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Metro State mess gets … messier

Crash driver’s bail set at $500,000; legislator among privacy litigants; fire-tower watcher sees a surprise; UFO alert; Alliance for Better Minnesota’s numbers conflict; Orchestra “assumptions” disputed; and more.

The faculty lounge must be fun … Frederick Melo of the PiPress reports: “The administration of Metropolitan State University said Thursday that summer instructors have been paid the past two days, nearly a week after the lump-sum payments were due. Those paychecks, some of which amounted to thousands of dollars, were issued to ‘a couple dozen individuals,’ stated a memo to faculty from President Sue Hammersmith. They’re one of several steps the university is taking to deal with a payroll crisis that erupted this month. Nevertheless, another crisis appears to be on the horizon: morale. The leadership council of the school’s Inter Faculty Organization, the collective bargaining representative for faculty at Metro State, voted on a series of demands Thursday morning. The union is considering whether to host a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Hammersmith, but that decision has not been reached.”

The driver in the police chase and crash that killed a young man in downtown Minneapolis last weekend is being held on $500,000 bail. Says Abby Simons in the Strib: “Yia Her, 34, of St. Paul, answered to two counts of fleeing police in a motor vehicle in a manner that caused death or injury before being returned to the Hennepin County jail, where he has been since his arrest in the Sept. 9 crash that killed Brody Sotona. … Her’s court-appointed attorney, Julius Nolen, did not argue for lower bail because of a request from the Department of Corrections that Her remain held indefinitely. He was on probation following a suspended one-year prison sentence for a 2012 felony third-degree assault conviction.”

Among those in that lawsuit against authorities abusing driver license records … “The Draz.” A Winona Daily News story says: “State Rep. Steve Drazkowski is one of 18 plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing employees in more than 50 Minnesota cities and counties of improperly accessing the state’s driver’s license database. … Drazkowski was not immediately available for comment. ‘These flagrant violations of law by the people we entrust with it are an abusive exercise of power,’ he said in a statement.”

The Strib’s Dennis Anderson reminisces a bit about the days of fire towers. “Today, the state’s best-known fire tower stands next to the DNR Building at the State Fair, rising atop the midway like a refurbished relic, a curio for fairgoers who frolic on it as if it were a back-yard play set. But for [Karoline] Monson and the hundreds of other lookouts who once stood guard atop these North Country perches, ever alert for budding infernos, theirs were serious jobs. ‘I did it for 15 years,’ she said. Remarkably, enveloped in a 7-foot-by-7-foot box for hours on end, Monson never was bored. Particularly not that day. ‘It was the late ’80s, and one morning I climbed the tower steps like I always did, one after another, 130 of them,’ she said. ‘When I got to the last four steps, where you open the door to get up into the tower, I laid down my equipment and prepared to climb up … . Which is when I saw the bear. I had no idea how he got up there or what he was going to do to me, but I never came down those steps so fast.’ ”

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UFO alert … Justin Glawe of the Forum papers says: “Allison Barta saw something. It was in the sky, translucent, circular, disc-like and most certainly, positively and identifiably unidentifiable. It was also an object that was flying. ‘For the moment, we were pretty dumbfounded,’ she said of her and her friend, Neil Peterson. ‘The two of us are watching it zoom across the sky, and I’m trying to get another picture of it, but I couldn’t catch it.’ The lone image she did capture, however, might be enough to whet the appetites of UFO enthusiasts, believers, identifiers, or whatever they prefer to be called. The object is … something.”

Hmmmm … Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib writes: “The Center for Responsive Politics is taking a deep dive into the information available on political non-profits, highlighting the spending, connections and reporting by the groups. Among the organizations they’ve highlighted: The Alliance for a Better Minnesota. The Alliance, which has registered nearly every flavor of political group allowing it flexibility in its fundraising and spending, popped up as a group that reported vastly different spending numbers to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission. According to the Center, the Alliance reported $3.8 million in spending to the IRS in 2008 and told the IRS that year that it spent $754,000 on politics. That same year, it reported $1.4 million in spending to the FEC. The suggestion from the Center was that the group was underreporting its spending. Asked about the Center’s numbers, Alliance executive director Carrie Lucking dismissed the notion that the numbers reported to the separate federal agencies should match.” There are, after all, administrative costs to consider …

The GleanMy people … taking yet another hit … In a Strib commentary, Sue Bulger writes about using EBT — food stamps — at an Edina supermarket. “I did not observe you, but my daughter was with me packing the groceries and saw it all: “EBT: Yeah, right,” you muttered, with that look of disgust that would have shattered someone feeling just a little bit of shame over needing food stamps. As we walked to the car, my daughter told me what had happened, and I sensed her resolve about having made the right decision to work for social justice as she starts her senior year in a social-work program. We talked about you all the way to the car, and about how sorry we felt for people who were judged because they depended on support from others. But my real apology is that I did not make eye contact with you and get out of the car to talk with you as you got into your car right next to mine. Instead, I did what many people would do: I felt ashamed and humiliated and angry about your ignorance.”

Also in the commentary section … Bruce Rridge, chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians: “In a Sept. 4 article in the Star Tribune (“Orchestra board firm in face of the risks”), Minnesota Orchestra Board Chairman Jon Campbell was quoted as saying, ‘We’re the only city supporting two professional orchestras … ‘.  Campbell’s assertion is simply and indisputably wrong. Yet, it was printed unchallenged. Minnesotans must be tired of this antagonistic conflict over one of their community’s most admired assets. And now, the Star Tribune Editorial Board has joined in (‘Verdict on orchestra: Costs are too high’), repeating management’s inaccurate rhetoric that leaves musicians and fans everywhere scratching our heads. The assumptions appear to be that the orchestra is unsustainable and fundraising unachievable. But to believe that, numerous facts must be ignored.”

Well, he gets points for not mentioning “fiscal responsibility” … Mark Zedechlik of MPR covers the latest GOP Senate candidate: “As he announced his U.S. Senate  campaign,  Monti Moreno decried energy costs and unemployment. ‘America is  still the land of the free,’ Moreno said standing before several supporters gathered at park on the west side of St. Paul. ‘It is the home of the brave and I believe a candidacy of Monti Moreno running with the Republican Party will help change America back to what the founding father’s original  intent was — restore  your freedoms, restore your liberties and not destroy our country and not destroy our jobs.’ … Moreno was much less animated than he was at the 1996 Republican state convention.  He was seeking the party endorsement to run against then U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.  Moreno took to the podium wielding a musket to emphasize his opposition to gun control. ‘You see if you can’t do it by ballot, you’ve got to do it by bullets,’ shouted Moreno. ‘Do you think these guys who wrote this Constitution and the Bill of Rights wrote it so they could go deer hunting? Do you think they did it so they could go duck hunting, man? They did it so we can take our country back.’ ” Yeah, baby! Feed ’em the red meat!