know we’ve got some programs that benefit them. So yes, I think with getting the word out we can reach out to those that don’t know about us.
MPR News: Why is it important to focus on niche farmers right now?
Deb Crusoe: Our soybean and other producers have become larger. More smaller farms in the metro area and also where I live in Meeker County. We don’t really sell anything. We serve the farmers of America in all aspects. We have a milk program for subsidies when the prices are low to keep those farmers in business until things balance out.”
An arrest has been made …. Paul Walsh of the Strib says:, “A man has been arrested in the torching of a western Wisconsin elementary school that caused about $1.5 million in damage and displaced hundreds of students for the rest of the school year, authorities said. The arrest of the suspect in the arson attack on St. Croix Central Elementary School was made late Thursday afternoon, two days after the fire, said Police Chief Dan Burgess. The suspect is expected to be charged and appear in court Friday, Burgess added. No other information was being revealed about the suspect.”
Where does the Pentagon get off …? Kathleen Miller of Bloomberg says: “Military families have experienced “inordinate delays” getting medical-care referrals since UnitedHealth Group Inc. took over a Pentagon health contract, a U.S. defense official said. The Minnetonka-based company last year wrested the contract, valued at as much as $20.5 billion, from TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. It assumed responsibility last month for the Western region of the military’s health care system, known as Tricare. UnitedHealth’s ‘failure’ has prevented a large number of beneficiaries in one Tricare health plan from obtaining timely access to specialty care.”
In a Strib commentary, local teacher Robert Shumer argues for a return to old-school interaction between the public and political leaders: “The recent exchange between Gov. Mark Dayton and some community members in a discussion about increases in legislative pay (‘Dayton says forum crowd in Shakopee was ‘juvenile,’ May 1) illustrates a common problem. In Minnesota and across the United States, government is continuously cited as something terrible, and members of an opposing party are fair game for insults and ridicule. … perhaps our leaders can also contribute to the improvement — first by not trying to be so folksy and ‘just like the guy/gal next door,’ in part by continually referring to themselves in a casual manner and tolerating casual references from others.” How did the court of The Sun King handle such things?
The Strib’s official PrinceWatcher, Jon Bream, alerts fans: “Prince’s spring West Coast tour of clubs and theaters will now bring him to east of the Mississippi River – to the Myth in Maplewood, for two shows on May 25. He will be performing with his backup band, 3rdEyeGirl. Tickets for the performances, at 8 and 11:30 p.m., will cost a royal $259 (about the same as his gigs out west).”
To the surprise of no one … Tim Nelson at MPR says: “The man accused of shooting and killing a 9-year-old Oakdale boy has been found incompetent to stand trial, for now. Nhan Tran will be sent to a state security hospital for treatment, and could yet face trial for the February shooting death of Devin Aryal. … A psychological examination by requested Tran’s attorney found him incompetent to stand trial in March. A psychological exam requested by prosecutors had ‘equivocal’ findings, according to Washington Co. Attorney Pete Orput. The report was filed in court this morning.”
Congressman John Kline favors a change to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Cathy Wurzer at MPR says: “Workers may be able to legally trade overtime for time off under a proposal making its way through Congress. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, which passed the Working Families Flexibility Act. The bill aims to lift the requirement from the Fair Labor Standards Act that requires most workers to be paid for overtime, rather than so-called ‘comp time.’ ‘The private sector has been frozen with this 1938 law all this time. Workplaces change, you have a lot of single moms and single dads, and this time off is very, very important to them,’ Kline said. ‘They plan vacations, they plan to spend time with their parents, they plan to spend time at the kids’ soccer game. It’s time to modernize this law.’” Or simply pay them more …
Is that pizza a little chewy …? The AP says: “Nestle Pizza Co. of Little Chute is recalling four frozen-pizza products that might be contaminated with plastic fragments.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the following products are subject to recall:
• California Pizza Kitchen Limited Edition Grilled Chicken with Cabernet Sauce.
• DiGiorno Crispy Flatbread Pizza Tuscan Style Chicken.
• DiGiorno pizzeria! Bianca/White Pizza.
• California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust White.
The USDA says one consumer reported a chipped tooth after biting into one of the California Pizza Kitchen products.”