Tag Archives: MN Job Watch

News Day: Going up – domestic violence, tick populations / Going down: Auto dealers, Gang Strike Force / “Stagecoach from hell” / Tweet trouble / more

Domestic violence increase “off the charts” Looking at domestic violence, St. Paul police see an “an uptick off the charts,” and Dakota County’s Community Action Council reported a 37 percent increase in women seeking services for domestic abuse from 2007 to 2008, reports the PiPress. The increase in domestic violence is attributed, at least in part, to the economic recession.
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News Day: All T-Paw, all the time / Vampire pleads guilty / Trees coming down / Recession-proof industry / more

T-Paw signing off – in 2010 As Governor Pawlenty announced that he would not run for a third term as governor in 2010, it seemed that no other news could compete. Here’s the breakdown from Eric Black, who came away from the press conference with the message that “Tim Pawlenty loves God, his wife and kids, the troops and Minnesotans”, as well as the news that House Minority Leader Marty Seifert will run for guv, the PiPress gives a straightforward report,PIM looks at Pawlenty as a Big Mac, with “Secret sauce, secret seasonings. Same thing. Extraordinary tastes for extraordinary times,” but also provides a fact check on T-Paw’s claims of success, MinnPost on possible GOP gubernatorial candidates, and the Strib.
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News Day: Franken and Coleman back at it / “Fong Lee = me” / Republican road to socialism / more

Franken and Coleman: They’re back! Their lawyers will argue the case in the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday. See the PiPress for profiles of the five justices who will decide the case. Two of the court’s seven justices will sit this one out Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson were part of the recount panel, whose work and decisions are being challenged by Coleman.

“Fong Lee = me” That was the message on the sign held by a young Hmong boy, who was among hundreds of people rallying in St. Paul Saturday to protest the verdict in the Fong Lee shooting death case. The PiPress reports that Fong Lee family members and supporters belive the trial and verdict were unfair.

“I felt that justice failed us, and I feel there ain’t nothing going to happen with it,” said Jon Xiong, 28, of St. Paul. “I got little brothers and cousins and nephews, and it could’ve easily have been them. From my point of view, as a minority, it really ain’t no good. That’s all I can say. It ain’t no good.”

Violence hits young Somalis in Minneapolis Laura Yuen, continuing her fine coverage of the local Somali community offers an in-depth look at the violence that has claimed the lives of eight young Somali men since December 2007, and what some in the community are doing to stop it.

MN Job Watch St. Paul teachers’ contract talks are in trouble before they even get started, reports the PiPress. Reason: the district already announced that it is seeking a pay freeze and “more flexible labor agreements,” thus, according to union reps, starting the negotiations in the press rather than with the teachers.

• “After 30 years, a major labor arts institution is closing its doors,” reports the Minneapolis Labor Review. The worker-run Northland Poster Cooperative will close at the end of June.

• And The Uptake reports on charges of mistreatment of roofers at the Target Center.

Don’t leave home without it Going to Canada? Take your passport, or you might not get back into the United States, reports MPR. Tighter U.S. regulations go into effect today. There is an alternative to the $100+ passport – a lower-cost passport card that can be used just for land border or seaport crossings in the Western Hemisphere, but not for international air travel. More than a million of the passport cards have been issued in Minnesota since they became available in 2008. Processing time takes 4-6 weeks.

Residents near the border may also qualify for a third alternative, the NEXUS card, which is for “trusted travelers who pass a background check by both the U.S. and Canadian governments.” For now, Homeland Security officials say they will take a “commonsense” approach to allowing people to re-enter the United States if they have gone to Canada for, say, a fishing trip.

Disabled and out of luck That was Dan Gunnon’s fate until he hooked up with the Watchdog at the PiPress. Despite chronic back pain, he worked and enjoyed a middle-class standard of living for 20 years after a back injury suffered in 1981: “I tried to save a woman from being assaulted, and I got shot, and the bullet lodged in my spine.” Then, in 2002, the back pain “exploded” and he was no longer able to work. His partner fell victim to cancer, and was also out of work. He applied for Social Security Disability Insurance and:

Like 60 percent of Minnesotans who applied, Don was denied on his first application. He asked for a reconsideration — a request to have a different pair of eyes look at the application. He was denied again. The next step was to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. That’s when he discovered he was caught in a backlog of scandalous proportions: In 2007, about 746,000 claims were pending at the hearing level, 9,000 of them in Minnesota. Some cases had been on the back burner for three years.

SSDI is an insurance program, not a welfare benefit. Like Social Security retirement benefits, it’s paid for by taxes deducted from paychecks. According to the Social Security website, “In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.”

Dan Gunnon got lucky when he found the PiPress Watchdog, who used connections and savvy to find advocates and cut through some of the red tape. Gunnon ended up giving up on back benefits that were clearly owed to him in order to get his benefits started. The story is a testament to good reporting and advocacy by Debra O’Connor at the Pioneer Press, but also a horror story of inadequate staffing and continuing misery for the hundreds of thousands with cases still pending.

World/National Headlines

Doctor shot down in church Dr. George Tiller (67), vilified for performing abortions and shot and wounded by an anti-abortion gunman 16 years ago, was assassinated as he served as an usher inside his Lutheran church in Wichita, KS. A 51-year-old white man is in custody for the shooting.

BBC lists other deadly attacks by anti-abortion killers:

Oct 1998: Dr Barnett Slepian shot dead, Buffalo, New York
Jan 1998: Policeman killed in blast at clinic near Birmingham, Alabama
Dec 30 1994: Two receptionists shot dead at clinics near Boston
July 1994: Dr John Britton and a volunteer escort killed outside clinic, Pensacola, Florida

The Dailyi Kos has a personal remembrance — and a more nuanced picture — of Dr. Tiller.

Bankruptcy on Monday AP reports: “General Motors, the humbled auto giant that has been part of American life for more than 100 years, will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday in a deal that will give taxpayers a 60 percent ownership stake and expand the government’s reach into big business.” The company has already received $20 billion in taxpayer funds, and will get $30 billion more, as it cuts 21,000 employees, about 34 percent of its work force, and reduces the number of dealers by 2,600. The UAW agreed to a cost-cutting deal on Friday.

According to another AP report:

Sen. Richard Shelby said Friday the government should have allowed the marketplace to decide General Motors’ fate and that the huge federal stake in the company puts Washington on “the road to socialism.”

Six months ago? Let’s see – that would be on the watch of the Bush administration, so that would have been a Republican road to socialism?

War Reports

Pakistan Pakistani troops captured the main city in the Swat region, reports BBC, but the city’s center was destroyed in the process. Conditions in the Swat region, according to the International Red Cross: “Water and electricity were not available, there was no fuel for generators, most medical facilities had stopped operating and food was scarce, it said.”

Meanwhile, reports the NYT, heavy fighting has broken out in South Waziristan, the probable next front. And a bomb blast in the North-West Frontier Province town of Kohat killed two people and injured eight others.

Afghanistan When U.S. troops arrived in the Jalrez valley, 30 miles west of Kabul, the Taliban left, reports the NYT. But that may be only temporary:

Insurgents regularly leave areas where Americans appear, only to resurface later. “We are hearing it’s better now,” said Hoji Mir Ahmad, a fruit merchant based in Kabul, “but God knows what things will be like when the harvest comes.”

West Bank Reuters reports: “Six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout.”

An attack on Palestinian workers by masked, rock=throwing Israeli settlers near the Palestinian city of Nablus injured several men, sending two to the hospital, reports BBC.

Iraq In May, 24 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, reports BBC, the highest number of casualties since September 2008. Combat operations are scheduled to end in September 2010.

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News Day: Windy and green in Woodbury /Fong Lee verdict / Back to Mexico? / more

Forecast: Windy and green in Woodbury Woodbury’s city council is considering several green ordinances and encountering some opposition to expanding wind power, reports the PiPress. Proposed new ordinances include provisions for geothermal heating and cooling in homes, solar panels covering all roof spaces, and ground-mounted solar panel arrays up to 400 square feet in residential areas and 1000 square feet in rural areas.

The controversy comes over wind turbines. The proposed ordinance would allow 60-foot wind turbines in yards of more than an acre. Opponents focus on aesthetics and noise, while proponents say there’s little noise and focus on the benefits of renewable, green energy. Last fall, the Star Tribune reported plans for a 170-foot wind turbine at the high school to produce 30-50 percent of the school’s energy needs, but developers strongly objected, threatening to scuttle plans for a new housing development. Current plans for East Ridge High School, which is located in an R-4 residential area, are unclear – the high school has not yet submitted an official application to the city.

Large wind energy systems (generating 5 megawatts or more) are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, but smaller installations are subject to local regulation. A brochure published by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security notes that:

Another Minnesota program, net metering, allows home and building owners to install wind generation under 40 kW and connect to the grid. Utilities track the amount of electricity generated and credit the owner for the electricity produced. Any excess electricity not used by the owner is bought by the utility at the average retail rate. Other incentives available from the state include low interest loans and sales tax exemptions.

The Woodbury planning commission will take comments on the proposed ordinance at a June 15 meeting, and the city council will discuss it on June 17.
Fong Lee verdict A jury found that the police officer who shot 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006 did not use excessive force. The PiPress described an almost-empty courtroom for the reading of the jury verdict, which came when Fong Lee’s family was at lunch and lawyers for both sides were also absent from the courtroom. When the family was informed of the verdict, Fong Lee’s mother burst into tears. According to MPR:

Community activist Tou Ger Xiong says the verdict shows that Minneapolis police officers discriminate against people of color.

“This does nothing more than to reaffirm the fact that we should fear police and members of law enforcement. Because it is saying to us, ‘Watch out, if a cop thinks you pose a threat, you will be killed, you will shot, you will be killed.'”

Fong Lee’s sister, Shoua Lee, said her parents came to the U.S. from Laos in 1988 to find freedom and safety. “And on July 22, 2006, over 20 years later, that feeling of safety was shattered.”

Lee’s family believe he was unarmed and that police planted a gun found three feet from his body. They relied on evidence showing no fingerprints, blood or DNA evidence on the gun, and confused police reports about the ownership of the gun.

Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan said the officer acted with “courage and integrity.”

Heading back to Mexico? Is the economic recession driving immigrants back to Mexico? Evidence is anecdotal, but the Strib reports that many people are talking about it:

“Workers are thinking, ‘If I don’t have a job here or if I don’t have a job in Mexico, what’s the difference? Plus no one will harass me’ ” in Mexico, said Ramon Leon, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis. “And businesses look around and ask: ‘Am I relying on a customer base that may not be here?”’

Nationally, immigrant unemployment rates have risen from 4.6 percent in 2007 to more than 11 percent today, pushing many to consider returning to Mexico. But, as a student at Neighborhood House points out, people who return may find an even worse economic situation in Mexico.

Hard times on the farm A recent U of M survey shows that recession is hitting Minnesota farmers hard, reports the Strib:

Median profits for 2,417 farms included in the survey fell 15 percent in 2008 to $90,039, but that broad measure masks steeper losses for some sectors of the farm economy, particularly livestock operations that paid record prices for feed. The median beef farm profit was a loss of $6,810; the median hog farm profit was $4,876, down from $65,720 a year earlier.

Ford Dam flagged Although there’s no evidence to show any danger at the Ford Dam, the evidence to show that it’s safe is incomplete, reports MPR, so inspectors are coming. They will look at whether water is seeping underneath the concrete dam. The problem is more likely in the paperwork than in the dam, say officials, but they’re checking just the same.

MN Job Watch According to AP, electrical generator maker Kato Engineering will cut 20 percent of its workforce, or 94 jobs. Kato’s plant is in Mankato.

Thief River Falls-based Arctic Cat will eliminate 60 positions, or approximately 5 percent of its 1,200 employees, reports MPR, after losing $9.5 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31.

World/National News

Shrinking economy The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of 5.7 percent during the first quarter, reports NPR. But economists are more optimistic about the rest of the year:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and NABE forecasters say the recession will end later this year, barring any fresh shocks to the economy. NABE forecasters predict the economy could start growing again in the third or fourth quarter.

War Reports

Pakistan BBC The half-million residents of the steeply mountainous northwestern district of Kohistan don’t want either the Taliban or the army.

“If the army comes in, the Taliban will follow, and vice versa,” says an influential tribal elder and former member of parliament, Malik Saeed Ahmad.

“In either case, it threatens our way of life.”

They also don’t care much about Sharia law — “‘in fact, people are not interested in any government law,” says Mumtaz Khan Jalkoti, a local lawyer.”

In other war news, ten people were killed in two separate bombings in the city of Peshawar.

Iran An Iranian provincial official blamed U.S. “agents of arrogance” for a mosque bombing that killed 19 people last Thursday. The bombing took place in the poor, mostly Sunni province of Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Sudan BBC: “Sudan says more than 60 people were killed during the fighting with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement around the town of Kornoi, in Darfur.” The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

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News Day: Shredding Strike Force docs / T-Paw: “Quit whining” / Ending “Season of Fear” / more

Picture 5Shredded documents at Gang Strike Force led to Strike Force commander Capt. Chris Omodt’s decision to padlock the doors ahead of schedule yesterday, reports the Strib.

Officers in the Metro Gang Strike Force shredded documents at its headquarters late Wednesday night, hours after the state Commissioner of Public Safety announced plans for an internal investigation after a government audit found that the Strike Force couldn’t account for $18,000 in seized cash and at least 13 vehicles.

After the shredded documents were found in dumpsters and garbage cans at the Strike Force’s Brooklyn Center headquarters, Omodt ordered an immediate closing. In an email obtained by the Strib, Omodt also reported that “someone apparently shut off a computer that records when someone enters the building with a security card,” and that Strike Force members had removed documents and personal property from the building.
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News Day: Veto forecast / Charter school in trouble / New car rules / more

Even without the legislature in session, the forecast for Minnesota is high winds and lots of heat today.

T-Paw QOTD “The legislators are gone away and they are not coming back.”
Health care, bullying, transportation More end-of-session news: Pawlenty plan is recipe for massive job losses from Workday Minnesota, and Pawlenty talks unallotment, veto plans from Session Daily. Getting down to specifics:
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News Day: Minnesota’s midnight madness / MN Job Watch / NYT and plagiarism / more

Midnight madness Just moments before midnight, the legislature passed a new tax bill, but it faces certain veto by the governor, MinnPost reports. Governor Tim Pawlenty claimed that he offered a “choice” to DFLers in the legislature, which came down to: you can keep me from making unilateral cuts by agreeing to those cuts, which would make them … not unilateral. Or, as Sen. Tarryl Clark put it: “He left us with two choices. We could do it his way or he would do it his way.’’

In other action during the closing days of the session:
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News Day: Governor No: Line item vetos and unallotment / Cop pleads guilty / Beware the borer / more

Governor No No new taxes. No special session. No compromise. That’s essentially the message that Governor Pawlenty delivered with $400 million in line item vetoes and a threat that he will balance the budget by unallotment if the legislature does not agree to his terms. Rachel Stassen Berger’s PiPress blog describes who gets hit by the biggest line item veto:

In signing the Health and Human Services bill the Legislature sent him, he slashed $381 million in funding for General Assistance Medical Care, a health insurance program for adult Minnesotans who don’t have health insurance but may not be eligible or may not yet be approved for other subsidized health care programs.

Health insurance through GAMC is only available to folks who make $650 a month, about $7,800 a year, or less. Many covered under GAMC are homeless. .. (Worth noting: Pawlenty cut the program’s funding only in 2011, which gives the Legislature next year to work with him on finding funding.)

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News Day: Waiting for the veto / “Independent” contractors / Playing to lose / more

Passed, passed, passed and waiting The legislature passed a number of bills yesterday, and the stack on T-Paw’s desk continues to grow. Will he sign or will he veto? Only the governor knows for sure. Among the bills awaiting decision:

Flat funding for P-12 schools and cuts for higher ed. Minnesota Miracle and expanded Q-Comp both lose out.

House and Senate leaders offered to plug about $2 billion of the budget gap with a school funding shift and use of budget reserves. That still leaves a billion dollar gap, which T-Paw wants to fill by borrowing and the House and Senate leadership want to fill with taxes.

The House and Senate passed a “lights-on” bill, which would keep the state running to July 2010, even if no budget agreement is reached by Monday.

The House and Senate passed the state bonding bill by wide and seemingly veto-proof margins, providing $300 million that would quickly create up to 3,000 construction jobs, provide flood relief to the Red River Valley and fund a new museum and rail projects in the St. Paul area.

Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium stands, as the Senate agreed to a compromise energy policy bill.

Freeze? What freeze? Though the governor declared a freeze on state hiring in February 2008, MPR reports that “The number of people on the state’s payroll has grown even though thousands of government employees have retired since Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued an executive order last year to implement hiring restrictions at state agencies.”

MN Job Watch One day after Park Nicollet announced that it will cut 240 jobs, the Hennepin County Medical Center said it will cut 100 jobs, and will require supervisors and administrators to take a two-day unpaid leave.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported an increase in initial unemployment claims last week: “In the week ending May 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 637,000, an increase of 32,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 605,000.” The total number of people receiving unemployment compensation remained at a record high.

A new twist on “independent contractors” comes in response to a state law that targeted abuses in the construction industry, reports the Strib.

The laws, which took effect Jan. 1, take aim at an old problem — contractors who illegally classify their employees as independent contractors to cut labor costs in the roofing, drywalling, remodeling and other building trades.

Such workers are shortchanged on Social Security, unemployment benefits and coverage for job injuries, and many don’t report all their income to state and federal tax collectors, a 2007 legislative audit said.

Now, often with employer encouragement, such workers are registering in record numbers as LLCs — Limited Liability Companies — with filings of new LLC registrations more than double the pace of a year ago. The situation is complicated by what workers and employers agree are onerous registration procedures for independent contractors that resulted from the new law, as well as by employers’ continuing reluctance tohire workers as employees, withhold their taxes and pay workers compensation premiums.

Playing to lose The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder reports that black athletes at the U of M are lagging significantly behind their white counterparts in graduation rates, and have not kept up with national improvements in black athletes’ graduation rates.

Unfortunately, at the University of Minnesota, the school’s top three revenue sports — football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball — are not doing as well in graduating their Black players. Their rates are 40 percent (football), 57 percent (women’s basketball), and 38 percent (men’s basketball), compared to Whites in football (73 percent), men’s basketball (50 percent) and women’s basketball (67 percent).

New power plant in Chisago county The Strib reports that a new, gas-fired power plant in Chisago County came one step closer to reality with tax breaks passed by the legislature. The plant still faces the PUC approval process.

The $300 million Sunrise River Energy station, an 855-megawatt natural gas-fired plant, would open by 2013 pending regulatory approvals, according to the company that would build it, LS Power, a private utility with offices in New Jersey and Missouri.

War Reports

Sri Lanka BBCA local doctor said that government forces shelled a hospital for a second day, killing 50 people, and government forces denied the report. Satellite images and UN sources seemed to confirm reports of shelling. Journalists cannot confirm or deny the reports, because the government does not allow journalists in the area.

DR Congo BBC Rwandan Hutu rebels killed more than a hundred people in the eastern DR Congo over the weekend. BBC notes: “Many of the rebels fled to DR Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which some its leaders were accused of taking part.”

Pakistan BBC A school girl’s account of fleeing Swat:

… My sympathies are neither with the Taleban nor the army. Both have been cruel to us.

The Taleban have destroyed us and the army is murdering our people. …

National/World headlines

Burma BBC The Burmese government has taken ailing Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from her home, where she has been under house arrest for 19 years, to prison. She is being charged with violating conditions of her house arrest after an American man, John Yettaw, was arrested after swimming across a lake to her house and staying there secretly for two days. Her lawyers say the man was not invited and BBC correspondent Jonathan Head says that, “it looks as though this is a pretext to keep her detained until elections due in 2010 which the generals think will give them some legitimacy.”

Haitians drown in attempt to reach U.S. NYT At least 10 of 27 would-be immigrants died when their boat capsized off the Florida coast.

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News Day: Closing the door to college / Five days, a billion dollars / No blood on the gun / more

I’m on the road, so this blog post is short and late — I hope tomorrow will be earlier and longer.

Closing the door to college Minnesota has had a proud tradition of higher education and of making higher education available to its residents. That may be ending, reports MinnPost:

Tuition is rising faster in Minnesota than in most other states. It has doubled since 1999 at the U of M. ..

Meanwhile, state spending for higher education has stuck flat for years in some areas and dropped by double digits in others. Now it is set to fall sharply as the governor and the Legislature wrestle through the current financial crisis.

Although job retraining is essential in times of high unemployment, and although enrollment at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) jumped by 14% in January 2009, Governor Pawlenty announced a $40 million cut in higher education funding this year, on top of the 28% drop from 2000 to 2007.
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