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State senator blasts fellow DFLers for role in Community Action scandal

Plus: Harteau defends her decision to skip meeting; bear researcher Lynn Rogers loses another round; Wall Street’s foray into Twin Cities residential real estate; and more.

State Sen. Barb Goodwin
State Sen. Barb Goodwin

A DFL senator is calling out Rep. Keith Ellison and other party associates for their involvement — or lack thereof — in the Community Action mess. Says Aaron Rupar at City Pages, “Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-Columbia Heights), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, says she first raised questions about Community Action’s budget back in 1997. In the wake of the recent state audit becoming news, she’s calling for the organization’s chief executive, Bill Davis, to be criminally prosecuted. … Members of Community Action’s board during the time in which funds were allegedly misappropriated included a number of prominent DFLers, including Keith Ellison, state Sen. Jeff Hayden, and Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson.”

Yeah, a two-page handout should take care of it. The Star Tribune’s Libor Jany has a piece on Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau’s press conference Wednesday. Harteau spoke amid lingering criticism for not meeting with concerned residents and then for abruptly canceling her appearance at a potentially testy gathering last week. It also came after a string of shootings left at least three people dead and 16 wounded across the city, including a triple shooting early Tuesday at a south Minneapolis gas station. Minneapolis police released a two-page handout showing the steps they have taken to reach out to the community and quell violence around the city.

Busted. Randy Furst’s Strib story says, “A drug-trafficking operation run out of a Spring Lake Park auto repair shop was busted in a series of raids Wednesday morning. In early morning raids, authorities converged with search warrants on residences in Minnesota, California and Illinois, made arrests and seized evidence. Twelve people, including six from Minnesota, have been indicted on a charge of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana in Minnesota, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger announced.”

Usually the better course of action: Tom Krisher of the AP says, “The families of two Wisconsin teenagers killed in a car crash involving a faulty General Motors ignition switch have dropped their lawsuit against the company and are seeking a settlement with the automaker. The Oct. 24, 2006, crash that killed Natasha Weigel, who was 18, and Amy Rademaker, who was 15, was among the first blamed on the faulty switches, and evidence from the crash exposed how GM and federal regulators missed clues that could have prompted a recall of the cars as early as seven years ago.”

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Strib business columnist Lee Schafer talks up the boss of the Paul Bunyan Communications co-op. The topic? A rural fiber optic internet. “One of Gary Johnson’s fears when he announced the 5,000-square-mile ‘GigaZone’ ultrahigh speed Internet service last week in Bemidji was that someone might reach the badly mistaken conclusion that it was easy to build that kind of rural broadband capability. … he’s nothing but a fan of public financing for broadband like Minnesota’s new $20 million broadband grant program. The company would take any help it could get to continue to expand Paul Bunyan’s network.” There should be more where that is coming from.

Bear researcher Lynn Rogers is no closer to getting back to work. Says Steve Karnowski for the AP: “In a decision announced Wednesday, DNR administrator Kent Lokkesmoe backed an administrative law judge who ruled in May that the state agency had the authority to refuse to renew Lynn Rogers’ permit for collaring the bears. The DNR had cited concerns about public safety and conduct by Rogers that it considered unprofessional, such as hand-feeding bears to gain their trust. The department also questioned the validity of his research.”

AG Lori Swanson is suing a Texas company selling funky car warranties. Jennifer Bjorhus of the Strib reports, “Auto warranty companies have been a perennial source of trouble for consumers, from annoying robocalls and deceptive warranties to companies collapsing and leaving policyholders on the hook. In an interview, Swanson said she thinks the improving economy is creating an opening for bad sales practices. ‘These companies really seem to be on the uptick here,’ she said.”

A second-grader. MPR’s Matt Sepic reports on today’s priest sex abuse legal action. “A Minnesota woman is speaking publicly about sexual abuse she says she suffered at the hands of one of the nation’s most notorious predator priests. Linda Carroll said the Rev. James Porter assaulted her repeatedly in 1969 and 1970 when she was a second-grader at St. Philip’s school in Bemidji. Carroll is suing the Diocese of Crookston, which employed Porter for a short time, claiming the diocese created a public nuisance. She said she hopes going public will encourage other victims to come forward. In her lawsuit, she’s known as Jane Doe 24.”

Big Gummint … when you need it. Says Peter Cox for MPR, “Farmers and ranchers in 49 Minnesota counties may qualify for low interest emergency loans because of damage from early summer storms and flooding, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.”

Interesting piece by Robbie Feinberg at City Pages on Wall St. giant Blackstone Group’s residential housing rental scheme. The story begins with a mold-ridden house in St. Paul … . “The connection between [Christine] Anderson’s landlord, Invitation Homes, and the Wall Street firm the Blackstone Group isn’t obvious. Houses are only a tiny part of the global investment firm’s business. The company invests in a little bit of everything — real estate, hotels, the Weather Channel, Sea World. Name it, and there’s a chance Blackstone’s got a stake in it. The company entered the landlord game only two years ago. Wall Street’s last foray into the housing market had left the nation strewn with abandoned and foreclosed homes. Add declining incomes and tightened credit, and people could no longer afford to buy. They wanted to rent. For Blackstone, the solution was obvious. Take all that big Wall Street cash. Buy homes in bulk. Rent them out. … It was a giant bet. In just two years, Invitation purchased nearly 45,000 homes, spending $8.7 billion from Phoenix to Chicago, Tampa to St. Paul. Twelve hundred houses have been purchased in the Twin Cities alone.”