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Mayor Carter didn’t have $100k for Independence Day fireworks but does have $225k for a “human-powered gliding” competition

Last year, according to Mayor Carter, Saint Paul didn't have "$100,000 to spend blowing up rockets over our city" to commemorate the country's birthday. This year, it has $225,000 available to spend on a “human-powered gliding” competition. That's some turnaround. ...

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County Attorney’s Hiring of Son Raises Nepotism Controversy

By now you'd think that nepotism policies guarding against favoritism in hiring of family members would be standard procedure in government. But St. Louis County belatedly adopted a nepotism provision this week, following a prolonged controversy stirred up County Attorney Mark Rubin and closely followed by the Duluth News Tribune and other media. One member of the public addressed the board Tuesday. Allen Richardson said he represented a newly formed anti-nepotism task force. “It’s my opinion that respect has to be earned by public officials,” he said. “The reason that this policy is before you today is that Mark Rubin’s hiring decision, while...

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Rural Reporter Derails Star Tribune on New Amtrak Train to Duluth

The Star Tribune editorial board carries considerable weight as the voice of Minnesota's biggest media outlet. But the paper's recent endorsement of bringing back the failed Amtrak Twin Cities to Duluth-Superior passenger train just got derailed by a rural Pine County online website the ed board likely never heard of--PiCK News. PiCK stands for Pine County Knows News, run by longtime local reporter Ailene "Gussie" Croup, who's tracked the proposed Northern Lights Express (NLX) boondoggle from day one in 2007. She laid it on the line in a hard-hitting rebuttal run by the Star Tribune. It was the beginning of millions of...

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Push for Return of Failed Duluth Passenger Train Reaches State Capitol

Old rail lines never die. They keep chugging along, powered by just enough taxpayer funding for the required environmental and operational studies to maintain bureaucratic momentum over the years. Then out of nowhere comes a PR offensive this week to herald the return of the failed Amtrak passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Twin Ports with a series of public events at both ends of the line, including the State Capitol. A top Amtrak official will hold an open-house today at the Duluth Depot with a pitch to turn back the clock to the 1980s defunct Northstar line. Now rebranded...

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How Much Do Duplicate Medical Assistance/MinnCare Accounts Cost Taxpayers?

Healthcare coverage for the one million Minnesotans enrolled in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs costs state taxpayers more than $5 billion a year. We already know from a past legislative auditor report that tens of thousands of Minnesotans receive healthcare coverage they do not qualify for at a cost to state taxpayers that’s believed to be hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Now it turns out the Minnesota Department of Human Services has been issuing duplicate identities for an unknown number of Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees, overpaying insurers an unknown amount of taxpayer funds as a result. The bombshell came out at...

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Democratic Senators Move to Disenfranchise Minnesotans

Two Democratic Senators, Charles Wiger and John Marty, have introduced S.F.34, a bill that would enlist Minnesota in the national effort to do away with the Electoral College and decide the presidency on the basis of the "national popular vote," a journalistic construct with no constitutional significance. The proposed legislation is called the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. States that subscribe to it pledge to choose their electors not according to the wishes of that state's voters, but rather in obedience to the "national popular vote." The Agreement goes into effect when it...

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Some parts of the federal government should stay shut down

We are entering the third week of the federal government shut down and American society has not devolved to the level of Fury Road. The fact that the United States has continued to function more or less as it did before with something like 25% of the federal government shut down demonstrates that federal government is at least 25% too big. ...

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MN City Battles Feds and State to Close Small Airport

The city of Silver Bay can no longer afford the luxury of spending $35,000 a year maintaining a municipal airport. “I’ve got 20 some miles of 50-year old road,” Silver Bay Mayor Scott Johnson said. “Don’t you think I should spend some maintenance on that instead of the airport?” But neither can the small northeastern Minnesota city afford to close the deteriorating airfield, faced with the threat of $10,000 a day in fines by the Federal Aviation Administration and a bill for $760,000 in “free” government grants the feds and state want to claw back. “I think they’re (the FAA) is going to...

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Is Government Shutdown New Business as Usual?

In case you hadn't noticed, the federal government remains shut down, sort of. More than a week later, it's hard to get a handle on the impact of the latest stoppage, unless you're among the  estimated 350,000 workers given an early pass for Christmas or 400,000 working without pay. But judging from the Bemidji Pioneer's account, there's relatively little immediate fallout to report in the northwestern Minnesota regional center, a likely barometer for other cities and towns. Some local offices for federal departments are remaining fully open during the shutdown, though. The Bemidji Social Security Office, located at 2900 Hannah Ave. NW...

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Our Take: Complicated Economics of Community Solar Gardens Subject of Debate

The Star Tribune recently ran an article called "Complicated economics of community solar gardens subject of debate." Seeing how the Strib did not seek our opinion on the topic for their article, I'm providing it below. First and foremost, Minnesota's Community Solar installations are a mess. These solar installations are small, inefficient, and expensive. According to the article in the Star Tribune, Xcel Energy currently purchases power from the solar gardens at a price of 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is 4.3 times more expensive than the electricity generated at the Sherburne County (Sherco) coal-fired power plant in 2016. Cost data for...

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