Junk Bill

After provoking the ire of nearly every political sector for his attempts to bar recovering alcoholics from public housing, Sen. Rod Grams does the backstroke.

YOU'D THINK A politician from Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Treatment Centers, would know better. A recent proposal from U.S. Sen. Rod Grams that would require public-housing applicants to reveal past drug and alcohol abuse has drawn fire from nearly every imaginable front: The American Medical Association denounced it, and Hazelden, the Betty Ford Center of the Midwest, rallied 8,000 supporters and former patients to flood Grams's office with calls. As a result, the past few days have seen some furious backpedaling on the part of Grams staffers.

"There's been lots of concerns about confidentiality," says press secretary Peter Hong, "and we are interested in protecting every resident." Not, he spins, just the apartment-dwelling senior citizens Grams originally said he wanted to protect, but recovering addicts as well. "If a person is trying to rehabilitate him or herself, their past shouldn't reflect on those efforts," says Hong. But exactly how Grams's 11th-hour "revisions" will protect all but active addicts appears to require some further clarification. Hong explains that under the revised bill, alcoholics are exempt from the kinds of screening efforts Grams originally proposed, but drug users are still on the hook. How is Grams going to prove someone is a drug abuser? "Essentially," Hong concedes, "we'll be looking for arrest records." If the bill passes, anyone arrested on drug charges and "use or possession" of drugs can be denied housing assistance--whether they're ultimately cleared or convicted.

REVENUE STEAMED

PENDING APPROVAL BY the University Board of Regents, the Aramark Corp. has won a contract granting it rights to all aspects of university food service: vending, catering, retail dining, and residential dining--everything except for beverages, which is already contracted to Coca-Cola. In return, the U expects Aramark to make a long-term investment in facility renovation and to fork over a share of the profits. Most likely, Aramark will bring fast food to campus. "We've proposed some concepts like Pizza Hut, the possibility of a McDonald's, talked to people about a Subway or a Blimpies," says Tom Saine, an Aramark representative.

Nancy Arneson, director of Human Resources and Administration in the U's Housing and Food Services, notes that while the U hasn't yet approved the contract, a partnership with Aramark is what the University of Minnesota's Housing and Food Services recommends. "We are hoping to avoid closing units and down-sizing units, though we may have to move some staff around and do some additional training." Arneson adds, "If we could do it, we'd continue to run food services ourselves."

Meanwhile, the U seems to be finding multiple ways to further corporatize its campuses while tapping into its already nearly tapped-out student body. A recent letter to the Minnesota Daily's editor complained that the U's partnership with a cell-phone service was "morally irresponsible," and that the institution has lost sight of its primary purpose--education. "The university and its agents should be advocates of students' goals, namely the timely completion of their education with the minimum financial strain," wrote the grad student.

INSULT TO INJURY

"I DON'T MAKE the rules, I just follow them." The clerks at the Minneapolis Impound Lot got to turn this phrase plenty as soggy car owners arrived to shell out $90 ($20 for an obstruction-of-traffic ticket, $70 for the tow) to collect their cars after a flash flood hit South Minneapolis last Tuesday. "As far as inner-city towing, it was very random," says Lot Manager Mary Ann Prescott. "If [a car] ended up in the middle of the street, it was subject to tow for blocking traffic." Although Prescott says most owners were "unhappy but understanding" about the decision to tow, a few were more visibly shaken: "One gentleman came to the window; he was soaking wet and really shaking. He said he just wanted to know where his car was."

PUBLIC DOMAIN

A recent survey conducted by a group called Public Agenda and sponsored by the Ronald McDonald House and the Advertising Council called "Kids These Days: What Americans Really Think About the Next Generation" turned up some interesting contradictions. Here are some highlights:

58 percent of those surveyed think today's children will grow up and make America a "worse place," or will "probably make little difference."

50 percent think teens who "get into trouble because they have too much free time" are very common.

41 percent think they "have poor work habits and lack self discipline."

30 percent think they "are wild and disorderly in public."

12 percent think they "treat people with respect."

48 percent think children "are spoiled and do not appreciate what they have."

46 percent think they "don't get enough attention and support from adults."

30 percent think they "are lazy and do not apply themselves."

54 percent of parents surveyed believe "parents who sacrifice and work hard so that their kids can have a better life" are very common.

19 percent think "parents who are good role models and teach their kids right from wrong" are very common.

35 percent think "fathers who act like their careers are more important than their kids" are very common.

31 percent think "parents who abuse welfare and teach their kids to depend on handouts" are very common.

51 percent think "parents who think buying things for their kids means the same thing as caring for them" are very common.

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