Off Beat

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Last Wednesday Off Beat scraped the season's first coating of ice off the windshield and motored over to the Lutheran Brotherhood Building downtown to sit in on a "facilitated group discussion" sponsored by the Minnesota News Council. Topic: Is every dweeb who gets his name on the ballot entitled to have his voice amplified in the press? Not surprisingly, media bashing was the order of the evening, but given City Pages' big, honkin' October cover story about the minor-party crowd ("The X Filers," 10/21), Off Beat felt somewhat insulated from the assault. Plus, we were sitting behind a sizable delegation from the Star Tribune, a fatter target. The highlights: Strib politics and government editor Dennis McGrath admitting--three times!--that his paper erred by overcovering the governor's race to the exclusion of the other contests. And Pioneer Press political editor Lynda McDonnell allowing as how the rival daily kicked her paper's butt when it came to addressing the minor parties in the governor's race. Of course, none of this mollified the Greens, the Grassroots, the Socialists, et al. Nor did Off Beat come away thinking the small parties had cause to feel any better. Not because every dweeb who runs for office is entitled to a media soapbox, but because dweeb or not, everyone has the right not to be patronized. On that count, the night's lowest moment was provided by Ron Daves, the Strib's pompous poll guy. During Daves's huffy explanation of the paper's polling methods, People's Champion Party gube candidate Fancy Ray McCloney raised a hand to ask why the Strib's very own polling questionnaire failed to list his name as it appeared on the ballot (they left out the "Fancy") and mislabeled his party "the People's Choice." Rather than admit the glaring errors--which were at that moment being projected onto a screen for all to see--Daves instead offered this thoughtful riposte: "Your numbers were so insignificant, it didn't matter."

Who You Gonna Call?

Last week wasn't a good one for 911 services in the Twin Cities. The sad state of St. Paul's emergency system made headlines when the Ramsey County sheriff asked Mayor Norm Coleman to investigate delays in operators' response time. Meanwhile, alarming evidence of the Minneapolis system's shortcomings drew little notice. On Tuesday, December 15 at 1:48 p.m., the Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center (MECC) suffered a complete power outage. To make matters worse, the backup system also failed, leaving residents without an emergency-response system for a full 25 minutes. According to MECC assistant director Tony Lorusso, the department immediately switched to "Condition 3," a fallback plan that has US West reroute all 911 calls to individual police precincts while 911 operators are sent to those precincts to lend a hand. Trouble was, according to Lorusso, "It took US West 25 minutes to activate the reroute." Lorusso says the cause of the power failure almost certainly lies not with the phone company but with the department's outdated phone system, which is due to be replaced next June. City Pages readers, of course, saw this coming. In an August cover story ("Please Hold," 8/19), staff writer Mary Ellen Egan wrote of a Minneapolis 911 system beset by low morale, high turnover, and decrepit equipment, and also quoted a supervisor in St. Paul who spoke of "nights when the phones could ring for four and five minutes" in that city's 911 center.

Bummer

On December 7, retired 1st Sgt. Dick Franson issued a faxed press release addressing his privates: The longtime gadfly revealed that he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Franson, who served on the Minneapolis City Council for one term in the 1960s and has run (unsuccessfully) for one elected office or another in nearly every race since, spoke to Off Beat from the Veterans Administration hospital in Minneapolis a few days after undergoing a four-hour surgical procedure December 15. Though he was still hooked up to IVs, the perennial candidate seemed in good spirits and spoke of the future with typical indefatigable optimism. Franson reports that he has applied to the new gubernatorial administration in hopes of being tapped as Commissioner of Veterans Affairs. "I won't hold my breath on it," he says, however, noting that he hasn't yet heard back from Ventura. Fransonophiles will be pleased to know that the successful surgery is unlikely to make a dent in their hero's fax routine. "When I get out, I'll be just like Bob Dole and General Schwarzkopf, telling people, 'Get out there and get your PSA [prostate specific antigen] test and your rectal exam,'" he says. "I'm gonna be preaching about that wherever I go."

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

 
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