Off Beat

Sink or Swim--Naah, Just Sink

Offbeat got a coveted invitation from the flacks--ahem, promotions specialists--at St. Paul firm MediaRare, where they're putting together a New Year's Eve party--ahem, "maiden voyage"--marking the opening of "Titanic--The Exhibition" at US Bank Trust Center. The $300 "per passenger" trip includes a six-course dinner followed by champagne and dancing in the Great Hall. "The Captain suggests black tie or theme attire." Well, Offbeat couldn't resist the notion of the city's best and brightest buying one-way tickets to the bottom of the ocean--and just to help matters along, we set out to identify the Titanic characters a few of them might emulate. Casting Norm Coleman as Jack Dawson was easy. The gubernatorial dreamer is no Leonardo DiCaprio (he doesn't have the teeth), but he is a golden boy--and if anyone needs a primer on going down with the ship, it's this guy, bond rating and all. As his lover we'd like to see Pi Press editor Walker Lundy; it'd be a job for the makeup crew, but Offbeat knows he has strong feelings for Norm--and boy, can he keep a secret. Jesse Ventura would've made for a solid, if not handsome, Unsinkable Molly Brown, but Offbeat suspects his cross-dressing days are over, so Barbara Carlson gets the nod. At least she'd ensure that Governor Arne (whom we'd cast as the Skipper) couldn't sneak a seat on the lifeboats. And what about Cal Hockley, that cuckold scoundrel played by Billy Zane? This one was tough. Former St. Paul council member and certified potty mouth Dave Thune doesn't have the hair. Landlord activist Charlie Disney would've sent his henchmen to kill the wrong guy. And Minneapolis City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes...we just weren't sure she got an invitation. So we settled on John Derus. After all, everyone thinks he's a rogue and the Strib already has his mug shot.

Merry Christmas, You're Fired

It may not be snowing outside, but Off Beat couldn't help noticing the flurries of pink slips emanating from the headquarters of many Minnesota-based companies. In November alone Honeywell Inc. announced it will cut 1,000 jobs next year; insurance giant The St. Paul Companies revealed plans to trim 400 to 600 jobs (in addition to 2,000 cuts related to a merger earlier this year with Baltimore-based USF&G); Wheaties maker General Mills Inc. said it would cut 200 jobs, as did telecommunications firm Norstan Inc.--all that on top of 3M's announcement, earlier this year, of plans to shave 4,500 jobs worldwide by the end of 1999. So how's all that compute with the talk from media and financial pundits of a rebounding economy? Dr. Sung Won Sohn, senior vice president and chief economist for Wells Fargo & Co. (the post-merger Norwest Corp.) says there's method to the madness: The cuts, he says, are the result of companies "running into brick walls" as they seek steady earnings growth in a "considerably weaker" economy. It's a quick fix, he adds, and one that's overrated among managers: "If you could eliminate half the expenses by firing half of the people, Wall Street would cheer," he says. "Long term, some of them have come to regret it. [But] Wall Street is certainly not long-term oriented."

Besides, They Can't Pass the Math Section

There's been an outbreak of head scratchingamong public-school administrators across the state, and it's not psoriasis. According to a law passed by the Minnesota legislature last session, school officials have until January 10 to prepare a report estimating how much it will cost to achieve an 80-percent to 90-percent passage rate on the Minnesota Tests of Basic Skills by 2001. "There are too many variables involved here, and a lot of these--like attendance and a high rate of mobility [among students]--can't be controlled by a school," contends Mark Mallander, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD). "We don't have enough history with the tests to draw any definitive conclusions," Mallander adds, pointing out that even if such conclusions were possible, there'd still be no formula to calculate how much a school district would have to spend to raise any given eighth-grader's score. In protest of the mandate, the AMSD is drafting a letter to the legislature and the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning on behalf of the 27 districts it represents. Of course, that won't get them off the hook by the January deadline.

At Off Beat our motto is "Staying informed so you don't have to." Call 372-3788 or send an e-mail tooffbeat@citypages.com with any poop that's fit to print.

 
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