Columnist Brad Ayers of the Stillwater Gazette talks about race relations in the St. Croix Valley. “ … I’ve struggled to understand the insipient prejudice that infects American society today. Unfortunately, I find myself living in an area where racism, bias and bigotry festers just under the socio-cultural façade. Psychologists refer to this as subliminal discrimination and its manifestations are more disturbing when one considers they have the potential of destabilizing our most fundamental democratic structures. The recent Trayvon Martin court decision in Florida and the fallout is an example. … By phone and direct contact, as discretely as possible, I engaged people from Grantsburg to Prescott in Wisconsin and from Hastings to Taylors Falls in Minnesota. I asked two questions: How do you feel about minorities in your community? What do you think of the President’s speech on race and the George Zimmerman trial in Florida, and his ‘could have been me’ observation. Predominently, even from those I consider to be the most intellectual, cosmopolitan respondents, the consensus response was:
I (we) have no problems with minorities. I (we) just don’t want them in our area.”
As to the President’s observation, ‘It should have been him (Obama) 35 years ago and we wouldn’t have the problems in America we have today.’ ”
At Watchdog.Org, Tom Steward, former WCCO-TV reporter and Norm Coleman press secretary writes, “Congratulations, Minnesota, on only misdirecting $38 million in payments last year for the exploding food stamp program, which added 51,000 to its rolls in the Gopher State. Here’s your $1.2 million bonus. Minnesota earned a $1.2 million bonus for being one of the top states in enrolling new beneficiaries. That’s the amount the state got from the U. S. Department of Agriculture for enrolling thousands more residents to the rolls, despite having a 5 percent error rate. Recently released USDA statistics show Minnesota logged one of the highest payment error rates in the country, ranking 40th for mistakes in 2012 in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. … UOM researchers looking into SNAP recipients’ nutritional intake found that “adults and children in households participating in SNAP obtained an average of 43 percent and 39 percent of their total daily calories from solid fats, alcohol, and added sugars respectively, twice that of the most generous discretionary calorie allowance in the MyPlate food guidance system.” Because of SNAP benefits?
I assume this is a good trend … . Paul Walsh of the Strib reports, “The number of inmates in state prisons across the country declined by more than 25,000 last year, with Minnesota’s incarceration rate among the nation’s lowest, according to federal statistics released Thursday. In 2012, there were an estimated 1.57 million people in state prisons, a decline of 1.7 percent (or 27,770 inmates) from 2011, according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. … In 2012, states with the highest imprisonment rates were Louisiana (893 per 100,000), Mississippi (717 per 100,000), Alabama (650 per 100,000), Oklahoma (648 per 100,000), and Texas (601 per 100,000).” No surprise there. They’re all low-tax/high opportunity states.
Army worms … . A Strib story on this week’s invasive critter says, “Armyworms are being blamed for damaging a number of central Minnesota cornfields. Glen Ritter says the corn in his 20-acre field near Avon in Stearns County should be shoulder-high by now. Instead, he says, the field is probably a total loss. … Bruce Potter of the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center has heard from observers there’s a large arc of infestation of armyworms from southeast Minnesota, through east-central and central Minnesota into North Dakota.”
“Save Dinkytown” has prevailed … for the moment. Eric Roper of the Strib says, “A proposal to replace mostly surface parking lots with a six-story, mixed-use building in the heart of Dinkytown took a major blow Thursday when a city panel voted against approval. The project has spurred a coordinated campaign to ‘Save Dinkytown’ from what some neighbors view as a threat to the small business fabric of the neighborhood. Those neighbors turned out in droves at the City Council’s zoning and planning committee meeting Thursday, holding signs and testifying against the project. In an unusual move, the committee voted 3-2 against staff recommendations to move forward with the necessary rezoning.”
Amusing story by Curt Brown in the Strib of five cross-country runners in pursuit of a sheep dog. “An eight-day canoe trip in the Boundary Waters for five guys from Minnetonka High School turned into a successful mission to rescue Tomah, the lost Shetland Sheepdog. … When they got to their island campsite on Night 5, 17-year-old Jonny Croskey said they saw a note scrawled with ash on a rock, saying ‘Lost dog, call DNR.’ It didn’t take long before they saw the pooch popping his head up here and there. They tried chasing the dog, after all they are cross-country runners. But Tomah the Shelty was skittish and fleet of paw.”
Here’s Catharine Richert at MPR on the logistical effort behind the launch of MNsure. “ … sea changes are set against the backdrop of a multi-year overhaul for the decades-old information technology system the state uses to determine clients’ eligibility for government assistance. The result is a lot more work for Minnesota’s counties, long on the front lines of assisting low-income Minnesotans. The work includes helping enroll new Medical Assistance applicants, and transferring existing data on current enrollees to the state’s new eligibility IT system. To handle the extra responsibilities, most counties are in the midst of a hiring frenzy, competing with each other for a small pool of qualified workers. To some degree, MNsure is intended to lighten the counties’ work load because Medical Assistance applicants can enroll in the program through the website without extra help.”
I’m kind of losing track of the number of appeals here … . Mary Lynn Smith of the Strib says, “In another attempt to overturn Amy Senser’s felony criminal vehicular homicide convictions, her attorney is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to consider her case. Defense attorney Eric Nelson has petitioned the state’s highest court a month after the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld Senser’s convictions. … Nelson takes issue with the district court’s decision not to allow a note from the jury to be read in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. The jury’s handwritten note asks: ‘Can this be read in the courtroom in front of Ms. Senser? We believe, she believed she hit a car or vehicle and not a person.’ Nelson also has argued the jury should have been allowed to hear evidence that Phanthavong had a high level of cocaine in his system when he was killed.” In Florida, Senser would be the plaintiff and Phanthavong the defendant.
The AP has a story up on the condition of state GOP organizations around the country. Brian Bakst contributed. “Plagued by infighting and deep ideological divisions, state Republican parties from Alaska to Maine are mired in dysfunction. Several state Republican leaders have been forced out or resigned in recent months, and many state GOP parties face financial problems and skeptical national leaders. … In Minnesota, Republicans have been salivating to unseat two Democratic incumbents, Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken. But Republicans there are at their weakest political point in more than 30 years. They hold no major offices, are in the minority of both legislative chambers and haven’t won a statewide election since Tim Pawlenty secured a second term as governor in 2006. Their candidate for Senate in 2012 mustered a bare 30 percent of the vote. The Minnesota GOP has endured leadership shake-ups. Strife between old-guard members and Paul adherents lingers. And the GOP is struggling to get out from under a mountain of debt.” So if they just tweak their messaging they should be fine.