Off Beat

Drip, Drip, Drip

WE'D HARDLY HAD a chance to digest the news that McClatchy Co., the Star Tribune's parent company, was projecting earnings this year at the low end of Wall Street analysts' expectations, when a memo was passed along by a source at Strib Central. "The Office Supplies Procurement Team recommended the dropping of bottled water to reduce expenses," commenced the announcement, written by one Barb Glander. "A taste test was conducted in which employee testers found filtered tap water as good as, and in some cases better than, the bottled water. After comparing the annual expense of maintaining water coolers with the cost of adding filters, a decision was made to install filters on all drinking-water sources....Originally water coolers were installed during the StarDust remodeling project in 1994 because many drinking fountains were not in service during construction. Since then, water cooler usage proliferated throughout the company...." Mindful of the entertainment value of last year's belt-tightening measures (see the August 25, 1999 installment of this column and David Schimke's November 17 story "Buckling Down"), we called Strib VP Frank Parisi. "Fighting hasn't broken out in the hallways," reports the spokesman, "but there are some people who say, 'What are you taking the bottled water out for?'" And what, pray tell, does the staff have against plain old tap water? "It has a taste that people didn't think was terrific--there were complaints that it had an aftertaste," Parisi explains, adding, "I don't have a filter on my water where I live."

Where Is Minnetonka, Anyway?

IF WE WEREN'T so busy reading Jim Romenesko, we'd probably while away even more idle hours perusing the dispatches that sizzle through the Minneapolis-Issues e-discussion group. Last Thursday afternoon provided an edifying between-bonbons interlude, as city council member Lisa McDonald posed a question about an upcoming event: "Can anyone tell me how to get to this hearing in Minnetonka this evening. I rarely leave Minneapolis and the Tenth Ward is the center of my universe. Directions would be helpful. Thanks." The hearing, a public meeting concerning the potential environmental impact of a controversial plan to build a tunnel at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, was being held at the Minnetonka City Hall. "My husband says I shouldn't go the suburbs unescorted," the geographically challenged council member tells Off Beat.

Hey, You've Got to Hide Your Mask Away

LAST WEEK THE Minneapolis City Council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee was to have taken up a proposed ordinance prohibiting the good citizens of Minneapolis from wearing gas masks. But the matter, which arose as the police department anticipated protests at the upcoming conference of the International Society of Animal Genetics, never came up. In parliamentary parlance, the measure was "returned to author." In plain English, it's dead. It seems the City Attorney's Office has decided that if a mob of gas mask-wearing protesters descends on the convention center, an existing state law that makes it a misdemeanor to conceal one's identity by means of a "robe, mask, or other disguise" will do the trick. Having read Burl Gilyard's June 21 story "Know Your Enemy," Off Beat isn't convinced. As Ken Kirwin, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law told Gilyard, "A gas mask is not a disguise, really--it serves another purpose." (Exactly what Off Beat was thinking! But then, we're not a scholar of constitutional law.) We wanted to pick the brain of Joan Peterson, a deputy city attorney who worked on the ill-fated ordinance, but we couldn't reach her. We did track down Dana Banwer, an assistant city attorney who was also involved, but she wasn't exactly effusive. "I'm not at liberty to discuss the advice that I gave my clients," quoth she. Gosh, Off Beat wonders--aren't we your clients?

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