The Star Tribune carries the story today about Rev. Gus Booth of Warroad Community Church who is urging his flock not to support Barack Obama for president because of his position on abortion. Booth is a delegate to the RNC convention in St. Paul later this year.
It's not a freedom of speech issue. It's a tax issue. There's nothing to prevent any church leader from speaking politics. You just can't get into endorsing candidates from the pulpit while claiming non-profit status from the IRS.
I know what some of you are thinking? Isn't that what Obama's former pastor did? Why isn't the IRS investigating that church. It is.
Take the poll and leave a comment.
An astounding number of people reacted with an odd question when told the Republican National Convention this year would be held at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
What about the Dorothy Day Center?
In fact, the future of the homeless shelter was one of the first questions MPR News asked. And you have to ask, "why?" Nobody was asking about the motel on the corner of Kellogg and 7th.
Historically, the homeless and political conventions don't mix, and the subtext of the question suggests Republicans would want to ignore the homeless and that act would be a metaphor for their political philosophy on the subject.
So listen to Rev. John Estrem, CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which runs the shelter. He talked this morning with MPR's Cathy Wurzer:
"The city, the Secret Service, the police, the Republican convention committee itself... they were all very helpful. Of course everybody has an opinion, but nobody put any pressure on us at all."
In fact, in one of the more underreported factoids surrounding the convention, the Republican organizers of the convention have been helping out at the homeless shelter.
So who is hiding the homeless this year? According to the Rocky Mountain News, it's the Democrats, or at least the city hosting the Democrats. Denver is opening up shelters away from the convention site. Those shelters are usually only open in the winter. One group asked whether the $50 million on security in Denver might be better spent on finding homes and shelter for the homeless.
In its 2004 report, Illegal to be Homeless, the National Council on the Homeless said police sweeps in advance of the Republican Convention in New York targeted the homeless:
Many day labor sites, several near homeless shelters, have been targeted by the police. NYPD issued homeless day laborers waiting for work near the Bedford Atlantic Men's shelter in Brooklyn 228 summonses in 28 days. Complaints from the community about crimes in the area, references to traffic hazards are invoked in order to justify hitting "preventively" on day laborers with charges such as trespassing (even though people live in the shelter), loitering, disorderly conduct and impeding pedestrian traffic.
St. Paul officials have been studying New York's performance during the Republican convention in 2004, and have decided it's an effective model for how not to host a political convention.
Rev. Estrem says Catholic Charities' decision is based partly on the desire to make sure "the voices of the poor" are heard during the convention.(3 Comments)
According to a news release sent out by the U.S. Department of Transportation, this is what Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said as she stood next to Gov. Tim Pawlenty in Bloomington today and announced federal dollars to cut traffic congestion along I-35W:
"Our economic vitality and prosperity as a nation are increasingly becoming dependent on our willingness to embrace new transportation strategies," Secretary Peters said. "Thanks to the tremendous political courage of state and local leaders, the Twin Cities' future is looking promising and prosperous."
Since many of the projects (such as a toll lane on I-35W, which got $24.7 million in the gas tax bill) being partially funded were in the transportation bill vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty, and then overridden by the Legislature with the aid of a half dozen Republican lawmakers, it's possible she was referring to the bill Pawlenty and most Republicans despised because it raised the state's gasoline tax.
I called the Department of Transportation to ask what Peters was referring to when she invoked the phrase "political courage."
They punted, saying a spokesman accompanying Peters would call me back right away. He didn't.
Peters spokesman Brian Turmail said she was referring to the fact "the Minnesota Legislature, working with Gov. Pawlenty, was able to pass legislation that included high-occupancy toll lanes on I-35W. In the past we've seen a backlash for those sort of decisions."
But that was in the transportation bill the governor vetoed, so is she saying passing the gas tax in a bill the governor described as "ridiculous" was actually "political courage"?
"Absolutely not," Turmail said. "She hasn't weighed in on the gas tax at the state level, but she opposes it at the national level."
"Would she like to weigh in on the state gas tax?" I asked.
"It's not proven to reduce congestion and when you' ve got a national energy policy on reducing gasoline consumption, it doesn't make some sense to increase it in order to pay for transportation projects," he said.
MPR's Tim Pugmire reports that Rep. Neil Peterson and Rep. Ron Ron Erhardt, two Republicans who were branded for their vote in support of the tax, were at the event in Bloomington.
The press folks were interested in other issues and questions. Too bad. It could've been a fabulous line of questioning.(4 Comments)
One of the frustrations vented by News Cut commentators since the Highway 43 bridge in Winona closed a week ago is: Why can't they keep it open for bicycles?
The bridge, MnDOT announced today, will reopen on Saturday for automobiles, pickups, vans, SUVs and emergency vehicles. But not to bicycles.
During repairs to the gusset plates on the bridge, the sidewalks will be closed.
The ferry service across the Mississippi River will end a week from Friday.(3 Comments)
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the expected crunch materialized in Minneapolis when the Section 8 waiting list was opened today (I wrote about this yesterday).
A News Cut reader writes this afternoon:
I was in a position to help someone try to get online today to apply for Section 8. The website was so overwhelmed it was impossible to even register. It's crazy that this is the preferred method of application as it completely overlooks the fact that many don't have internet access at their fingertips.
MPR's Brandt Williams, who's doing a story tonight on the subject for All Things Considered, e-mailed me this afternoon, saying "I was just at the North Regional Library talking to people applying for Section 8. They have about 16 computers there for folks to use to apply online." Brandt says the system was, basically, frozen.
He provided a picture of a small part of the line that extends outside the library, for an opportunity to get to the computer, to apply to get on the waiting list and maybe -- maybe -- get some rental assistance, perhaps, up to 7 years from now.
Finally, images of the flooding in southeast Minnesota are emerging. The Winona Daily News this afternoon has an excellent slideshow of images along the Root River. Up to now, for some reason, images in the area around Lanesboro have been hard to come by.
If you have any you'd like to share, send them along here.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, things are even worse as these images from Getty Images show.
Also find some intriguing pictures of the Iowa flooding on the Gazzetteonline Web site (Hat tip: News Cut reader Joel Federer)
At least one death is reported on the flooding in Minnesota. County Highway 34 in Albert Lea was washed out and one car was washed away. Rescuers recovered a person -- alive -- from a car, but then the driver reported his/her car was actually atop another.(2 Comments)
Maybe the take-away here is if a person has been on The Dating Game, he ought not be a judge. Maybe it's an indicator.
Out in Los Angeles, a high-profile obscenity trial has been delayed because the federal judge hearing it had posted sexually explicit material on his personal Web page, including -- the Times Online reports -- "footage of a semi-naked man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal."
The judge is Alex Kozinski.
Kozinski. Kozinski. Where have we heard that name before?
Or maybe it was from his appearance on MPR's Midmorning in April.3 Comments)
Richard Anderson, soon to be -- maybe -- the boss of whatever's left of Northwest Airlines -- says airline fares have to go up "pretty significantly." He made his comments on CNBC on Thursday. (See video here)
How significantly? Pick a number. Anderson wouldn't say specifically, partly because his questioners were more interested in how many flights get taken out of the airline (12-13% by the end of the year, Anderson said).
"We estimate that the industry revenue would have to go up 15-20%," he said.
That's on top of any recent increases. For example, here on News Cut we've been tracking a simple flight fare from Minneapolis to Chicago. As of today, that'll run you $459.54. About three months ago, the same ticket went for $384.
Anderson, currently the boss of Delta, says the takeover of Northwest makes more sense now that the crude oil market has gone ballistic in the time since it was announced earlier this spring.(4 Comments)