What are you ready to do without? (5×8 – 6/29/11)


This is, you may have heard, the last day that legislators can reach a deal and still avert a shutdown of state government tomorrow night. Most news organizations have spent the last few weeks running stories about what the effects of the shutdown will be.

“So if medical assistance shuts down, we lose our clients, and those people are without services,” social worker Julia Pawlenty, a distant relative of the man who would be president, said yesterday. “They’re without the therapy; they’re without the chemical dependency services that they receive each day. They’re kind of left in the dust.”

Suffice it to say: the negotiators know that. They’ve known that since January when the budget process started. Just a few days into the session, a committee that handles the mental health budget was already holding a hearing into the effects of a shutdown.

We don’t know what’s happening in the negotiations — who’s holding out for an expansion of gambling, for example — because both sides have imposed a “cone of silence,” to prevent the dastardly media from gumming up the non-works.

GOP Rep. King Banaian, at a town-hall meeting in St. Cloud, predicted an agreement will avert the shutdown. “I’m optimistic.” Banaian said. “I’m hoping we’re going to have a solution, and I really feel like it’s going to happen.”

But Banaian acknowledged he doesn’t have any inside information; legislative leaders aren’t telling the lawmakers what’s going on, either. He says he’s going off what’s being reported in the media, and there’s very little being reported in the media that hints at anything but a suspension of services tomorrow night.

Things will likely move — or not — today when/if a court rules on what services must continue in the event of a shutdown. That’s when the negotiators will have a better idea exactly how much a shutdown will hurt their constituencies.

Faced with a state shutdown, have you changed your position on the state budget?online surveys

The various letters to the editor sections of newspapers and talk-radio shows have called for “compromise,” but a week or so after the beginning of all of these stories of the effects of a shutdown, we still don’t have a clear picture what services people are willing to give up in a deal.

Here’s your chance.


Is there nothing that can’t spawn a debate over the state of America? This seems like an innocent enough photo in today’s Brainerd Dispatch:


People have already taped off their viewing area for Brainerd’s July 4th parade.

“More of the ‘I got mine, you get your own’ mentality that has this country just flourishing,” says one reader.

“No—I would say its more the ‘I’ve got the ambition to get off my you know what and not wait until 15 minutes before the parade starts’ mentality,” says another.


All is not rosy at the Star Tribune. Negotiations on a new contract with the News Guild are just beginning and both sides have staked out initial bargaining positions. The company wants to eliminate seniority when deciding who to lay off. Yesterday, the union provided its response:

Last week, you thanked us for the sacrifices Guild members made in 2008 and 2009 contract negotiations that helped save the Star Tribune.

However, the proposal that you gave us is at cross purposes with that sentiment.

It was dispiriting and puzzling to us and offers very little on which to base a settlement. It will not pass muster with our members, much less our International union in Washington.

Since 2008, in concessionary and bankruptcy negotiations Guild members:

Saw our base pay frozen and then cut between 8 and 14 percent.

Overscale was cut 30 percent.

We experienced higher out-of-pocket health-care costs.

About a third of our members were reclassified to a lower pay scale.

Our pension was frozen.

We lost vacation and sick time.

Night and shift differentials were eliminated.

Severance was slashed.

We took unpaid furlough days.

Our job protection was substantially diluted, and our members are more vulnerable.

We increased your flexibility with non-Guild freelancers, the apprentice program and niche products.

And, most importantly, we’ve lost nearly 30 percent of our colleagues since 2008.

At the same time we have reduced costs, the workload has increased because more is expected of than ever before.

Management’s characterization of its proposal as non-concessionary is, to be charitable, curious, and to be more-realistic, absurd.

Our proposal is about lifting members up, equipping them and training them properly for the future. We seek to promote quality journalism, which we all agree is the key to success.

Meanwhile, Star Tribune reporters Chris Serres and Glenn Howatt yesterday won the 2011 Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for their series on the shady world of debt collection. They focused on Minnesota’s debt-collection laws that allowed collectors to hound people here in often despicable ways. Here’s the full series. As near as we can tell, little has been done in the Legislature to change the laws.


I am certainly remiss for not paying proper attention to the death over the weekend of Norma “Duffy” Lyon, the butter cow lady of the Iowa State Fair.

People like her made state fairs something other than just places with fat food and carnies.


A Marquette University communications specialist wanted to do something different in the year leading up to his 30th birthday. His social media fans challenged him to run and drink beer every day for a year. “I’m averaging about one beer for every three miles I run,” he tells Wired.com. “If nothing else, running allows me to enjoy the beer I love guilt-free. That was the point all along.”

On this date: 1950 Bizarre moment in American Association game between Milwaukee and Minnesota: when Minnesota outfield Bama Rowell hits a lazy fly ball, its trajectory is altered by two birds who peck at it in the air. It falls for a double and Rowell will score the winning run. (Hardball Times)


A potential state government shutdown is now just two days away. The Democratic governor and Republican leaders in the Legislature blame each other for the lack of a budget deal. Today’s Question: If the state government shuts down, who will you hold responsible?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The genetics of cancer.

Second hour: The future of e-books.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: The latest on the government shutdown.

Second hour: Vanderbilt law professor Suzanna Sherry wraps up the key issues decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the just-concluded term.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Vin Weber, former Minnesota congressman and chair of the Pawlenty campaign.

Second hour: Where do ideas come from?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.)

MPR’s Dan Olson reports that state electrical inspections stop with a shutdown, which is a bad deal for the Electrical Contractors Association’s 400 members, and projects awaiting an inspection. Dan talks to a Mankato electrical contractor with projects that’ll be shut down as of Friday because state inspectors won’t be on the job, and a home builder that says they’re not much affected because many large Twin Cities suburbs do their own inspection.

How many people are canceling their parks reservation for the July 4th holiday weekend? And are there still any spots left at some of the private campgrounds? MPR’s Tom Robertson will have the answers.

As Bill Kling prepares to step down as president of MPR, Euan Kerr examines a number of pivotal moments in his early career, which didn’t seem such a big deal at the time: when he was offered the chance to start the station; when he interviewed Garrison Keillor for a job; and when he led a group of station managers to form what became American Public Radio.