Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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PAUL — It took only minutes after the first sexual misconduct allegation was waged against Al Franken for speculation to begin about who would replace him in the U.S. Senate. That was back on Nov. 16, and the top prospect for Gov. Mark Dayton to replace Franken was Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. Other names were added in the next three weeks, but Smith's name continues to rise to the top as the governor says he has not yet decided.
ST. PAUL -- Al Franken apologized about how he treated women. "I've had some tough conversations this week," Franken said, adding that "it kills me" that Minnesotans could not count on him to champion women. "I'm sorry for that, because that's not who I am," Franken said.
ST. PAUL — Here are some key dates in U.S. Sen. Al Franken's sexual misconduct allegations: Nov. 16: Los Angeles radio host says Franken forced a kiss on her during a 2006 USO tour in the Middle East. She also posted online a photo showing Franken's hands above her breasts. Franken apologized for the photo, but said he did not remember the kiss incident like the radio host. The senator begins spending time out of the public eye with family, which lasted for about a week and a half.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Al Franken's political friends want and expect him to resign. The Minnesota Democrat plans a Thursday, Dec. 7, announcement in Washington that many political leaders expect to produce his resignation as accusations of sexual misconduct multiply.
ST. PAUL — The economy remains strong, but a new report indicates Minnesotans should not be overly confident. The Tuesday, Dec. 5, budget forecast, which state leaders release twice a year, showed a $188 million deficit out of a $46 billion, two-year budget. The forecast was based on economic predictions that contained a lot of uncertainties. State leaders were happy with what the 73-page report said about the economy.
ST. PAUL — Tuesday, Dec. 5 is a big day, at least under the Minnesota Capitol dome. It actually will be big stuff for all Minnesotans, but they barely will notice. On Tuesday comes the first of two "budget forecasts" in the next few months. It may be a ho-hum moment for many, but the two announcements are key to how much money state officials will have available to spend for the rest of the current budget cycle.
The deck is stacked against the development of housing for the workforce in greater Minnesota. Private developers prefer to build in the Twin Cities and other large communities. They see higher risks in greater Minnesota, largely because many of the areas short of housing rely on one or two major employers. If one closes to cuts back, it may be hard or impossible to collect enough rent to make a profit.
PERHAM, Minn.—More than 70 percent of people who work in Perham commute to the picturesque community of 3,000. If affordable housing were available in town, more workers in the community's factories could live close. But as it stands, booming Perham is one of Minnesota's most often used examples of the lack of workforce housing. "Perham is sort of the little engine that could," state Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal said. "Jobs just keep coming."
ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—Businesses in communities short of housing commonly donate money to build apartments, or help employees buy homes, but a central Minnesota meatpacker bought an entire apartment building to shelter some of its new employees. Long Prairie Packing, part of the Wisconsin-based American Foods Group, bought an old apartment building in Alexandria three years ago mostly for new workers. "We can bring people to the area, get them settled in their jobs," American Foods' President Steven Van Lannen said.
ST. PAUL — The story is that greater Minnesota loses population because there are not enough jobs. However, many greater Minnesota communities actually have plenty of jobs, leaving areas short of housing for workers that businesses and industries need. Some industries have resorted to busing in workers and some have helped finance housing in an effort to attract workers. It is a story most Minnesotans do not know, but one that keeps city and business leaders awake at night. Some experts guess that up to 7,500 new homes are needed, but no one really knows.