Off Beat

SWM Seeks Class Action Settlement

Thought you'd never have a piece of one of those multimillion-dollar class-action legal cases? According to a tiny-print quarter-page ad that has been running recently in this very newspaper, if you're a heterosexual fella who used a telephone dating service in the past five years, you may already may be a winner! Robert Danford of San Diego and his attorneys argued that L.A.-based Movo Media Inc.--which has advertised its service in papers nationwide, including City Pages--discriminated against men who used the "Men Seeking Women" category by charging them to leave messages for women, while women could leave messages for free. Byron L. Patterson, vice president and general counsel for Movo, says that when women were asked to pay, they simply didn't use the dating service, which led to complaints from men. Patterson says he'd ask men who complained, "'Are you interested in what you consider to be ultimately fair, or are you interested in getting a date?'" The $4-million settlement will be divvied as follows: up to $2.4 million for straight men who take the time to clip and mail in claim forms; $450,000 for the plaintiff's lawyers; and the remainder to pay for advertising the settlement and setting up an additional voice-mail system that will charge women but not men. The $2.4 million won't be paid out in cash but rather as six minutes of free airtime on Movo's system for every qualified claimant--a $12 value. "That's a lot of time if you're just collecting or leaving messages," points out Barron Ramos, an associate at the law firm that sued Movo. When Off Beat pointed out to Ramos that if the attorney's fees were converted into free airtime they'd equal more than 156 days on Movo's system, the attorney said his firm wasn't interested in a noncash fee.

Just a Tad Off Target

After having their drones spend years putting together the vaunted Downtown Minneapolis 2010 plan to guide development, city officials could at least have read the thing. A group called Citizens for the Loring Park Community, which opposes Dayton Hudson's proposed 35-story Target office tower, points out that the site for the edifice at 1000 Nicollet Mall lies one block outside the city's office district as defined by Downtown 2010. The site is within an area designated as a "transition zone" between the city's core office and retail sector and the residential area around Loring Park, two blocks west of the proposed tower. "People feel deceived," complains CLPC organizer Robert Thompson, who notes that the original design for the downtown Target store had the office tower on top. "Why you would reject those original designs for this piece of junk is beyond me," he says. "Downtown 2010 is there to give us guidance," counters City Council member Kathy Thurber, who says that as far as she's concerned, the location conforms just fine. "Since we have such a well-developed city core, sometimes you just need to be flexible. Right now [the proposed tower] is not a serious violation of our ideal."

The Politics of Academia

Last week Morris Anderson, interim chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, got an early Christmas present from his board of trustees: a 57-percent pay raise retroactive to July 1997, plus an additional 8 percent for 1998. If a legislative panel approves the move, instead of the paltry $128,780 he thought he'd be taking home, Anderson, who was tapped for his post by Gov. Arne Carlson, will be paid $185,000 for 1998. And despite a MnSCU policy that bars interim chancellors and college presidents from becoming, er, institutions, Anderson's appointment was made permanent. To suspend the interim-hire rule requires a two-thirds vote of the 15 trustees--a maneuver with which the board is well-acquainted, having waived the restriction in several cases this year. Critics contend that skirting the rule--and thereby sidestepping national searches to fill positions--discourages the recruitment of minority job candidates. Conrad Balfour, who served as the state's human rights commissioner in 1969 and '70 and who now teaches at North Hennepin Community College, notes that at four MnSCU institutions boasting large numbers of minority students, interim presidents (all of them white) have been installed. Three were granted permanent appointments; in one of those cases, the "interim" step was bypassed completely. MnSCU deputy chancellor John Ostrem says the restriction is meant to ensure that qualified candidates aren't scared off by rumors that an interim appointee has the inside track. The logic seems impeccable: If you're not looking for candidates, how can you be accused of scaring anyone away?

At Off Beat our motto is "Staying informed so you don't have to." Call 372-3788 or send an e-mail to [email protected] with any poop that's fit to print.

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