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Blame game over property taxes picks up steam in state

Universities’ budget-minded priorities; “achievement gap” in home ownership, too; tough times in small-town nursing homes; another Viking tangles with cops; Abu Dhabi video trouble; and more.

It’s Pavlovian … The AP reports: “Even before Minnesota property tax levies are locked in, the effort to assign political meaning to the bills awaiting homeowners and others is in full swing. Minnesota Democrats, who predicted a drop in property taxes, are left to explain why that didn’t happen in most places. Legislative Republicans say they’ll remind voters of their rivals’ promise in the next election. Preliminary data shows the likelihood of more tax levy increases than cuts despite the state providing tens of millions of dollars in aid to local governments under the guise it would hold down taxes. While still subject to change, 93 cities are on course to lower property taxes, 223 are holding steady and 537 are planning increases. Out of 87 counties, only seven planned reductions, 13 planned no change and 67 were looking at increases.”

Interesting piece by Rebecca Schuman in Slate on the budget-minded priorities of a couple of universities, including Minnesota State U at Moorhead: “If you’re planning to attend either Minnesota State University Moorhead or the University of the District of Columbia, best get in your Romeo and Juliet now — and while you’re at it, you should probably learn the formulas for velocity and momentum, and study up on the Spanish-American War. Because soon, these regional public universities may have no departments of English, physics, or history — nor a host of other programs often associated with ‘college,’ including political science (MSUM), philosophy (MSUM), computer science (MSUM), and even economics (UDC). … Nobody seems to notice that the structure of today’s higher-ed ‘business’ model is backwards: It’s far easier to cut academics than it is to cut anything else, so that’s what universities are doing.” But as long as “Hedge Funding” and “Super-sizing” are still offered …

Another sort of “achievement gap” … Jon Collins and Tom Crann at MPR write: “Although Minnesota leads the nation in rates of home ownership, a recent report found that people of color are much less likely to own houses than whites. The report from the Minnesota Homeownership Center found that whites own homes at a rate of 77 percent, while non-whites have a rate of just 38 percent. That gap in home ownership is among the worst in the nation. … Minnesota’s non-white population is on average younger than the white population, which Nelson said could help close the home ownership disparity gap because people tend to buy houses as they grow older.”

In a related story, Dan Olson tells the tale of Minnesota homeowners gamed out of their homes by big lenders: “Then one day in 2007, without warning Burns received a letter from JPMorgan Chase notifying her that she was six months behind on her mortgage payments and that the bank was taking her house. Burns said the bank was wrong; she was up to date on her payments. ‘I sent them a letter and the details of our payments to them, and they still foreclosed,’ she said. An attorney who works for a housing non-profit helped Burns sue JPMorgan Chase. She won a $20,000 cash settlement. Still, she lost her home and her family had to move, as have more than 150,000 other Minnesotans.” I’m sure she’ll see a check out of that big JPMorgan Chase settlement.

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The GleanAlso at MPR, another housing-related story. Jennifer Vogel reports on tough times for nursing homes in very small towns: “Since the announcement in early October that this facility would close because of financial troubles and the inability to hire enough staff, the Hoffman nursing home had been losing residents one by one as they found beds in other towns. Many of the 55 full-time, part-time and on-call people who worked here have also moved on. … It wasn’t cruelty that closed the Hoffman nursing home, though, but untenable financial circumstances. The facility, originally built in the 1960s and purchased by Sioux Falls-based Good Samaritan in 1993, had a capacity for 54 residents, or 33 with more private rooms. But because administrator Bill Brewer couldn’t draw enough staff, despite spending thousands of dollars on advertising, he couldn’t fill the home to capacity. … The facility was on track to lose more than $400,000 this year.”

Another day, another interaction between the attorney general and a for-profit college … this one a settlement. Alex Friedrich at MPR reports: “Attorney General Lori Swanson and Herzing University, a for-profit college based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, entered into a settlement today arising out of Herzing’s lack of accreditation for its two-year medical assistant associate degree program in Minnesota, which impacts the ability of students to obtain the Certified Medical Assistant certification, which is preferred by many employers. … The settlement offers four options to students who enrolled in the unaccredited two-year medical assisting degree program at Herzing:
• Forfeit their credits and receive a full refund of all tuition and living expenses;
• Enroll at another institution and receive a full refund of all tuition and corresponding living expenses for all credits that do not transfer;
• Receive a $7,500 credit and continue their studies at Herzing and obtain the credentials needed to sit for the CMA exam (at no additional cost);
• Choose none of these options and pursue any other private remedy on their own.”

Another day and another Viking tangling with the cops … The Strib’s Rochelle Olson says: “Minnesota Vikings Erin Henderson has filed a petition in Hennepin County District Court challenging the revocation of his driver’s license because of a DWI arrest in Eden Prairie a week ago. No criminal charges have been filed against Henderson and he was not booked into the jail after he was stopped at 3:19 a.m. on Nov. 19 in Eden Prairie. After the stop by Eden Prairie police, Henderson took a breath test that showed a blood-alcohol level of .11 percent, above the legal threshold of 0.08 percent. In a statement, Eden Prairie police said Henderson was stopped for possible drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance.” Do all those guys need a Sober Cab card?

Do Abu Dhabi and a “sense of humor” go together? The Strib’s Corey Mitchell reports: “A University of Minnesota graduate from Woodbury has been detained in a maximum-security prison in Abu Dhabi since June after posting a YouTube video that the United Arab Emirates claims violates its federal cyber crimes law and poses a threat to national security there. Family members of Shezanne ‘Shez’ Cassim, 29, say the 19-minute video, ‘Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa G’s,’ was intended as a spoof on youth culture in Dubai, where he has lived and worked since graduating from the U in 2006. … Cassim produced and uploaded the video in October 2012 with a disclaimer that read, ‘The video is fictional and no offence [sic] was intended to the United Arab Emirates or to the people of Satwa.’ Al Satwa is a popular dining and shopping area in Dubai.”

Her … again. The AP reports: “The Minnesota Supreme Court has suspended the license of an attorney who made anti-Catholic slurs against judges and others in legal filings. The court’s ruling Wednesday against Hastings attorney Rebekah Nett leaves her indefinitely suspended with the right to petition for reinstatement after nine months. Nett has frequently represented a Wisconsin religious group, the Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Technology Inc. In 2011, Nett filed documents in a bankruptcy proceeding in which she called U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher a ‘Catholic Knight Witch Hunter’ and a ‘black-robed bigot.’ She also suggested a Vatican conspiracy to destroy her clients. Nett has previously been sanctioned by state and federal courts in Wisconsin.” So no archdiocese cases for her, I guess.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.