Tag Archives: budget

NEWS DAY | T-Paw’s math failure and stimulus jobs / Shelter overflow / Health care reform

Math_Symbol_ClipartT-Paw’s math failure and stimulus jobs Governor Tim Pawlenty says that the 11,800 stimulus-created jobs in MN cost $135,000 each — but that’s wrong. MPR reports the explanation offered by MN Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson: Continue reading

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Bi-partisan summit challenges gubernatorial candidates

A bi-partisan summit with former Governors Arnie Carlson, Al Quie and Wendell Anderson and several former legislative majority and minority leaders talked about different proposals to tackle next year’s largest-ever budget deficit — but Governor Pawlenty boycotted the meeting. MPR reports:

“All of the governors here, and I think just about all of the leadership here, have gone through processes where you’ve had to deal with budget deficits,” Carlson said. “But nothing that we dealt with will be as large as the one that is coming. That’s the point.”

Carlson is proposing the current governor, as well as the majority and minority caucuses of the Minnesota House and Senate, come up with individual plans for solving the pending deficit. He said those plans, which would certainly include spending cuts and possibly some tax increases, could then be presented to the public next year as part of the gubernatorial campaign.

<!–more–>Pawlenty isn’t running for governor next year, so he doesn’t have to worry about the deficit, right? Pawlenty and a few Republican lawmakers skipped the summit in favor of a meeting with business leaders in Eden Prairie, with T-Paw saying it makes more sense to talk about jobs than about the budget deficit. Not so, according to the St. Paul Legal Ledger analysis, which points to Minnesota’s first-ever revenue decline from one two-year budget period to the next and to a lagging economy that won’t see state revenues beginning to recover for at least 18 months. While the official state estimate is for a $4.4 billion deficit in the next biennium, the actual figure is likely to be more than $7 billion, cut costs for delivery of public services

:

In February 2009, as the Democratic-controlled Minnesota Legislature was wrangling with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty over the budget crisis, five of Minnesota’s largest foundations contracted with the St. Paul-based Public Strategies Group to develop ideas for transforming Minnesota’s “financing and delivery of public services.”

The result was a report issued in March that suggested nine ideas…. The suggestions include focusing state spending on health outcomes rather than services, developing a regional approach to county human service delivery, and providing choice and competition in local governments to improve quality and costs.

The two-page executive summary of the PSG report and the 70-page Collection of Ideas offer a lot of food for thought. The 2010 gubernatorial election campaign is already underway, with many legislative leaders actively engaged. Pawlenty seems set on maintaining his slogan-based non-leadership on budget and deficit issues. The 2010 legislative session seems doomed before it begins. But the political summit and the foundation brain trust offer some hope for 2011. If the bi-partisan political leadership group can force an actual debate on the issues, the 2010 election could produce a much more rational, solution-oriented legislative session in 2011.

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NEWS DAY | Barnum & Bailey and health care reform / MN-Somali war death / New Flyer takes a dive

<a href=Barnum & Bailey and healthcare reform Bill Moyers, as usual, gets it really right:

Forget what you learned in civics about the Founding Fathers — we’re the children of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak show was the forerunner of today’s talk radio….

[Media scholar Henry Giroux] describes the growing domination of hate radio as one of the crucial elements in a “culture of cruelty” increasingly marked by overt racism, hostility and disdain for others, coupled with a simmering threat of mob violence toward any political figure who believes health care reform is the most vital of safety nets, especially now that the central issue of life and politics is no longer about working to get ahead, but struggling simply to survive…

[Josh Marshall has] offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you’re 65?

As Congress returns, the prospects for real health care reform seem ever dimmer. And neither Congress nor the White House is seriously talking about legislation to address the other, on-going crisis of a “jobless recovery.” Bob Herbert warns in the op/ed pages of the New York Times:

Politicians talk about it, but aggressive job-creation efforts are not part of the policy mix.

Nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed, according to official statistics. The real numbers are far worse. The unemployment rate for black Americans is a back-breaking 15.1 percent.

Five million people have been unemployed for more than six months, and the consensus is that even when the recession ends, the employment landscape will remain dismal.

MN budget cuts hit courts, schools, counties Without money to cover state judicial system needs, five Minnesota counties will begin sharing judges this week. Freeborn, Steele and Winona counties will share judges with Mower and Olmsted counties for a year, reports the Star Tribune. Winona County also has a waiting list for public defenders to represent defendants in criminal cases.

Charter schools are also feeling the pinch, because of delays in funding implemented by Governor Tim Pawlenty. The Star Tribune reports that many charter schools will have to borrow and pay interest on loans. So will public district schools, but they at least have an option of asking for increased tax levies.

Delayed payments are an annual part of the school funding landscape; 10 percent was deferred last year, for example. But as part of the state’s budget-balancing act this spring, 27 percent of what’s allocated for schools this year won’t be paid until next year, a scenario that will repeat itself again in 2010.

And in Stearns County, some workers required to take an unpaid furlough day were gone from their jobs on Friday and others will be gone on Tuesday. The Strib reports that county workers were given the options of taking their furlough days around the July 4 or Labor Day weekends. MPR reports that rural Minnesota is seeing another looming shortfall, with already-scarce public transportation being cut:

No shortage of demand but a definite shortage of money. Already Mn/DOT has cut $400,000 to rural transit providers. Another cut of a million and half dollars is on the horizon….

If people resist paying more taxes to supply rural transit and if enough volunteers can’t be found, there are still other options.

The most obvious is people moving to areas with more transit options.

Another MN-Somali youth dies Laura Yuen at MPR reports that a fifth MN-Somali youth has died in fighting in Somalia. Mohammed Hassan, age 23, had been a student at the U of M and spent much of his time caring for his aged grandmother. Hassan was working on an engineering degree at the U of M, and had been voted “most friendly” of his Roosevelt High graduating class in 2006. He was the fifth of 20 young Minnesota-Somalis to die in the civil war in Somalia after leaving Minnesota and going to Somalia over the past two years.

MN Job Watch New Flyer bus company, headquartered in Winnipeg but with a large operation in St. Cloud, was supposed to be recession-proof. New Flyer makes the energy-efficient hybrid buses sought by mass transit companies across the country. But now it is laying off 320 workers. The reason, according to the New York Times:

The layoffs at New Flyer are a vivid illustration of the way that some of the economic impact of the $787 billion federal stimulus law is being diluted by the actions that state and local governments are taking to weather the recession. …The stimulus will spend $27.5 billion in federal money on highway projects, but at least 19 states are planning to cut their highway spending this year, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a trade group. And as the stimulus devotes $8.4 billion to mass transit, transit systems across the nation have been forced to cut service, raise fares and delay capital spending.

According to the St. Cloud Times, about 70 of the layoffs (13% of the work force) will come in St. Cloud by December. Prairie Business reports that the Crookston plant will lose about 60 jobs. Most of the 320 jobs will be cut from the Winnipeg headquarters.

War Report | Afghanistan The U.N. Commission overseeing the Afghan election has ordered a partial recount, AP reports, beginning with polling places “showing 100 percent turnout or with a presidential candidate receiving more than 95 percent of the vote.” With widespread and credible allegations of massive fraud, President Hamid Karzai’s lead is approaching the 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a run-off election. The Afghan election commission has thrown out about 200,000 ballots from 447 stations because of fraud. An additional 224,000 ballots were disqualified for other reasons, bringing the total number of ballots eliminated to almost ten percent of the 4.3 million ballots cast.

In a statement as insulting as it was inaccurate, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke compared the Afghan election fraud to Minnesota’s senatorial recount:

We recently had a senatorial election in Minnesota which took seven months to determine the outcome, there were so many charges of irregularities. It certainly won’t take that long in Afghanistan, but that happens in democracies, even when they are not in the middle of a war.

Meanwhile, reports AP, NATO acknowledged that its air strike last Friday that killed more than 60 people in a crowd around two hijacked and disabled fuel tankers did, in fact, kill civilians.

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News Day: Chicken towns / Hot property / Lutherans come to MN / Police violence on video

Photo from video by Ashley Siebel Chicken towns St. Paul may soon have more chickens, reports the Star Tribune. A proposed new ordinance would allow St. Paul residents to keep three or fewer hens without getting permission from their neighbors, and with a reduced license fee of $25. The Strib quotes St. Paul city environmental manager Bill Gunther: “I’m a city kid, and I’m thinking they’re an agrarian animal that belongs on a farm,” he said. “But there’s a shift in thinking. Chickens are nothing more than a big bird.”

Of course, St. Paul already has some backyard chickens. So do Minneapolis, Anoka and Burnsville (but not Hastings.) Minneapolis even has a chicken rescue operation. And, unlike St. Paul, Minneapolis allows roosters in its backyard flocks.

Hot property The Star Tribune tagged Lake and Knox in Minneapolis as a “hot property:”

Details: Minneapolis property owners Nick Walton and Daniel Oberpriller have gotten approvals for a two-part development at a highly visible “gateway” into the Uptown neighborhood.

The article did not mention the strong community opposition to the development, or the protest resignation of Lara Norkus-Crampton, ECCO resident and Minneapolis Planning Commission member for the past three years, when the Planning Department and Planning Commission overruled the Uptown Small Area Plan (USAP).

More unallotments Late on Friday, Governor Tim Pawlenty released notice of another round of unallotments. The $13.6 million comes from agency operating budgets for FY 2011. Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson’s letter and accompanying documents (PDF) list all of the agencies that will be affected.

MPR reports that the biggest cuts come from a Revenue Department account, the Human Services Department, and Metro Transit aid. The cuts are widespread, ranging from the governor’s office to public health outreach and education. the Natural Resources Department also received more than a million dollars in cuts.

Lutherans come to MN You thought they were already here? Well, that’s true, but this week, Minnesota’s home-grown Lutherans will be supplemented by 1,000+ delegates to the national gathering of the 4.8 million member ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The most controversial item on the agenda is “rostering” of openly gay, non-celibate pastors. While some gay and lesbian pastors already serve congregations, the synod does not officially recognize them.

The Minnesota Independent reported on leading voices on both sides of the issue last week, and the Star Tribune reported yesterday that, although a close vote is expected, the Lutherans insist that a tradition of politeness will prevail.

Episcopalians also face issues over gay and lesbian clergy, with breakaway groups trying to recruit more congregations to their ranks, as dioceses in Minnesota and Los Angeles plan to consecrate gay or lesbian bishops.

So far, the defections represent only about 5 percent of the 2.3 million total membership. But in July, the spinoff denominations announced an aggressive plan to launch 1,000 congregations in the next five years. …

On Aug. 1 — less than a month after the end of a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops that was put in place to appease restive congregations — the Diocese of Minnesota announced that one of its three nominees for bishop is the Rev. Bonnie Perry, a Chicago priest who is in a long-term same-sex relationship. The next day, the Diocese of Los Angeles included two openly gay priests on its list of nominees for assistant bishop.

Circus tumble The young performers at Circus Juventas flew through the air with their usual aplomb, but spectators tumbled to the ground last night as half of the bleachers collapsed at the end of the performance. Half of the audience of 900 fell with the bleachers, and seven people were hospitalized. Broken wrist or ankles were the most serious injuries expected, according to the Pioneer Press. The collapse happened as the audience rose to applaud the end of the final performance of the three-week run of “YuLong: The Jade Dragon” at the Circus Juventas academy’s Big Top, in St. Paul’s Highland Park.

Violent police video Minneapolis police say that they used reasonable force in a February traffic stop, but the defendant, David Jenkins, his lawyer, and the squad car video tell another story, according to a report in the Star Tribune. The county attorney’s office dropped assault charges against Jenkins “in the interest of justice” after they reviewed the video, which can be viewed on the Star Tribune website. Jenkins was stopped for allegedly going 15 miles over the speed limit. He was also charged with refusing to submit to a blood or urine test, but a judge dismissed those charges.

After being thrown to the ground by the first police officer on the scene, Jenkins was beaten and kicked and tasered three times by police.

He required seven stitches above his eye after six officers punched and kicked him while he was face-down in a snowbank. He was treated at the hospital and then jailed for four days.

Jenkins said he was the victim of an unprovoked attack simply because he had vigorously questioned Officer Richard Walker about why he was stopped and asked to talk to his supervisor.

Police chief Tim Dolan said he would review the video on Monday.

World/National News

Public option going down? The New York Times says that the “public option” for health care reform may be abandoned by the administration in favor of nonprofit health care co-ops.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce a bill that features a nonprofit co-op. The author of the idea, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, predicted Sunday that Mr. Obama would have no choice but to drop the public option.

Former Vermont governor and Democratic party chair Howard Dean disagrees, reports AP:

“You can’t really do health reform without [a public option],” he said. Dean maintained that the health insurance industry has “put enormous pressure on patients and doctors” in recent years.

He called a direct government role “the entirety of health care reform. … We shouldn’t spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the insurance industry.”

Gaza Some 13 people were killed in clashes between Hamas government forces and an extremist religious sect, reports the Washington Post:

According to wire service and eyewitness reports of Moussa’s sermon, the cleric said the group drew its inspiration from al-Qaeda, demanded that a strict Salafi form of Islam be imposed in Gaza, and criticized Hamas for its occasional meetings with Europeans and Americans, including former president Jimmy Carter.

Hamas officials said they dealt with the sect as an illegal group possessing guns and weapons.

Suicide bombing in Russia A suicide bomber in the violence-plagued North Caucasus region attacked a police station in the city of Ingushetia, killing 20 and wounding many more, reports the New York Times:

The attack seemed to further undermine the authority of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Ingushetia’s populist president who came to power last October vowing a softer approach in dealing with rebel violence than Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of neighboring Chechnya. It was the bloodiest single attack to hit Ingushetia for some time, though violence against police and government officials in this and other North Caucasus republics occurs almost daily. Mr. Yevkurov himself announced last week that he would soon return to work after he was seriously wounded in a suicide attack on his convoy in June. Ingushetia’s construction minister, Ruslan Amirkhanov, was assassinated in his office last week.

Iran Accusations of jailhouse violence, beatings and sexual abuse continue, reports the New York Times. Reformist cleric and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi refuses to back down despite calls for his arrest by conservative clerics and politicians.

War Reports

Afghanistan Five days before national elections, reports the Washington Post, s suicide bombing in Kabul killed seven people and wounded dozens more.

Iraq A “witch hunt” against gay men in Baghdad has killed 90 since January, reports BBC, which says that “Mehdi army spokesmen and clerics have condemned what they call the ‘feminisation’ of Iraqi men and have urged the military to take action against them.”

Afghanistan drug money A new Senate report says that the Taliban is getting only about $70 million of the estimated $400 million in drug profits each year, reports the Los Angeles Times. According to the Times:

Al Qaeda’s dependence on drug money is even less, according to the report by the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which found that “there is no evidence that any significant amount of the drug proceeds go to Al Qaeda.” …

In one of its most disconcerting conclusions, the Senate report says the United States inadvertently contributed to the resurgent drug trade after the Sept. 11 attacks by backing warlords who derived income from the flow of illegal drugs. The CIA and U.S. Special Forces put such warlords on their payroll during the drive to overthrow the Taliban regime in late 2001.

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News Day: Minneapolis budget / Minnesota multi-faceted MMPI dust-up / Michelle Bachmann – on the media and in the media

tc_icon_dollarMinneapolis budget With a $21 million cut in state aid this year, the 2010 Minneapolis city budget proposed by Mayor R.T. Rybak on Thursday includes both spending cuts and tax increases, according to reports in the Star Tribune and MPR. Among the budget highlights:

• a budget trim that brings the 2010 budget in $100 million below the 2009 budget;
• cutting 200 mostly unfilled city jobs, and implementing voluntary, unpaid furloughs for city employees;
• property tax increases that average 6.6 percent;
• an $800,000 increase to the $4.3 million Great Streets program, which provides low-interest loans to small businesses;
• 20 additional police officers, thanks to federal ARRA funds;
• a $1.7 million savings in police overtime, due to lower crime rates;
• a shift in funding away from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and Target Center debt repayment, with $13 million going instead to property tax relief.

Minnesota multi-faceted MMPI dust-up First came the questions about conflict of interest and revision of the MMPI, raised in Maura Lerner’s Star Tribune article. The 70-year-old Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, “the most widely used personality test in the world, assessing the emotional stability of millions of people” has recently undergone major revision, with critics ranging from academic journals to plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging that they have been damaged by MMPI results. Among the strongest critics are psychologists who did the latest revision of the MMPI some 20 years ago. According to the Strib article:

University investigators found nothing inappropriate about the MMPI changes. But they did fault the University of Minnesota Press for relying on an advisory board that consisted entirely of two scientists — psychologists Auke Tellegen and Yossef Ben-Porath — who co-wrote the new test and stand to profit from its sales.

Susan Perry in MinnPost gives a little historical context, with fascinating details about “how unscientifically by today’s standards (OK — by today’s purported standards) the original developers of the MMPI questionnaire went about choosing their ‘normal’ control group.” The so-called “Minnesota normal” group consisted of hospital staff and visitors to mental wards, whose test results were compared to those of patients in the wards.

Perry also reviews recent questions about the Hawthorne effect — “the widely accepted idea that when people are being observed (such as during a psychological experiment), the fact that they know they are being observed will change their behavior.” In addition to other problems described in The Economist, Perry points out that the original Hawthorne effect study sample consisted of only five women — two of whom were replaced by others during the course of the study.

Of course, there’s the ultimate test, set near the end of the Star Tribune article: “University officials say they’re willing to let the marketplace decide.” After all, isn’t that what science is all about?

Michelle – on the media and in the media again In a fundraising appeal to fans, Michele Bachmann warned that the media are “Palinizing” her and denounced what she characterized as “a hit piece on one of my kids!” The so-called hit piece Star Tribune column actually praised the younger Bachmann for his commitment to serve in the AmeriCorps-affiliated Teach for America program:

Coincidentally or not, TFA came to Minnesota just this year, exactly because the state’s socioeconomic inequalities have grown as the state has retrenched its programs for the poor, disenfranchised and under-educated. For the first time, we have to rely on the charity of good kids like Harrison Bachmann to step up and help out at our schools.

Quoting Bachmann’s tirade against AmeriCorps, Tevlin asks rhetorically, “Why do our children always disappoint us?”

Over at MinnPost, David Brauer points out:

This wasn’t a hit piece on your son, Congresswoman — it was a hit piece on you. And not in your capacity as a mother, but as an elected public official.

World/National News

The people behind the lies Let’s say it again: “There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure.”

Why are the lies about death panels so widespread and viral? The New York Times examines the origins of this attack on health care reform, and finds that this particular lie, given broad publicity by the likes of Sarah Palin and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley,

…has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York’s lieutenant governor). …

The specter of government-sponsored, forced euthanasia was raised as early as Nov. 23, just weeks after the election and long before any legislation had been drafted, by an outlet decidedly opposed to Mr. Obama, The Washington Times.

No surprises there. It looks like the White House’s Reality Check web page has rebuttals for a lot of the craziness — somewhere to refer when you get the viral email forwarded by your brother-in-law.

Violence in Russia Clashes in the North Caucasus region of Russia and neighboring Chechnya killed 17 people yesterday. Yesterday’s death toll was particularly high, but violence permeates the region, according to the New York Times:

It was one of the most deadly nights the largely Muslim region has seen for months, though bloodshed occurs almost daily, particularly in Chechnya, Dagestan and another North Caucasus republic, Ingushetia. Earlier this week, Ingushetia’s construction minister was killed by gunmen in his office, just as the republic’s president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was planning to return to work after being seriously injured in a suicide attack on his convoy in late June.

Most of the violence centers on fighting between police and various radical Islamist or more secular separatist organizations in the region, some of which are remnants of militant groups that fought federal forces in Chechnya’s two wars.

War Reports

Iraq Suicide bombs at a cafe in northern Iraq killed at least 21 people and injured 30 others, reports BBC. the attack came in city of Sinjar, which is populated primarily by Yazidis, Kurdish-speaking followers of a pre-Islamic faith with its roots in Zoroastrianism, and which has been the target of previous attacks by Sunni extremists.

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News Day: Town brawls and anti-Pulitzer nomination / Evicting Rosemary – or not / New anti-gang police plan

©KonstantinosKokkinis - fotolia.com

©KonstantinosKokkinis - fotolia.com

Crazy days of summer From “town brawls” (more here) to death threats to Congress members and the SEIU, the weekend headlines described a political scene loosely tethered to reality. “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Stupidity,” proclaimed the Daily Kos, linking to half a dozen stories of right-wing blather and bluster.

Josh Marshall at TPM commented: “Teabaggers say they want their country back. But Afro-Arab socialists have only had it for like 6 months. Can’t they wait their turn?”

“Idiot Nation, Idiot Press,” read another Daily Kos headline, this one denouncing Politico’s serious treatment of Sarah Palin’s outrageous and completely non-factual claim that the “Obama health plan” would set up a “death panel,” and that such a panel would have condemned her aging parents or her Downs Syndrome son. Hunter writes:

I think there should be such a thing as an anti-Pulitzer. There should be an award for the reporter or reporters that most willfully ignore the basic falsehood of a story — something like “fire is cold”, or “if you shoot yourself in the head, M&M’s will come out” or “if we reform our nation’s healthcare, the President will send a Death Panel to murder my disabled son” — and instead treat as if it was a debatable point worth reporting as fact.

For a factual analysis of claims about the health care reform proposals, turn to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter, which ranks claims on a scale ranging from truthful to “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Evicting Rosemary – or not Rosemary Williams has become a symbol of the foreclosure-and-eviction crisis in the Twin Cities, and Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies arrived on Friday for what could have been the final act — eviction. The deputies turned Rosemary and her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren out of the home on the block where she has lived for 55 years, and padlocked the doors. As soon as they were gone, her supporters got back inside the house, and spent the weekend moving her possessions to a safe place and setting up an occupation inside the home, reports the TC Daily Planet.

Similar stories abound, with inner city residents who refinanced their homes with adjustable mortgages and then were unable to keep up when, after an initial grace period, monthly payments “adjusted” to double or triple the original amount. A Facebook post by a neighbor noted eight boarded-up homes on his block.

New anti-gang police plan In the wake of the dissolution of the Gang Strike Force, police chiefs in 36 out of 37 Hennepin County jurisdictions (including Minneapolis) are working on a new strategy — communication and prosecution, reports the Star Tribune. The old Strike Force was heavy on property and cash seizures, and light on prosecutions. The new, collaborative arrangment will emphasize prosecutions, according to County Attorney Mike Freeman, who has assigned a prosecutor to meet with the police chiefs.

In addition, the police departments will collaborate on “focused, proactive investigations to head off crimes,” information sharing, collaborative investigations, and, when a local chief feels it is necessary, a “surge ‘suppression’ operation in which officers would blanket a neighborhood.”

Next up: St. Paul budget In 2009, the city of St. Paul scrambled to meet a $5 million budget deficit. In 2010, St. Paul faces an $11 million plus gap due to decreased state aid. Tuesday, Mayor Chris Coleman will present his proposal, which will then go to the City Council for debate and revision, with passage of some budget by December.

According to the Star Tribune, the mayor’s budget proposal will increase police on the streets, by using ARRA federal funding, and will keep the Hamline Midway library open through 2010. The budget will cut some city positions, cut library hours, close some rec centers, and eliminate some city jobs. According to the Star Tribune:

The city employs about 3,000 people.

Under Coleman’s proposed budget, about 160 jobs would go away. The majority are vacant positions.

About 50 current employees would be laid off across the departments.

A property tax increase will also be part of the budget, though a smaller amount than in previous years.

Kids Count – down The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its 2009 Kids Count Data Book on July 29. The Kids Count report noted some progress, but also continuing racial disparities:

Our ability to progress as a nation depends on the degree to which we can create opportunities for all children to succeed. In fact, nationally, since 2000, gaps in the differences in child well-being along racial and ethnic lines have decreased in some areas—most notably, the high school dropout rate. However, on the whole, non-Hispanic white children continue to have greater opportunities for better outcomes compared with most other racial and ethnic groups.

Minnesota ranked second overall in ten measures of the well-being of children. But, reports the Star Tribune, “Child poverty in Minnesota rose 33 percent between 2000 and 2007, six times the national average, and several other measures of child well-being declined.”

Kara Arzamendia, research director for the Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota, is preparing a Minnesota state report that will include Kids Count data.

Arzamendia argues that restoring funding for some state programs could help.

“We made cuts in 2003 when we had major state budget problems and we didn’t buy them back,” she said. “What did other states do? Well, some of them are doing something right. While our numbers remain pretty good, Minnesota’s changes generally were not as good as the national average.”

Somali travel agency raid, arrest In unrelated cases, a Somali travel agency was raided by FBI agents and its owner was arrested, MPR reports. The raid was staged in connection with an ongoing investigation into travel to Somalia by young Somali-Minnesotans.

The owner of the agency, Ali Mohamed, was arrested for fraud in connection with an unrelated case on charges of “scamming customers out of more than $33,000 in airline tickets that he allegedly never arranged for them.”

World/National News

Waiting in line for health care – today In a report that every Congress members should read, NPR tells the story of tens of thousands of people in miles-long lines waiting to see a doctor. Right here in the United States. Right now under our wonderful private health care system.

5:34 a.m.

That was when the weekend’s free mass clinic was supposed to open. But the line of cars trying to get in was a mile long. In the pre-dawn darkness, headlights snaked down the road as far as we could see. Doctors and dentists were also stuck in that traffic jam, so the clinic couldn’t open on time.

People seeking treatment had been arriving for two days. Many camped in a grassy parking lot while they waited. Some had long drives to get there; there were license plates from at least 16 states.

Read the whole story. And then send it to your Congress member.

Honduras The OAS continues trying to find a compromise that will reinstate Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a coup on June 28. However, the acting government, put in place by the coup, has refused to allow a high-ranking OAS delegation including OAS secretary-general Jose Miguel Insulza and several foreign ministers to enter the country, according to BBC.

War Reports

Iraq BBC reports that Sunni insurgents continue to target Shiites. The latest:

Two truck bombings in northern Iraq and attacks targeting day laborers in western Baghdad killed at least 51 people and wounded scores early Monday, Iraqi authorities said. …

The truck bombings killed at least 35 people in Khazna, a small Shiite village 12 miles north of Mosul. Residents said at least 80 houses were destroyed in the blasts.

Last week’s bombings included blasts in Shiite areas of Mosul and Baghdad, which killed more than 50 people.

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News Day: Gang Strike Force head leaves /Feeding the beast /Baby ducks, attack hawks, naked biking /MN budget blues / more

MGSF_logoOmodt escapes from Gang Strike Force Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek has called a news conference for this morning to explain why Hennepin County Captain Chris Omodt is leaving his post at the head of the Gang Strike Force. Omodt, who was brought in to clean up a bad situation, could just be giving it up as an impossible job. The latest revelations and accusations from the Strib:
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News Day: Franken, Coleman, Pawlenty and the Supremes / Unlicensed in St. Paul / Mortgage relief – finally / more

<a href="http://us.fotolia.com/id/11477219" title="" alt="">©Ramin Khojasteh</a> - Fotolia.com

©Ramin Khojasteh - Fotolia.com

Franken, Coleman, Pawlenty and the Supremes Is the seemingly never-ending Senate race heating up again? For two weeks, informed sources and rumors have predicted a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling on specific days, and no ruling has come. The court usually rules on Thursdays, and this Thursday falls just short of the eight month anniversary of the election. Maybe it’s time … and maybe T-Paw’s latest statements mean he would actually sign an election certificate and give Minnesota a second senator. Or not. Here’s what he told CNN interviewer John King over the weekend:
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News Day: Reading the job numbers – carefully / Slash and burn the cities / Eviction, filesharing / Get out of town

jobs on a white background with a magnifierReading the numbers – carefully AP today picks up on the crucial bit of analysis reported right here yesterday: Lower numbers of people receiving unemployment benefits is NOT good news. It simply means that more workers have been unemployed for so long that they have exhausted their benefits.
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News Day: Online in Iran / Unallotment strikes deep / St. Paul: Schools, students, tears / PFC case to jury /

twitpicIranOnline in Iran Everybody in the media world is buzzing and tweeting about the online revolution in Iran. Yesterday The Atlantic “reported” the story by posting an apparently unmoderated and unanalyzed Twitter feed. Jon Stewart skewered CNN for its breathless reporting, also long on direct quotes from Facebook and Twitter and short on verification (after all, it’s CNN) and analysis. The Iranian government ordered all foreign journalists to stay inside their homes or offices and report only from official sources or telephone interviews. NPR reports that the government is doing its worst to stop social media reporting:

The Revolutionary Guards, an elite body answering to the supreme leader, says Iranian Web sites and bloggers must remove any materials that “create tension” or face legal action. …

They’ve also slowed the speed of Internet access to a crawl, making the spread of video much tougher….Twitter has served as a vehicle for mobilizing protesters as well as getting out the news — but people who log onto the site couldn’t possibly keep up with all the Iran-related postings, nor can they fully sort out firsthand witnesses from posers or government provocateurs. But the Twitter updates — up to 140 characters — provide insight into plans for future rallies, strategies for avoiding censors, and links to photos and videos of new developments such as clashes with police.

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