Off Beat

Just Stay Away from the Brown Stuff and You'll Be Fine, Guys

SOMETIMES OFF BEAT wonders what they're smoking over at the Star Tribune. Or, in this case, what they're dropping. The October 28 shooting by an Apple Valley police officer of a 17-year-old Burnsville boy who was apparently high on "a potent synthetic hallucinogen that is also known as acid," according to staff writer Chris Graves in the next day's Strib, unleashed a bad trip at the Newspaper of the Twin Cities. Graves's October 30 followup was headlined "Police Seeing Increased LSD Use, Especially Among Teens." Brushing aside flashbacks of flying pink elephants and man-eating carnations, Off Beat read on. What followed was a harrowing tale of escalating LSD use among our children (along with a helpful sidebar listing signs that a person is tripping, such as "bewildered appearance"). The story seemed largely based on the observations of Dakota County Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Scott, a member of the county's drug task force. Graves cited statistics from federal surveys performed in 1993, and noted that according to a Hazelden spokeswoman LSD was involved in 51 emergency-room episodes in the Twin Cities area in 1998. But the article offers no figures from other years by way of comparison. (In fact, according to the Butler Center for Research at Hazelden, there were 79 LSD-related emergency-room visits in 1997--which, if anything, would indicate a steep decline.) Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center Drug Policy Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit group that pushes for changes to the nation's narcotics laws, says such drug-use sensationalism is the norm in the mainstream media. "Even people who know better, and who have had positive encounters with these drugs, still feel that what's expected of them is to write this sort of garbage," Nadelmann says wearily.

Pleasantville Here We Come!

MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL member and all-but-officially announced mayoral candidate Lisa McDonald has her pet peeves. Like graffiti. In July the council passed a McDonald-sponsored measure that makes parents liable for graffiti perpetrated by their kids. Now, it seems, she's got her dander up about stickers. A few weeks back McDonald's eagle eye discerned an outbreak of stickers promoting a new album by Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek on the Rawkus Entertainment label, which were defacing lampposts in her Tenth Ward. ("It was some kind of rap group," McDonald huffs.) In an effort to track down the record company, the council member stopped in at her neighborhood record shop, Oar Folkjokeopus, where a prickly conversation with manager Mark Trehus ensued--and later overflowed onto the Minneapolis-Issues e-mail newsgroup. McDonald characterized Trehus as unsympathetic to the problem; Trehus fired back that McDonald was an abrasive busybody. Both parties tell Off Beat the healing has begun. "We've corresponded since the exchange and put any animosity to rest," Trehus asserts. McDonald agrees, and says she has turned the matter over to city license inspectors. The mayoral candidate-to-be adds that she isn't as obsessed with keeping Minneapolis tidy as some think: "I don't want people to think that I want everything to be squeaky clean. I think a little dirt is good. If people put up garage-sale signs and take them down at the end of the week, nobody cares about that."

Breaking News

IT MAY HAVE seemed natural for ABC to tape a Nightline town-hall meeting last week at the University of Minnesota--the work of a nimble news organization, moving swiftly to address Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader's bounce in the local polls. Off Beat has learned, however, that the network and its Twin Cities affiliate, KSTP-TV (Channel 5), have been going back and forth about doing a show about Minnesota's third-party movement for nearly a year. In fact, that Nightline producers even bothered to fly host Ted Koppel to Minneapolis in the first place, instead of shuttling guests Nader and Gov. Jesse Ventura to New York, is the result of negotiations between ABC corporate managers and KSTP that took place more than two years ago. KSTP news director Scott Libin confirms that when his station began talks with the network about shifting Nightline from 11:35 p.m. (an unpalatable time slot in the network's eyes) to 10:35 p.m., his boss, general manager Ed Piette, requested that in return for bumping reruns of Married...With Children, etc., Nightline make a house call. Libin and ABC execs say it wouldn't be fair to characterize Piette's stipulation as a deal-breaker, but the news director allows that the time change, which took place September 7, 1998, had its benefits. "It was simply added value," Libin explains. "We figured if you can get something out of this, you do."