Selling Blue Sky

COWLES MEDIA DENIES ITS LOBBYISTS ARE PRESSING CITY HALL FOR A NEW BALLPARK.

A PERSISTENT RUMOR circulating in local media has the company that owns the Star Tribune lobbying City Council members about the Minnesota Twins's proposed new stadium. The stakes run high for Cowles, whose 13-year-old headquarters sits on one of the two proposed stadium sites endorsed last week by the council. The paper has proclaimed its objectivity on the debate and has mentioned the potential conflict of interest in news stories; it also consistently refers to the parcel in question as the "Bureau of Engraving site."

Frank Parisi, Cowles's vice president for communications and corporate relations, has heard the rumors, too. He's fielded phone calls from "four or five" reporters and says he has assured each of them--including one from the Strib--that the company is not bending ears at City Hall. He confirms that the lobbying firm of Neerland & Oyaas has been retained to "advise" Parisi on city affairs, including the stadium debate, but says they have not lobbied any government body regarding the stadium on Cowles's behalf "as far as I know." Parisi further claims that Cowles believes there are better ways to build a Twins stadium than by razing the smaller of its two downtown office buildings.

The newspaper this week also reported that the Twins have begun soliciting corporations and wealthy boosters who may be interested in buying skyboxes or posh "club seats." Potential tenants received a glossy poster extolling the virtues of outdoor baseball, and an
invitation to pony up the $65,000-$95,000 the suites are expected to cost. Box buyers must also agree to buy season tickets during the remainder of the Twins's tenure in the Baggie.

JOHN C. KIM, the founder of a national martial arts school with five Minnesota locations, was convicted last week of tax conspiracy. Kim's school, Chung Moo Quan, was the target of a CP investigation in April 1992 when former students complained of being physically abused by instructors, overcharged for classes, and required to pay on a cash-only basis. According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay Tharp and Cheryl Bell, Kim had been skimming from his 30 schools for nearly 20 years and millions of dollars had slipped passed the government untaxed. Convicted with Kim were four co-workers, including one Minnesotan, Joselito Jakosalem of Maple Grove. Jakosalem and his co-conspirators have been released on bail pending sentencing in April, but Kim remains in custody as the presiding judge fears he may try to flee the country.

STATE REP. KAREN Clark is warning of yet another little-noticed but potentially far-reaching welfare reform wrinkle: Public housing authorities will lose millions of dollars just as the need for their services grows. At a recent legislative hearing, officials testified that since public housing tenants pay 30 percent of their income in rent, cuts in their income translate directly into cuts for their public landlords. St. Paul Public Housing Authority spokesman Al Hester says agencies like his will lose at least $6 million a year in this way. The result, Hester says, is likely to follow a familiar pattern: Agencies will be forced to take rental assistance away from some families so they can keep housing others. The Metropolitan Council alone figures it may have to kick 100 families off Section 8 rental subsidies. And advocates are also worried about an idea the state Department of Human Services has been kicking around: Families on Section 8, it suggested, might get their welfare checks cut by $100 a month. For many people, Clark says, that alone could "very well be the difference between having a place to live and being homeless."

A MINNEAPOLIS PUBLIC Housing Authority investigation has determined that the Minneapolis Highrise Representative Council "allowed or condoned a pattern of racial harassment" against one of its board members. In a strongly worded November 26 letter, MPHA deputy executive director Mary Dobbins says the council failed to respond to complaints by African-American board member Marvin Polk that he was subjected to a steady stream of what he terms "nigger jokes" by at least one person in a position of power on the council. Dobbins's investigation also determined that after Polk complained to federal HUD authorities, the council's executive committee retaliated against him by questioning his sanity and demanding a retraction and an apology. Polk says the letter "pulls the cover off what has been happening to me. I feel like justice has been served." CP

Items contributed by Beth Hawkins, Monika Bauerlein, Mary Ellen Egan, and Britt Robson.

 
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