The Great White Hype

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger wasn't that great a friend to Native Americans

Last week brought news, via the L.A. Times, that former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger made Karl Rove's hit list because of his support for Native American voting rights. Heffelfinger immediately adopted the pose of the noble white man, calling the blacklisting "shameful."

But not everyone was so impressed with Heffelfinger's track record on the rez. Among the critics: Bill Lawrence, the muckraking publisher of the Native American Press/Ojibwe News.

"I don't think Heffelfinger made a dent on the corruption and violence on reservations," Lawrence says flatly. "My friends and I were talking about it the other day, and we didn't think he did anything."

Lawrence says Heffelfinger compares unfavorably with his predecessor, David Lillehaug. As U.S. attorney for Minnesota during the Clinton administration, Lillehaug made tribal corruption a top priority, ultimately sending the former chairmen of the White Earth and Leech Lake bands to federal prison.

By contrast, Lawrence says, there were "no significant prosecutions of white-collar crime on the reservations" during Heffelfinger's tenure. Mike Mosedale

 

Black Friday

Last Friday marked a grim deadline for Star Tribune employees. It was their last chance to apply for a buyout package.

The paper's new ownership group, Avista Capital Partners, is in the process of reducing the workforce by 145 bodies. The newsroom alone is being asked to shed 50 employees—a 13 percent reduction.

While the downsizing was announced two weeks ago, the ramifications for the Minneapolis daily only started to become clear as word filtered out about which editorial staffers had opted for the buyout package. The first big name that surfaced was veteran metro columnist Doug Grow.

But that proved to be just the beginning of the Strib's talent bloodletting. As of press time, City Pages had confirmed that at least 44 newsroom workers had decided to voluntarily depart.

Veteran sports reporter Jay Weiner, author of the definitive tome Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles, is out the door, as is redoubtable media scribe Deborah Caulfield Rybak.

"I was hired because of my experience writing magazine-type stories, and those stories aren't in the paper anymore," says Caulfield Rybak. "For the last few years, it seems like my usual story length was two inches."

The politics beat will lose decades of institutional memory with the departures of Eric Black and Conrad Defiebre. "Around St. Paul" writer Joe Kimball opted for the buyout after learning that the paper intended to eliminate his column.

"I was initially shocked," says Kimball, who's been with the paper for 31 years. "I pleaded and fought for it. But they told me this week they were not going to change their mind and that's what pushed me over."

Other names are less known to Strib readers. For 47 years John Addington has been a copy editor at the Strib. He finally determined that his time in the newsroom is up. Illustrator L.K. Hanson also opted for the buyout. "These are sad times here at the Strib," he writes in an email. "The C students have taken over the school." Paul Demko and G.R. Anderson

 

Black Friday

For each of the past 15 years, Cheryl Frank-Murray has held season tickets to the Guthrie. No longer. The reason is simple, says the social worker: The "uppity" theater has priced her out of its audience.

At the old Guthrie, Frank-Murray's Saturday afternoon seats cost $78 for five shows. This year, the comparable package would have set her back $172, up from the $144 she begrudgingly shelled out last year.

"A 100 percent increase in two years? Appalling!" she says. "They don't care about someone like me."

Guthrie spokeswoman Trish Santini concedes that ticket prices have gone up since the big move, but says that "there are affordable options for people willing to go" at times other than opening night.

That's not good enough for Frank-Murray, who is taking her business elsewhere. Among the beneficiaries of her revised viewing habits: Park Square Theatre ("They're doing four area premieres!"), Jeune Lune (with shows "so unique that they make even old material look really wonderful and unusual"), and Penumbra ("They actually work with local playwrights.") Jonathan Kaminsky

 

Burger’s Breast Cancer Battle

Last week's news that Kevyn Burger has breast cancer shocked her friends and radio listeners alike. Not just because the FM-107 chat-show host conducted self-exams over the air every month—asking her listeners to play along at home, work, or in the car—but also because the lady seems so damn invincible.

She took to the airwaves for one hour Thursday morning to talk about her illness before undergoing surgery, reconstruction, and chemo. In typical Burger fashion, she was stunningly frank, but her wicked sense of humor bubbled up when she talked about losing her hair and her breasts.

"I got a good rack," Burger said. "I always felt I got a good shake, literally, in that department. I love my hair, and I love my breasts, and now I'm going to lose both."

She wrapped up by vowing to come back, and you can bet that she will. —G.R. Anderson Jr.

 

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