News Day: Movers and shakers / Fong Lee update / Building in Shadow Falls / Animal news / more

Movers and shakers on the move Lois Quam is leaving Piper Jaffray & Co. after less than two years to start a , reports the Strib. Quam plans to start a business incubator for start-ups in health care and green technology, building on connections with Norway and its clean-energy technology. Before heading up alternative investments at Piper Jaffray, Quam was a senior UnitedHealth Group exec.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s Lake Harriet area home is up for sale, reports the Minnesota Independent, with an asking price of $750,000. According to Rybak’s communications director Jeremy Hanson, it’s a case of “empty-nest downsizing.”

Fong Lee update David Hanners continues his stellar reporting on the latest, convoluted developments in the Fong Lee case. In brief: Minneapolis police are accused of planting a “throw-down” gun near Fong Lee’s body, after they shot and killed him in 2006. Police say, “No, we didn’t.” (And if you don’t know what a throw-down gun is, consult your local your local televison listing for Law and Order re-runs.)

The gun in question had no fingerprints and no DNA traces — not on the gun, not on the clip, not on the bullets. The description and serial number first given by the police for the gun were identical with those of a Russian-made Baikal .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun listed in police inventory records as a gun that was recovered after a 2004 burglary, belonging to a Minneapolis man named Dang Her, and in police custody before the shooting. Now the police say that the 2004 gun was actually a Belgian-made weapon that belonged to a man named Tong Vue. But Tong Vue says he never owned that gun and has never had any gun stolen. Dang Her says police did notify him that they found his gun.

Police say it’s all cleared up now, and questions about the gun don’t matter anyway, reports Hanner:

A Minneapolis police sergeant’s mis-identification of a gun led to an erroneous claim that the gun found next to police shooting victim Fong Lee in 2006 was planted, lawyers for the city claimed in a document filed today.

Contrary to the dead man’s family claims, the gun hadn’t been in police custody prior to the shooting — and even if it had been, it is “legally irrelevant,” the city argues in a memorandum filed in U.S. District Court.

Still confused? The trial begins May 1.

Building in Shadow Falls Wellington Development is going ahead with its Shadow Falls row-house condo construction, in what Finance and Commerce calls “a gutsy real estate play.” Up to a dozen units, priced at $435,000 to $780,000, will be at Marshall and Otis, a block from the Mississippi and less than that from the tony Town and Country golf club.

Wellington has only a dozen condos left to sell among the 315 units it developed on or near University Avenue at Metro Lofts and Emerald Gardens in St. Paul and Corridor Flats in Minneapolis, and is now a new, green office building at 2700 University Avenue in St. Paul.

In other St. Paul housing news, the PiPress reports that the city is offering about $15,000 in loan funds for downpayments or closing costs to “heroes” — veterans, members of the U.S. armed forces, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, health care workers and certain public sector employees — who also qualify for a federal first-time-buyer tax credit.

MN Job Watch Wellington’s building plans should come as welcome news in St. Paul, where, reports the PiPress, the city council just cut building inspection budgets (by $500,000) and building inspectors’ hours because “the bad economy equals less construction equals fewer building permits equals less money for the city to pay inspectors.” Six workers will be laid off. Others will see their work week reduced to 32 hours.

Trader Joe’s vs. the Wedge? The Heavy Table blog reports that Trader Joe’s grocery chain is contemplating a move to 2309 Lyndale Avenue, near the Wedge Co-op. Comments on the announcement ranged from “awesome” to “Are you serious?! The Wedge is our community, Trader Joe’s is a Whole Foods/Sam’s Club chain. Why not put a giant Walmart in there instead, it would serve the same purpose.”

Torture doctors A confidential 2007 report from the International Committee of the Red Cross found that medical personnel monitored prisoners and advised interrogators on how much abuse the prisoners could take, reports NPR. Journalist Mark Danner wrote about the report and the U.S. torture of prisoners in the New York Teview of Books a few weeks ago, and has now posted the entire text of the document on-line. This is the first time that the involvement of U.S. medical personnel in the torture has been reported. The ICRC said that medical professionals’ assistance in interrogation was a “gross breach of medical ethics.”

Going to the dogs NPR reports that a classy, multi-million dollar dog park in Dallas has plans to expand to a Dallas suburb, Phoenix and Minneapolis. The Unleashed Indoor Dog Park boasts a waterfall, 50,000 square feet of artificial grass laid over a foot of fine gravel, tables and wi-fi (the café is coming soon.) The business owner found outdoor dog parks too dirty, smelly, and hot, so a group of investors gathered $10 million in start-up funds to create the indoor dog park enterprise. Among the amenities:

In addition to the indoor artificial grass, the facility has 2.5 acres outdoors and a canine water park under construction. Inside, there’s also a supply store, grooming facility and day care. For owners, there are tables and WiFi, and soon there will be a cafe and restaurant with seating on a second floor overlooking the indoor park.

An all-day pass costs $7.50 for one dog and $10 for two.

And in other animal news Beware — the emerald ash borers are coming. the PiPress reports that the beetles that have killed millions of trees in ten other states are at the border, if not actually already present in southeastern MN. Minnesota’s 900 million ash trees are at risk from the small invaders. Here’s what to do:

Signs of infestation include small D-shaped exit holes in ash bark and serpentine tunnels packed with sawdust under the bark. Larvae kill ash trees by tunneling into the wood and feeding on nutrients….

Don’t bring wood materials into Minnesota that could harbor EAB, such as ash firewood.

If you think you’ve seen an ash borer or have a tree that is infected, call 651-201-6684 in the metro or 888-545-6684 in outstate Minnesota.

For more information, go to

Minneapolis money-transfer raids AP reports that the FBI, acting on warrants issued in Missouri, raided Mustaqbal Express, also known as North American Money Transfer Inc.; Quran Express; and Aaran Financial on Wednesday. According to AP, the warrant listed “documents, books, records, ledgers and other materials “relating to the transfer of money, currency or funds” to Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates.”

Ready to roll MPR and the Met Council have reached an agreement, removing one more possible obstacle to the Central Corridor light rail line. An MPR press release said the mitigation plan “largely protects our unique broadcast facility from the noise and vibration of the trains.”

None of the other parties objecting to Central Corridor plans have the financial clout of MPR, so it looks like a green light for construction to begin next year, with completion in 2014, regardless of continuing community concerns about the plans along University Avenue and in Lowertown.

An MPR report quotes Met Council chair Peter Bell:

But Bell says the measures included in the new MPR agreement are solutions his agency was planning to do from the get-go.

“It’s important to note that we didn’t do anything we wouldn’t have otherwise done,” said Bell. “We demonstrated to MPR that we could mitigate that, and we sped up the process of analyzing that to give MPR a bit more comfort.”

Small business, big recession In South and Southeast Minneapolis, reports The Bridge, small businesses are feeling the recession’s impact, but working hard to beat it, and, “while shops have closed their doors, others have opened anew, even since the economic collapse in September. And if essentials are still in, they seem to include a concert, that morning cup of coffee and socializing at moderately priced restaurants and bars.”

Uptown Neighborhood News compares small businesses to thistles, “the first plant to come back after volcanic devastation,” noting that some are adopting eco-centric strategies for survival. Examples include a coffeeshop encouraging biking, geo-thermal energy, and battery-powered bike delivery for computers.

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