HENNEPIN COUNTY HOMEOWNERS recently received their yearly property tax statements, which detail in black and white precisely what rising property values, new libraries, and smaller class sizes really cost. Along with all the numbers came a small blue card that bore the heading "Retirees to the Rescue." According to the card, "You may be eligible to work off the county portion of your property tax if you own property in Hennepin County and are retired." Program participants, it seems, are afforded the opportunity to work temporary jobs for the county and get paid $5.15 an hour to do so, thus "working off" their property tax bill. (Indentured servitude: What a concept!) But what sort of jobs, Off Beat wondered. And what does "may be eligible" mean? And why only retirees? When the phone number listed on the card yielded only an answering machine, we called the Hennepin County Human Resources and Employee Relations Department, where we were greeted by human resources assistant Marilyn Whaley. She said she couldn't tell us anything about the program without permission from her supervisor, Doug Lupa. Several days and several phone calls later, Whaley informed us that her boss would permit her to be interviewed about the retiree work program on the condition that Off Beat turn over a copy of the story we intended to run, prior to publication. When we came to, Whaley was agreeing to let us come over and pick up a brief written description of the program, plus an application, at the front desk. From what we can gather, the program allows retired homeowners to work off up to $1,000 of their county tax bill. (For example: "If the county portion of your property tax is $300 you can work for approximately 8 days [64 hours].") Of course, those wages are considered taxable income. Retirees can choose from a number of jobs, such as "stuffing envelopes, cashiering, and typing," but the handout also contained vague references to opportunities involving "working with adults, heavy public contact, and working outdoors." Our curiosity truly piqued, we decided to try Whaley again. "I'm sorry, but I've been told I can't talk to you unless we can see a copy of your story," she explained with a sigh. "Look, I'm new here, but this is the way I've seen them do things. We just want to make sure you're not writing...." Pause. "Well, it's not like we want to tell you what to write, but a lot of people don't like this program because it only pays $5 an hour."
Zevon Strikes Up the Gube
GOV. JESSE VENTURA and Warren Zevon are something of a mutual admiration society. Ventura, you'll recall, invited the singer to perform at his inaugural concert, then turned up a few nights later at a Zevon show at First Avenue and applauded from the DJ's booth while Zevon doctored the lyrics of several hits (e.g., "Little old lady got mutilated late last night/It was the governor of Minnesota again") in his honor (see Off Beat, January 27, 1999). Last week at a November 21 show at First Avenue, the rocker proved he still has plenty of love for the guv. After making a crack about the protracted presidential election, Zevon wondered aloud, "What about the only man in America qualified to be president? Is he here tonight?" (Off Beat saw no sign of the First Baldhead at the concert, a non-sighting later confirmed by the governor's communications staff.) He later added, "I'll be honest with you: I not only think Governor Ventura should be president, I think his face should be on the money." In a nod to his outstate fans, Zevon pointed out that his dentist is from Duluth, then served up a rendition of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom." Off Beat was unable to confirm rumors that rural legislators were pleased.