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Vänskä’s office romance makes the New York Times

Fouling our depleted groundwater; roads aren’t cheap; freeing RCV; ‘Maiden’ victim speaks out; and more.

MinnPost photo by John Whiting

Talk about your Late Romantics … . It took an out-of-towner — the New York Times — to inform us that newly re-signed Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vänskä was romantically involved with concertmaster Erin Keefe. Vänskä acknowledges the relationship may have fueled management’s initial reluctance to bring him back. “There may be board members who take it as my being on the players’ side. And I’m guessing, but maybe that’s the reason they don’t want to give me any power,” Vänskä muses. Keefe is now one of the players angling to get out of town; Vänskä says he’ll recuse himself from decisions involving her fate.

Fouling our depleted groundwater … . Josephine Marcotty of the Strib writes, “Four-fifths of the cropland that butts up against the streams and rivers of southern Minnesota is missing at least some of the legally required natural borders that are the first step in safeguarding waters that flow to the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin and eventually the Gulf of Mexico, according to the first detailed mapping of the region’s rivers.”

Elsewhere in water world, MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar notes, “The [3M] site is one of more than two dozen places in the Twin Cities metro area where groundwater is being pumped and treated to contain pollution. All told, this adds up to 4 billion gallons of water every year in a region where concern is rising about the long-term availability and use of groundwater. In the north and east metro in particular, where the state is trying a new approach to groundwater use, pollution containment accounts for more than 10 percent of all groundwater being pumped, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.”

Assessments … they biteMaya Rao of the Strib files a piece on what southwest Minneapolis homeowners and businesses are paying for street repair. “Special assessments for roadwork have surged in Minneapolis over the last three years, jumping 50 percent to $11.7 million in 2013. About half that came from the southwest, where residents have long complained about high taxes.” Higher costs stem from paving more roads, though with less-than-full rebuilds.

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The Strib wants the legislature to let willing local governments use Ranked Choice Voting. Noting the Senate won’t hear a municipal-consent bill, the paper editorializes: “RCV is going to look better and better to Minnesotans who worry about too little participation and too much polarization in their state and local democracy. The Legislature should give municipalities the freedom to try RCV — and the guidance to do it well.” runs a long piece by Kehla Backman titled “The More You Commit, the More the Leader Loves You” about — you guessed it — her experience with Victor Barnard, the “Maidens” guru. “Victor’s rise to power was gradual and methodical, starting at those group picnics and continuing long-distance even before he moved to Rush City. That’s the thing about cults, and about predators. There’s a slow but constant grooming. You don’t really realize how drastically things have changed, so it feels normal. … The more you commit to it the more Jesus loves you. The more Victor loves you. Victor became just as much of a focus as God and Jesus.”

Did you catch the Washington Post map of states and their average level of college grad debt? It’s kind of stunning. Short story: Minnesota grads are carrying more than 46 other states.

North Dakota’s cutting in our drone boom … . According to the AP, “[E]xperts say North Dakota is well-positioned to take advantage of … a first-of-its-kind academic program, an established military presence, a financial commitment and favorable airspace conditions.” Translation? “Empty.”

They have decided to live by a different code over in “It’s Working”-land. Taylor Anderson of the AP writes, “Wisconsin may soon be in a minority of states that don’t allow voters to register online. The state, long considered a model for its high voter turnout and election administration, seems stubbornly old-fashioned as it sticks to paper registration while others move to online systems that are simpler, cheaper and less prone to errors, elections experts told lawmakers recently. Legislators from both parties have expressed interest in online registration, but progress has been stymied by a longstanding fight over same-day voter registration and other party divisions.” The GOP is concerned with … voter fraud.

Every so often a first kiss is a winner … . Mary Ann Grossman of the PiPress reports, “Kristal Leebrick’s poem ‘New Year Love,’ inspired by her first kiss in junior high school, has won Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books second poetry contest. … ‘I certainly didn’t see this coming,’ said Leebrick, who was vacationing in Florida when Keillor left a phone message telling her she’d won the $1,000 prize.” Where I went to school, first kisses were a venial sin. Second kisses were mortal.