Hecker, Petters, and Pawlenty: Turkeys of the Year 2009

The Twin Cities dirty dozen we're thankful to see go away

This year's seriocomic budget battle was a prime example. Knowing that no Republican could win the party's nomination with a record of tax increases, Pawlenty drew a line in the sand and refused to discuss tax compromises even during one of the worst budget crises in state history. When his brick-wall stubbornness created a stalemate with the Legislature, Pawlenty reached into his constitutional bag of tricks and pulled out "unallotment," a process that allowed him to unilaterally slash $2.7 billion from the budget, much of it from education and health services for the poorest of the poor.

Minnesota was nearly alone among hard-hit states in not raising some taxes during the economic crisis, and Pawlenty's stance was at odds with other recent Minnesota Republican governors such as Al Quie and Arne Carlson, who understood the necessity of civilized compromise during hard times. Pawlenty's intransigence only postpones the most difficult decisions till the next budget cycle in 2011, when state deficits are projected to be nearly as huge as this year's.

What's more, Pawlenty's "no new taxes" mantra isn't even true. By hacking state aid to local governments (by about a billion dollars since Pawlenty took office, and $300 million this year), the governor has forced counties to raise property taxes to pay for basic services—by more than 11 percent during his term.

Let the nation have T-Paw—we don't want him.

MnDOT

Two years ago, 13 people died and 145 were injured when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed. The state has paid $37 million to people injured and families of those who died. A slew of lawsuits seek to assign responsibility—by the state against the two contractors blamed for the collapse, by the two contractors against the state, and by the families against both.

Yet the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) awarded the two contractors $50 million in new contracts.

We really can't think of anything dumber.

Last year, federal investigators placed blame for the collapse on poor engineering design, which was exacerbated by the excessive weight of construction materials placed on the bridge. San Francisco-based engineering consultant URS Corp. designed the connector plates that held the bridge's steel beams together. Progressive Contractors Inc. (PCI), which is based in Saint Michel, was re-surfacing the bridge when it collapsed on August 1, 2007.

Since the disaster, MnDOT has awarded both companies new projects. Neither company has made the list of firms disqualified from getting state jobs, so technically transportation officials don't have a legal reason to shut them out. But really—isn't one bridge disaster bad enough?

To make matters worse, MnDOT is moving like molasses to do work on bridges that have lower safety ratings than the 35W bridge did when it collapsed. MnDOT ranks bridges on a 100-point scale of structural adequacy. The failed 35W bridge had a score of 50 when it fell. In 2005, 71 bridges in the seven-county metro area scored even worse.

Among them: St. Paul's Lafayette, which spans the Mississippi near downtown, rated 49.5 in June. MnDOT says they'll get to it sometime next year.

The St. Paul-MinneapolisArchdiocese

It's been a rough decade for the Catholic Church. A hierarchy all too eager to cover up its employees' sins has compelled many of the faithful to flock to less creepy pastures in recent years.

Given the history, you'd think church higher-ups in Minnesota would go out of their way to help expose abusive priests past and present. But you'd be wrong.

In April, Minnesota's Catholic leaders issued a protective order to keep secret the identities of 46 former priests suspected of sexually abusing children at the St. Paul-Minneapolis and Winona Archdioceses.

The church's controversial move came during a lawsuit filed against the St. Paul-Minneapolis and Winona dioceses. Attorney Jeff Anderson accused leaders of suppressing information on an alleged sex abuser in the church. Anderson—who'd filed numerous suits alleging molestation by priests, and whose own daughter was abused decades ago by a clergyman—requested the hitherto undisclosed names be made public, arguing that the public safety was otherwise jeopardized.

Catholic brass disagreed and filed a protective order to prevent the disclosure. The motion was successful. To this day, the names remain sealed.

"They could still be in positions of authority or working with children," Anderson says. "It's an outrage. We feel that concealing the priests' names from the communities in which they continue to live and work puts the public at risk."

Pastor John Piper

We usually think of tornadoes as a rural phenomenon, tearing through a few farmhouses before disappearing into the summer night. It's not often that twisters cause widespread damage to a city.

But on August 19, tornadoes came to town in a big way, touching down in the early afternoon south of downtown Minneapolis.

Within 15 minutes, an estimated 4,600 power outages stretched across the metro. By the time everything wrapped up, 250 city trees had been felled and 40 homes were damaged by the destructive winds.

The storm struck on the same day that 2,000 members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America were convening to discuss opening their ministry to gays and lesbians. When the whirlwinds damaged 1,800 square feet of the Minneapolis Convention Center's roof, the uncanny timing wasn't lost on the anti-gay forces. Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church claimed that the storm was God's warning to the ELCA to "turn from the approval of sin."

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