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Placement of Civil War paintings at Capitol gets political

Plus: state sets date for public celebration of restored Capitol building; price of stadium pedestrian bridge goes up; Minnesota back to No. 1 in voter turnout; and more.

Gov. Mark Dayton walking out of the Capitol Preservation Commission hearing on Tuesday. State Rep. Matt Dean is shown far left.

The Star Tribune’s Patrick Condon writes: “Gov. Mark Dayton stormed out of a public meeting about the State Capitol restoration on Tuesday, after accusing a Republican state lawmaker of playing politics with decisions about a set of Civil War paintings and their placement in the soon-to-reopen building. ‘If this commission gets hijacked for political purposes, I’ll resign from it,’ Dayton said at the meeting of the Capitol Preservation Commission. He cited a recent memo by state Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, to his House colleagues arguing against what he alleged was a move by the administration to remove one or several Civil War paintings.” That’ll show ‘em.

Over at MPR, Bob Collins writes, “The paintings could be moved somewhere else in the Capitol, but those are fighting words to Civil War historians and some legislators. As the meeting continued today, House Speaker Kurt Daudt walked out too, after declaring it would be a ‘tragedy’ to remove the paintings. … All of this brings up the question: What exactly is our history, anyway? … If Cass Gilbert, who designed the Capitol, dictated the artwork, are we forever bound by it? If not, are we still preserving the building?” And is the building supposed to be frozen in time?

Speaking of the Capitol, plan your vacation around this. Says Erin Golden in the Strib, “A public celebration to mark the end of a four-year-long restoration project at the Minnesota State Capitol has been set for August — although much of the building will be open for business at the start of the new year.”

Meanwhile, and nearly as expensive per square foot, Janet Moore in the Strib says, “The cost of building a pedestrian bridge linking the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium to a nearby light-rail platform is about $1 million more than expected. For now, the Metropolitan Council will pick up the bill, although the regional planning body is trying to recover $465,462 from a consultant that it says made costly errors in the bridge’s design.” I know I should get upset, but there are some things you have to do if you’re going to win the Super Bowl.

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Very much related. From Strib columnist Jon Tevlin: “Now I know why Gov. Dayton said the U.S. Bank stadium would be known as ‘the people’s stadium.’ It’s because the big-shot DFLers who have been given access to some of the best seats in two exclusive suites in the Vikings Magnificent Palace are, technically, people. Those seats, in the rarefied and inebriated air along the 20-yard line, were essentially free to a cabal of party loyalists, until Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson called to ask about them.” 

No. 1 again. Says Rachel Stassen-Berger for the PiPress, “Forget the historically low turnout in the August primary. Toss the memories of Minnesota’s 2014 lack of voters. Minnesota is back as the votingest state in the nation. ‘We are number one in the nation,’ Gary Poser, Minnesota’s director of elections, announced at the state’s canvassing board meeting Tuesday. ‘We’ve reclaimed that title this year.’ Despite an election that turned many off from politics, Minnesotans turned out. Nearly 3 million Minnesotans — 2,968,281 voters to be precise — cast ballots in last month’s election. That’s the highest number the state has ever seen at the ballot box.” Dead last? Utah and Hawaii.

Who’s next, Bradlee Dean? Also from Stassen-Berger: “Former Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate and frequent Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth met with President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday, according to reports. Hegseth, an Army veteran and a former leader of right-leaning veterans’ groups, has been an outspoken critic of the military policy of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He also was supportive of Trump during the campaign.”

The always entertaining Charles P. Pierce at Esquire has this to say about our not-always sober neighbors to the east. “It’s fitting that the current demand to audit/recount the presidential vote is centered on Wisconsin. The transformation of the state where so much of the progressive improvements to self-government began into the independent Republic of Griftsylvania (Scott Walker, assistant manager for sales) is one of the great triumphs of the money power and its lickspittles in modern American politics. Further, if you want to see how long and hard a pull it’s going to be to roll any of this back, you should check out the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s account of one race for a seat on the state’s supreme court.”

Good luck. Also at MPR there’s this from Mark Zdechlik: “It may not seem like a good time to get into the health insurance business. Companies selling individual and family plans are racking up billions of dollars in losses, and most people get their health insurance through work or a government program like Medicare. But a new Minnesota health insurance company is wading into the turbulent market promising to simplify the way people shop for and use individual health plans. … The investors pouring money into Bright Health are betting big on new approaches that could bring down the cost of health insurance and health care.” Like having a pool of 40-50 million people being able to negotiate drug prices?

I’m not good at math, but I know 10 is less than 15. The AP says, “A Minnesota man who was recently sentenced for plotting to join the Islamic State group has had his prison time reduced from 15 years to 10. Hamza Ahmed was sentenced earlier this month to consecutive sentences for one count of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one count of financial aid fraud. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that his sentences should run concurrently instead, so the 21-year-old will be locked up for 10 years, followed by 20 years of supervised release.”

Also in sentencing news, Tory Cooney in the PiPress says, “Anton Alexander Martynenko, 33, pleaded guilty to the production, distribution and advertising of child pornography in January before U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle. … In addition to 38 years in prison, Kyle sentenced him to 15 years of supervised release.Kyle shortened Martynenko’s prison sentence from 40 years because he provided authorities with information that aided their investigation into the Jacob Wetterling kidnapping, which Martynenko learned while sharing a jail cell with Wetterling’s murderer Danny Heinrich, according to court documents. Martynenko posed as a woman on social media to solicit nude photos and videos from his victims, according to prosecutors.”

I admit, I had to look up “luchador.” In the PiPress Jess Fleming reports, “Taco Libre, the luchador-themed Mexican restaurant that opened just a bit over a year ago on Robert Street in West St. Paul, is already expanding to Oakdale. The second location, in the shopping center off of Inwood Avenue and Interstate 94, will open Dec. 5, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page. Northeast suburban residents can look forward to a menu chock-full of tacos, tortas and other Mexican favorites filled with a wide array of meat and vegetable options.”