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Don Davis, Published November 02 2009

Political notebook: Franken asks supporters to donate to Dorgan

ST. PAUL – U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is asking his supporters to help finance a North Dakota colleague’s campaign.

Franken sent an e-mail message to his supporters asking them to donate to Sen. Byron Dorgan’s campaign who last year, he said, “made the long trek from North Dakota to Minnesota and we spent some time talking to folks about helping small businesses and getting our economy moving again. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for his insight and support.”

Franken, who took office in July, said he has come to know Dorgan as a senator “and my respect for his dedication to public service continues to grow.”

Federal Elections Commission reports indicate Dorgan’s campaign has $4 million in the bank.

Franken often used e-mail to seek support for his campaign in the past year, then recount efforts as his race with Norm Coleman went into overtime.

Rural road funding

The news release begged the question: Why spend up to $40 million on roadway congestion relief in the Twin Cities and only up to $5 million on improving safety of rural roads, where 70 percent of traffic fatalities occur?

It is a natural question from a reporter whose work goes to 20 newspapers outside the Twin Cities.

“I knew you were going to ask that question, Don,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty responded.

The governor quickly moved to quell any hint of urban favoritism, saying transportation spending is pretty evenly divided between the Twin Cities and the rest of Minnesota. He ordered a Minnesota Department of Transportation staffer to forward the proof, which arrived three hours later.

Pawlenty urged reporters to focus on the entire transportation budget.

“We are putting a lot of money into rural roads,” he assured reporters.

Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, agreed with Pawlenty. The two often have been at odds over the years. “It is tough to do, but I have got to defend the governor a little bit here,” Murphy said.

Death tolls are falling in rural Minnesota for many reasons, the senator added. “We are getting better at getting first responders there. We are getting people who are injured to a trauma center quicker.”

Plus, more state troopers are patrolling the roads, thanks in a large part to Pawlenty. And transportation officials are doing a better job of engineering safe roads, Murphy said.

‘No state funds’

State Sen. John Marty, a Democratic governor candidate, says if California can hunt down a NFL team with a stadium that costs no state money, the Minnesota Vikings can get a new stadium the same way.

“In Los Angeles, investors are building a new stadium, hoping to attract an NFL team,” Marty wrote. “The lobbyists for Vikings owner Zygi Wilf are hoping to use L.A. to pressure Minnesota politicians into using taxpayer funds for a new Vikings stadium. They know most Minnesotans love the Vikings and are excited about the team’s prospects. And, by holding open the possibility that the team will leave for Los Angeles, they hope to pressure the state into providing a massive taxpayer subsidy for the team.”

But Marty said he sees no need to spend state funds for a stadium and Minnesota faces too many money problems to consider it.

Marty recalls Wilf’s testimony at a legislative committee saying that he plans to keep the Vikings in Minnesota. But there appears to be plenty of pressure for him to move the team to California.

The senator cites a study that shows if the state paid what the Vikings want for a new stadium, it would mean a $77-a-year subsidy for each of the 65,000 seats.

Poll finder

Minnesotans headed to the polls for Tuesday’s local elections can find their polling places on line by going to http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Nearly a half million Minnesotans are expected to vote Tuesday for city and school officers.

‘Leave corn rows’

The Minnesota Department of Transportation pays farmers who leave about eight rows of corn stalks standing through the winter.

MnDOT pays more than a farmer would get by selling the corn. The standing corn on the north and west sides of highways and interstates serves as a snow fence to help improve winter driving conditions and reduce snow plowing.

MnDOT reports the corn stalks can capture nearly 12,000 tons of snow in a quarter of a mile.

Farmers may contact their local MnDOT office or go to www.dot.state.mn.us/


Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com