Work for Whoppers

Further proof that welfare reform won't cut big business from the dole

SEEMINGLY IN CONCERT with Burger King's newfound status as corporate citizen, 41 Twin Cities restaurants owned by the Westwind Group franchise are recruiting fresh meat to flip burgers and fry fries. "You're Invited to Join Our Team!" their fliers read, promising "flexible" hourly positions that include "free uniforms," "health insurance," and "room for advancement." But like President Clinton's welfare reform, the promises don't make up for a lack of beef.

Recently, a group of companies, including Burger King, held a press conference in D.C. launching the Welfare to Work Partnership: a private-sector invention designed to earn tax breaks for corporate citizens good enough to hire the down and out. For its part in the scheme, Burger King scored some stellar press. "It was a good business decision," BK spokesperson Kim Miller says. "It provided us with a chance to be good corporate citizens.''

Unfortunately, of the nation's 6,400 Burger King restaurants, only 500 are still run by the corporation. The links in the chain, including 105 restaurants in the Twin Cities, are independent franchises that don't have to participate in Welfare to Work. Westwind Veep Jack Baitinger hadn't even heard of the program, and notes that most of his jobs are part-time and don't offer health insurance. "There's a need for reliable workers in the city," Baitinger says, "because the welfare roll in the inner-city type areas is larger than the suburbs. And a lot of the individuals who have access to a check on the first of the month don't show up for work.''

THANKS FOR NOTHING

MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF the 1997 legislative session included fist-in-glove welfare reform; a tax change giving small rebates to homeowners and big breaks to businesses; and a school-funding deadlock that will leave districts scrambling for cash come July 1. But when it comes to sheer volume the "major bills" are pocket change. What really counts are the million statutes covering legislators' pet issues--everything from exhibitionism to fishing tackle, ferrets to licorice. And if you think what passed is odd, consider some of what didn't:

Dead in the water: $25,000 for a "feasibility study for a museum housing fishing-related artifacts, equipment, and memorabilia."

Shocked, shocked: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to confirm state GOP Chairman Chris Georgacas for the Board of Judicial Standards because he was too partisan. You may remember the board for last year's investigation of Hennepin County District Court Judge LaJune Lange.

Golf: Senate File 1668 would have dropped the tax rate on courses without membership restrictions from close to 4 percent to 2 percent.

Whipped: House File 0144, which would have made licorice the state candy (marking a victory for a first-year lawmaker with a licorice factory in his district), was put out of its misery.

CRIME THAT PAYS

WHAT LAWMAKERS DID pass was the crime bill. Not everything made it: One failed provision would have added flashers to the list of sex offenders who must register with local authorities, another would have made it a gross misdemeanor to "assault a human services employee while that person is performing a duty mandated by law." But as everyone at the Capitol knows, crime is the only issue lately at which you can throw tax dollars without bothering about accountability or effectiveness. And spend they did:

$320,000 for "wilderness endeavor programs" for juvenile offenders and another $1 million to establish a boot camp-style program at Camp Ripley ("Camp Kiddie," 3/5/97);

close to $5 million for two years--about three times what the governor asked--for a Gang Strike Force with agents empowered to conduct investigations and make arrests statewide.

BON VOYAGE, MARY

MARY MUSSELL, A contributing writer to City Pages for several years, died May 23 of cancer. She was an indomitable spirit and a promising journalist who lived without limits. We will miss her. Our sympathies go to Mary's family and her partner, Alisa Bolterman, who cared for her through sickness and through health.

PUBLIC DOMAIN

Worrying about sex offenders has become something of a national obsession. Community-notification laws are only the latest gimmick: The real experimentation goes on behind closed doors where sex offenders are "treated" with various therapies--since nothing seems to work, everything is open game. The Vermont Department of Corrections recently settled a suit filed by the ACLU on behalf of offenders who were involved in something called "DRAMA THERAPY."Testimony quoted in a recent article in Criminal Justice and Behavior reveals the nature of the "therapy":

The first role-play purportedly was conducted to assist Darrell to open the door to unexpressed emotions associated with the sodomy his brother had performed on him when both were children. One drama therapist directed Darrell to lay face down on the floor with his eyes closed, then silently motioned to other group members that they should hold Darrell down on the floor. Surprised by the many hands unexpectedly pressing him to the floor, Darrell began to struggle, trying unsuccessfully to get to his feet. Once Darrell was unable to resist, one drama therapist blindfolded him... The second drama therapist then pushed his knee into Darrell's buttocks and anus, slowly making circular motions with his knee, while screaming denigrations apparently intended to remind Darrell of his own abuse.

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