Follow the Bouncing Bill
Off Beat took time off from trolling for porn in Garrison Keillor's Salon column to search for it in the Minnesota statutes (www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/statutes.htm). This after getting word of an ill-fated House bill to decriminalize sexual conduct between consenting adults. Sure, as a little tyke Off Beat recalls giggling about how it's illegal to engage in sodomy, but nothing quite compares to the thrill of seeing it itemized, and defined. ("'Sodomy' means carnally knowing any person by the anus or by or with the mouth." Gracious!) Nixing antiquated prohibitions on oral sex and prostitution was the brainchild of Rep. Phyllis Kahn, a Minneapolis DFLer who's a veteran of past similar attempts. This time around, Kahn lumped in a lot of other stuff, which didn't escape the notice of the Minnesota Family Council (whose members, much like Off Beat, seem to exhibit a certain zeal for Internet porn). Besides doing away with penalties for sodomy and certain types of prostitution, they pointed out, Kahn's bill would repeal the statute that commences, "Whoever carnally knows a dead body or an animal or a bird is guilty of bestiality." Co-sponsors Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), Karen Clark, Lee Greenfield, and Gregory Gray (all DFL-Minneapolis) promptly scurried away from the proposed legislation, some of them pausing to issue stunned statements as they went. "The way the bill was explained to me, it was a bill to repeal some outdated laws on sodomy," Gray tells Off Beat. "I couldn't believe that anyone would even author that [as it was written]." Kahn says that while she doesn't recall asking that the bill include the repeal of the bestiality/necrophilia statute, she wouldn't put it past herself. "I very well may have said to repeal them, just because they are also stupid laws to have on the books; however, it was clearly a mistake, as it gave the opponents a field day of extended rhetoric," she asserts. "I will go back to just going after the parts of the statutes that could seriously affect people's lives and let the more general cleanup wait."
You Get What You Pay For
Off Beat was somewhat baffled to learn that officials from the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) are itching to trumpet their progress in complying with the Hollman Decree, the landmark 1995 federal court settlement that mandated the demolition of some 700 public-housing units in North Minneapolis. Late last year the MPHA invited local newspapers to bid on a $44,000 contract for publication and distribution of a four-page "special edition newspaper supplement." Only one paper took the bait: Insight News. According to a report issued in late January by MPHA executive director Cora McCorvey, the supplement, which will run weekly for a year, "represents a unique, first-time opportunity for MPHA...to directly reach thousands of households with timely, accurate, and useful information." And who will supply that information? "MPHA will be represented on an editorial advisory board to be created by Insight News....MPHA's Public Information Coordinator and other MPHA staff will work closely with Insight News in developing story ideas and content...." The timing of this little endeavor is curious: Just before the MPHA issued its call for bids, a rival African-American community newspaper, the Spokesman, ran a scathing story about the city's dismal performance in creating replacement units for the housing it annihilated. Coincidence? The MPHA didn't return our calls requesting comment, nor did Insight News publisher Batala-Ra McFarlane. For his part, Spokesman editor Gayle Anderson scoffs at the supplement (which his paper turned down), calling it "clearly a promotional piece."
The Library Giveth and the Library Taketh Away
The Minneapolis Public Library unveiled its spiffy new online catalog (www.mpls.lib.mn.us) and computer system yesterday, to appropriate fanfare. Slightly less heralded was the revelation that the library's 5-day 'grace period' for overdue books is no more. That's right, they're now requiring that books be returned by the date they're due. Sadder still: It turns out the grace period wasn't a goodwill gesture at all, but a shortcoming of the outdated computers. "That was really a function of our old system," concedes publicist Kristi Gibson. "It was more difficult to assess a small fine rather than forgive it." And don't expect any more of those handy yellow date-due slips that double as bookmarks. "With our new computers, the checkout will have receipt printers instead of the little yellow slips," says Gibson. "We used about two million of those a year, done with a drill press. That's one staff function that we'll be able to eliminate." Obviously desperate to prove that a vestige of Minnesota Nice still lingers at the library, Gibson adds that "we've done our best to forewarn people, but--how should I put this--as always, staff will try to accommodate individual situations."
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