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Minneapolis Council committee votes to demolish historic rooming house

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 2:55pm

A southwest Minneapolis house constructed in 1893 by master builder Theron Potter Healy, currently a 15-unit rooming house, appears to be headed for demolition.

On Thursday, a Minneapolis City Council committee voted 5-1 to approve a demolition permit for 2320 Colfax Ave. S., a designated historic resource. For more than a year, property owner Mike Crow, has battled the city for permission to make way for a four-story, 45-unit apartment building just off Hennepin Avenue in the Wedge neighborhood.

“Staff feels the property does not retain its integrity,” said John Smoley, a city planner and historic-home expert. “A fire in the 1980s and a series of renovations at that time have made, in staffs opinion, the interior character decidedly 1980s.”

Some historians say the home is the first example of Healy’s move away from his popular Queen Anne style dwelling and into the Colonial Revival Style that followed the example of architecture at Chicago's Columbian Exposition the same year he built the house on Colfax.

Crow first petitioned to have the home demolished in 2012 and received a permit in February 2013. But that was appealed to the city's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) which granted the appeal, blocking demolition. Crow then appealed that decision to the City Council which also denied his application for demolition.

But he was back again in this year with an application for demolition of an historic resource. The HPC denied that application, and established interim protection for the property. Crow again appealed the decision to the City Council, leading to Thursday's approval.

There are currently more than 100 Healy houses in Minneapolis, many with historic designation, and 27 in the area of 2320 Colfax. Most of the arguments, for and against demolition, during the public hearing focused on the condition of the Colfax building.

“During my examination I discovered that beneath the vinyl siding, which is equivalent to a blanket being pulled off, that the original siding is still there and the foundation is in perfect condition,” said John Jasper, who has done numerous historic restorations and inspected the building to determine if it could be moved.

Jasper also said the original front wall is still in place as are the some bowed windows. “This is potentially 180 tons of waste that could go into a landfill.”

The house's first owner was Edward Orth, whose father owned the Orth Brewing Company. He lived in the home, which also had a large barn on the property, until 1904, when the home was sold to Thomas Kenyon, a pharmaceutical salesman.

“I have been put in a position where I have to make a choice between having a private life and losing everything I have left,” Crow argued, saying that selling the property is imperative to him.

He said he has had not offers from anyone to buy the property despite the publicity the potential teardown has received.

Lander GroupFor more than a year, property owner Mike Crow, has battled the city for permission to make way for a four-story, 45-unit apartment building just off Hennepin Avenue in the Wedge neighborhood.

 

“They’ve never listed this house on MLS; they refuse to do it,” said Ezra Gray, who is restoring his home in the same neighborhood.  “It has to be sold as a rooming house, and as Crow’s own Realtor put it, rooming houses are a dying industry. They might as well be trying to sell it as a VHS rental shop.”

Others speculated that other Healy houses in the neighborhood might also be demolished if the Colfax house were to be torn down.

“This is my neighborhood, many of you are my neighbors,” said Council Member Lisa Bender, who chairs the Zoning and Planning Committee and who moved to allowed the demolition that was halted a year ago.

“Today we’re talking about the economic value of this home,” Bender added, “I can’t imagine anyone investing $500,000 or more to restore this building as a single-family home.” 

Responded the lone Council dissenter, Lisa Goodman: “This house will see an untimely death as a result of its location. If this was in Lowry Hill or Kenwood we would not be having this conversation.”

Anders Christiansen, a student of Healy houses, filed the original appeal in 2013 to halt the demolition process. He pointed out that the year the Colfax home was built, Healy constructed a total of four houses. Only the Orth House survives.

“I’m just shocked,” said Christiansen following the pro-demolition vote. “We have a City Council and Mayor who talk about zero waste and about equity, but yet when it comes down to it we don’t really care about those issues.  We care about serving developers and supporting landlords who don’t take care of their property.”

The vote to approve demolition now goes forward to the full City Council, which will in turn vote, on the matter April 25.

General Mills' newest cereal: Lawsuit-No's

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 12:00pm

How creepy is our own Big G? The day's talker is the New York Times scoop that our own General Mills "has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, 'join' it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways. ... after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms." One lawyer doubts the most absurd reaches would stand up in court, but the story notes the U.S. Supreme Court has made the prospect less far-fetched.

Meanwhile, St. Louis-based Post is buying Minntonka-based Michael's Foods, for $2.45 billion, MPR reports. Michael's is huge into egg-based products; Post is big into Raisin Bran. Michael's, which was owned by private equity types always looking to cash out, will continue to operate independently

As sure a sign of The Apocalypse as we’ll ever see … . Tom Murphy of the AP reports, “UnitedHealth Group's first-quarter net income slid 8 percent as fees and funding cuts from the health care overhaul helped dent the performance of the nation's largest health insurer. UnitedHealth said Thursday it earned $1.1 billion, or $1.10 per share, in the three months that ended March 31. That's down from $1.19 billion, or $1.16 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose nearly 5 percent to $31.71 billion.” Expect a bake sale soon.

There are more than 3 million job-holders in MinnesotaThe AP says, “Minnesota's labor force now tops 3 million. The Department of Employment and Economic Development showcased the figure Thursday as they released jobs figures for March. Their report says 2,600 jobs were added last month. It left the unemployment rate unchanged from February at 4.8 percent.” Feb's job numbers were revised downward 1,100

Dan Linehan of the Mankato Free Press reports on talk about a serious upgrade to St. Peter's Minnesota Security Hospital. “Lucinda Jesson, the state's human services commissioner, visited the Regional Treatment Center in St. Peter Wednesday to talk with staff and reporters about the importance of securing state money for a $56 million expansion. ‘A new building won't solve all of our problems, but it solves some of them,’ she said. The politics of whether the hospital will get its entire request — the recent state House proposal was $15 million short — are difficult to predict.”

On the hunt for Victor Barnard of River Road Fellowship “maidens” infamy: In the Spokane Spokesman-Times, Kip Hill says, “Local law enforcement helped Minnesota investigators tail other suspected members of the group after they refused to answer questions about Barnard. [Barnard’s “right hand man” Craig] Elmblad reportedly told investigators that it was ‘rude to follow people around,’ according to court documents. The parents of a purported victim living in Spokane refused to allow the sergeant entry into their home, according to court documents.”

Dylan Wohlenhaus of KHQ-TV in Washington says, “Pine County Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell tells KHQ's Dylan Wohlenhaus that they believe Barnard is now living in the Spokane area and ‘gathering’ similar types of followers again. Blackwell says last year the Pine County Sheriff's Department sent a detective to Spokane to interview some of Barnard's ‘followers,’ but none would give up his location.” Because … you know … he’s “a man of God.”

The soon-to-be-Super Bowl champion Minnesota Vikings (™ Dan Cole) will probably not get much national TV attention for the next two years. Says Kevin Cusick at the PiPress, “We don't know yet who will be filling up the slate of NBC's premium Sunday night package, ESPN's less-premium Monday night offerings or CBS' new Thursday night schedule. But you can probably count on one, undeniable fact: You won't see much of the Vikings in prime time. The dome-less home team is outward bound for two years at TCF Bank Stadium. And scheduling restrictions placed by the University of Minnesota make it virtually certain that the Vikings will not host any night games until they move into their new stadium in 2016.”

Talk about a menace … . Tad Vezner of the PiPress writes, “New charges have been filed against an Edina man, alleging he harassed Minnesota court and law enforcement officials — including several judges — involved in his 1999 rape conviction and had unwanted contact with the victim's family. Thomas Wayne Evenstad, 48, also stalked or threatened neighbors, a psychologist, the executive director of Minnesota's Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a pharmaceutical company CEO who shared his name, Ramsey County prosecutors claim. In almost every case, Evenstad created unwanted websites in his alleged victims' names — 400 websites in all — often linking to his own blog, where he would berate them ... .”

Why do the Weather Gods mock us? Joe Lindberg in the PiPress: “In Isanti, 19 inches of snow had accumulated by 1 a.m. Thursday and 14 inches had fallen in Litchfield. The winter storm dropped its heaviest snow along a line between those two cities and into northwestern Wisconsin, where 14 inches was observed in Drummond, the weather service said. … Between 3 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday, troopers had been called to nearly 137 crashes statewide — 20 involving injuries — in addition to nearly 160 instances of vehicles running off the road.”

Minnesota gained 2,600 jobs in March, but lost 1,100 more in February

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:55am

State officials said today that the Minnesota job market improved in March, with 2,600 jobs added.

But revisions from February show a loss of 1,100 jobs that month, in addition to the 100 lost jobs reported at the time. Overall, in the past year, the state has added 41,582 jobs, the report said.

The state's unemployment rate remains at 4.8 percent, better than the national rate of 6.7 percent. DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said:

"Minnesota is adding jobs at a steady pace and now has added 33,000 more jobs than its previous all-time employment peak that occurred right before the recession. After extreme winter weather and a slow start to the year, March gains indicate renewed strength in the economy and continued growth in the months to come."

Sund gets Democracy for America endorsement versus Paulsen

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:37am

DFLer Sharon Sund, who is taking on incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen in Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, got a progressive endorsement today from Democracy for America.

Sund, who faces an entrenched incumbent with a 70-to-one cash advantage, is a businesswoman and community organizer from Plymouth. She ran for the congressional seat in 2012, but dropped out when she didn't get the party endorsement. She's the Hennepin County DFL chair, and so far this year is the only DFLer to step up in the congressional race.

In announcing the endorsement, Democracy for America's Chair Jim Dean said:

"Sharon Sund is running the grassroots, people-powered progressive campaign needed to defeat an entrenched incumbent like Congressman Erik Paulsen. Democracy for America's grassroots members are excited to support Sharon Sund because she's running as a progressive champion who's ready to fight to expand social security, raise the minimum wage and do whatever it takes to create a thriving economy for Minnesota working families."

Democracy for America, founded in 2004 by Howard Dean, says it has 17,773 members in Minnesota and 1 million members nationwide, and works to elect progressive candidates around the country.

Kristin Beckman new St. Paul deputy mayor; Bedor moves to Greater MSP

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:23am

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced two changes in his top staff Thursday:

  • Cecile Bedor, who's been director of the Planning and Economic Development department for eight years, is leaving the city to be executive vice president at Greater MSP, the regional development agency.
  • Kristin Beckman will be the new deputy mayor.

Bedor has been head of PED since 2006, when Coleman appointed her as one of the early first-term top appointments. The mayor praised Bedor's work:

"Cecile has been a true asset for the City of Saint Paul, cultivating successes in historically difficult economic times, and it is hard to see her go."

He listed many of her accomplishments: the Penfield, the Lofts at Farmers Market, rezoning of Central Corridor and several projects along University Avenue, the Inspiring Communities program, Schmidt Brewery, and the planning work to date on the redevelopment of the Ford site.

She also lead the successful negotiations with Exxon Mobil, ensuring future development and green space at Victoria Park, and facilitated the move of many new businesses into Saint Paul.

Coleman said he'll appoint a successor in the next few months.

Beckman has been Vice President of Programs and Services at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, and will start at the city May 19. She replaces Paul Williams, who was deputy mayor until he left last week to become executive director at Project for Pride in Living.

Previously, Beckmann was Executive Director of the MN State Council of the Service Employees International Union, worked at the Minnesota Department of Health and the Office of the State Auditor and was Co-Director of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ transition.

Lane Kenworthy on why we’re headed toward social democracy

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:18am
Lane Kenworthy

Does the arc of history — specifically U.S. history — bend toward social democracy? Political scientist Lane Kenworthy thinks so.

Well, he more than thinks so. Kenworthy has written a book-length treatment of his belief, titled "Social Democratic America."

In case you don't use these terms, "social democracy" often refers to the kind of socialism practiced in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, with higher taxes and a larger safety net than in the United States. Kenworthy explained his thinking Wednesday in a talk for the University of Minnesota's Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.

Yes, the U.S. system of politics and government makes major governmental change hard. And yes, the two major U.S. political parties can't agree on anything and one of those parties seems to have decided its raison d'etre is to block any further increases in taxes or expansion of government. Kenworthy conceded all that. But you would have to concede that — notwithstanding those tendencies — the Affordable Care Act has just expanded the role of government in a very substantial way.

And Kenworthy isn't predicting that any particular step toward the next level of social democracy will occur right away. He suggested only that over perhaps the next 50 years, the portion of GDP that is devoted to all forms of government spending — currently about 36 percent — will grow by another 10 percentage points or so and start creeping up on 50 percent, and that the chief cost of the that expansion will be to pay for more more kinds of government insurance programs, along the lines of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and various welfare-type programs that soften hardships on the poor and near-poor.

He predicts this 50-year tendency will be "slow, unsteady and episodic," which would also be same as in past years. It would be accompanied by constant arguments from conservatives that the growth of social spending will undermine economic growth and strangle economic freedom, but he said that the data from the Scandinavian countries indicates the opposite, that economic growth  can co-exist with a larger public sector.

For a longer version of Kenworthy's arguments, here's an interview he gave to the Washington Post's Wonkblog.

Story about Rep. Smith respectfully captured the ravages of addiction

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:18am

I found the story about former Rep. Steve Smith, written by Sarah T. Williams, to be one of the most moving and well-written pieces I have ever read on your site — or anywhere else, for that matter.

Williams wrote in a non-judgmental and informative manner about the ravages of addiction while never forgoing respect for the individuals involved.

I have shared the article with numerous friends and, to a person, the reaction has been the same. Williams is to be commended, as is MinnPost for providing the forum for her story. Your commitment to quality journalism is reflected in stories like this one. Thank you to both Sarah Williams and MinnPost.

MinnPost welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Interested in joining the conversation? Submit your letter to the editor.

The choice of letters for publication is at the discretion of MinnPost editors; they will not be able to respond to individual inquiries about letters.

Diabetes-related complication rates have dropped dramatically, CDC says

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:17am
Creative Commons/Melissa WieseThe rising increase in the total number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes suggest that the total burden, or absolute number of cases of complications, will probably continue to increase in the coming decades.

 

The rate of serious complications from diabetes, including heart attacks and limb amputations, has declined dramatically over the past 20 years, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

That’s obviously very welcomed news. For we are in the midst of a diabetes epidemic. The percentage of Americans with the blood-sugar disease has been climbing at a steady and alarming rate. Today, more than 20.7 million adults in the United States — almost 10 percent of all adults living in the country — have been diagnosed with diabetes. That’s more than triple the 6.5 million who had the disease in 1990, when the U.S. population was only about a third smaller.

The increase is almost entirely related to type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease and the one associated with obesity.

The new study shows “that we have come a long way in preventing complications and improving quality of life for people with diabetes,” said Edward Gregg, a senior epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation and lead author of the study, in a statement. “While the declines in complications are good news, they are still high and will stay with us unless we can make substantial progress in preventing type 2 diabetes.”

A focus on five complications

For their study, the CDC researchers used 1990-2010 data from four databases, including the National Health Interview Survey, which asks health-related questions of 57,000 U.S. adults each year. Here are the key findings:

  • The rate of heart attack, which has historically been the most common diabetes-related complication, fell 67.8 percent between 1990 and 2010. Heart attacks are now about as common as stroke among people with diabetes.
  • The rate of deaths from a hyperglycemic crisis (very high blood-sugar levels) declined 64.4 percent.
  • The rate of stroke fell 52.7 percent.
  • The rate of limb amputations dropped 51.4 percent. (Diabetes can cause nerve damage and poor circulation, which can make it difficult for wounds to heal, particularly on the feet or legs. The disease is the leading cause of lower-limb amputations in the United States.)
  • The rate of end-stage renal disease (chronic kidney failure) fell 28.3 percent.

The researchers did not have enough data to include trends in the incidence of diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of adult-onset blindness in the United States, or in the incidence of hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood-sugar levels), a serious complication that can result from taking too much diabetes medication.

The rate declines did not differ much by gender or race. Age was a factor, though. The greatest declines — except for kidney failure — were seen in people aged 75 or older.

The data also revealed that by 2010, the amputation rates were similar among older and younger adults, while the rates of death from a hyperglycemic crisis were higher among younger people.

Multiple reasons

The CDC researchers cite several possible reasons for the declines in the complications rates, including more effective medical treatments, improvements in the availability and delivery of health-care services, and greater efforts to raise awareness among people with diabetes about potential complications from the disease.

The researchers also stress that although the results of this new analysis are encouraging, they do not mean that the overall burden of diabetes-related complications is going to be letting up anytime soon.

The rising increase in the total number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes, coupled with the aging of the baby boomer generation (age, along with weight, is a primary risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes) suggest, say the researchers, "that the total burden, or absolute number of cases of complications, will probably continue to increase in the coming decades.”

You’ll find an abstract of the study on the NEJM website, but, unfortunately, the study itself — even though it was conducted by a publicly funded agency — is behind a paywall.

Franken campaign gets fundraising assist from Amy Poehler

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 9:53am
CC/Wikimedia/Peabody AwardsAmy Poehler

WASHINGTON — A former city councilwoman from a two-bit Indiana town who recently lost a recall election is hosting a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Al Franken next Thursday. Sort of.

Franken's campaign is raffling off tickets to a Los Angeles fundraiser hosted by actress Amy Poehler, a fellow "Saturday Night Live" alum who stars as Leslie Knope on the NBC show "Parks and Recreation."

As it's done for events with talk show host Conan O'Brien, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and, most recently, "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm, the Franken campaign is asking donors to pitch in $5 for a chance to attend the event. A similar event with singer Paul Simon was cancelled due to the government shutdown.

Franken raised $2.7 million in the first three months of 2014, more than 97 percent of which came from donors giving less than $100. Franken's cash-on-hand total is nearly $6 million. His closest Republican opponent, businessman Mike McFadden, has $1.8 million in the bank.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.

LGBT history is lovingly preserved at Quatrefoil Library on Lake Street

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 9:46am

Quatrefoil Library blends into the streetscape of Lake Street pretty seamlessly – besides a few rainbow flags hanging from some of the balconies, you’d never know that the building that houses one of the oldest LGBT lending libraries in the United States was anything other than a standard early 21st century condominium complex. Spirit on Lake is an affordable housing complex for members of the LGBT community. Quatrefoil – incorporated in 1983 by David Irwin and Dick Hewetson, and open to the public in various locations sine 1986 – is on the ground floor, up a ramp in the middle of the block. From the outside, it looks like it might be a community room.

Courtesy of Quatrefoil LibraryDavid Irwin and Dick Hewetson

Inside, though, it’s a dizzyingly comprehensive collection of more than 14,000 books and thousands of videos, audio recordings, periodicals, artworks, and archival materials. It’s a modest, neatly furnished space with rows of bookshelves, spaces for reading, and coffee served at the desk up front. The majority of materials are available for lending with a yearly membership. Quatrefoil is entirely volunteer-run, and open seven days a week.

The library is named for a 1950 novel by James Barr, a pseudonym for the American writer James Fugaté. Barr’s novel is a sort of roman a clef  love story between two men who meet in the Navy in World War II, and one of the first mainstream novels to portray openly gay men in a positive light – “Its two thoughtful, masculine heroes provided a corrective to the many mindless, pathetic or flighty gay characters of the forties,” wrote critic Roger Austen in the 1970s. “Quatrefoil is one of the earliest novels that could have produced a glow of gay pride.” And of course, tucked away behind glass in the non-circulating portion of the library, with hundreds of other older, out-of-print and rare books, are several editions of "Quatrefoil."

A double outsider

A few volunteers greet me at the front desk the night I visit. The weekday hours are 7 to 9 p.m., making it easier in fact than most libraries to visit, at least for people who work during the day. Charles, whose nametag indicates that he’s been a volunteer since 1991, chats with me for a bit about the history of the library, and a little bit of my own history in Minneapolis. “As an outsider,” he asks, “how have you found the LGBT community?”

Courtesy of Quatrefoil LibraryQuatrefoil Library blends into the streetscape of Lake Street pretty seamlessly.

As a sort of double outsider in this context – not a native Minnesotan, nor a member of the LGBT community – I offered that I thought there was an exceptionally good sense of institutional memory. I was, in part, thinking specifically of one of the best local historical books I’ve read in recent years, Stewart Van Cleve’s "Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota." Van Cleve is the former assistant curator of the Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota, and the book is a thoughtful, well-selected overview of materials from that collection, assembled into a historical narrative that touches on aspects of Minnesota queer culture, beginning with the Ojibwe, and moving over the years through 21st century activist organizations. It includes everything from Xeroxed pamphlets, magazines, and flyers from the dawn of the gay rights movement, to photos, oral histories, and written accounts from much earlier, many of which were rescued from certain obscurity by dedicated activists, volunteers, and amateur archivists, and donated to the collection.

Charles mentions the Tretter Collection, and nods in agreement with my “institutional memory” assessment: “It’s a very well-organized community.” Like the Tretter collection and Van Cleve’s book, the Quatrefoil Library itself is a physical testament to that organization and sense of memory.

The 10 percent rule

For a work to be included in the library, it must have an LGBT author or have at least 10 percent of the material reference the LGBT experience in one way or another. That encompasses a really wide spectrum of cultural activity, obviously, so even taking a cursory glance at the holdings, you can find everything from LPs, children’s books, textbooks, archival collections of pinback buttons, oversized coffee table art books about Warhol and Avedon (not gay himself, but noted for portraits of gay subjects, including a famous one of Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky in an embrace). That also includes a panoply of porn – a whole shelf of it on DVD, facing away from the front entrance and only available to adults. This facet of the collection is something that’s been a somewhat contentious issue internally over the years, though the library has always made it available – it is a part of the LGBT experience. (For a complete history of the collection, there's an excellent e-book by Adam Kein available on the website.)

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It’s that comprehensive, all-embracing aspect of the collection that makes it so fascinating and so vital. One of the founding tenets was that there be “no censorship.” If it’s relevant to the LGBT experience in some way, it’s in. Aside from even considerations of inclusiveness and censorship, browsing the collection turns up surprises in every aisle. Poet Greg Hewett, who was recently a writer-in-residence at the library through Coffee House Press' In the Stacks program, makes note of his surprise upon finding a copy a 1963 Helen Gurley Brown knockoff called "Sex and the Single Man." Why would that be in there? Well, explains Hewett, “it has a chapter devoted to avoiding homosexuality. Still, I’m glad it’s there as an artifact of sexology and psychology of a bygone era.” All of the materials, when taken as a whole, present a diverse, multifaceted, complex set of cultures, sometimes in alignment with one another, and sometimes at odds. 

Poignant reminders

My first impulse in any library is to find the archival, bound periodicals, and the selection at Quatrefoil doesn’t disappoint. There are full runs of Twin Cities gay-themed publications of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, such as Positively Gay, Equal Time, the GLC Voice, and Twin Cities Gaze, as well as selections of peer publications from other cities, such as Milwaukee’s Amazon or Vancouver’s Angles. Paging through Equal Time or Positively Gay is an interesting and somewhat sobering glance at the thriving but still quite limited parameters of local LGBT culture in an earlier era: printed on the sidebars and full-page spreads in black-and-white photos, text blocks and line drawings are ads for the retailers, bars, clubs, social services, organizations and other commercial establishments that constituted the safe spaces of those times for a marginalized and oppressed minority.

In particular, I find a small, one-fold satin-gloss pamphlet called "Marketplace"only four issues in 1980 – interesting for these reasons. It’s a guide to gay-friendly commercial resources in the Twin Cities, probably printed in a very small run and almost certainly limited in its availability. The cover of the first issue is a sensitively rendered drawing of a young man, available through a local portrait artist’s gallery. It’s also decorated with a lambda, the Greek letter that was a popular, pre-rainbow flag symbol of gay activism in the 1970s. There’s such an idealism in the necessity of such an undertaking – a listings of businesses for “US,” it reads – but also in the fact that this tiny facet of the local gay culture was preserved and is now available to anyone who’d like to look at it.

Not every city in America had a "Marketplace" in the post-Stonewall years, as limited as it may have been in its long-term prospects. Equally important is the fact that not very city would have that heritage so carefully preserved. The fact that you see that, and then check out a book on the cultural history of disco in America – which I did, after I signed up for a membership – makes it all the better.

McFadden’s first attack ad lacks substance, but it could work

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 9:10am

The first TV ad of the 2014 U.S Senate race is scheduled to start appearing today. It's a 30-second Mike McFadden ad criticizing Sen. Al Franken for too much federal taxation, too much federal spending and a double attack on the Obamacare issue.

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McFadden also gave a fairly long interview to Chad Hartman on WCCO radio, after which Hartman joined the ranks of journalists frustrated with McFadden's unwillingness to take positions on issues, inspiring Hartman to create a new verb.

First the ad, titled "Miss." (You can watch it here.) Set on a hockey rink, we see puck after puck, about 10 in all, miss the net and eventually catch a glimpse of a hockey player, presumably representing Franken (although I'm pretty sure not played by him) falling over as he launches yet one more errant shot. The unseen narrator provides a negative review of Franken's votes, which are characterized as "miss after miss after miss."

Then halfway through, McFadden shows up on skates, making a credible looking stop and announcing that he approves this message because we need someone who will shoot straight in Washington. It ends with him taking a slapshot into the net. Here it is:

I have ridiculous willfully naive standards for political ads, which is to say that I expect them to be honest and substantive. On that basis this one is a flop. But the two political scientists I asked to give me their reactions were both impressed with the ad, judging it on its potential impact.

Larry Jacobs of the U of M's Humphrey School said McFadden is "using the challenger playbook — framing the election as a referendum on things voters (especially GOP voters) intensely dislike. Of course, he's silent on what he'd do on those issues. But that's not what he needs politically, which is to distinguish himself as the most reliable repository for anti-Franken votes." McFadden has shown no interest in differentiating himself from the other Republican candidates, even though he will likely face them in the August primary. Jacobs said this ad would help him in both August and November.

U of M political scientist Howard LaVine, who specializes in "political psychology," also gave the ad a favorable review, calling the ad "novel," "humorous," able to criticize Franken "without making you feel bad about how terrible everything is." Visually, he thought McFadden looked good.

LaVine declared that McFadden's slap shot looked reasonably credible, and may be "cognitively priming" voters to believe that a guy who is competent at something they care about (hockey) might be competent at other things.

DFL mocks

In an email/press release to, the DFL mocked McFadden for the "straight shooter" theme of the ad, and brought McFadden's latest public interview, the one on WCCO in which Hartman asked McFadden about four or five specific issues and didn't get a clear statement of McFadden's position on any of them. Regular Black Ink readers will recognize both the issue of McFadden's long-running effort to avoid specific positions and, if you listen to the interview, you will see some familiar tap-dance performances on issues about which McFadden has been asked previously.

If you are inclined to listen for yourself, it's available here, but McFadden doesn't appear until minute 17 of this podcast, and Hartman doesn't start pressing him for issue positions until about the 26:00 mark. The last four minutes include the first time I've heard McFadden asked whether he would sign the famous Grover Norquist pledge to reject any tax increases (to which he certainly didn't give a yes or no answer, although he implied that the answer was yes).

Hartman's parting comment, after McFadden had left, was: "The criticism that's come his way, I don't think it's gonna end if he continues to non-answer questions." (I haven't previously seen "non-answer" used as a verb, but the language is a dynamic thing, y'know.)

Here's the scoop on Hayward, Wis., and its cherished ice cream cafe

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 8:50am

During his commute to his attorney job in London, Jeff Miller read a fair number of books about travel, adventure and reinvention.

“I enjoyed anything by Bill Bryson, Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence,’ ‘Under the Tuscan Sun,’" he said in an interview. "Those sorts of travel memoirs passed the time on the Tube and made for a very pleasant start to the day.”

At that point in his life — a decade ago — he never would have fathomed that he’d become the author of such a book himself. But, then, he hadn’t been planning to radically change his life. It just sort of happened. Miller and his partner, Dean, were visiting northern Wisconsin on vacation, and they learned that West’s Hayward Dairy, a somewhat decrepit but much-loved ice cream shop in Hayward, was for sale.

It’s natural, when on vacation, to fantasize a little — wouldn’t it be fun to live in this beautiful place? But Miller and Dean took that daydream to the next level. They sold their London apartment and with the proceeds bought West’s Dairy, for Miller to run, and McCormick House, an 1887 Victorian mansion for Dean to transform into a four-star bed and breakfast. Miller grew up in the Twin Cities, while Dean was a native Brit, but the change of pace was dramatic for both of them.

“It’s all a matter of perspective. Our friends in London thought it quite exotic, and to them, the wilderness of Northern Wisconsin is exotic. They might go to Provence all the time, so that’s sort of ordinary,” he said. “But the vast distances, the woods and water and long quiet winters, those things are hard for someone in London to even imagine.”

Culture shock

It might be a stretch to say that Hayward is to Twin Citizens what Provence is to Brits, but then again, maybe it isn’t. In “Scoop: Notes From a Small Ice Cream Shop” (Minnesota Historical Society Press), Miller describes the culture shock the couple experienced as they left London for the Midwest to embark on a somewhat rocky road as new owners of an outdated business. But we also see how, over the course of a year, he becomes one of the townies, a regular among a small, quirky band of shopkeepers, old-timers, and locals whose livelihood depends on a seasonal influx of visitors, most of whom hail from the Twin Cities.

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“I realized one day that my story was interesting. I often told little anecdotes and vignettes to my friends in London and my B&B guests about the characters here and the things that go on in town, and I started writing them down,” he said. Miller bought a stack of how-to-write guides and studied up, but the work came fairly naturally to the former attorney. “I think a lot of lawyers are frustrated writers who go into law because they are afraid of failure and poverty.”

Lost in time

The result is a compelling portrait of a town that is both somewhat lost in time and somewhat ephemeral (it’s so quiet in the fall and winter that this year Miller went to Palm Springs for a couple months). Miller describes his fellow townies with gentle humor, reserving the somewhat more critical eye for himself. “I think people knew we didn’t know what we were doing, and were amused by our floundering in the beginning,” he says.

That floundering included vast cost overruns on the remodeling of the two buildings; an ill-fated attempt to open a second outpost in Spooner, Wis.; interactions with tourists good and bad; and small town celebrations that turned from sweet to sticky as the hours passed. It’s worrisome to watch the pair’s savings dwindle as they import finery from the world beyond to outfit their new businesses; at one point, Dean starts selling off the couple’s designer clothing on eBay (a Walmart shirt works just fine in Hayward).

Things looked grim at the end of the first year, as Miller tallies up the lessons learned and losses suffered, some significant and very sad. But nine years later, West’s Hayward Dairy is a must-visit destination in Wisconsin’s North Woods. Miller has modernized and revitalized the business and developed a successful wholesale ice cream line. The sumptuous McCormick House is widely regarded as a world-class inn.

Miller’s not the new guy in town anymore — he’s a local, with stories to tell.

Events
  •  May 8, 7 p.m. Book launch, reading at Magers & Quinn, Minneapolis.  (Note: Jeff Miller will be serving West’s Dairy ice cream at the reading.) 

Post-break, DFL legislators face dealmaking with GOP, selves

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 8:29am

Tom Bakk always believed “this was going to be one of the easier legislative sessions I’ve ever participated in.”

Explained the DFL Senate Majority Leader, “We’ve got some money around, and there’s a little basket of things that have to be done this session. It’s starting to come together as it should.”

It took until early April, though, before any of this was publicly apparent. That's when Democrats who control the legislature reached a deal on a 5 percent raise for long-term care and disability workers, followed by cutbacks to an eventual $77 million Senate office building. A few days later, there was a minimum-wage deal. A bullying bill, shot down in 2013, became law

The current 11-day break is sort of a fishing-for-votes opener for the 2014 election, when the House, but not the Senate is on the ballot. Democrats are flying to mostly rural areas to tout the above accomplishments; the GOP is fighting back virtually, with a flurry of communications eagerly criticizing Democrats for everything listed above plus MNsure, last year’s tax increases, and what they say is cooked minimum-wage/office-complex deal.

“Single party control, with Democrats running everything, obviously has been pretty bad for Minnesota,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said on the House floor last week. “When you go home, you are going to have a lot to answer to.”

The DFL’s late-session tests are these: a wide gulf on further spending and tax relief; working with and possibly going around the GOP on around a billion dollars of bonding and capital projects; and settling their own nasty split on medical marijuana.

Great divide on taxes 

For starters, there’s still roughly $600 million of the $1.2 billion budget surplus left to spend, and Democrats have very different ideas about how to do that. 

After a surprising sideswipe from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who accused senators of stalling progress to move the office building project forward, Democrats agreed to a $443 million tax bill in March that cuts three business-to-business taxes passed last year and conforms some state and federal tax code. On top of that, the bill pumps $150 million in the state’s rainy-day budget reserve. 

But it doesn’t look like the House and Senate Democrats were in the same room when it came time to plan their second tax bills. The two proposals cover dramatically different tax territory with little crossover.

MinnPost file photo by James NordIn the House budget, outstate Minnesota would see $25 million broadband access grants and other grants and incentives for Greater Minnesota small businesses and foundations.

 

The House focuses most of its $103 million in one-time property tax relief checks for homeowners, renters and farmers, plus an sales-tax exemption extension for local government joint powers agreements starting in July 2015. The Senate’s $101 million tax bill left out one-time checks and instead, for sales tax breaks, dedicates more revenue to include “any instrumentality” of a city joint powers arrangement.

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That will save local governments money and result in property tax reductions, Senate Taxes Chairman Rod Skoe said, taking the long view. 

The Senate bill spends the rest of the money on a number of smaller provisions, like tax conformity to save foreclosed homeowners money, allowances for counties fighting aquatic invasive species and teaching tax credits for parents of children who suffer from dyslexia, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. 

Bakk also included a provision that makes way for state negotiators resume Wisconsin income tax reciprocity talks. A deal would allow residents who live in one state but work in the other to file a single state income tax return.

Dayton — who has been quiet as to what he’d like to see in a second tax cut bill— is certain to want deeper tax cuts than either the House or the Senate have offered up. Dayton pitched $616 million of tax givebacks earlier this year, including full federal tax conformity and more tax credits for angel investors. 

To spend or not to spend

The governor is also likely to call for less ongoing spending than the Legislature. In his supplemental budget proposal, Dayton proposed just $162 million in new spending out of the surplus on things like propane assistance and pay raises for long-term care workers. 

But House and Senate Democrats have passed supplemental budget bills that spend $322 million and $209 million, respectively. 

House Democrats, facing voters this year, invest money in fixing potholes. As with their fly-arounds, they focus a good deal of their spending on rural Minnesota. In their budget, outstate Minnesota would see $25 million broadband access grants and other grants and incentives for Greater Minnesota small businesses and foundations.   

The Senate wants to put money into helping at-risk nursing homes absorb costs of the minimum wage increase and give college students financial assistance. The House wants to put about $58 per pupil in the state’s general education formula, while the Senate has pitched putting $20 million in preschool and other early childhood education programs.  

“I don’t question the wisdom or value of almost every proposal that I’m aware of, but they add up to quite a bit of money,” Dayton said. 

Dayton hesitated to say he would use his gubernatorial authority to line item veto spending bills to get them in the shape he desires.  “I’m not going into threats in this stage,” Dayton added. “I’d rather work it out with them in a cooperative way.” 

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While Republicans don’t currently control any of the levers of state government, they do get a say in the bonding bill. It takes a 60 percent majority to pass a bill that authorizes debt, meaning Democrats in the House need eight GOP votes and two Republican votes in the Senate. 

Last session, DFL leaders made a handshake agreement with Republicans to spend just $850 million on a bonding bill in 2014, after about $150 million was spent last year on Capitol restoration and a few smaller projects. Republicans have warned against going back on that arrangement; on bonding, Daudt characterizes his party as the “adults in the room.” A large bonding bill fell short of needed GOP support to pass last year. 

Dayton has called the $850 million cap “excessive,” as in excessively restrictive. “My opinion on that is rescind the agreement,” he said. “There’s certainly capacity to go higher than that.”

Office of the GovernorIn his supplemental budget proposal, Gov. Mark Dayton proposed just 62 million in new spending out of the surplus on things like propane assistance and pay raises for long-term care workers.

 

To get around the agreement, House and Senate Democrats are pitching smaller, separate cash-only bonding bills using money from the surplus. Those won’t require GOP help because they don’t borrow money. The House has proposed $125 million in cash bonding in addition to a package of projects costing $850 million. The Senate hasn’t released their bonding bill yet, but Bakk said it’s likely to include roughly $165 million in cash bonding. 

Dayton proposed his own $986 million bonding bill earlier this session, and he has issues with the House’s list of projects — namely the lack of full funding proposed to finish the Capitol restoration project and for upgrades to the state’s security hospital in St. Peter. He would also rather not do cash bonding, since traditionally bonding repays long-term capital projects over a long number of years.

“Putting cash into a bonding bill to me is antithetical to the whole purpose of that enterprise,” he said. 

Final medical marijuana push

Democrats have also entered into a sort of three-way staring contest on the issue of medical marijuana. Each side hopes the other blinks first. 

Dayton appeared visibly frustrated before heading on break and dared legislators to take the issue into their own hands. The governor has taken significant heat for his opposition to a medical marijuana bill this session, and has been criticized for flip-flopping his position. “Let’s see ‘em vote. They've hidden behind their desks for the whole session while I've taken this on,” Dayton said. “If they want to vote, let them vote. Let’s see.” 

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The Senate took him up on that offer, holding the year’s first hearing on medical marijuana. The bill, which would allow patients to receive a card and purchase medical marijuana from approved dispensers, didn’t get a vote in a committee hearing but will come back up after the break. 

In the House, DFL leadership is scrambling after Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, announced he would offer an amendment to insert medical marijuana legislation into a larger health policy bill on the floor. Garofalo’s amendment also would not allow smoking marijuana, but authorize it in pill form. 

The larger health care bill was slated for a floor vote last week, but leadership pulled it from the agenda until a compromise could be struck with Dayton on medical marijuana. A standalone House bill has stalled in the legislative process, but advocates are confident it would pass if given a vote on the full floor. 

“We feel confident that we can get this done legislatively this year,” said Heather Azzi, director of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care and a lead advocate for medical marijuana. “We are ready to compromise.”

Glen Taylor: How I bought the Star Tribune, and what I paid

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 8:27am

Editor's note: Wednesday, we published the first part of a two-part interview with new Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor where he talked about the paper’s newsroom.

In this part, Taylor — who also owns the Minnesota Timberwolves and Taylor Corp. — confirms how much he paid for the Star Tribune ($100 million), his winding path to acquisition, and dickering with bankers over the $75 million in debt the paper will likely carry. Stribbers may also want to search their archives for “Jean Taylor.”

As with Part One, Taylor's answers have not been edited. We have clarified Taylor's references to "Mike," to distinguish between board chair Mike Sweeney and CEO/Publisher Mike Klingensmith.

MinnPost: Let’s start with the history. You tried to buy the Star Tribune before. Was the first time four years ago, or more?

Glen Taylor: I would say they were coming out of bankruptcy and I was just reading about it. We’d done a number of bankruptcy deals in my other businesses, so I know a little bit about them. Sometimes there are some really good opportunities if you are the lead guy and you get in there. This one was a little bit more complicated, in that a lot of the creditors had picked up the stock and that type of stuff.

So, at that time — it wasn’t just myself, it was a number of other people in Minnesota that kind of got together and said, “Gee, if it is going to come out of bankruptcy, maybe a bunch of us guys in Minnesota should pull this thing together and keep it here.” It wasn’t my controlling it and it wasn’t anything for sure. 

MP: Did somebody approach you, or was it your initiative? Because I think I remember Vance [Oppermann] was involved.

University of MinnesotaVance Oppermann

GT: Actually when I think it first started Vance and I were working together on some other business. So I think it is fair to say it was Vance and I, and then we talked to some other people. I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea actually came out of the law office of Steve Pflaum. Steve first mentioned it to me and then I was with Vance — I think it was kind of like that. 

Steve had worked with me when we were trying to get the Vikings. So that was the connection. He wasn’t my normal guy.

MP: He is your “sizable property” guy?

GT: Right! [Laughs.] That’s how I recall it, with Steve. Steve was also a friend of Vance, probably said the same thing to him.

Vance and I ended up being together and we talked about it and we talked about it with some other business guys. We thought there may be an opportunity just to go out there and make an offer. We knew sort of what people had paid for it and kind of what their value would be to pick this up. We formalized it pretty good, went out there and did this.

Well, we knew Wayzata [Investment Partners, the ultimate winner] was one of [the competitors also interested]. I think in my mind — and I don’t what the other guys were thinking — I always saw Wayzata as one of the Minnesota groups. I just saw them as, “Okay, they’ve got their shares; we’ll pick these other guys up and we won’t go after their shares. It’s all Minnesota and at some date we know they’ll want to sell theirs.”

So, I don’t know the people from Wayzata at all, but they took a different attitude. When they found out that we had made this offer, they upped their offer. We found out who was going to sell and they just offered them more money than we did. And really kind of scooped in and took it out. So that happened and we came back and made another offer to another group, and they did the same thing. Then we knew.

So we went and talked to them, and I don’t know what they said — if they didn’t trust us, or that they were a different type of people, they were different type of investors. I never had any personal conversation with them. I didn’t know them. 

So we began to see even if we picked up some more, we would end up with maybe 25 percent, 30 percent at best. And we didn’t want to be, let’s just call it a limited partner. So we just backed off. We were done.

So that’s the background. So then nothing happens and nothing happens. Then, probably through Steve, through his connections, he came back to us and said, "Wayzata is thinking about that they are going to sell this thing." It wasn’t public knowledge yet, but …

And my guess was the person I talked to was [Star Tribune Board Chair] Mike Sweeney. … And I said, “What do you think Mike?” And he said, “Well I think they’re going to sell it. Are you interested?” “Yeah.”

MP: And would this be like February of this year?

GT: Before that. No, no, last year. And I said I would be interested. But there was that land thing [the Strib wanting to sell their real estate]. Basically we just waited until the land deal got sold.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermidGlen Taylor

I went up there and met them. … Met them for the first time. They knew who I was, I knew who they were. And I said, “About this land…” And they said, ‘Well, just buy it and sell the land.’ And I’m not going to buy it and end up with $40 million for only four blocks downtown. Get rid of the gol-darned land and let them sell. If it is going to sell, let’s just write into the contract we’ll separate the land over here, and I’m after the paper, you guys take the land.

Well, they weren’t going to do that. They said, ‘It is all tied together.’ And I said, ‘Well I’m not going to …’

So, we waited and waited. And you watched that land, went ump, ump. [Moves hand sideways but implication was price on it going down]. And I would just say that when [the land] was sold, within a day or two we had our papers all drawn and everything and we submitted it to the board, said “Here is our proposal, we are interested in doing this.”

I don’t know exactly how it went — the lawyers were all involved in this — but eventually the board approved it. But by that time I had met Mike and talked to him a couple of times. Because I had said, “Hey, I’m not going to do this unless you guys at the Star [Tribune] want me to do this. This is not a deal where I am going to come in and do all type of stuff.”

I met Mike [Klingensmith, publisher and CEO]. I really liked him. That helped. That was part of the deal. I was kind of like, I’m not going to get into this paper unless Mike [Klingensmith] is there. Now I have got to back up a little bit, because I had talked to Mike [Klingensmith] before he had that offer. (Editor's note: Klingensmith was mentioned as a candidate for a top post at Time, Inc.) So you could back that up a little bit further. He had an offer.

MP: Are we talking the middle of last year?

GT: Yeah, someplace [in] New York, wasn’t it? I had met him before that, and talked to him. And he knew at that time that I was interested. So I am telling you that the background is that I had met Mike [Klingensmith]. And I really liked him. He was what everybody told me he was. And maybe a little bit more. He’s a straight shooter and a smart guy. And he’s a business guy.

I mean, he’s in there to make money. A lot of guys could say, “Well I run the paper and we are a great social service to the world.” But Mike [Klingensmith] is like, “We’ve got to make this, and we’ve got to make it here and we’ve got to make it here, and we’ve got to talk business over here.”

So I remember him saying, “If you are interested in buying it, I don’t know that I am interested in leaving.” And that’s why I wanted to back up a little bit. Because there was a —

MP: Because there was a point early in the process where he wasn’t necessarily going to come with the purchase?

GT: Right. And I wasn’t going to purchase it if he didn’t stay. 

MP: So you two committed to each other early in the process?

GT: That’s what I was going to say to you. This was not so much I committed to the paper as committed to him. He made a decision, but I didn’t say to him, “Don’t take the job.” I assumed he was going to take the job. And I think he thought he was going to take the job. But he changed his mind and he didn’t take the job. So it was a little bit morally …

startribunecompany.comMike Klingensmith

I said, “I told him I was going to work on this so I am going to work on this.” So I kept him well informed of what I was doing and why I was or wasn’t doing this. I kept him informed as to the price I was going to do. I said, “I am not going to reach for this. This is an investment. The Star [Tribune] has got to pay for itself. And if I get it up here at this price, you guys are going to be working like the dickens just to pay back the debt.”

And you see, there is a debt. But he gets it. I’m talking to someone, you didn’t have to explain it. He got it.

So we made the offer. We sent it to the board with a pretty clear message that it is not going to be sitting out there very long. I didn’t say take it or leave it, but I did talk to Mike [Klingensmith] and said, “What do you think?” And he said, “I think the board will really be happy with you doing this.” And I said, “I’m just not going to negotiate something up here. [Puts hands up to indicate higher price.] I’ve got to get my price.” We negotiated and I moved — you always move some.

MP: And you had some interesting precedents. Especially the Boston Globe selling for about $70 million.

GT: Right. And so I guess that is the background. We had the due diligence in there and stuff like that. I have met with I would say all the management up there — but that was after the board approved it and after Wayzata approved it.

They gave me access to the total board; I met with the total board. I’d say it went really well. I think they liked me and I liked them. I was probably pretty up front in saying, “If you guys don’t want this to happen, now is the time to say it. Because I don’t need it.”

And I don’t. But I would like to do it; I think it could be exciting, I think it could be challenging. And in turn, they said it would be really nice to know who the owners are. We always knew it was going to be sold; we just didn’t know [to whom] it was going to be sold.

I don’t know if there were other people bidding. I was told there was, but I don’t really know if there were.

MP: Did you not want to consider including Vance this time? I imagine you didn’t need to because the price was significantly lower than it was four years ago and you can handle it on your own.

GT: No, I didn’t — Vance made his own decision. I didn’t exclude Vance; I just think the timing was wrong for Vance. He knows exactly what the deal is, we still are close friends, and I would say that I actually encouraged him a little bit. And he basically said to me, “Thanks, I think it is really a good price, but it just isn’t the right time for me.”

I respected that and didn’t go any further. He asked me, “Do you need me to do the deal?” And I said, “I don’t need you to do the deal. I want you.” And so he knows that.

Other people have said, “Are you looking for partners?” And at this point, I’m just going to go ahead on my own. I don’t know if there is a time or a reason to do it any other way. 

MP: The only thing I can think of is legacy; for someone to pick it up and carry it forward. Is your family interested in this one? Because I know they weren’t that interested in the Timberwolves.

GT: Well the Wolves, I’ve got my son-in-laws all there. But it is a money thing, and they don’t want to lead it. In this one [the Star Tribune], the person I have talked to is my daughter Jean, who lives up in the Cities. She has already met Mike, and talked to Mike. I don’t know how she will be involved; probably on the board; have her represent the family on the board. She would be the one.

MP: And so logically she would be the one to carry the torch forward on this?

GT: Right. For awhile she was with the Taylor Corp. But she is up in the Cities now, and she is the one I have talked about representing the family. That hasn’t been formalized. We are thinking of some other ideas too, but it is too premature for me to talk about. But I think there should be a family member representing us, and it will most likely be my daughter. 

MP: Most media industry people say you bought the Star Tribune for the cash flow. Would you confirm that is true, given that there really isn’t a lot of physical stuff left to purchase?

GT: That part, to be fair ⎯ I will say I think it will be a good business deal. I will buy it, and there will be enough money generated for it to pay for itself. But it is not going to be the best deal I ever got into. And if that [making money] was the sole reason, I don’t think I would have done it.

The other reason — and it might be 50-50 — is probably that I am leading with my heart a little bit. This was going to be sold. I don’t know that Wayzata had anybody else in Minnesota who said they were interested. My guess is that there were other newspaper chains that were interested. But I think they would run it differently and I think the headquarters could be taken away from here. And when that happens, you have a different type of group that has no leadership here, so it isn’t as strong of a group.

So my thought was, leading by the heart, I am thinking about the long run. I have enough [equity] that the ownership would probably go from Glen Taylor into a trust or a foundation. This is not a five-year type thing. It might be something that works itself out so that someday — well, I don’t know what the paper will be at that point, kind of a news organization.

MP: I am guessing that your purchase price is somewhere right around $100 million.

GT: Yep. 

MP: And yes, that is a tremendous amount of money. But someone of your wealth, a couple of really bad weeks for the stock market could be $100 million, so it wasn’t that onerous.

GT: Yep, yep. And for a newspaper it is very profitable, so, I have no conditions and I can just pay cash for it. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting really good financing on it; in fact I’m quite sure of that, because a number of people and banks have come forward and offered to help me finance it. But at this time, looking at the [low] interest rates, why not just put in so much equity and finance at a low interest rate?

MP: And what is the right equity? Is it like a house, as much as 20 percent?

GT: I think that to get the interest rate that I want, I’ll put in about 25 percent. I don’t think I have to put that much in. But I will negotiate for a very low interest rate and I think they will give it to me.

That’s pretty much consistent with how I have done business in other ways. I buy something and come forward and I can do it with cash, but when the interest rates are this low, it seems to me like I should go to [banks and financiers] and get the interest rate tied up.

MP: You are thinking the interest rates can’t stay down.

GT: No, they can’t and I would rather keep my cash and fix that interest rate now. For my ag operations, I use a total one whole bank. For the Taylor Corp., I use a couple of banks. And for the Timberwolves, I use another bank. And they have all been really good that way in helping me. So as I go into this one I want to do the same thing.

In my head, I am thinking 25 percent. Because I want them to understand coming in that I want a low interest rate.

We had a bank that I have never done business with show up last week. They said, “We know all about this and we would like to do business with you.” They are a huge bank and they came down to Mankato to talk to me about this. Now, even if I don’t use them on this, there might be other deals later on I can use them for.

And another bank I haven’t done business with before has contacted me and they are very clear that they just want to come into the Twin Cities market.

MP: They are looking to make a splash purchase?

GT: Right. 

MP: So you are 73 now? 

GT: I will be in five days.

MP: Well, I don’t want to jump the gun then. But you say you are leading with your heart on this, in some respects for the sake of the community ownership. You rejected out-of-town offers for the Timberwolves and even bought out some of your minority shareholders in the team for the same reason. Are you looking hard at your legacy now? Are you thinking: I don’t want to be known as just a rich guy, but a guy who cared about Minnesota and keeping our heritage and assets in place?

GT: I would be lying if I didn’t admit that. If you know my background, you know at one point I had nothing. Well, now I have so much.

Forbes came out with their thing a month ago — the richest people in the world. And of the 1,000 people, I am listed. Now whether that is true or not true — I mean, I don’t give Forbes any figures to go by — I just can’t really imagine it. The point is, I have been more than fortunate and lucky and good and whatever.

So, I can make a pile of money, or I can be making money and investing it back into different things. Now I have been investing huge amounts in education and those sorts of things — I’ll never know exactly how it goes, but those might turn out to be some of my best investments.

The Timberwolves? I’ll invest in that. And I’ll make a lot of money. I’m going to make a lot of money, even though I wasn’t really thinking that way when I [bought out minority partners and rejected out of town owners].

The Star Tribune? It might make a lot of money because we might figure out another way to do media.

But for the time being, you are right; I am trying to look at “What can I do? How important is the media?” And personally I think it is pretty important.

And how does this affect us in Minnesota in the future? There is other media in Minnesota, but this is one of the big ones. Can I be part of it and make sure good management stays right in Minnesota, and ensure good reporting stays here? Yes, and I feel really good about that.

There is another area of this that I haven’t really talked to anybody about. I have Mike and a couple of other people, and there are some pretty smart people there. I like to work with that kind of people. I am intrigued by it. They are going to challenge me and push me and wonder what the Sam heck I am thinking.

And a lot of people might say, “I don’t want that crap.” But I like it. It is nice to be around good people who have something to say when you ask, “What are you doing? What is going on?”

I have already had my technology people here — and I have some really good ones — up there meeting with [the Strib] technology people. What are we doing and are there ways to put it together?

And tomorrow, I am going to be looking at purchasing a big technology company. And we know the Trib is going be switching into new forms of technology — now it is digital, but what after that? All of that excites me.

That’s what I told the staff up there. They asked me, “Are you going to be hands on?” No. I’m not going to be hands on in the sense that I run the paper. But I am going to be hands on in the sense if you guys need some capital or something new. I am going to be hands on if you guys are looking at some technology that I am [already] working on over here. We can work together.

How the DNR is handling its deluge of 52,000 public comments on PolyMet

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 8:25am
CC/Flickr/Caleb RoenigkThe DNR received about 52,000 comments on the PolyMet EIS, about 5,000 of them unique.

As the tally of public comments on PolyMet Mining Corp.'s proposed NorthMet project climbed past 30,000, then 40,000 and finally 50,000 by the March 13 deadline, some of us at MinnPost wondered:  

How in the world does the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources physically process such a flood of information?

Everybody who uses email can appreciate in some sense how electronic communication has multiplied the challenge of merely tracking inbound correspondence, let alone reading, sorting and responding to it.

But most of us do so without legal obligation to (a) record every email received and (b) answer, in some way, each one that can be considered in some way "unique" —  a classification for which the threshold is rather low.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr

If 100 or 1,000 people send in the same prepared comment form, adding only their name, a single response will serve for the whole identical set, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr explained to me on Tuesday.

"But even the auto-generated emails allow for customization," he said. "So if you put in, 'I don't like the way the commissioner combs his hair,' now you've got two comments, and it becomes unique."

That was just one insight among many I gained from a talk with Landwehr in which we laid aside the policy disputes and controversy surrounding the PolyMet project — and review of it by the DNR and its "co-lead agencies," the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to discuss the sheer logistical challenge of handling the public's assessment  of the NorthMet Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).

Excerpts from Landwehr's comments:

We have DNR staff who do this kind of work day in and day out, and they have developed a process for it; also, I should acknowledge we're working with a consultant, ERM, and they do EIS work all over the place.

They have system for taking comments and dissecting them and figuring out how to prepare them for responses, and that's at the company's expense: ERM bills us, and we bill PolyMet.

 Our first contract with ERM went through the public review of the 2009 draft EIS and sometime after as we worked through the comments, and was for approximately $5.8 million.

Our second contract with ERM began in April 2011, well after the public comment period on the 2009 draft EIS, and the current amount is approximately $10.7 million. That does not include development of the final EIS; we are currently negotiating a contract amendment for that phase.

52,000 comments, 5,000 unique

I don't have a precise number for the comments received but I have a very close number: 52,000, which is enormous.

My understanding is we have in the neighborhood of 5,000 unique comments. And the law requires that every unique comment must have a response in the final document.

So it's a monster to get your arms around, and we really have no idea how long it will take. I think the 2009 EIS took nine months, and that was 10,000 comments.

The bad news about the computer age is that you can generate a lot of stuff without much thought. But the good news is, you can sort through much of it without a lot of thought.

One big database

The beginning of the funnel, if you will, is an electronic database at ERM. All 52,000 go in there, and the software behind the database can identify exact matches so they can be treated in bulk.

ERM staff read each of the comments and sort them. In the first sort, the comments are broken down into major topical areas — there will be some about water quality, and they'll go into a water-quality box; some about land exchange, they'll go into a land-exchange box.

Then, within a topic area, there might be several themes, they call them. So someone submits a comment about water quality, and they talk about sulfates, they talk about mercury, they'll talk about something else. Now we have three boxes: water quality/sulfates, water quality/mercury, water quality/something else.  

And the process just continues to bifurcate until it comes down to one specific theme in one specific area. But we'll have a bunch around, say, sulfates and water quality, that share a very common root question, which can be addressed in one common answer.

Identifying how that answer will occur is called a disposition. It could be a reply that the answer is found elsewhere in the EIS; it could be a reply that, yes, there's a correction we have to make; or it could be a disposition that says additional work is needed.

Initial sort takes months

That's the process that's going on right now, a kind of mechanical process of handling the questions that has to occur before we can dive into the answering of the questions. It will take a couple of more months, at least.

Remember, some of those 52,000 have multiple questions within them; we got one letter of 180 pages, I think from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. And I know that's not the only large one we got.

So we have no idea at this point how many dispositions there will be. Once we do, we'll develop a scoping schedule, and start assigning how much time is going to be needed for each disposition. Might be five minutes, might be five months.

Comments made at the public meetings are included in the 52,000; we had court reporters transcribing what people said from the microphones, and we also had court reporters there taking oral comments from people whose names weren't drawn to speak. We also had paper cards for people to fill out.

It's fair to say the live music at the St. Paul session was perhaps one of the most unique forms the comments have taken. It wouldn't surprise me if we've received some others in unique media, and they'll be incorporated, too. Sometimes the only response possible is, we received that — because it's more of a statement on mining than a comment on the EIS. But it will be noted.

Dividing the work

To the extent that a disposition requires technical involvement, it will be assigned to one of the co-lead agencies, or in some cases we can rely on expertise at ERM.

Say something comes in on land exchange. Only the Forest Service can respond to that. If something comes in on wetland mitigation, the provisions under the 404 rules, the Corps of Engineers will respond to that.

But in many cases, I think the questions will be answered by teams of experts from more than one agency. Say there was a complicated water-quality issue; it might involve both the Corps of Engineers and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency [PCA], or DNR and the PCA.

I'm told that development of the SDEIS included in the vicinity of 50 to 60 different people who were tapped for different levels of expertise from DNR, PCA and the federal agencies. I imagine this would require a similar pool.  

Part of the public comment process is to point out to us true deficiencies in the report — questions that we didn't ask and should have asked, or deficiencies in the analysis that require us to re-analyze. I'm not aware as yet that there was any big stuff that was missed, but I'm not really into the weeds on all of it, either.

What he's learned so far

This is the first EIS I've been involved with as a commissioner, and there are a few things that I've learned.

One is, it's important that people understand what the EIS process is, and I'm not sure that people are always clear on that. It's information-gathering, which I liken to buying a house: You get a lot of information about the neighborhood, the house and its composition before you go and buy it.

Second was about really making sure that people understand what their opportunity is: We really need your critical comments, for you to weigh in, in a really rich and meaningful way.  

And third was, we really did want 52,000 comments. We really did want for everybody in Minnesota who has any interest at all to be aware of this process, and have available to them all the information they might want, and every opportunity to comment.

We wanted to make sure this was the most rigorous public review we could get, and I think 52,000 is a pretty good measure of success.

An orange-black ribbon holds a clue to eastern Ukraine's chaos

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 8:10am

As pro-Russia protests spread in eastern Ukraine, a strip of striped orange-and-black fabric has become as ubiquitous as the armed men in unmarked military fatigues.

Its name is the Ribbon of Saint George. Imbued with history, it’s a powerful symbol in the ongoing information battle over Ukraine. For Russians it's a mark of allegiance to the state – both the fearsome, expansionist Russian state of old and its modern successor under President Vladimir Putin.

When pro-Russia rallies took place last December, seeking to rival the Maidan demonstrations in Kiev, very few ribbons were seen. That all changed after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych and the secessionist fires in Crimea: The ribbon appeared first in flags flying over public rallies in Crimea; then pinned to the suits of Russian Duma deputies as they annexed the peninsula; and now tied to bulletproof vests and weapons of pro-Russian militiamen in eastern Ukraine.

The ribbon traces its roots to the 18th century Russian Empire, when Catherine the Great instituted a new top decoration for battlefield valor: the Cross of Saint George (the same Saint George who slays a dragon on the Russian coat of arms). This tradition continued under successive czarist rulers.

But the orange and black stripes reached new heights during World War II, when they were incorporated into the Soviet Order of Glory in 1943. More than a million people received the award for “feats of bravery, courage, and fearlessness in the battle for the Soviet Motherland” against Nazi Germany in which almost 14 million Russian civilians and soldiers died. (Nearly 9 million died in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic.)

The ribbon made a post-Soviet comeback as part of the Order of Saint George, initiated by the Russian Federation in 1992. The award was presented to Russian military officers and soldiersduring the 2008 war with Georgia.

Victory parade

For many Russians and Russian speakers, especially the elderly, the ribbon is a direct link to family members who fought and suffered in World War II. During the annual Victor Day parade on May 9, the Kremlin funds the distribution of hundreds of thousands of ribbons to the public in Russia and abroad, and wearing one is a sacred ritual.

Even for younger generations, the ribbon remains a symbol of historic glory and patriotism in World War II, along with the image of red stars gleaming on Red Army hats – millions of them – as soldiers marched off to the front. The ribbon is a part of Russians' identity, regardless of political affiliation, and to renounce its significance is to spurn your past. 

And this fits perfectly into Moscow's explanation of events in eastern Ukraine: a righteous revolt by Russian-speaking citizens against Kiev’s illegitimate new government and its “fascist” followers. For Russians speaker in Donetsk or Slovyansk, it’s easy to feel an affinity with protesters displaying the orange-and-black stripes.

Many Ukrainians have objected to the hijacking of the ribbon of St. George by instigators of separatist protests, calling it a perversion of historic memory. Some are even calling it the “Colorado ribbon,” after the similarly colored Colorado beetle that infests potato fields across Eastern Europe. At least one Maidan activist has made a show of burning three ribbons in the eternal flame in Odessa. All of this is grist to the mill of pro-Russian agitation and popular paranoia. 

We go live to KARE 11's Rena Sarigianopoulos at MinnRoast 2014

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 8:09am
Rena Sarigianopoulos

When we first asked KARE11's Rena Sarigianopoulos to be a part of our annual variety benefit, MinnRoast, she shared her mother's observation that "a baby bunny dies every time I try to sing." We promised Rena she wouldn't have to utter a single note and she agreed to join in the fun.

MinnRoast has moved to a larger venue this year, the Historic State Theatre, and joining Rena for their first time in the show will be comedienne Lizz Winstead, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu & VocalEssence, Jim Graves and Kim Crockett of the Center of the American Experiment.

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Returning performers include Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken, Growth & Justice's Dane Smith, Al Sicherman, Joe Kimball, Lee Lynch, Cyndy Brucato, Joel Kramer and K-TWIN's Brian "B.T." Turner.

Join us on April 25 to watch politicians and journalists shed their serious personas to sing, dance, act and poke fun at each other and the state of the state we all love.

Order your tickets today, or we'll make Rena sing!

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($6,720 tax-deductible)Smokey and the Miracle Workers10 tickets to the show and pre- and post-show receptions. Premium show seating and reserved booth or table seating at the pre-show reception. Valet parking for up to 5 cars. Recognition at event and in program book. Extra sponsor tix available @$250 each. $5,000
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New York gun owners shrug off tough new rules: What happens now?

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 8:01am

With some tearing up gun registration forms in public protest on Tuesday, some 1 million New York gun owners shrugged off an April 15 deadline to register assault-style weapons under a tough post-Sandy Hook gun control law.

The rebellious stance is being taken by a subgroup of Americans who often make a show of being “law-abiding.” But it’s now set off a possible standoff with the New York State Police over registering assault-style weapons – a sore subject in a country simmering with gun-confiscation fears after myriad high-profile shootings.

For now, gun rights experts say, the outcome in New York is uncertain. Will the state take the initiative to seize unregistered weapons? If it doesn’t, will the new gun controls be exposed as toothless, even meaningless?

“The line in the sand has been drawn, and if Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to send state police out on house-to-house searches and put hundreds of thousands of people in prison, they can do that,” says Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver.

Tuesday’s protests were another sign of New York emerging as a battleground on gun issues. In late 2012, The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., drew heavy criticism after publishing addresses of pistol permit holders in the county. Just this week, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged $50 million toward a national effort called Everytown for Gun Safety, focused on improving background checks.

As for the legislation in question, the SAFE Act, it bans semiautomatic rifles that can take detachable magazines and those with military features like pistol grips, folding stocks, second hand grips, bayonet mounts, and flash suppressors.

New York residents who already own those guns can legally keep them so long as they register them with the state – the failure of which is punishable as a misdemeanor and, possibly, a felony.

In December, a federal judge in Buffalo, William Skretny, upheld the SAFE Act, which was spurred by the Sandy Hook massacre in neighboring Connecticut. Judge Skretny ruled in essence that the state has a right to curb and regulate ownership of certain weapon styles because they pose a legitimate threat to public safety.

Nevertheless, New York gun owners argued Tuesday that the entire law is a fallacy. They say the weapons it targets are basically semiautomatic sporting rifles and are no more or less deadly than those rifles.

Creating a registry on such an allegedly false pretense is seen by many as a setup for what they call SAFE Act II: an all-out assault-style weapon ban.

On Tuesday, hundreds of gun owners rallied in New York, some carrying signs that said, “We Will Not Comply.”

To be sure, gun control groups are pointing out that the same gun owners who proclaim to be responsible and “law-abiding” are now putting their guns at risk by refusing to abide by the law.

“No guns are being taken away unless you fail to register your military-style assault weapon, if you happen to own one,” Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, told The Buffalo News. “If you register it, you can keep it.”

New York isn’t saying how many gun owners refused to register by the April 15 deadline, partly because state police, given the lack of a central registry up until now, don’t really know. Some estimates put the total at about 1 million people.

A similar bill in Connecticut also demanded that those who own certain kinds of guns register them. An estimated 300,000 gun owners refused. The state so far has done nothing, and technically, the state has “very likely created tens of thousands of newly minted criminals,” The Hartford Courant’s Dan Haar wrote earlier this year.

It’s far from clear what law enforcement will do if they encounter unregistered guns on the beat. As they have with other recent gun control laws, many sheriffs have been skeptical, calling many of the laws unenforceable.

Eric County Sheriff Timothy Howard told The Buffalo News that “theoretically,” law enforcement could report somebody during an investigation, but whether they actually will is another question, he said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I am not encouraging them to do it. At the same time, their own consciences should be their guide. I am not forcing my conscience on them. That is a decision they should make.”

Notably, there’s a loophole that gun owners who don’t register could use for potential legal cover: The law allows owners to remove offending features such as pistol grips and, thus, remain within the law.

Prosecutor waited two years to file 'maidens' sex-abuse charges

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 6:18am

Two … years.  Pam Louwagie, Jennifer Brooks and Jenna Ross of the Strib continue reporting on the River Road Fellowship “maidens” story. “Even after two young women stepped forward to say their minister had molested them as children and the Sheriff’s Office built its case, it took two years for the Pine County attorney’s office to bring charges. … When the county attorney’s office brought charges two years later, there was little substantial change beyond the evidence investigators submitted in 2012, Cole said.”

In the same vein … . Madeleine Baran at MPR says, “A former top deputy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis answered questions under oath today about his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases as part of a lawsuit brought by an alleged victim. The Rev. Kevin McDonough, who served as vicar general for Archbishops John Roach and Harry Flynn and led the archdiocese's child safety programs until September, declined to comment. Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents the alleged victim of the Rev. Thomas Adamson, said McDonough answered most questions. However, McDonough refused to respond to questions about his decision not to participate in a St. Paul police investigation into clergy abuse cases … .”

Did not see this coming. The AP story says, “Football players at Minnesota State Mankato refused to practice for their former head coach Wednesday, greeting his reinstatement by an arbitrator by demanding that the interim coach keep the top job. … They read a statement saying they were unanimous in wanting Aaron Keen to remain as head coach.”

In the Mankato Free Press, Jim Rueda says, “Aaron Keen, the program's interim head coach for two seasons and now the associated head coach, came over and shook Hoffner's hand and appeared to welcome him back. A few minutes later, all but three players emerged from the locker room in street clothes and gathered at the entrance to the practice field. Junior safety Samuel Thompson read from a prepared statement saying the team had been silenced through the two-year ordeal and it was time to speak up.”

Even Lou Holtz stayed longer than this. In the Strib Amelia Rayno says, “At a barely ripe 32 years old, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino has already manned two head coaching jobs in his first two years with that title. ... ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported on Wednesday afternoon that Pitino is on Tennessee's ‘short list’ for replacing Cuonzo Martin, who bolted for the University of California on Tuesday. Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague said on the Dan Barreiro show on KFAN that Pitino is not interested in the job.”

MNsure FUBAR isn't over ... . James Nord of Politics in Minnesota reports nearly 14,000 low-income Minnesotans are not getting the 50-percent health-care premium reductions they should because of problems transitioning from MinnesotaCare to MNsure. For example, a monthly premium now $49 a month should be $29. The state plans to reimburse the mostly single adults, but isn't sure how much that will cost.

The Minnesota Daily wants the legislature to think again about a bill prohibiting “gay healing.” “Minnesota minors may not get the protection they deserve regarding sexual orientation identity now that a bill to ban anti-gay therapy fell short in the state Legislature. Support for the bill grew after two University of Minnesota political science students created an online petition requesting its introduction. The petition received more than 110,000  signatures. ... We are disappointed that the bill did not get a hearing … .”

Will we need personal seat licenses for soccer, too? For NBC Sports, Joe Prince-Wright says, “With Atlanta set to be announced as MLS’ 23rd franchise on Wednesday afternoon now other markets wanting to become the 24th franchise, which MLS Commissioner Don Garber previously said would be the limit for the foreseeable future, Minneapolis-St. Paul seems to be right at the front of the list. … the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings are ‘stepping up’ their bid to bring MLS to the land of 10,000 lakes. The Vikings’ vice president of public affairs, Lester Bagley, said the team are working to secure an MLS expansion franchise to play in their new downtown Minneapolis stadium, which is set to open in 2016.”

Three Minnesota companies made Military Times’  “Best Companies for Veterans” list. Jim Hammerand at the Business Journal says, “No. 25: U.S. Bank U.S. Bancorp's bank subsidiary said 2,000 of its 66,000 employees (3 percent) are military veterans or reservists. … . No. 26: Xcel Energy Inc. The Minneapolis-based power utility company reported 10 percent of its 11,000-person workforce is military veterans or reservists. … No 52: Hormel Foods Corp.  Almost 3 percent of Hormel's 12,267 employees come from the military. Of last year's hires, 2.5 percent were military veterans or reservists.”

Mother Strib tut tuts the “flap” over Condoleezza Rice. “One has to wonder if the same 182 faculty members would protest an appearance by President Obama over his use of drones or the fact that the Guantanamo Bay detention center remains open today. The letter goes on to cite another point of contention in the Rice flap — the $150,000 speaking fee she will receive. … It’s our hope that Rice will take the opportunity to reflect not only on her upbringing in the segregated South during the civil rights movement, but also on her role in the Bush administration … .”

This will get tricky over family dinners … . Stribber Paul Walsh says, “A 19-year-old man has admitted to charges that he and his father played host to an underage booze party attended by a standout high school athlete who died in wintry weather after fleeing the gathering when authorities showed up. Erik P. Hastad’s father, Gary, was in court Wednesday for a hearing and has yet to enter a plea, according to his attorney, Ronald R. Frauenshuh Jr. If the older Hastad takes his case to trial, he may hear his son testifying against him, Frauenshuh said Wednesday.”

Kate Millett: She paved the way for the rest of us

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 5:00am

On April 21, the University of Minnesota will award an honorary doctorate to one of its own, Kate Millett (BA English, ’56). Millett rose to national prominence with her 1969 book, “Sexual Politics,” in which she called for a  movement “toward freedom from rank or prescriptive role, sexual or otherwise.” Fellow feminist and U of M alumna Arvonne Fraser reflects here on the impact of Millett’s work.

katemillett.comKate Millett

In “Sexual Politics,” Kate Millett, intelligent, scholarly, courageous and committed, took on and analyzed, through a sexual lens, male views of women expressed in the writings of literary icons like Norman Mailer, Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence. She pointed out how damaging to women the political implications of such views were. They confirmed women as the subordinate sex, she argued.

Even before the book was published, another notable feminist, Robin Morgan, included an excerpt from Millett's book in her “Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement,” which also became a best seller. Later, Doubleday, the publisher of Millett's book, said “Sexual Politics” was among the 10 most important works it had issued during its 100 years of publishing, even though it let the book go out of print for a while.

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My own copy, now yellow with age, is well thumbed and underlined.

But favorable public attention for Millett was short-lived. Norman Mailer — on all best-seller lists at the time — fought back with an article in Harper's, attacking Millett's work. And Time fed the furor with a December 1970 article that essentially labeled all women's liberationists as lesbians. Ever honest, Millett announced she was bisexual and remained an active participant in women's liberation groups.

Despite unfavorable, often mocking, media attention to Millett and feminists in general, the movement flourished. It should be noted the media in the 1970s was overwhelmingly white male.

Books struck a chord, especially with younger womenArvonne Fraser

Millett's and Morgan's books struck a chord with women, especially younger women, who had not been moved by Betty Friedan's book, “The Feminine Mystique,” which had shocked the world in 1963 by illustrating the dilemmas of being identified as a housewife. By the time Millett's book was published, younger women had been organizing small, intimate, consciousness-raising sessions and her book fed this group's dissatisfaction about their position in society.

NOW, the National Organization for Women, was formed in 1966, and Millett became an active participant and spoke around the country. Soon other organizations were formed, including WEAL, the Women's Equity Action League — which I eventually headed — and later the National Women's Political Caucus. Ms. Magazine began publication, coedited by Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin.

Feminism, although derided in the major media, became news as a full-fledged movement developed.

A split developed between the younger, more radical women, often characterized as lesbians or those who followed Millett's line of reasoning, and us "conservatives" who worked for changes in employment, education, and legal or political change. We were often amused, for rarely were we called "conservative"!

'The liberationists and the legalists'

Sara Evans, U of M Regents Professor emerita, rightly defined the two elements of the 20th-century women's movement as the liberationists and the legalists. While some emphasized the split between these two elements of the movement, I worked with the liberationists on many issues.

As in many political movements, those perceived to be more radical make those of us working for political and legal change look respectable or at least middle-of-the-road. Because the radical element serves to make the more conservative respectable, much can be accomplished.

Without Millett's book and the women's liberation groups we would never have had women's studies courses on campuses, never have had Women in Development, which I headed in the U.S. Agency for International Development, nor, probably, would Sara Evans have become distinguished and rewarded for scholarship in women's history.

Didn't know enough to be grateful

We who participated in the late 20th-century women's movement all had mentors who recalled the fight for women's right to vote and for birth control. I took those rights for granted and didn't know enough women's history even to be grateful for my foremothers. That taught me not to criticize young women who don't even recognize Kate Millett's name or that of Dr. Shymala Rajender, who fought the U of M and won the famous sex-discrimination case that gave me and many others pay increases for a while. And never would the issue of violence against women have surfaced and become an international human rights issue without Millett's “Sexual Politics.”

The personal tragedy, in Millett's case and that of many others, is that, as pioneers, their careers and psyches suffered. Millett could never find an academic job that would support her financially, nor did she have much success as an artist. She was too early and her work too explosive for the times.

Many of us owe a great debt to Millett and other women like her who gained celebrity for a time and then were shunned. They paved the way for the rest of us.

Arvonne Fraser is a Senior Fellow Emerita at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and a mother of six and grandmother of seven. She is the author of a memoir, "She's No Lady: Politics, Family, and International Feminism." Fraser was a counselor in President Jimmy Carter's Office of Presidential Personnel and headed the U.S. Office of Women in Development. She served from 1992 to 1994 as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

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