Last week was a week that could be called, er, interesting in Minnesota government.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he would head north, paint can in hand, if his transportation department could not alter a sign. Also, senators decided they should look at the Senate president, not each other, during debate and they also banned water from the chamber.
The issues hit the national media, in most cases with a negative slant about Minnesota.
A sign outside of Lindström, north of the Twin Cities, lacked the two dots above the “o,” known as umlauts.
The dots disappeared when new city limit signs last were erected, but hometown folks wanted them back to show their Swedish pride.
A news report about the missing dots apparently did not set well with him, and he ordered his Department of Transportation to fix it, which workers did right away. He promised to paint the sign himself if needed.
A New York Times headline read: “Lindström Loses Umlauts on Road Signs, and the Town is Dotted With Displeasure.”
That was mild compared to reaction national media showed to senators’ decisions.
Rachel Maddow made fun of the Senate on her MSNBC show.
“The only person you are allowed to look at is the Senate president,” Maddow said, then turned to a photo of Senate President Sandy Pappas and added: “You are only allowed to look at Sandy Pappas. Whatever it is you have to say, stare at Sandy Pappas when you say it.
“Yesterday, members of the Senate tried to amend the rule to look at somebody else, anybody else, please.”
She also brought up the Senate’s defeat of a proposed rule change that would have allowed senators to drink water in the chamber.
“Hydrate on your own time bucko, you can’t do that at work,” Maddow said. “The Minnesota Senate is a weirder place than I thought it would be. If you have a problem with that, stare into the eyes of Sandy Pappas.”
Sandpiper debate continues
An administrative law judge’s recommendation to build an oil pipeline across northern Minnesota did nothing to calm a controversy, and may have fanned the flames.
In the hours after Eric Lipman released a 106-page document supporting the Enbridge proposal to ship North Dakota crude oil in the controversial Sandpiper pipeline, the two sides shot out responses that showed continued deep divisions.
The Friends of the Headwaters and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy groups said Lipman ignored state law “and the significant hazards posed by Enbridge pipelines through a watery route.”
The Public Utilities Commission does not have to follow the Lipman recommendation, which gave environmentalists hope.
“We are confident that the Public Utilities Commission will see that Enbridge’s proposed route is not in the state’s interest,” President Richard Smith of the headwaters group said. “It puts far too many of our natural resources at risk, when better, alternative routes are available.”
On the other side, a coalition of agriculture and business groups hailed Lipman’s recommendation as backing “the safest and most efficient way to transport North Dakota crude oil.”
Minnesota Ag-Energy Alliance spokesman Mike Franklin added: “Sandpiper has incredible support from agriculture, labor, business, local government and many other groups who have stood together to support this common sense proposal.”
The PUC will further consider Sandpiper soon, but regardless of its decision the issue could land in court.
GOP savings, spending
The Minnesota Republican Party has decided to save money by hiring a private telemarketing firm and also is considering upping Chairman Keith Downey’s salary.
New technology prompted the telemarketing decision.
“Telemarketing is increasingly difficult now given the way people use their phones, coupled with the move to online, and while these decisions are always difficult, it is the right thing to do,” Downey said. “We are very grateful to the many people who have made it a success over the years, but going forward it would be impossible to maintain a successful internal operation, especially when compared to the options available in the market.”
In the meantime, blogger Michael Brodkorb reported that Downey’s salary could rise from $50,000 annually to $85,000.
Brodkorb reported that the state party is $1.4 million in debt and owes vendors more than $300,000 for last year’s elections.
“On April 8, Downey acknowledged in an e-mail to party activists that the party ‘still carries too much debt,'” wrote Brodkorb, a former GOP official. “Three days later, Downey requested a 70 percent increase in his salary.”
Dayton speaks his mind
Gov. Mark Dayton has appeared to feel freer to say what he thinks since he was elected to his second term last fall, a term he says will be his last.
He called reporters to his office the other day, without saying why. But it soon was apparent as he went after Republican and Democratic education spending proposals as far too small.
While he was at it, he attacked Republicans who want to make changes in the Metropolitan Council, telling them to mind their own business; the Met Council, he said, is his responsibility.
“It’s my decision to make,” the Democratic governor declared.
“Too many (legislators) don’t want to make government better,” Dayton said. “They just want to muck it up.”
If legislators want to run the executive branch, he said, “they should run for governor.”
Dayton’s media availability lasted an hour, much of it featuring him lashing out at lawmakers, Republicans in particular.
Lots of local food links
It is easier than ever to find Minnesota-grown food.
The state Agriculture Department has produced its annual Minnesota Grown Directory, with 1,027 listings for local food and food products. The directory includes farms, farmers’ markets, berry patches, wineries, locally raised plants and other products.
Free printed copies are available by calling (888) 868-7476 and online at www.minnesotagrown.com.
‘Count the chickens’
Gov. Mark Dayton makes it sound that state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson has a cushy job.
He said legislative agriculture committees are known for getting their budgets done early. That means, Dayton joked, that “Commissioner Frederickson has nothing to do but count chickens for the last month of the (legislative) session.”