News Day – January 13

Crime decreasing … for now Looking at FBI figures, the the PiPress reports that crime in St. Paul rose slightly during the first six months of the year, compared to 2007. “Slightly” means 0.2% or ten more crimes than in 2007. St. Paul police say that the crime figures showed a decline by the end of 2008. In Minneapolis, the Strib reported that crime fell during the first six months of 2008. Nationwide, violent crime fell by 3.5% and property crime by 2.5%. Final crime stats for the entire year will be available in the fall.

But can it last? Though crime stats show decreases, city governments across the state face major budget cuts. MPR interviewed Wadena Mayor Wolden:

Wolden said cities are struggling with Gov. Pawlenty’s admonition not to cut budgets for public safety.

“We understand that. We’re not dumb. We know that people want to dial 911 and have somebody show up at their door in 60 seconds, 24/7/365. It’s what we do. That’s why they pay taxes,” Wolden said. “We are going to try to hold them as harmless as possible. But this is forcing our hand. This may have to be the cut.”

Liberians need a pathway to permanent residence. Once again, Liberians lawfully in the United States under a grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) face forced departure as the latest extension of TPS expires in on March 31. TPS was first granted in 1991, and extended year to year until 2007, when President Bush changed the status to Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). Liberians who fled war and persecution, have lived here for more than a decade, starting businesses, buying homes, and raising families. Each family has its own story. MPR tells one of the stories:

The possibility of deportation would pose an immediate dilemma for Kirkpatrick Weah. He has two young American-born sons who both need special education. He’d have to decide whether to take them with him to Liberia, where the schools may not offer the programs that can help them succeed, or whether to leave them in the U.S.

Minnesota is home to about 25,000 Liberians, one of the largest populations in the United States, and many live under the threat of departure on March 31.

MN Job Watch: Hutchinson Technology, which had announced layoffs of 1100 just a month ago, increased the number to 1380, according to the Strib. The new plan calls for cutting 950 jobs in Hutchinson (pop. 13,929) and 50 in Plymouth. According to the Strib:

They are not alone. Many manufacturers are swinging the employment axe as the grip on the economy tightens. Manufacturers scrubbed 600,000 jobs and shut dozens of plants last year. In Minnesota, 3M, Andersen, Select Comfort, Pentair, Imation and other manufacturers cut 8,500 jobs in just 10 weeks. Hundreds more are coming as retailers Best Buy, Linens and Things and now Cost Plus World Market shut stores and trim corporate staff.

California-based Seagate Technology announced cuts of 800 jobs in the United States. The company employs 53,000 worldwide, about 8,000 in the United States, and about 3,300 in Bloomington and Shakopee, according to the Strib.

Ford is offering buyouts in St. Paul. “About 240 of the 771 union members working at the St. Paul Ford plant are eligible for the buyouts, said Roger Terveen, president of UAW Local 879” in the PiPress. The buyouts would take effect in January. The last round was in 2006.

Gubernatorial tease Both T-Paw and Wisconsin Guv Jim Doyle say they’ll make a major announcement of a joint initiative on Tuesday at 11 a.m., and neither is telling what it will be, AP says, except that it involves efficiency and spending cuts.

Immigrant struggles MPR reports on the struggles of immigrants, many of whom had professional degrees and practices in their home countries, to make a new life in Minnesota. For Damaris Perez-Ramirez, that meant leaving her PhD in psychology and 12-year psychology practice and starting over.

Starting from scratch meant cleaning houses, working as a translator and coordinating parenting classes for Latinos in the Twin Cities. These weren’t exactly the kind of jobs she had in mind when she arrived in Minnesota in 2001. …

A recent report by the Migration Policy Institute shows that, nationally, more than 1.3 million college-educated immigrants are either unemployed or working in jobs such as dishwashers, taxi drivers or housecleaners.

Gaza war update Yesterday the Israeli government banned Arab political parties inside Israel, and even TPM confessed to not being sure what to say or think about the decision, which may well be overturned by the Israeli courts. As casualty figures, with the death toll nearing 1,000 and the number of injured topping 4,000, Bill Moyers presented a searing indictment of the Israeli war (“Brute force can turn self-defense into state terrorism”), and Naomi Klein urged a boycott of Israel. Israel warned (promised?) continuing escalation.

And the recount saga goes on … Yesterday, MN Supreme Court Justice Alan Page appointed the three judges who will hear the Coleman lawsuits in the election/recount battle. MPR reports:

They are:
• Elizabeth Hayden of Stearns County who was appointed by DFL Governor Rudy Perpich in 1986;
• Kurt Marben of Thief River Falls who was appointed by Independent Jesse Ventura in 2000, and
• Denise Reilly of Hennepin County who was appointed by Republican Arne Carlson in 1997.

Franken also asked that the Guv and SoS issue him a certificate of election yesterday — both declined, pointing out that the law requires them to wait until after the court decides on all legal challenges.

Popular public schools Choosing a school is a mind-boggling process for parents of kindergartners. Last weekend, TC Daily Planet visited the school choice fairs in Minneapolis and St. Paul and talked to parents.

Parents at both fairs moved aggressively from booth to booth, peppering parent volunteers and administrators with questions. Many were so intent on their search that I found it hard to stop them for an interview.

“It’s definitely overwhelming,” said Caralin Dees of St Paul, who was looking for a kindergarten for her four-year-old daughter with her husband Matt. The couple said they hadn’t done much research before the fair. “We’re looking for an elementary with a math-science focus…but really, how much do we want to limit her. I mean, she’s only four!”

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