Off Beat

Free at Last

WHEN LAST WE checked in on the Dennis Williams saga, Minneapolis officials wanted to extend a restraining order barring him from having contact with several employees from the city's Department of Human Resources--even though a jury had acquitted Williams of making terroristic threats against city workers. Williams, you'll recall, was jailed last fall after telling psychiatrists that although he had no intention of acting upon the impulse, five years of failed attempts to secure a municipal job as a laborer had sparked "homicidal thoughts" (see "Rage Against the Machine," February 10). But now comes word that Assistant City Attorney Karen Herland has backed off. "Petitioners feel that an extension of the order is no longer necessary given that their employer, the City of Minneapolis, has undertaken security measures to ensure their safety," Herland wrote in a letter to Hennepin County District Court Referee Paul F. Gilles, cancelling a May 17 hearing on the matter. Lest anyone be tempted to think the City Attorney's Office had a shred of compassion, Herland directed one final jab in Williams's direction--albeit a feeble one: "The city still considers the threats made by Respondent to be credible and serious, and has responded to the satisfaction of the petitioners." What Herland doesn't say is that the "security measures" were in place six months before the city asked to have the restraining order extended. Those measures, which included security seminars conducted by police, and the installation of panic buttons in the offices of city council members, cost Minneapolis taxpayers a total of $45,000.

Where Has All the C.J. Gone?

THERE'S NOTHING MORE satisfying than gossiping about a gossip. Last week Off Beat probed the to-do that resulted from Star Tribune columnist C.J.'s unsolicited baptism of a local photographer at an otherwise uneventful fundraiser. At press time we were unable to pin down just what Stribeditor Tim McGuire meant in his two-paragraph "editor's note" professing that "the matter has been dealt with firmly." Strib brass still won't elaborate on the public apology, and neither will Joe Rigert, chairman of the Star Tribune's unit of the Newspaper Guild. The chastised columnist, who hasn't been seen in print since, is similarly reticent: "I'm not in a position to do a lot of interviews on this....People can draw their own conclusions as to what happened." According to newsroom scuttlebutt, however, the literal translation of "dealt with firmly" is "five-day suspension without pay."

Wanna Know What I Think? I'll Tell You What I Think!

WHAT IN THE world has gotten into Tim McGuire? Suddenly the Star Tribune editor has been gripped by the need to share his innermost thoughts. It started with the inauguration of a Sunday column promising to "adequately explain our difficult decisions." As evidenced by the aforementioned "editor's note" apologizing for a certain H2O-flinging gossip writer, the occasional Sunday foray into the editorial conscience wasn't enough. Last week McGuire was at it again--in response to an editorial cartoon in the Pioneer Press. Above the caption "The Plantation," the cartoon depicted several black Gophers basketball players cavorting on-court while a white spectator observed to his white companion, "Of course, we don't let them learn to read or write!" Sure enough, University of Minnesota president Mark Yudof hit the ceiling, issuing a statement expressing his "outrage" at the "racist overtonesof the cartoon." Notwithstanding Yudof's obvious misapprehension of the concept that it was his university, not the cartoon, that was allegedly racist, the salvo was to be expected. As was the ensuing Pi Press article about the flap. That the Star Tribune would see fit to weigh in was perhaps understandable--the Newspaper of the Twin Cities has been following its rivalon the Gophers hoops story all along, so why stop now? What was truly awe-inspiringabout the Strib's piece was the fact that McGuire found his way into it, commenting on why he made the call not to use the cartoonto illustrate his paper's story about the controversy. "I admit I'm in a second-guessing mode, but when I saw the cartoon, I said to myself, 'I would not have run it,'" McGuire pontificated. "It would be inconsistent to run it in our news sections now. I think words describing the cartoon are sufficient." Brilliant.

 

At Off Beat our motto is "Staying informed so you don't have to." Call (612) 372-3788 or send an e-mail tooffbeat@citypages.com with any poop that's fit to print.

 
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