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Ex-GOP chairman Tony Sutton, $2.1 million in debt, files for bankruptcy

Cold Spring murder questions remain; rural manufacturing going strong; special session Monday; senior hunger rate among lowest; Million-Dollar Idea Day; Nicollet Mall makeover; Shelby and Barnard together; and more.

Where do you even begin …? Baird Helgeson of the Strib says: “A hard-charging former state Republican Party chairman whose constant refrain to DFLers and even GOP lawmakers was “live within your means” has declared personal bankruptcy, the latest twist in one of the most dramatic political downfalls in recent state history. At the height of his power, Tony Sutton demanded that Republican legislators oppose all tax increases and keep state spending strictly in line with revenue. Few realized it at the time, but the GOP’s finances under Sutton’s management were a shambles, and the same scenario was playing out in his personal life. Sutton and his wife, Bridget Sutton, … say they owe $2.1 million, including $70,000 of credit card debt, $20,000 in federal student loans, unpaid state and federal taxes, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in unsecured personal loans to cover business expenses. At the time they filed, the Suttons had no life or health insurance.”

What are the two main questions still lingering in the murder of Cold Spring police officer, Tom Decker? David Unze of the St. Cloud Times writes: “Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner last week discussed the investigation into the shooting death of Cold Spring-Richmond Police Officer Tom Decker. … He stressed that investigators still want help answering two key questions: Did the person who killed Decker act alone, and what was the motive behind the killing? …
Q: Do you have any witnesses that put [Eric Thomes, who hung himself] at the bar that night?
A: I can’t talk about that. The specifics of the case I have to avoid because it’s still an open and active case and we’re still trying to preserve the potential prosecution down the road. That remains a constant theme in these types of cases.”

There’s good news in rural manufacturing. At the Strib, Neal St. Anthony writes: “Minnesota manufacturing jobs declined by 22 percent — from 395,519 jobs in 2000 to 305,585 jobs at the end of last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. And while Minnesota has recovered the jobs lost since the Great Recession in 2008-09, manufacturing jobs remain significantly below their pre-recession levels. That said, rural Minnesota — and particularly nine west-central counties — boast a fast-growing cluster of about 30 manufacturers of at least 100 employees that are benefiting from a well-trained workforce, competitive wages and an efficient transportation network. ‘In west-central Minnesota, we are back to pre-recession manufacturing employment,’ said Brad Finstad, executive director of the Center for Rural Policy and Development.”

In the opinion of the Strib … “Today’s special session of the ­Minnesota Legislature isn’t expected to live up to its name. There won’t be much that’s special about it. Convening the recessed Legislature for one day to send taxpayers’ dollars to stricken communities has become Minnesota’s standard response to natural disasters. This session would benefit from a longer agenda. Lawmakers would do well to take up the repeal of at least two problematic new applications of the sales tax, to farm machinery repairs and third-party warehouse services. Both of those sales taxes carry a high risk of pushing business activity out of Minnesota to other states.”

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For the AP, Patrick Condon says: “Special sessions aren’t that expensive. Monday’s cost for taxpayers is pegged at about $33,000 in mileage reimbursements and per diem payments to lawmakers. But [DFL: Rep. Gene] Pelowski pointed out that they frequently provoke political games by lawmakers looking to spotlight pet issues. ‘We’ve got people talking about the minimum wage, we’ve got people talking about repealing taxes,’ Pelowski said. ‘Special sessions should be narrowly focused and they should be infrequent, but we know that a lot of lawmakers can’t help themselves.’

The GleanWhile any number above zero is bad, Minnesota’s rate of seniors suffering from hunger is among the lowest in the country. For MPR, Julie Siple says: “A new report says Minnesota has the second-lowest rate of senior hunger in the nation. The report found that 8.6 percent of Minnesota seniors faced the threat of hunger in 2011, compared to the national average of 15 percent. Minnesota seniors have several characteristics that reduce the chances they’ll be unable to afford enough food, said James Ziliak, economics professor at the University of Kentucky and co-author of the study. ‘On average, seniors in Minnesota tend to have higher incomes. They’re more likely to be married. They’re more likely to be white. They’re more likely to have higher education,’ Ziliak said. ‘These factors all add up to reducing the risk of food insecurity among older Americans in the state of Minnesota.’ “

Today is the day the winner of the $1 million idea for St. Paul will be announced. Also at MPR, Rupa Chenoy reports: “Of nearly a thousand ideas submitted, Minnesotans voted on three finalist proposals selected by a group of judges. One proposal is to build studios for young artists on the Mississippi River as part of a Center for Creative Arts. Another proposes a food hub and event center in a vacant building in the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. The third finalist suggests recycling abandoned railroad cars and placing them on public right-of-ways as spaces for artists. Two of the ideas come from employees of the city of St. Paul. The third finalist is a small business owner.” I thought the idea of turning the whole place into a domed e-pulltab casino had some merit.

Similarly … Janet Moore of the Strib writes: “To remedy the [Nicollet] mall’s physical ills and craft a broad strategy for the boulevard — from Grant Street to Washington Av. — the city sponsored an architectural design competition, and preliminary results are in. Twenty-one design teams submitted proposals, and three emerged as finalists whose proposals will be presented to the public at 5 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Guthrie Theater. The Minneapolis City Council ultimately will make the choice, triggering a dialogue between the winning team and the public. … the ideas and images generated in the contest will help champion [Mayor Rybak’s] cause at the Capitol. The renderings do provide an interesting, if preliminary, peek at ideas for the 12-block strip. All appear to embrace more trees and landscaping, as well as additional pockets of pedestrian seating.”

Remember the billboards with Don Shelby and Pat Miles that said something coy, like “Don and Pat … together tonight”? The latest variation is “Don and Tom … together whenever you want them.” At the Strib, Neal Justin  reports: “[S]tarting Monday, he’ll expand his on-air workload to more than seven hours a day, including an unusual arrangement with 105 FM/The Ticket, an all-sports station that’s calling on some heavy hitters to get attention in a crowded field. ‘I’ve got a lot to say’, said Barnard, who in addition to his primary job hosting KQRS’ ‘Morning Show’, will stretch his weekday podcast from one hour to three with former WCCO anchor Don Shelby as his sidekick. The final hour of that program will be simulcast from 6 to 7 p.m. on the Ticket, which launched its sports format in April. Barnard said he won’t get additional money for his contribution to 105 FM, but the gig will give him a chance to promote his podcast, as well as the KQ show, to a younger audience. ‘It’s good exposure for the station and it’s good exposure for me.’ ” Both those cheeky kids need some exposure …