In the wake of the Franken-Coleman mess, what changes would you recommend to Minnesota's election law?
"My feeling personally, and I think a lot of people share this opinion, that if it would greatly improve the quality of our election judges if the persons who are so interested in making sure things are going correctly in the precinct actually serve as an election judge, rather than challengers."
That's Minneapolis Elections Director Cindy Reichert, who told legislators yesterday that additional restrictions, on behavior of challengers, might be needed.
MPR's Tim Nelson reports that early voting and automatic registration might lighten the workload for election judges, and put more attention on the more time-consuming parts of the process, like absentee voting.
But in the spotlight of the recount, a significant problem -- at least anecdotally -- has gone unnoticed and unaddressed: people were improperly denied the opportunity to vote. On Election Day, we had quite a few stories from people who had voted before in a precinct, and went to vote on Election Day, only to find out they weren't registered. What happened to them? Why did they disappear?
MPR's Mike Mulcahy hosts Midday today and will tackle the topic at 11 a.m.(11 Comments)
The store, of course, is a former Dayton's, a store that every company once wanted in their mall -- the name was that magical. The magic is gone.
Is it too early to start thinking about what St. Paul will do when Macy's closes its downtown St. Paul store?
Taxpayers guaranteed a $6.3 million loan for renovations to the store in 2001. The loan would be forgiven if the store stays open until December 2012. One gets the impression that Macy's executives fall asleep at night to dreams that it's almost January 2013.(8 Comments)
In the -- entirely appropriate -- focus on people who are losing their jobs, one area that's being ignored are the people who aren't.
In many cases, companies are cutting people, but not production, leaving the people still employed to pick up the slack. Is that happening to you? Tell me about it, making it clear if you want your name to be withheld.(1 Comments)
How does the country turn around the housing market? Start bulldozing some of them, according to one expert.
David Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch, says the country is "attacking the symptoms" instead of the problem.
"It's pretty foolhardy to believe anything is going to reach any sustainable low until we put in a firm bottom on residential real estate prices," he said today, which is economist-speak for create a supply problem to create a demand.
If the Treasury Secretary can tell bank officials, "you're going to take this bailout money no matter what," then maybe municipalities need to stop issuing building permits.
He made a similar suggestion this week in the Financial Times:
What we probably need is a supply-side resolution, either creating regional land banks to ring-fence the inventory or a moratorium on new housing starts to prevent further corrosion in residential real estate values. Supply-demand divergences are likely to persist through 2009, in our view, and will require even further contraction in construction activity before balance is restored in the real estate market.
It is a frugal future, indeed, but we believe the US economy will endure nonetheless and will inevitably emerge all the stronger.
The negative wealth effect will subside and, along with that, the savings rate should start to level off - likely near its pre-bubble normalised level of 8 per cent.
"I'm flabbergasted we're seeing housing starts at all," he said today.
What would the effect be of a moratorium on housing starts around here? Probably property tax increases. Look at Woodbury, one of the fastest-growing communities in Minnesota over the last decade. It financed city operations largely on the strength of the money it made from housing permits. It issued only 14 permits in December, and is now trying to slash its budget to account for the lost income. The city doesn't take local government aid from the state.
And therein lies a significant part of the economic problem: One hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing. Some cities are depending on money from a policy -- if you believe Rosenberg -- that is only making the economic situation worse. In this regard, efforts to boost the housing sector are only making matters worse.(6 Comments)
A firm which knows how to get attention for its press releases has calculated the market value of the White House:
Real estate Web site Zillow.com today announced it has calculated a Zestimate(R) value for the White House were it actually a home that could be bought and sold. That estimated value - $308,058,000 - would make this by far the most expensive residence in the United States, however still more than $23 million less than its value one year ago. Zillow(R) calculated this value using its proprietary Zestimate algorithm that determines a home's estimated worth today based on public data and recent sales.
It's also calculated that the monthly payment would be $1.48 million, not including the taxes and insurance escrow.
The firm has also calculated that the market value of the White House has declined by 7.2% this year which is a much smaller hit than many Americans have taken.
There's a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota.
The factoid was contained in a nationwide Associated Press article, quoting the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
The Minnesota Department of Public Health has made no announcement of the outbreak. The University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research, however, quotes the DPH spokesman:
Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), told CIDRAP News that Minnesota has confirmed 30 cases that are linked to the national outbreak and that the department expects to detect additional cases. Experts from the MDH, including Team Diarrhea, a group that conducts case-control studies in foodborne disease outbreaks, are continuing their investigation into the source of the Salmonella, he said.
With no leads, it's difficult to say what to avoid, so health officials advise only to cook meat thoroughly and wash your hands often.
However, the CDC is theorizing that it may have something to do with chicken. If that's true, and if 34 states are involved, doesn't that suggest one of the big chicken processing companies as a source?
Stay tuned for more today.(8 Comments)
Dennis LeTourneau knows where he'd be today if not for some of the people in the Hennepin County judicial system. "I'd be dead," he said without hesitation. He is sure heroin would've killed him.
LeTourneau was one of 23 people graduating today from the Hennepin County Drug Court, a unique program that people who know what they're talking about insist is the answer to reducing the problem of repeat criminal activity from addicts. It's the second graduating class since the program was changed to focus on addicts.
People who choose the drug court system undergo a 12-month program that includes 12-step meetings, therapy, and education classes. They have to report to probation officers and agree to be tested.
"It costs $36,000 to send someone to prison, " Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said today. "It costs $6,000-$9,000 to get them through Drug Court." Nonetheless it's a tough sell at the Capitol. Magnuson eliminated pay raises for judges in his budget request this year, but included $6 million for Drug Court.
When it comes time to convince legislators, Magnuson could do worse than have them listen to LeTourneau, or Mindy Heinkel, who thanked her probation officers and judges today noting, "It changed my life forever." James Hill said his probation officer joked with him "we can always execute" during his 12-months in the program.
It wasn't a hard program for LeTourneau. "The hard part was making the decision (to go through the program), because I was still in that life," he said. That life was a heroin addiction that started five years ago. He remembers his first shot of heroin and why he took it. "I had a girlfriend who was into it," he said.
LeTourneau has gotten clean, earned his GED, and started a business. He's also mentoring others who are in the program, according to his probation officer, Stacey Pratt (shown below congratulating graduate James Hill). "It was easy for him because he made his mind up at the beginning that he would remain determined to turn his life around."
While receiving plaques at the Hennepin County Government Center this afternoon, many graduates hugged or at least shook hands with a gauntlet of probation officers. A couple muttered "thanks," and walked away, turning their back without acknowledging the people they had to call every day for a year.
But most also knew where they'd be today otherwise. "I know people in prison who'd give their left arm for this chance," LeTourneau said.
Is something Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said today a hint, a Freudian slip, or an innocent comment?
Here's what he told All Things Considered host Tom Crann on Thursday after he met with the Barack Obama transition team in Washington. "I see myself representing Minnesota...." he said in beginning an answer to the question of what he considers job #1 for the Obama team. Listen
Rybak's name usually comes up when experts handicap the 2010 race for governor. So, of course, Crann had to ask.
"I'm here because I'm supposed to be representing my whole part of the country... I'll figure out what I'm doing next.... soon.... but that's not for today," he said. Listen
"Relatively soon I'll figure out whether I'll run for mayor again," he said.
Yesterday St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced his intention to run for re-election this year. He, too, refused to dampen speculation that he'd run for governor.(3 Comments)
A lot of us who covered the violence surrounding the Republican National Convention wondered aloud occasionally whether things would be the same if we put away our cameras, tape recorders, and notepads and simply took a hike?
Maybe we have the answer in the violence that broke out Wednesday following protests of the killing of an unarmed man by a Bay Area Rapid Transit policeman. The killing was captured on video by a cellphone camera (you can view it here if you're so inclined).
Near the end of a segment on the subsequent violence, a guest on NPR's Talk of the Nation provided some keen insight into the related question of what role the media plays in crowd behavior.
Demian Bulwa, a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, was at the riot.
"There was also a dynamic with the media at the protest last night where there were so many of us. It was sort of unmistakable; we were part of the thing. You might have one guy confronting a police officer with three camermen, and two reporters, a still photographer, and a blogger, and someone who's live on the air with some sort of Internet radio. And, you know, it concerned me that I thought to myself, 'What if we left? What would happen? What if the police left? What would happen? But, you know, later in the night when all of the TV cameras were gone, I was still with the protesters and they were still smashing stuff."
The other question that ran through my mind is if there hadn't been someone videotaping the shooting in the back of an unarmed man, how might the story of what happened be different, if at all?
(Photo courtesy of Javier Panzar)(2 Comments)