Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


UnitedHealth’s Optum group pleads innocent in Obamacare mess

GOP insiders’ straw poll; major wind project dumped; organ-donor registrants rise; mining-lease decision due; St. Paul’s only mayoral debate; and more.

Really, it was their fault … Says Stribber Jim Spencer: “A UnitedHealth Group Inc. subsidiary accepted partial blame Thursday for the poor initial performance of the website designed to sign up millions of Americans for insurance under the federal health care overhaul. But an officer of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth’s Optum unit said at a congressional hearing that the company fixed its problems quickly and also warned the government about computer coding problems by other contractors.”

You just know this will be good … Tim Pugmire at MPR says: “Republicans hoping to challenge Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014 are about to find out how they stack up in the eyes of party insiders. GOP delegates will meet Saturday to vote their early preferences for governor and U.S. Senate in a non-binding straw poll. The poll is imperfect — many past winners did not end up as the party nominee. GOP leaders, though, still see it as an important test for candidates and their messages.” I got money on the write-in campaign for Mike Parry. You can check out Cyndy Brucato’s MinnPost take here.

Today is a bad day for wind … Brad Boese of the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports: “After years of planning and preliminary development, a second ambitious wind project in southeastern Minnesota has come to an unceremonious end. The High Country Energy wind project developed by National Wind, a subsidiary of India-based Trishe Renewable Energy Solutions, sent a letter dated Oct. 3 to local landowners and investors notifying them that the $500 million project had been terminated. That information was confirmed Thursday by National Wind Director of Communications Joe Jennings, who declined a request for additional information.”

You can have ’em when I’m done … Paul Walsh of the Strib says: “The number of Minnesotans willing to be organ donors is rising sharply, state officials said Thursday. People designating themselves as registered donors on driver’s licenses or state ID cards have increased by 13 percent in three years to 2.6 million, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Nearly 63 percent of Minnesotans are registered as organ, eye and tissue donors, compared with 45 percent nationally, the agency added.” Just wondering … do Wisconsin livers come with a warning label?

Article continues after advertisement

There will be a decision today on those mineral mining leases up north. Elizabeth Dunbar of MPR says: “The state’s top elected officials will decide Friday whether to grant mineral leases to several companies who want to explore for metals mining in parts of northern Minnesota. The mineral leases are auctioned off periodically to companies interested in discovering minerals like copper, nickel or gold. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held an auction for these leases a year ago, but the state’s Executive Council decided not to sign off on them because of a court challenge. A group of landowners had wanted the state to study the environmental impacts of the sales. The state Court of Appeals ruled last month that the sales did not require environmental review.”

Just in time for snowplows … Mary Divine of the PiPress writes: “One of the most visible parts of the approach work for the new St. Croix River bridge is scheduled to open to traffic Monday morning. The big switch to new stretches of Minnesota 36 and Minnesota 95 will happen between 6 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday, weather permitting. Motorists heading east on Minnesota 36, now detoured to a previous westbound lane, will move to a newly built road, and a ramp from Minnesota 36 to the new Minnesota 95 will open. … The new westbound lanes of Minnesota 36 will be completed next year.”

The GleanIf only the Tea Party caucus were this entertaining … City Pages’ Aaron Rupar follows last night’s mayoral candidate debate in St. Paul and writes: “The city’s first and only mayoral forum was more akin to a comedy routine than a serious debate. … Here’s a transcript of an exchange Coleman had with perennial mayoral candidate Sharon Anderson at one point during last night’s debate:
ANDERSON: St. Paul and Minneapolis are like Sodom and Gomorrah as far as I’m concerned. Really. And I’m a straight person, I’m just so upset over a lot of different things. I’m gearing up to run for attorney general again, you know.
COLEMAN: Sharon, it’s just a typical politician — you haven’t even gotten elected mayor and you’re already running for attorney general. [Laughter from the audience and Anderson]

Anderson then volunteered some biographical details before offering up her unique solution to the problem of school shootings and her opinion on “Cyley Mirus”:
ANDERSON: I’m a product of St. Paul Central High School. I’m not going to tell you when I graduated — well, in 1956. I’m 74 and a half. How did I get here and how did I get so old so fast?! These shootings in the schools! Let the principal — or, let the school teachers have a gun. Or let ’em have a camera, which is a gun stronger than whatever. And the other is bubble wrap. [She holds up some bubble wrap] This is therapy for kids! You know, for me too, I’m good on the computer with PDF files. I’m the wrecking ball — I’m not Cyley Mirus — but I’m the wrecking ball of Coleman’s demolitions. I think [Miley would] be more beautiful if she had more clothes on. [Laughter from everyone] Anyhow…. but I gotta stop.”

At least she knows when to stop.

 We’re No. 10! In the Strib, Jon Bream writes: “The website has come up with a ranking of the 50 states “based on their contribution to popular music.” For each state, lists “artists born there” and “bands formed there.” Minnesota is ranked No. 10, with New York first, California second, Louisiana third, Georgia fourth and Tennessee fifth. You can debate all you want about the order. In fact, Dave Bry of — one of three guys who helped compile the list and alerted me to it — suggested he might rank Minnesota higher himself. But what you can’t debate is the inadequate research of the staff. Here is whom cites in their Minnesota write-up: Artists Who Were Born There:  Bob Dylan, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Paul Westerberg, Prince, Slug. Bands Formed There: Atmosphere, Eyedea & Abilities, Hüsker Dü, Low, Information Society, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, The Time, Vanity 6. That’s all. Really”?

Also, (just because I’m a big fan), colleague Chris Riemenschneider says: “Once an arena band, always an arena band? Kings of Leon seems to think so. The familial Tennessee rockers will return March 6 to Target Center, the second-to-last date on the first leg of their 2014 U.S. tour announced today. Tickets go on sale Nov. 2 at 10 a.m.”