April 20, 2008

Party expectations

An e-mail sent to some 7th District GOP delegates said that they should not expect to play much of a role at the Republican National Convention later this year, reported

It is the belief of some Ron Paul delegates that the e-mail was most likely directed at them.

“According to the Seventh Congressional District, national delegates are meaningless,? Minnesota state coordinator for Ron Paul Marianne Stebbins said. “They're trying to talk our people out of running.?

Delegates are expected to contribute to the national party and campaign. Not only do they have to pay a registration fee and be responsible for their own hotel bills, but it is assumed that they will contribute a minimum of $1,000 to the party.

Potential delegates were also informed that their main objective is to “contribute to the ‘TV image’ of the Party by being present, applauding and cheering at the ‘right’ places, etc.?

Double dipping professors

Two University of Minnesota professors are in trouble with Georgia Tech for possible double-dipping of salaries and expense payments, reported the Star Tribune.

Professors Francois Sainfort and his wife Julie Jacko both signed contracts in October to move to the university in January. However, Georgia Tech officials said the school renewed both professors’ contracts.

The professors’ attorney said Saturday that the couple is ready to have the situation reviewed by the Atlanta school’s attorney general. University officials said they will cooperate with any investigation but that they hope it is just an employment dispute.
The couple was making just over $400,000 a year at Georgia Tech. Their salaries at the University will top $500,000 a year.

April 12, 2008

Local band Tapes 'n Tapes releases new album

Minneapolis local band Tapes ‘n Tapes released their sophomore album “Walk it Off,? reported

While the release has fans excited, band members say the album is “old news.?

“We've had it done since the middle of October, so the initial excitement isn't quite there any more,? frontman Josh Grier said. “I'm excited for people to finally hear it you know, but at the same time it's like ‘Man! I wish people could have heard it six months ago when we heard it.’?

Even though the band is not showing much enthusiasm, the album is currently getting more positive reviews than negative from music bloggers.

To celebrate the album’s release, the band is participating in an international tour. The tour begins Saturday at First Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis and ends June 10 in Cologne, Germany.

Excelsior Boulevard closed for April

Starting Monday, Excelsior Boulevard between Hwy. 100 and Louisiana Avenue will be closed for the remainder of April as a railroad crossing is reconstructed, reported the Star Tribune.

Detours will include north and south bound Hwy. 100 and Blake Road, and east and west bound Hwy. 7.

Access to Methodist Hospital via Louisiana and Alabama avenues will remain open.

April 5, 2008

WCCO staple is no longer in the forecast

WCCO forecaster Paul Douglas is no longer working at WCCO-TV, reported the Pioneer Press.

Douglas, channel 4’s chief meteorologist who joined the station in 1997, was laid off Monday. The announcement however came Friday.

According to WCCO director of communications, Kiki Rosatti, the decision to let Douglas go is tied to the restructuring of the station.

The restructuring began last week when management laid off four people, including weekend anchor John Reger.

Ken Stone, a University of Minnesota professor who teaches TV reporting and newscast producing, said the decision to lay off Douglas was stunning, short-sighted and stupid.

“Douglas is the weather franchise for the station,? he said. “He's a huge part of who the station is.?

“I think they're going to lose some viewers,? Stone said. “No one's irreplaceable, but it's the kind of thing that might look good on the books right now. But you just wonder if the audience erosion they've already seen will be hastened. That's the gamble.?

In an e-mail to friends, Douglas said he and his wife were "a bit dazed" by the decision but are committed to staying in Minnesota.

Bus crashes on I-94

Officials said one Minnesotan student died and dozens where injured in a bus crash Saturday on Interstate 94, reported the Star Tribune.

The crash happened about 5:45 a.m. Lt. Mark Peterson of the State Patrol said. The bus was carrying band members and chaperones from Pelican Rapids High School who were coming home from a trip to Chicago.

It was not clear what caused the bus to flip on its side Peterson said.

Mel Hage of Maple Grove, great-uncle to student band member Mikala Gray, said he talked to a witness who said the bus was traveling between 70 and 75 mph when the accident began.
The exact number of injured students is not yet known but there were four chaperones, 43 students, one charter bus tour director and the driver on the bus.
Peterson said one student was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and was reported to be in critical condition.
The name of the student who died has not yet been released.

March 29, 2008

MN Attorney General office under investigation

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office is under investigation due to accusations of ethical misconduct, reported

Legislative Auditor James Nobles decided Friday to commence a preliminary investigate for “inappropriate, unethical, illegal activity? in the Attorney General’s office. Nobles said he reserves the right to launch a more elaborate investigation depending on his findings.

The decision was made during a two hour meeting of the Legislative Audit Commission, a bi-partisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers.

March 28, 2008

NWA to re-open merger talks

Northwest Airlines is interested in re-opening merger talks with Delta Airlines, reported Minnesota Public Radio.

Even though the pilots of the airlines have not agreed on how to merge their seniority lists, a person close to the Northwest-Delta merge discussion said there have been recent talks about proceeding with the merge.

While the airlines have not confirmed that they are continuing with merger discussions, the close source said they are unwilling to pronounce that the merge is dead.

March 15, 2008

2nd Minnesota child dies of flu

Another Minnesota child has died because of the flu, the second this winter, reported the Star Tribune.

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Health said the 5-year-old child had received a flu shot after she was already ill.

The first child, Jasmine Levy, 12, died from flu complications earlier this month. She had not received that vaccination because she did not have health insurance, said a relative who wished to be unnamed.

Kristen Ehresmann, head of immunizations for the Health Department, said the deaths of the two girls do “not necessarily indicate that children are at higher risk this year for developing potentially fatal complication from influenza.?

Flu related deaths among children and adults are usually related to underlying health problems and/or a secondary infection, as was the case for Levy. She had asthma and developed a staph infection. The 5-year-old, however, had no underlying condition or secondary infection, Ehresmann said.

Although it is rare, people can die from the virus, Ehresmann said. Last year six children in Minnesota died from the flu.

Four rescued in St. Louis Park fire

Three kids and a mom were rescued Saturday from a burning duplex in St. Louis Park, reported the Star Tribune.

According to St. Louis Park Communications Coordinator Jamie Zwilling, the woman and five children -- three her own children, plus a niece and nephew -- were in the home when a smoke alarm went off just before 5 a.m.

Two of the older children awoke to the alarm and yelled at the others to wake up before running to the adjoined home to call 911.

Zwilling said the first person to arrive on the scene was a police officer, who went into the home and rescued one child before firefighters arrived.

After the firefighters arrived, they entered the home and rescued the mom and the remaining children. Once all of the inhabitants were out of the home, firefighters were able to put out the fire.

All of the inhabitants were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries.

The damaged caused by the fire damage was mainly confined to the kitchen and dining room.

March 8, 2008

Man killed by flying wheels

Two free flying garbage truck wheels killed a man driving to work on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis Friday, reported the Star Tribune.

One of the wheels crossed the highway median and collided with a pickup truck driven by Jerry Ander, 56, of Burnsville, said the Minnesota State Patrol.

The garbage truck driver was identified as Floyd Brunson, 42, of Minneapolis who had been employed by the Waste Management company for 11 years, said a Waste Management spokeswoman.

Lt. Mark Peterson said it was an accident but that they will look at criminal charges.

March 7, 2008

The show must go on?

In order to get around the smoking ban, many Minnesota bars are pronouncing customers as “actors,? reported the Minnesota Daily.

A new state smoking ban in restaurants and nightspots contains an exception for performers in theatrical productions which states that actors can light up while in character during performances.

Some Minnesota bars are taking advantage of the loophole by printing playbills, encouraging customers to come in costume and saying cigarettes are props in theatrical productions.

While nothing is currently being done to shut down these phoney productions, the state Health Department is threatening draw the curtain on the “shows.?

March 1, 2008

Sen. Coleman apologizes to Franken

Sen. Norm Coleman’s campaign apologized Thursday after a staff member’s letter criticizing Senate candidate Al Franken for arguing with a Carleton College student appeared in the three different newspapers, reported the Minnesota Daily.

Coleman’s campaign took responsibility for the staffer’s comments, saying it was their fault for not giving clear enough policy descriptions to volunteers.

“Our volunteers were not given a clear enough description of what our policy was, and in no way shape or form should they be held responsible for our failure to execute that policy,? Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said.

Franken’s campaign responded to the statement with a few questions of their own.

“Who wrote the letter, and who approved its distribution?? Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said. “Was this the first time the Coleman campaign has used this tactic, or just the first time they got caught??

February 25, 2008

House overrides veto

The Minnesota House overrode Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto Monday, a move that ushered into law a $6.6 billion transportation plan, reported the Star Tribune.

The legislation brings about the first state gas tax increase in over 20 years. By this fall, the gas tax will have increased by five cents.

A quarter-cent sale tax increase will also occur in seven-county metro area with all proceeds going toward transit projects. It is estimated that in Hennepin County the tax would generate about $606 million.

While Pawlenty said the legislation was “a DFL product, and a DFL result,? six Republicans joined the DFL majority in the House to override the governor’s veto.

The House vote was 91-41, one more than was needed to override the veto.

February 24, 2008

Transportation bill goes to Pawlenty

A new transportation bill was passed in both the House and Senate Thursday, reported the Minnesota Daily.

While the bill was passed in both houses, the House passed the bill 89 votes to 44, just one vote shy of the two-thirds needed to override an expected veto by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. One House vote, Connie Ruth, R-Owatanna, was absent when voting took place.

The bill now goes to Pawlenty, who will have three days to either pass or veto the bill.

If passed, the $6.7 billion bill will immediately increase the gas tax by two cents and another three cents by Oct. 1. This will be the stat’s first gas tax increase in 20 years. However, it is likely that Pawlenty will veto the bill because of his opposition to raising taxes.

February 21, 2008

Burning down the house

Maxwell’s American Café and Scandia Furniture Company located at 1200 Washington Ave. in Minneapolis were damaged in a fire Wednesday, reported the Star Tribune.

Sean McKenna, a Minneapolis fire department spokesman, said the fire was heavy when firefighters arrived around 10:30 a.m. Washington Avenue was closed until 1:40 p.m. while crews tried to put out the fire.

No one was hurt in the fire.

Presently, there is no word on what caused the fire but it appears to be accidental said McKenna.

February 17, 2008

Transportation funding bill

An $8.4 billion transportation funding bill was discussed on Tuesday by state legislatures, reported the Minnesota Daily.

According to Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, the bill is meant to build and maintain the state's infrastructure. He also expects both the House and Senate to approve the bill.

However, to pass the bill, the House and Senate will have to pass it by two-thirds in order to override Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto.

If passed, the proposal will also increase the gas tax, which has remained the same for 20 years, by 2 cents directly following its passage and by another three cents later in the fall. License-tab fees will also increase if the bill is passed.

February 14, 2008

Spending Valentine’s Day with the Outdoors, Arts, Environment

The Senate and the House passed a bill Thursday to let voters decide whether to amend the Constitution to increase the sales tax by 3/8ths of 1 percent in order to fund the outdoors, the arts and the environment, reported the Star Tribune.

The bill, also called “The Great Outdoors and Heritage Amendment? by groups such as Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, was passed by 85-46 in the House and by 46-17 in the Senate.

According to the Star Tribune, if the amendment is approved, $54.5 million, $91.1 million, $39.3 million, $91.1 million and $4.5 million would be dedicated to the arts, the outdoors, parks and trails, a clean water fund and sustainable drinking water programs each year for the next 25 years.

If approved, the sales tax increase would go into effect July 1, 2009.

February 10, 2008

Corrected results

Inaccurately submitted vote totals triggered the changes of voting results in three precincts Thursday, reported the Minnesota Daily.

Ford Hall, which was the polling place for three precincts around the University of Minnesota campus, was the site where the misinformation originated.

Barry Hickethier who was an overseer of the precincts in Ford Hall said he grabbed a sheet that looked like the totals. It was not, however.

After the problem was brought to his attention, Hickethier reviewed the ballots and tally sheets and informed the Minnesota GOP of the discrepancy, he said.

Minnesota GOP spokesman Mark Drake confirmed the resolution of the problem.

New potential labor contract

HealthPartners and Service Employees International Union Healthcare will be voting Tuesday on a three-year labor contract, reported the Start Tribune.

If approved, the contract would cover 1,500 non-physician employees at many of the HealthPartners clinics in Minnesota. A two-day strike which was supposed to take place on Wednesday would also be evaded by the contract.

The conditions of the contract have not yet been disclosed.

February 2, 2008

University of Minnesota proposes options for light-rail

The Minnesota Daily reported Friday that the University of Minnesota was still talking with Metropolitan Council officials about a possible light-rail line that would go through campus.

While the Central Corridor rail line would connect the Twin Cities to the university, the price of the project is causing some problems.

According to the project Web site, “the Metropolitan Council must lower the cost of the project to $840 million in order to receive federal funding.? However, if a tunnel was built underneath Washington Avenue Southeast on the East Bank, which is the university’s hope, the project would cost $130 million more.

Kathleen O'Brien, Vice President for University Services, is part of Central Corridor Management Committee. She said that there is one other, less expensive option worth considering.

“We asked that the northern alignment be studied. At that point, that was defined as going … through the Dinkytown rail corridor to the northern edge of campus,? said O’Brien. “The Regents' position, that has been the University's position, was the northern alignment was our preferred route.?

Even though the northern alignment was the preferred route, the Federal Transit Authority stated the line would go through campus on Washington Avenue in a tunnel.

Although O’Brien believes in strengthening the transit system, she does have one concern with the Central Corridor going through campus.

“[The University] is already congested. We already have a high level of accidents along the street, and adding light rail just is going to cause a failure of the transportation system,? she said.

This particular concern is a major reason why the northern alignment and a tunnel under Washington Avenue are the two preferred options for the light-rail line.

January 30, 2008

Fume testing begins in St. Louis Park

The Environmental Protection Agency began testing air samples Monday in more than 200 St. Louis Park homes, reported the Star Tribune.

The tests will determine whether chemical vapors from soil have entered the suburban homes. This event was prompted by ground contamination tests that confirmed the presence of solvent fumes in shallow soil samples last year.

While state pollution officials have confirmed that the drinking water supplies in St. Louis Park will not be affected by the substances, they still believe that air exposure is threatening.

“Long-term exposure [to these chemicals] could slightly increase the risk of certain adverse health effects, including sometimes cancer or effects on different organ systems such as the liver,? Jim Kelly, health risk assessor for the Minnesota Department of Health, said.

With negative test results from two St. Louis Park schools, homes and businesses for the time being seem to be in the clear. Test results will become available in a few days to property owners in the area.

If the home tests come back positive, the EPA plans to spend an estimated $1,500 to ventilate said properties.