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Dayton announces $300 million in highway construction

Archdiocese hires consulting firm for review; Kline worried about health-care burden on schools; popularity crashes Give to the Max Day site; Orchestra financing; and more.

When it comes to highways, $300 million doesn’t go all that far. Pat Doyle of the Strib says: “Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday announced plans for spending up to $300 million on 10 state highway projects targeted to remove congestion and improve commerce. The money comes from special borrowing approved by the Legislature last session for removing bottlenecks and paying for other new highway construction. … The projects targeted Thursday include eight in outstate Minnesota and two in the Twin Cities. Work will begin next summer. The biggest involves a new freeway connection on Hwy. 610 between Hwy. 81 and Interstate 94, costing more than $100 million.” MinnPost coverage here.

In an unusual move … Tom Scheck at MPR says: “The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has hired a Los Angeles-based consulting firm to review the personnel files of all its priests, as part of the church’s approach to dealing with allegations of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct.The archdiocese on Thursday said it hired Kinsale Management Consulting to conduct a review of the priest files. The firm was founded by Kathleen McChesney, a former top FBI official and former head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Child and Youth Protection.  … ‘Their expertise and leadership in addressing the problem of abuse of minors will ensure that Kinsale’s review of our clergy files will be objective and thorough,’ Archbishop John Nienstedt said in a prepared statement. ‘With the benefit of this level o’f review, we will proceed confidently with ongoing disclosure.’ ” I believe more reassuring words have been spoken.

Congressman John Kline is concerned about the burdensome effect of Obamacare on … schools. Kevin Diaz of the Strib says: “While President Obama was tweaking the Affordable Care Act Thursday to extend expiring insurance policies for another year, U.S. Rep. John Kline was holding a hearing in his Education and Workforce Committee to explore another potential pitfall of the law. In a new challenge to the health care overhaul, the Minnesota Republican has been highlighting the financial burden that it could impose on school districts and colleges that have to comply with the federal mandate to provide coverage for their employees. … Kline argues that the law’s employer mandate could hurt the educational system at all levels. ‘Americans continue to express their concerns about Obamacare and the troubling impact it is having on their lives,’ Kline said in the lead-up to the hearing.”  I suppose turning public schools into for-profits wouldn’t help, would it?

And while we’re blaming Obama … . Jean Hopfensperger of the Strib says: “Tens of thousands of donors responded to Give to the Max Day in Minnesota, raising more than $9 million by noon and crashing the website Thursday afternoon. … As dinner hour neared, many nonprofits were rolling out a Plan B. Youth Performance Company, the Animal Humane Society and Teenwise Minnesota were among those that notified supporters that they could also donate to them directly on their web site. ‘Don’t let the technical problems at GiveMN get you down!’ the Animal Humane Society told its followers. … The $9 million that had been raised by noon climbed steadily after the website came back up [about 6 p.m.], reaching $15.8 million before 11 p.m. And it was still climbing.” Friday’s early-morning tally: 52,371 donors, $17,145,280.

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At TechdotMN, Jeff Pesek writes: “A quick analysis of $9m raised by 30k+ donors after 15 hours (pre-crash estimates) would equate to $10k from 35 unique transactions every minute.  With downtime currently at around 45 minutes, there’s cumulative opportunity loss of ~$500k so far in potential donations, approaching $600k/hr. .”

The GleanNicky Carpenter of the Orchestra negotiating committee (board side) writes in a Strib commentary: “Make no mistake: Our community is generous toward the orchestra. Our fundraising brings in $12 million annually, the most for any arts organization in the region. And in a recent race against the clock to issue a new contract offer to musicians before our music director resigned, we received additional one-time funding from Minnesota foundations that made it possible to offer a $20,000 signing bonus for musicians. But even with levels of generosity this high, we are millions of dollars shy of matching Los Angeles salaries. If our community cannot afford to live by the economic standards set by L.A. or New York — and numerous reviews of Minnesota Orchestra finances have proved this to be true — what options remain for us? Must we continue to cleave the organization apart? Or settle for “second rate”?

Someone get Tony Cornish up to Pine County … Jenna Ross of the Strib says: “A homeowner shot and killed an armed man who allegedly broke into his house west of Sandstone, Minn., early Thursday morning, the Pine County Sheriff’s Office reported. Gypsy Watts, 23, was killed after entering the house of the man, in his late 70s, whom officials have not yet named. … Deputies were called to the house on Fox Road at 2:30 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office. The homeowner said that two men — at least one of whom had a gun — entered his house and confronted him. The homeowner got his own gun and shot the armed suspect who died at the scene. The second man fled.”

Been a while since you got a 4.2 percent raise? Dave Shaffer of the Strib says: “Rates will increase 4.2 percent in January for customers of Minnesota’s third-largest natural gas utility, which serves many Twin Cities suburbs, Duluth, Rochester and other cities. The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday approved the interim increase for most of the 214,000 customers of Minnesota Energy Resources Corp., based in Rosemount, as the company’s request for a $14 million, or 5.5 percent, permanent increase in revenue is reviewed. The higher interim rates will cost a typical customer $3.35 per month, or $40.21 a year. If regulators later set a lower permanent rate increase, customers would get refunds with interest.”

Anyone have a “Keep Calm and Carry On” refrigerator magnet to lend out? MPR’s Brett Neely reports: “Reporters in the U.S. Capitol are good at smelling fear. For the past two days, they’ve been hunting down Democrats who may face tough re-election challenges next year to find out whether they’re breaking from their party on the insurance issue. That’s why U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents Minnesota’s 8th District, found himself surrounded by pack of a dozen reporters this afternoon, getting peppered with questions about whether he ever expected President Barack Obama’s now-infamous promise that people would be able to keep their health care plans would come back to haunt him. … Nolan, whose district the president narrowly won last year, could be one of the lawmakers in jeopardy. That could explain why Nolan was vague about whether he’ll vote Friday for a Republican bill that will allow insurance companies to keep selling policies don’t meet Affordable Care Act standards.”