Greater Minnesota leaders urge Legislature to act on key issues

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach

What exactly do they mean by “do something”? Like breathing and occupying space? Stribber Maya Rao says, “Leaders of cities from around Minnesota launched a lobbying blitz at the State Capitol on Wednesday as legislators struggled for a breakthrough on major sticking points in the final two weeks of the session. City officials met with legislators. They held a news conference. They gave out 350 vanilla sundae cones, ice cream sandwiches, and strawberry ice cream bars. ‘The fact is, we really have a chance to make this a do-something session … instead of all the talk about a do-nothing session,’ Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski said.”

Also, Don Davis of the Forum News Service says this about the progress — or lack thereof — on transportation this session. “The key to finishing the 2016 Minnesota legislative session remains short of the ignition switch. Legislative leaders say the key to wrapping up all major issues before the constitutional May 23 adjournment date is figuring out how to infuse new money into transportation. Negotiators met Wednesday, adjourning after an hour with no sign they are ready to wrap up transportation issues. … Republicans propose spending about $30 million a year from general tax funds for transportation each year, taking money away from other unspecified state programs.”

Real ID: Brian Bakst of MPR says, “Legislation to bring Minnesota in line with new federal driver’s license security standards is primed for a vote in the state Senate Thursday, although lawmakers remain squeamish about asking Minnesotans to shoulder the cost. … it means anyone who gets a standard card between October and the Real ID rollout would have to go back to the renewal counter sooner. As it now stands, people in that position would do so at personal expense. Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said he suspects that won’t go over well.”

Speaking of fees, you just know someone at Delta is spitballing the idea of charging us $25 to move up in the TSA security lines. Kristen Leigh Painter and Janet Moore at the Strib say, “The largest airline at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is so worried about long lines at security checkpoints that it has offered up workers at no cost to the federal government. Delta is willing to assign some staffers at its major hubs to help the U.S. Transportation Security Administration fulfill any airport tasks that don’t require a badged agent in an effort to shorten lines, the airline’s chief executive Ed Bastian says. The offer from Delta Air Lines comes as airlines and airports fear that long lines seen earlier this year will return with rising passenger volumes during the summer months.” Or how about selling $5 cans of Coke to people waiting in line?

Strib business columnist Lee Schafer calls it like he (and everyone else) sees it with regard to the Pioneer Press. “The hedge fund that controls the Pioneer Press has apparently decided on one of the time-honored strategies to make money in a declining business. It’s called simply ‘harvest.’ It’s a business term that probably doesn’t need much further explanation. Selling off assets like real estate and cutting staff across the board are signs that the harvest is underway. At the Pioneer Press one indicator of what’s happening is that there are just 74 union jobs in the newsroom after the latest cutback, according to the Newspaper Guild, down from 400 in late 2006. … One nagging question is why another option didn’t get tried here in the Twin Cities, one the authors of the old Harvard endgame strategy study called simply ‘niche.’ This is similar to the leadership strategy, with a willingness to spend some money on service, marketing and product development, but to serve a far smaller targeted market where the most profitable customers remain.”

Opium? Say Stribbers Chao Xiong and Tim Harlow, “Three Twin Cities women were intercepted Tuesday at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, allegedly carrying more than $3 million worth of heroin and opium concealed in bags of tea leaves. The women and drugs were believed to be on their way to Minnesota, said Kent Bailey, head of the Minneapolis Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office. ‘We do have opium coming in here on a regular basis,’ he said, adding that Chicago is a common stopover.”

Airborne knuckleheads. Says the AP: “Crews working by air to fight wildfires in northern Minnesota are being interrupted by intrusions into restricted airspace. The Minnesota Incident Command System says aerial firefighting operations were temporarily ceased in recent days because a private plane intruded into the airspace and a second time because an unmanned aircraft system, or drone, entered the firefighting zone.”

On the matter of the U of M’s new Athletics Director Mark Coyle and the high (and frequent) flying basketball coach Richard Pitino, John Shipley in the PiPress says, “The University of Minnesota has finally hired an athletics director, but we’re not done with Norwood Teague quite yet. The first order of business for Mark Coyle will be to hold his nose and trigger a buyout on Richard Pitino’s contract that currently sits at $5.7 million. Gophers fans can thank Teague for that parting gift. It’s one final kick in the shins from Coyle’s predecessor, who resigned in disgrace after drunkenly harassing two peers on a senior leadership retreat last July. It wasn’t enough for Teague to fire reasonably successful Tubby Smith and replace him with a cipher; just before sneaking out the back door, he raised Pitino’s salary by $400,000 a year and extended his deal through 2021.”

Shanghai has nothing on St. Paul. Says Andy Rathbun, “The city of St. Paul has surpassed the 300,000 mark for the first time since the 1970s, according to population estimates from the Metropolitan Council released Wednesday. The city’s new estimated population is 300,353, which is a 5.4 percent increase from 2010 to 2015, and it ranks among the metro cities that attracted the most new residents over that period.”

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/12/2016 - 08:29 am.

    And speaking of holding one’s nose

    …how many academic department chairs at the U have a “base salary” north of $800,000?

    In the ‘Strib photo in the sports section this morning, Mr. Coyle’s family looks quite happy, and who wouldn’t be, when husband/dad has landed a sports office job that will pay him twice the salary of the President of the United States?

    It’s a sign of the corruption of not just the U, which is corrupt enough, but of university systems across the country, that coaches are paid multiples of the salary of tenured professors for overseeing (in Pitino’s case that would be “allegedly overseeing”) activity that in any other context would be correctly labeled as “children’s games.” Does the U’s “mission statement” (my impression is that all universities must now have a “brand” and a “mission statement” to prove their “marketability”) include a commitment of some sort to produce “quality,” or perhaps they would more accurately be called “semi-professional,” athletes?

    I still remember when the quality of a college or university was largely determined by the quality of its academic programs, and the athletic activities of its students were mostly seen as recreational, and certainly secondary to the mission – if such a word was used – of academic and intellectual preparation for more-than-ordinary contributions to society as adults. Silly me. One more of several ways I can tell I’m old.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/12/2016 - 10:55 am.

      Teague’s parting gift

      And how about that raise and golden parachute for Pitino before Teague left? Was he able to unilaterally do that without seeking any additional approval?

      In most big companies, those kinds of decisions have to be signed off on by at least next level management – often more. Is there no oversight of that kind in the athletics departments at the U?

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/12/2016 - 11:41 am.


      I recently finished reading a book by former NYT columnist Joe Nocera, titled “Indentured:The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA”. I’d read some of Nocera’s columns excoriating the NCAA and its corruption but I had no idea how rotten and corrupt this organization was until I read this. Nocera explains how the NCAA and its 60 year campaign to preserve the “student athlete” principle in college sports brought about the commercialization of college athletics in general, high price coaches, and in general the exploitation of the athlete by everyone except the athletes themselves who are treated as indentured servants or slaves. Nocera also chronicles the history of the big broadcasting deals, the “March Madness”, Big ten Football championship and the creation of entities like ESPN.

      It strikes me that sports economics and politics are a useful lens to examine our entire rotten political culture. For example, how is it that networks pay billions to acquire broadcasting rights and licensing rights to use college names and logos, and then turn around and exact billions for political ads that serve no useful purpose in illuminating the real issues in elections and candidates? Nocera’s book was a good place for me to start getting education about this issue. So it doesn’t surprise me that the U is involved with these deals. How much will Minnesotan’s tolerate in having their university sell its good will to the sports entertainment complex only to degrade its academic standing ?

  2. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 05/12/2016 - 09:27 am.

    Totally agree. As a university alumnus, I’m repulsed by this. 1.6 million for a basketball coach; 600k for the university president. All you need to know regarding priorities.

    I always here that you need big-time athletics to bring in big alumni donations– but it seems to me most big alumni donations brought by athletics go to fund more facilities, so pretty circular logic. I’ve long ago stopped giving– and I suspect I’m not alone.

  3. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 05/12/2016 - 09:29 am.

    Greater Minnesota Elects

    Conservative Republicans who hate “government” and vow to shrink it, reduce spending and taxes, who see compromise as a four letter word and then they wonder why nothing gets done? Seriously, LISTEN when these guys are campaigning and take them at their word when they tell you “government” is the problem. Why in the world would you elect someone to govern when that person runs against governing? It doesn’t make any sense.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/12/2016 - 10:52 am.

      Especially when . . . .

      they said they were going to be extra special careful to really, really, really look out for the previously overlooked needs of Greater Minnesota.

      So, how’s that going for you, Greater Minnesota?

      (Hopefully you’ll remember this when November rolls around.)

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/12/2016 - 11:47 am.

    RE: Delta spitballs

    One way Delts and the other airlines could streamline check-in would be to eliminate the stupid baggage fees on flights. Most the delays in TSA are caused by the slow process of x-raying all of the carry-ons which people are doing in record numbers to avoid these ludicrous fees. Inevitably, the gate agents will ask flyers for volunteers to check their carry-ons for free to free up the overhead bin space. It would speed things up quite a bit at the security points if people just pre-checked those bags which they would do if the first one at least was free. Do the different departments in these organizations speak to each other I wonder?

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