October Reprise

MORE GRANDSTANDING ON DRUGS AND WELFARE

          NOT SATISFIED WITH state and federal welfare reform as it stands, Hennepin County wants to add an extra turn of the screw for people accused of drug offenses. The way county board members see it, recipients of what's now called "Temporary Aid to Needy Families" (TANF) should be investigated for "money mismanagement" if they're charged with a drug offense. Details on which offenses would trigger the new system, and how "mismanagement" would be determined, remain to be worked out; what's clear is that the county would give vouchers for things like utilities and rent, rather than cash, to recipients deemed unable to handle their own finances .

          The county can't do this alone, so it's asking the state Legislature to rewrite Minnesota welfare law. A resolution to that effect got unanimous approval from county commissioners last week. Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton--who first proposed the new approach in her State of the City speech--made an appearance, tossing in an obligatory pledge that "the first of the month will no longer be the day the drug man gets paid in Minneapolis."

          Hold on, though. Why, if the mayor pitched the idea in February and the Legislature doesn't convene again until January, did the county board vote on this now? Coincidence, board officials say. In truth, it's about as coincidental as the fact that the resolution was sponsored by board member Sandra Hilary, who's fighting for her political life in a reelection battle with Mark Stenglein. His campaign themes have included--yes--welfare, law, and order, and "money mismanagement," a topic with which Hilary herself is painfully and publicly familiar.

          BLOOMINGTON'S TEEN SMOKERS now risk more than a lifelong addiction to nicotine. They could get a ticket. Local police are writing $25 citations for teens who violate the tobacco law. And if a youth is similarly defiant about traffic regulations, the cops will dole out another $25 sanction for jaywalking. According to Lt. Paul McCullough, head of the special operations unit, the effort is an attempt to curb teen misconduct. Businesses and residents near Kennedy and Jefferson Senior High Schools have griped about kids loitering, smoking, and stopping traffic, he explains. "The schools have an open lunch policy they don't want to change, but retailers say they are losing business because senior citizens are intimidated by the teens," says McCullough. So far officers have tagged 50 smokers and 10 jaywalkers. "We may have just pushed [smokers] underground," avers McCullough, "but we need to enforce the law."

          "WE ARE CLOSED," the voice on the answering machine at 724-6927 says quickly, almost as if to get it over with. And thus, with a whisper and not a bang, ended Women Hurt in Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt. Founded in 1986, WHISPER had half a dozen employees by the time it folded (due to, as best as anyone can make out, funding difficulties), but most of its name recognition came via founder Evelina Giobbe, a perennial source of mediagenic quotes on everything from serial killers to state laws. Giobbe didn't return CP's calls by our deadline (after all, the answering machine continues, "Messages will be retrieved on a weekly basis"), but it's hard to imagine her not popping up again in some quotable capacity. Meanwhile, neither WHISPER clients nor fans of annoying acronyms need worry: They can still turn to the PRIDE (from Prostitution to Independence, Dignity, and Equality) program at Family and Children's Services.

          ST. PAUL'S CONCORD Square apartment buildings are going to stay up for a while longer. After more than a year of a controversial "community input process" ("Logrolling in West St. Paul," 8/28) the St. Paul City Council has decided to, well, study the issue a bit longer. The council recently turned down all four redevelopment proposals submitted for the West Side complex, including one endorsed by a local neighborhood group that would have razed all 116 units and created 46 low-rent townhomes. The council wants developers to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to leave one or two of Concord Square's buildings standing--buildings, chances are, into which the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has just sunk about half a million dollars' worth of renovations.

          TICKETS FOR THE Center of the American Experiment's dinner with the Iron Lady are expected to sell out about as fast as the hottest of rock & roll tickets. Though Margaret Thatcher isn't coming until May 6, the center is holding an advance sale on the $100 tickets starting November 1. "Dinner sponsors" who donate more than $5,000 get treated to a private reception and a picture with the former prime minister. "To say that it will be our biggest party yet in no way slights previous keynoters," CAE founder Mitch Pearlstein gushes. "It's just to acknowledge that Lady Margaret Thatcher is an epochal leader, nothing short."

 
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