… in the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the most charitable description of what’s been going on at the clubby University of Minnesota medical school would be “bizarre.”
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
From the Star-Tribune:
The Central Corridor light-rail line, which has become a pawn in back-and-forth negotiation, is back in a budget proposal made by Gov. Tim Pawlenty today.
In exchange, Pawlenty proposed including two of his own pet projects in any final budget solution: a nursing facility at the Minneapolis Veterans Home and a new state park on Lake Vermilion.
In announcing his new budget proposal, Pawlenty said it moved negotiations “within the range of the doable” as a May 19 adjournment deadline looms for the Legislature.
Pawlenty’s inclusion of the Central Corridor line between Minneapolis and St. Paul comes with caveats, though. DFL legislative leaders must agree that the state’s construction costs for the project be capped at 10 percent or $91 million, whichever is less. Pawlenty also wants the costs of operating the line once its is constructed to be capped at 50 percent.
The governor also called for a cap on property taxes. That's an idea he has floated before, but Democrats have opposed it.
The offers are part of broad negotiations whose objectives include erasing the state's projected $936 million budget deficit.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The University of Minnesota Takes Draconian Action
From the Star-Tribune:
Double dipping professors to have salaries, responsibilities reduced
By JEFF SHELMAN, Star Tribune
April 28, 2008
The two University of Minnesota professors accused of double dipping salaries will have their responsibilities and salaries reduced for the next two months as their departure from Georgia Tech is examined.
On Monday, the husband and wife duo of Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko asked for and received a leave of absence from their administrative duties at the U of M, according a school spokeswoman. They will retain their faculty positions during those months and be paid that portion of their salaries.
"It will give them some time to focus on resolving their issues with Georgia Tech," U of M spokeswoman Mary Koppel said.
The university will continue to look into the double dipping allegations.
Sainfort and Jacko were lured to Minnesota from the Atlanta school in the fall. Sainfort was hired to lead the Division of Health Policy and Management in the Academic Health Center, while Jacko was brought in as director of the Institute on Health Informatics.
Sainfort was receiving a $20,000 for his administrative duties in addition to his $265,000 annual salary. Jacko's base salary is $204,000 and she was receiving $12,000 for her administrative duties.
Earlier this month, Georgia Tech began the process of firing Sainfort and Jacko for being on the payroll of both schools at the same time. Georgia Tech has turned the case over to the Georgia attorney general.
In a February e-mail to an administrator, Sainfort described his spring semester workload at Georgia Tech as full and added that neither he nor Jacko had signed contracts with Minnesota. Minnesota officials, however, contend that the two signed contracts in October and are concerned with Sainfort's e-mail. Minnesota officials said Sainfort and Jacko were expected to be in "residence" on Jan. 1. Georgia Tech has said that the two signed contracts to work there for this entire school year after they signed with Minnesota.
The two professors are doing research at Minnesota and will continue to do that. In addition, Jacko will continue to work on course development for the U's School of Nursing.Let's see if I understand this...
($12,000/12) x 2 = $2000
and ($20,000/12) x 2 = $3333
Wow, that is really going to hurt people who are making more than 200 grand a year... Sort of reminds you of fines for professional athletes. The words "slap on the wrist" come to mind.
But I guess it is something and takes the heat off the administration temporarily while they deal with other pressing problems, like light rail.
How, exactly is this different from the Zahavy case? And what happened to Zahavy?
"The Board of Regents and the administration of the University made it clear years ago that it would not tolerate undisclosed, simultaneous full time employment" Rotenberg said.
I guess some pigs are more equal than other pigs, as long as they are good rainmakers. Sorry, this does not pass the smell test.
Renewed push for Dinkytown route
may jeopardize project,
The University of Minnesota is not on board the Central Corridor. Still.
Top university officials have lobbied members of Congress, stated their case in community forums and submitted a 23-page memo to federal officials, accusing project planners of railroading the route, and suggesting the Metropolitan Council's aggressive timeline could violate federal laws.
The re-emergence of the conflict — thought by many to have been resolved this winter — has raised hackles of county and city officials on both sides of the river, as well inside the Met Council, the lead agency in the effort to build the $909.1 million, 11-mile line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The dispute's effect on the federal government — which will be asked to pay half the cost — is unclear. But an official familiar with the federal transit funding process said, "This is a competitive process with projects around the country. The more everyone's singing off the same page, the more it moves it ahead of other projects."
In interviews with the Pioneer Press, U officials said they support the project and have no intention of causing delays. But how they've stated their position is what worries others involved.
"It's problematic," said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, the county's point person on the Central Corridor, who had thought everyone had reached consensus, albeit a fragile one. "I knew it was very fragile, but there's fragile and there's attempting to make the cracks bigger."
Kathleen O'Brien, the university's point person on the Central Corridor, said the U's position hasn't changed since 2001.
In 2001, the Board of Regents passed a resolution stating it wanted a tunnel under Washington Avenue. If not that, a route along the northern edge of campus, through Dinkytown. If not that, a ground-level route along Washington — but only if someone could figure out how to fix the resulting traffic nightmares and how to pay for those fixes.
The Met Council briefly looked at the Dinkytown route but discarded it out of concerns it would be too expensive. The tunnel was in. Then, the U decided to build a Gophers football stadium on the tunnel's route, forcing a rerouting of the already pricey tunnel and adding more than $100 million to its price tag. The tunnel was out; Washington Avenue at street level was in.
On Feb. 26, the eve of a key vote, O'Brien issued a 10-sentence statement in which she neither supported nor opposed the Washington Avenue plan. The next day, a key advisory panel, including O'Brien and the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, unanimously approved that plan, with a footnote that if a U-sponsored study of the Dinkytown route proved that route was better, officials could revisit it. O'Brien voted "yes, with reservations." Applause erupted in the Met Council chambers in downtown St. Paul.
Then, on March 24, university General Counsel Mark Rotenberg sent a 23-page memorandum to the Federal Transit Administration, the federal agency that would fund the project.
"The University has not modified its opposition to an at-grade Washington Avenue alignment," states the letter, which cites U.S. law and numerous court cases. The memo, obtained by the Pioneer Press, amounts to a point-by-point allegation that the U's wishes have been unfairly — and perhaps illegally — unheeded since 2001. When asked last week if the university intended to take legal action to block the project, Rotenberg responded, "We're not threatening any litigation in this document. We want the Met Council to do its job right."
"I was disappointed," Met Council Chair Peter Bell said. Bell, a former U regent, said the memo's stern tone surprised him. While he said the university has "many legitimate concerns," he added, "many of the items that they listed were without substance."
The full weight of the U's position wasn't widely understood April 7, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed $70 million in state funding for the Central Corridor, citing, among other things, concerns surrounding the route through the university.
Two days later, the U released preliminary findings of its consultant's report on the Dinkytown route. The findings suggested that route would be cheaper and faster than one along Washington Avenue. The preliminary findings do not yet project ridership levels or how that route would measure up to a complex federal funding formula. Two days after that, the Board of Regents publicly "re-affirmed" its support of its 2001 resolution.
On April 15, O'Brien flew to Washington to join U President Robert Bruininks, who was there for a conference. The pair met with members of Minnesota's congressional delegation, including Rep. Jim Oberstar, who chairs the House transportation committee; senior staffers for Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman; and Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, according to people present.
"President Bruininks was just kind of touching base after Governor Pawlenty's veto," McCollum said.
Word of the visit concerned local officials, whose sights had been focused on the governor's office.
Where does the U stand now?
On Friday, when the Pioneer Press asked O'Brien whether the U supports the current plan — yes or no — she responded, "We're trying to get to yes."
Money aside, Bell and Met Council staffers, as well as McLaughlin, McDonough and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, believe the Washington Avenue route, which removes all but some bus traffic from the street, just makes more sense for the campus. The U disagrees, arguing the surrounding traffic snarls will do more harm than good.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Or, time to do the right thing?
From the Strib:
The University of Minnesota has millions of dollars riding on the fate of two star researchers.Sounds reasonable until you examine the argument a little more closely. This is the way the Yankees do business. They have deep pockets. And the Twins?
Wooed for more than a year, Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko -- a husband-wife duo who specialize in making sense of huge volumes of health data -- agreed last fall to leave Georgia Tech for Minnesota. Now they face allegations of drawing salaries at both schools. The allegations, if true, could turn a hiring coup into a huge setback.
"This is an arms race, there's no question about it," said Dr. Frank Cerra, senior vice president of health sciences at the U. "It has risen exponentially in the last four, five years," Cerra aded. "It's all about faculty hires."
Research universities see these deals as part of the formula for success. With faculty who can win grants, a school will see its rankings improve. It will attract better students, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. That will make an institution even more attractive to top faculty. More top faculty, in turn, will mean more research money
Overall, faculty salaries are barely keeping up with inflation, according to a study released this month by the American Association of University Professors. But when it comes to elite professors, research institutions are still willing to spend money.Actually, word came out this last week that it is about twice this figure. And much of the income of doctors in the medical school is not disclosed...
"One of the reasons this is becoming more and more significant is that for public universities, they are getting a smaller proportion of their operating expenses funded by state governments," said John Curtis, the director of research and public policy for the AAUP. "The costs of providing education and doing the advanced research are rising faster than then funding that is coming from the state government."
Wayne Gladfelter, the interim associate dean for academic affairs in the U's Institute of Technology, said start-up costs for a faculty member's lab can easily run more than $1 million. Faculty salaries in the college can run as high as $200,000 for a nine-month appointment. And the competition can be tough.
"They usually don't come alone," Cerra said. "Frequently they come with a spouse or with a half a dozen people. I can remember one recruit that came with 22 or 23 associated scientists; they come as groups.These figures indicate the folly of trying to buy your way to the top...
"For an individual, $1 million is frequently a starting point for salary and start-up money. If you're doing research with a group, it could be $10 million, $15 million, up to $25 million. That's the nature of the marketplace."
Who would have thought?
"You must be careful in the choices you make," said Dr. Paul Ramsey, the dean of the school of medicine at the University of Washington. "It's getting more and more expensive and you want to choose well.
Earlier this month, Georgia Tech began the process of firing Sainfort and Jacko, whom Tech officials had once hoped to keep in Atlanta. In a February e-mail to an administrator, Sainfort described his spring semester workload at Georgia Tech as full and added that neither he nor Jacko had signed contracts with Minnesota.And was this true? And is there a Regents policy against double-dipping? And have we heard anything from President Bruininks about this? He's probably in the basement of Morrill Hall waiting for the storm to blow over.
Minnesota officials, however, contend that the two signed contracts in October and are concerned with Sainfort's e-mail. Minnesota officials said Sainfort and Jacko were expected to be in "residence" on Jan. 1. Georgia Tech has said that the two signed contracts to work there for this entire school year after they signed with Minnesota.Contend? If this is true, don't they have signed and presumably dated copies of these contracts? Haven't they been cutting them checks?
Nothing wrong? Remarkable...
The couple's attorney has maintained that the two did nothing wrong and they look forward to speaking with the Georgia attorney general.
It's not rocket science, Mark. There is a Regents policy prompted by the behavior of Tzvee Zahavy, whom we fired.
U general counsel Mark Rotenberg spent much of the past week putting together the pieces of this case and trying to determine whether this was simply a communication or procedural breakdown or whether it was something more significant that could result in discipline and carry broader consequences.
Once again, the longer this drags on the worse we look. Is there any way this situation can be salvaged? Doubtful.
Suppose we figure out a way that we can rationalize keeping these people. Do you think that in the future what they say or do is going to be construed as being in the best interest of the university?
Even Homer Simpson knows the answer to that one.
"It's reputation, it's money, it's people's lives, it's the atmosphere," Cerra said. "It all ripples."It's also about integrity, Frank. Let's cut out the melodrama and face facts. We have a checkered history in these matters and have to make sure it is understood that we will not tolerate unethical behavior.
You do remember our sanction by the NIH? Of course you do. You do remember Dennis Polla and the NSF and the money we had to give back?
We've messed up yet again. A dean at Georgia Tech made it clear that no salary should be coming from Minnesota while these folks were being paid full time by Georgia Tech.
Much as the University of Minnesota might like to save face and keep these people, it simply is not going to be possible. Get over it and move on. The sooner the better. Are we paying them right now?
Friday, April 25, 2008
From the Minnesota public radio website:
St. Paul, Minn. — Objections from university officials influenced Pawlenty's decision to axe $70 million for the Central Corridor project from the bonding bill earlier this month. The line would link Minneapolis and St. Paul.Have it your way, Bob?
The public good?
I have heard no one who knows anything about urban planning - including faculty and staff at the university - say anything bad about a pedestrian mall / light rail on Washington Avenue. We did hear a regent - with strong attachment to the hospital industry - complaining that this would be a dagger to the heart of the university. As an informed Daily letter writer pointed out, this is melodrama.
And the figures of hundreds of millions of dollars lost by the hospitals if this goes through are laughable. Did you make these up? Or did you pay yet another consultant to provide them? From Atlanta? You are getting about three hundred million dollars from the public trough for four new biomedical research buildings. Move anything you need to those new buildings.
You spent ten million dollars this year for a new scoreboard that will be used six times a year and yet you couldn't cover moving expenses estimated by you to be "millions of dollars"?
You just hired two, count 'em two, new faculty members that will cost the U, over the next ten years, five million dollars. Of course that assumes that they never get a pay raise or survive the current scandal - probably not good bets...
(There is also this little pot of money - in the billions - in something called an endowment, you do know about it?)
You mean to tell me that the majority of hospital patients couldn't make it to the U via light rail? Or using the Huron exit off 94? And the trauma center placed across the River. The new (and unnecessary) Children's Hospital is already going to be placed across the River.
The current traffic situation at U hospitals is such a disaster that some sadist must have devised it. It funnels into a two lane street with four-way stop signs monitoring the traffic.
It is FUN to sit in traffic at a four way stop sign intersection and try to get through the waves of students who also need to cross the intersection on foot. By the time you get to the hospital you need about an hour before your blood pressure can be properly monitored.
That right or left turn onto Harvard from Washington Avenue is another true nightmare. Harvard is of course the street on which the front entrance to U Hospitals is located. Or the left turn off Washington onto Church St. - now there is an exciting turn to make. If you are unfortunate enough not to get the green arrow you have to balance getting broadsided by a bus with running over students. Is this situation really preferable to light rail and a pedestian mall? I don't think so.
I regularly run into elderly couples lost in some dark hallway, trying to find their way out or into University Hospitals. Or the banditos who will park your car in some far off lot because of the incredibly poor parking situation.
I am amazed that any sane person who actually works at the University would claim that somehow light rail and a pedestrian mall could make the situation worse at U Hospitals.
Where are your priorities?
Oh, I forgot, being one of the top three public universities in the universe...
Added from today's Daily (good work Daily!):
The most significant increase for Metro Transit was related to the light rail. The number of riders on the Hiawatha line was more than 2 million for the first time. The line has completely outperformed expectations, and this only provides more evidence that the light rail can attract riders who won't use buses.
The numbers also make Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of Central Corridor funding all the more embarrassing. There's no reason to believe that gas prices will decrease even to the levels of the late '90s, and all the construction projects in the world can't prevent roads from becoming congested (see Los Angeles).
Thursday, April 24, 2008
To those of who have been at the U for some time, the following is a little surprising.
Or is it?
From the Daily:
Husband-and-wife team François Sainfort and Julie Jacko, in allegedly retaining employment as professors at both the University of Minnesota and Georgia Tech, were in violation of policies at both institutions.
Previously, the University has taken a backseat to the Georgia attorney general's investigation, but news that Sainfort and Jacko could also be in violation of University policies may heighten the investigation here.
If the investigations in Georgia and Minnesota both find the professors to be fraudulent in their employment contracts, the University could dismiss them, per Board of Regents procedure.
Until late Wednesday, University general counsel Mark Rotenberg was unaware of institutional policies prohibiting double employment, saying that type of behavior was generally prohibited by "basic norms of honesty and fair dealing" in the University Code of Conduct.
After an initial interview, Rotenberg located a regents' procedure that prohibits full-time employment outside the University for all employees.
This isn't the first time a University professor has been implicated in double employment.
In 1995, professor Tzvee Zahavy was fired for working both at the University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Before he was aware of the policy prohibiting double employment, Rotenberg said the University's handling of Zahavy was a precedent in dealing with so-called double-dipping professors.
"The Board of Regents and the administration of the University made it clear years ago that it would not tolerate undisclosed, simultaneous full-time employment," Rotenberg said.
Hello, kitty. Nice work, counselor.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
From the Daily:
Rappin With Robert
The University's study of the Northern Alignment light-rail route reaffirmed its preferred route through Dinkytown. Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed funding for that project, but there's still a few weeks left in the legislative session. Would a delay help or hurt the University's stake in this project?
In fairness, we do not have all the information we need to make a judgment as to which direction is the best one to take.
Based upon our early findings, we believe the Northern Alignment ... is the best way to go.
We think it's likely to be cheaper to build. Perhaps it would require tens of millions of dollars less in what they call mitigations costs.
The train would then go to the part of the campus and through a community that will represent the most promising areas for development in the next 20 to 50 years.
This plan would be building for the future, not building the train for the past.
Would a delay give the school more time to gather more support for the Northern Alignment?
I personally do not accept the argument that this will take more time and cost more money. I actually think that's an excuse. If you can build a bridge, a very complex bridge, in a year, construct a football stadium in two years, you ought to be able to engineer about a mile and a half of railroad track and still keep on schedule and get this in to the federal government on time.
I may not understand some of the complexities here, and I'm willing to listen to those arguments, but I think we should work with the idea that we're going to try to keep this on time and schedule. If the money is not there and the project is delayed, then we'll deal with that particular issue.
But I will not be very happy, and the University's Board of Regents will not find it acceptable to plan this train and develop this train ... without listening to the legitimate views and concerns that we have about it and what its impact will be on the University and the surrounding communities.
I'll be honest with you, I haven't been particularly impressed with the way this project has approached the University of Minnesota, but we're still deeply committed to getting to the right answer.
With only a few weeks left in the legislative session, how optimistic are you that any higher education bills that are passed won't undercut the University too much?
I'm guardedly optimistic.
The budget of the state is in very deep trouble and we anticipate that the state will have a billion dollar budgetary shortfall. The governor recommended that the University receive nearly a 4 percent decrease in this next year.
The Legislature has proposed something quite a bit lower than $27.5 million dollars; it'd be more like $10 million dollars.
If we had to take $27.5 million in a state reduction, it would be very difficult this next year.
It's quite likely we won't know until sometime in the middle of May.
Let's say that University funding takes a big hit. What's the next step in making sure this school is affordable for students?
That's one of the central questions facing the University of Minnesota and all of higher education.
During the last four years, we've raised about $230 million in new money for scholarship support, most of it for undergraduate students.
We will do everything possible to balance the University's budget without asking for a tuition increase. So we're going to first cut our budgets, reduce our investments that we feel we need to make in areas to maintain quality and the excellence of the University.
You've mentioned fundraising a lot. Is that the only way the University can help combat tuition hikes, or are there new policies or programs that could help?
The University has engaged in very serious attempts to reduce its costs.
Despite the enormous increase in energy costs in our society, the University of Minnesota has actually decreased its energy costs by about $5 million this year. Prescription drug costs for its employees have been reduced by $8 million this year. We're looking for other ways to reduce costs.
Let's hope that a new regime at the Daily next year does a better job of extracting information from OurLeader as well as asking him the hard questions about his ambitious aspirations. For the good of the students, faculty, staff, and citizens of the state, let's not have another series of kitten ball games again next year.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
By ANDREA JONES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/22/08
Two former Georgia Tech professors under state investigation for fraud paid out more than $80,000 in Tech money to a family member in consulting fees, according to documents released by Georgia Tech.
Francois Sainfort, formerly an associate engineering dean, and Julie Jacko, a professor in the school of biomedical engineering, are locked in a dispute with Georgia Tech over their departure to high-level positions at the University of Minnesota and whether payments to Jacko's brother were improper or unethical.
Georgia Tech officials have turned the case over to the state Attorney General's office for investigation, focusing on possible double billing of the two schools for expenses and on the payments to Jacko's brother.
Sainfort and Jacko are experts in the field of health informatics, a speciality that focuses on analyzing huge amounts of computer-generated medical data. Sainfort served as director of Tech's Health Systems Institute, which brings in millions of dollars in research grants.
According to documents, HSI routinely paid thousands of dollars to Robert Jacko, Julie Jacko's brother, for helping collect data for the institute.
Robert Jacko, who holds a master of business administration degree, according to invoice documents, was paid $88,000 between June 2006 and January 2007. Checks were made out to Jacko listing the address of a UPS store off West Paces Ferry, down the street from where Sainfort and Julie Jacko lived. Their Buckhead house is now on the market for $1.6 million.
Phyllis Brooks, who was Sainfort's executive assistant, signed off on the payments to Robert Jacko, according to check-request forms provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state's Open Records Act.
Robert Jacko did not returns calls to his cellphone.
Tech officials have charged that the powerful couple accepted jobs at the University of Minnesota and double-billed Tech for expenses, falsifying travel and reimbursement documents for a period of months. Minnesota officials say the couple's contracts date to October 2007.
In an e-mail to Georgia Tech associate engineering dean John Leonard in February, Sainfort said he and his wife had formally requested a leave of absence from Tech beginning May 15, 2008.
"Between now and then, we will travel from time to time to Minnesota for the transition," he wrote, adding that his workload for the semester was "completely full, with a class, four Ph.D students ..."
In the February e-mail, Leonard cautioned Sainfort against confusion over the schedule. "Please make sure that neither you and Julie are on the payroll at Minnesota, even at a small percentage. This could cause problems," he wrote.
Sainfort said in an e-mail in response that he and his wife had "not even signed an employment contract yet."
But the couple had already begun working full-time for the University of Minnesota at that time, according to documents. Mark Rotenberg, the general counsel for the U of M, said the couple's compensation and contracts at Minnesota began Oct. 1.
Take that, you rambling wrecks.
Given that the pair has been at Wisconsin and Georgia Tech before making their latest eyebrow-raising move, it seems only a matter of time until they ride off into the sunset for ever more lucrative opportunities. After all, there are always ambitious aspirations to be sated. Or, as Barnum said about suckers...
From the Fort Mill Times:
Ga. Tech warned professor about behavior
By DORIE TURNER
(Published April 21, 2008)
ATLANTA — At least one of two Georgia Tech professors being investigated for fraud and theft was warned by his boss months ago that he was in danger of running afoul of university policy, according to documents released Monday.
But that e-mail now reads like a prediction for Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko, a husband and wife who brought millions in grant money to Georgia Tech. The pair is being investigated by the state attorney general's office after the university turned over documents alleging Sainfort and Jacko continued to collect paychecks from Georgia Tech after accepting jobs at the University of Minnesota.
Georgia Tech associate engineering dean John Leonard wrote in an e-mail to Sainfort that the transition from Atlanta to Minnesota "may be subject to later examination, so it is important that all pieces fit together cleanly the first time."
The e-mail was sent sometime before a Feb. 11 response from Sainfort, which is the only date available in investigation and personnel documents released to The Associated Press under an open records request.
In the documents, university officials allege Sainfort and Jacko flew between Minnesota and Atlanta at Georgia Tech's expense and collected thousands of dollars in pay when they were supposed to be on unpaid leave. University officials say they have identified nearly $100,000 in questionable spending by the duo so far.
Russ Willard, spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, declined comment.
University of Minnesota general counsel Mark Rotenberg said university officials are also looking into the allegations against Sainfort and Jacko. The pair signed contracts with Minnesota last fall after being recruited by the university, Rotenberg said.
"We will try to piece this together in regard to whether something serious has indeed happened here in regard to so-called double-dipping. At this time, however, we at the University of Minnesota are in no position to make any definitive statement about these allegations."
Jacko is serving as the director of the Institute of Health Informatics and professor in the university's School of Nursing and School of Public Health. Sainfort is a professor and head of the division of Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health.
Sainfort renewed his contract with Georgia Tech in October just days after he signed the contract with Minnesota, according to documents from the investigation. Jacko renewed her contract in January, the documents show.
University documents show the couple reimbursed the university $2,619 on April 4 for travel to Minnesota after questions arose over why Georgia Tech was paying for it.
Georgia Tech announced the allegations in a statement last week. University officials have also said they've begun the tenure revocation process .
Worrying about little things like a couple of thou for travel expenses or a few overlapping paychecks - that's just for the little people to worry about, apparently.
You know, those stupid slobs who actually teach or sweat bullets over funding, rather than raising millions of dollars in research funds.
This duo will fit in real well here, in the rarified atmosphere of "ambitious aspirations to become one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]." At half a mil a year for the two of them, though, it's going to be expensive.
Raise that tuition, dig that gravel, buy that Coke, sell that soul...
Saturday, April 19, 2008
double double [sic] dipping
going on at BigU.
[Added 4-20-08, 9 pm
Welcome to visitors from University Diaries. We are not as literate but just as interested in seeing things change.]
Some heavy hitters, recently recruited from Georgia Tech, are alleged to have been a little too greedy and Georgia Tech has begun proceedings to strip them of tenure. Sound like the kind of people we need at BigU with their eyes intently focused on the almighty dollar?
Two quick posts - mostly quotes from the Strib and from The Atlanta Constitution are on the Periodic Table, Too. There will be another post here next week after further reaction of administrators at the University of Minnesota is known. In the meantime please see:
Is this kind of behavior OK, Bob? Tom? Is this the kind of message we want to be sending out as evidence of our ambitious aspirations? Based on the salaries these folks are pulling down - half a million dollars - it looks as if ambitious aspirations are going to be very expensive. But then we all knew that, didn't we? Bongiorno.
Added 8:30 pm:
Further information from the Strib including first reactions of U of M administrators:
Two U profs suspected of double dipping
By TONY KENNEDY, Star Tribune
April 19, 2008
A pair of pre-eminent University of Minnesota professors who were hotly and successfully recruited away from Georgia Tech are in trouble with the Atlanta school for possible double-dipping of salaries and expense payments.
Profs. Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko, who are husband and wife, signed agreements last October to move to the U of M in January. They are national leaders in the emerging field of "health informatics'' -- making sense of computer-generated health data.
Georgia Tech officials contend the school renewed Sainfort's contract in October and Jacko's contract in January.
The couple was making a total of just over $400,000 a year at Georgia Tech; their Minnesota salaries top $500,000.
"Our hope is that it's just an employment dispute,'' said Bill Donohue, an attorney for the U.
Questions of possible double-dipping by Sainfort and Jacko come five years after a University of Minnesota professor was caught working at a full-time position at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.
In that case, Prof. Tzvee Zahavy, a nationally known scholar in Jewish studies, resigned from both schools after drawing two paychecks for several months.
The current conflict first came to light last Wednesday, when Georgia Tech issued a statement saying that it was in the process of revoking the tenure of two professors it suspected of "potential fraud and theft.'' The school said it had referred the case to the state attorney general for possible legal action but didn't identify the two professors. The Atlanta Journal Constitution named them in a Saturday report.
"The faculty members are suspected of dual employment and double billing their time to [Georgia Tech], falsifying travel reimbursement documents and other potentially illegal actions,'' the school said. "To date, the investigation has revealed approximately $100,000 in questionable activity.''
Martin Goldberg, the Miami attorney who is representing Sainfort and Jacko, said the couple is bewildered and shocked by Georgia Tech's actions. The school's presentation of information has been incomplete and inaccurate, he said.
John Finnegan Jr., the dean of the U of M's School of Public Health, said Sainfort told him about a month ago that his departure from Georgia Tech was in dispute.
"What he discussed with me is that he's just embarrassed and devastated by this,'' Finnegan said. "He has my personal confidence that he's going to resolve this and get through it.''
Donohue said the university sent contract information regarding Sainfort and Jacko to Georgia Tech before it issued its news release on the case.
Finnegan said the U of M wooed Sainfort and Jacko for more than a year. The two had a reputation for winning millions of dollars in contracts and grants for research.
Sainfort was paid $235,440 at Georgia Tech and his Minnesota salary is $285,000. Jacko was making $167,000 at Georgia Tech and her Minnesota salary is $216,000.
U contracts signed
As soon as they signed contracts with the U in October, they began to draw compensation, Finnegan said, including money for trips between Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The pair settled into their offices in Minnesota in January.
"I do not have much information at this point," said Dr. Frank Cerra, senior vice president of health sciences at the university.
"Professor Jacko is one of the nation's best health informaticists. She was recruited by the Schools of Nursing and Public Health because of that stature. ... The university is now in the process of discovering what is fact and what is not. Once that is completed, we will have a better understanding of what, if anything, transpired. In the meantime, Professor Jacko will continue performing her duties."
According to a U website, Sainfort has served as principal investigator on more than $13 million in contracts and grants during his career.
He also works as a consultant to health care delivery organizations, medical device companies, clinical labs, and pharmaceutical, insurance and information technology companies.
Jacko, who earned a doctorate in industrial engineering from Purdue University in 1993, was named director of the Institute for Health Informatics at the U of M in December 2007. She also is a professor in the School of Nursing and School of Public Health.
The institute aims to improve health care through more effective and efficient use of computer-driven information and records.
From the Berkshire Eagle:
We learn from The New York Times that former Mount president and CEO Stephanie Copeland believes that the board of trustees, by not coming up with the funding to fulfill the vision they signed onto, failed to meet its responsibilities (Ms. Copeland is evidently not speaking to The Eagle.)
There is certainly plenty of blame to go around for the Mount's default of a $4.3 million mortgage to Berkshire Bank, which has given the organization until April 24 to raise $3 million to avoid foreclosure, and its other debts, but Ms. Copeland's argument that the board's job was to, in essence, "stop me before I spend again" rings hollow coming from the person who was the Mount's top executive.
Ms. Copeland's admirable legacy in bringing the home and gardens of Edith Wharton back to life is at stake along with the Mount, and even though she has resigned, it remains in her interest to do what she can in a positive way to help the Edith Wharton Restoration raise the needed capital to remain afloat.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Editorial: Sometimes you play through the pain
April 16, 2008
On Monday, Pawlenty admitted -- and let's give him points for honesty -- that he instructed an aide to pass along this bit of tough-guy bluster to a legislator: "Cheap shots are cheap, but they're not free.''
The dust-up came in mid-March after House Majority Leader Tony Sertich criticized Pawlenty, saying the governor preferred traveling out-of-state instead of dealing with problems at home. Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, complained publicly about the comment late last week after Pawlenty vetoed DFL projects in the bonding bill.
Sertich said he was "shocked.'' Shocked? Isn't politics, like hockey, a full-contact sport? Take a shot at someone, expect payback. Somebody from the rough-riding Iron Range delegation should know this. They play hardball for fun.
At the same time, if Pawlenty let a guy from Chisholm get under his skin at home in Minnesota, what's going to happen if he's on the national campaign trail? Trash talk, bruising checks and the occasional high-sticking are part of everyday life -- usually before breakfast. He'll be tussling with congressional leaders, the national press corps and an opposing presidential campaign desperate to win. Pawlenty might even come to miss the halcyon days of dealing with Sertich and another longtime needling nemesis: combative state Sen. Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis).
OK, that might be a stretch.
The presidential campaign, not to mention the state's top job, requires less Hanson Brothers and more Jacques Lemaire. It wouldn't hurt Pawlenty -- himself a hockey nut who has dressed up as the Hanson Brothers at exhibition hockey games -- to get in a little practice now. Next time he deals with legislators, he should emulate a real-life hockey hero -- not the Hansons.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
First, Do No Research...
I thank University Diaries for calling this situation to my attention.
From the International Herald Tribune:
Merck used ghostwriters and misrepresented data on Vioxx, article says
The drug maker Merck drafted dozens of research studies for a best-selling drug, then lined up prestigious doctors to put their names on the reports before publication, according to an article published Wednesday in a leading U.S. medical journal.
The article, based on documents unearthed in lawsuits over the pain drug Vioxx, provides a rare, detailed look in the industry practice of ghostwriting medical research studies that are then published in academic journals.
The article cited one draft of a Vioxx research study that was still in want of a big-name researcher, identifying the lead writer only as "External author?"
Vioxx was a best-selling drug before Merck pulled it from the market in 2004 over evidence linking it to heart attacks. Last fall the company agreed to a $4.85 billion settlement to resolve tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by former Vioxx patients or their families.
The lead author of Wednesday's article, Dr. Joseph Ross of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said a close look at the Merck documents raised broad questions about the validity of much of the drug industry's published research, because the ghostwriting practice appears to be widespread.
"It almost calls into question all legitimate research that's been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry with the academic physician," Dr. Ross said, whose article, written with colleagues, was published Wednesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Assocation.
Merck on Wednesday acknowledged that it sometimes hires outside medical writers to draft research reports before handing them over to the doctors whose names eventually appear on the publication. But the company disputed the article's conclusion that the authors do little of the actual research or analysis.
And at least one of the doctors whose published research was questioned in Wednesday's article, Dr. Steven Ferris, a New York University psychiatry professor, said the notion that the article bearing his name was ghostwritten was "simply false." He said it was "egregious" that Dr. Ross and his colleagues had done no research besides mining the Merck documents and reading the published medical journal articles.
In an editorial on Wednesday, the journal said the analysis showed that Merck had apparently manipulated dozens of publications to promote Vioxx.
"It is clear that at least some of the authors played little direct roles in the study of review, yet still allowed themselves to be named as authors," the editorial said.
The editorial called for immediate changes in the practice, calling upon medical journal editors to require each author to report his or her specific contributions to articles.
JAMA itself published one of the Vioxx studies that was cited in Dr. Ross's article.
In that case, in 2002, a Merck scientist was listed at the lead author. But Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, the journal's editor, said in a interview by phone Wednesday that, even so, it was dishonest because the authors did not fully disclose the role of a ghostwriter.
"I consider that being scammed," Dr. DeAngelis said. "But is that as serious as allowing someone to have a review article written by a for-profit company and solicited and paid for by a for-profit company and asking you to put your name on it after it was all done?"
Although the role of pharmaceutical companies in influencing medical journal articles has been questioned before, the Merck documents provided the most comprehensive look at the magnitude of the practice, according to one of the study's four authors, Dr. David Egilman, a clinical associate medical professor at Brown University.
In the Vioxx lawsuits, millions of Merck documents were supplied to plaintiffs. Those documents were available to Dr. Egilman and Dr. Ross because they had served as consultants to plaintiffs' lawyers in some of those suits.
Dr. Ross said the concerns go beyond the authorship of drug research studies, raising questions about the validity of the clinical trials on which the research is based. "Who designed the trial? Who did the trial? Who did the analysis? Who interpreted the analysis?" Dr. Ross said.
Combing through the documents, Dr. Ross and his colleagues unearthed internal Merck e-mail messages and documents about 96 journal publications, which included review articles and reports of clinical studies. In some cases, Merck's marketing department was involved in developing plans for manuscripts, the article said.
The Ross team said it was not necessarily raising questions about all 96 articles. But for many of the papers their document searches found scant evidence that the recruited authors made substantive contributions.
For example, in 16 of 20 papers that reported on clinical trials, a Merck employee was designated as the author of the first draft of the manuscript. But an outside academic scientist was listed as the lead author when the study was published.
One paper involved a study of Vioxx as a possible deterrent to Alzheimer's progression.
The draft of the paper, dated August 2003 identified the lead writer as "External author?" But by the time the paper was published in 2005 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the lead author was listed as Dr. Leon Thal, a well-known Alzheimer's researcher at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Thal was killed in an airplane crash last year.
The second author listed on the published Alzheimer's paper, whose name had not been on the draft, was Dr. Ferris, the New York University professor. Dr. Ferris, reached by telephone Tuesday, said he had played an active role in the research and writing.
He said he reviewed data on hundreds of patients enrolled in the study to determine whether their mild cognitive impairment had progressed to Alzheimer's. Later, he said, he was substantially involved in helping shape the final draft. "It's simply false that we didn't contribute to the final publication," Dr. Ferris said.
A third author, also not named on the initial draft, was Dr. Louis Kirby, currently the medical director for the company Provista Life Sciences. In an e-mail message Wednesday, Dr. Kirby said that as a clinical investigator for the study he had enrolled more patients, 109, than any of the other researchers. He also said he made revisions to the final document.
"The fact that the draft was written by a Merck employee for later discussion by all the authors does not in and of itself constitute ghostwriting," Dr. Kirby's e-mail message said.
The current editor of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Dr. James Meador-Woodruff, said he was not editor in 2005 but planned to investigate the accusations. "Currently, we have in place prohibitions against this," said Dr. Meador-Woofruff, who is the chairman of psychiatry at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Merck said Wednesday that any outside authors named in its studies were involved in the research, as well as drafting and reviewing of the papers bearing their names.
While the company sometimes hires professional writers to formulate early drafts of scientific articles, the final work is the product of the doctor, the company said.
"Ultimately that doesn't change the fact that the work accurately reflects his or her opinion," a Merck lawyer, James Fitzpatrick, said.
The issue of JAMA published Wednesday also included another Vioxx-related paper that drew from the same cache of documents.
In that paper, Dr. Bruce Psaty and Dr. Richard Kronmal of the University of Washington concluded that in the years leading to the Vioxx recall, the company was not fully candid in submitting data to the Food and Drug Administration about the drug's heart attack risk.
Merck said that the Psaty and Kronmal analysis was misleading, saying the administration had been aware of concerns over cardiovascular risks associated with Vioxx and had been engaged in continuing discussions with the company.
The article about ghostwriting also reviewed the role of companies that engage in medical writing for hire. The paper included a copy of a 1999 memo from Scientific Therapeutics, a medical writing company in New York, which discussed the status of eight different reports the company was working on for Merck.
At least one of the Scientific Therapeutic papers was being aimed at The Journal of the American Medical Association, according to a letter in dated October 2000. The study was published in the association's journal in January 2002, with two academic physicians identified as co-principal investigators, but listing a Merck employee as the lead author. The article did not include a disclosure of the role of Scientific Therapeutics.
The JAMA editorial Wednesday noted, "Journal editors also bear some of the responsibility for enabling companies to manipulate publications."
Saturday, April 12, 2008
By an odd coincidence, Desmond Tutu was in the Twin Cities this week as the announcement was made from the University of St. Thomas that Thomas Rochon was leaving to become the new president of Ithaca College.
Another interviewed candidate for the job was the president of the College of St. Benedict, another fine institution, also here in Minnesota.
From the Pioneer Press:
Tutu's visit was not without controversy.
The University of St. Thomas, which had played host to the PeaceJam conference for four consecutive years, declined to invite Tutu to campus last year after he criticized the Israeli government for its treatment of the Palestinians.
The university was widely rebuked for the decision, even by many among its faculty. The school previously had hosted controversial commentators, including conservative Ann Coulter.
In the face of public pressure, St. Thomas officials did an about-face and invited Tutu to speak this weekend. He declined.
From the Ithacan (online):
Rochon’s five-year tenure at St. Paul, an 11,000-student Catholic university, has not been without controversy. In 2006, the University came under fire from students and faculty for a policy that restricted same sex and unmarried couples from staying in the same room while traveling on school-sponsored trips.
Rochon said the controversy must be looked at within the context of St. Thomas being a Catholic university. He said because Ithaca is a secular school, the issue would never arise.
“All universities are about the open discussion, dialogue, search for truth and understanding,” Rochon said, “But in a Catholic university ... some matters are considered to be settled by virtue of Catholic teachings.”
Last year, the university had an opportunity to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on campus. After some members of the community said Tutu was anti-Semitic, St. Thomas president Father Dennis Dease decided to not invite him.
As a result of the administration’s decision, Cris Toffolo, a professor and, at the time, chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program, sent Tutu a letter informing him of the administration’s decision. She also indicated her disagreement with the decision.
Rochon said Toffolo was subsequently removed from her position as chair of the program. He said it was not for disagreeing with Dease.
“It was for behaviors I regarded as unprofessional and unethical,” Rochon said. He said Toffolo could have filed a grievance but would not comment further because of legal obligations.
Carl Mickman, president of the St. Thomas undergraduate student government, said that when asked about the incident, Rochon and Dease were not receptive to concerns.
“Complete silence,” he said. “They were really just not willing to discuss a lot of these things with students.”
Dease apologized to Tutu and officially invited him. Tutu had already committed to another speaking engagement and said he wouldn’t visit unless Toffolo was reinstated.
Rochon said it would be “enormously freeing” to work at a secular institution.
“At St. Thomas sometimes these controversies have been a distraction,” he said. “… There are far more important issues to talk about.”
Mr. Bonzo proposes that President Rochon invite Tutu to his inauguration at Ithaca College. Maybe he could work something out with the other educational institution in Ithaca?
For those with good memories, yes, Rochon has made an earlier appearance on the Periodic Table:Needle Stick! The Latex Gloves Come Off...
Apparently Some Duplications are OK
But Not Others (Medical Schools)
This post had to do with the scare St. Thomas threw into BigU when it announced that the possibility of a new medical school was being considered. Rochon spearheaded (or shepherded - two of the more obnoxious adminspeak words) this effort. There have been some positive effects from this even though St. Thomas backed off when they realized that it is a lot more expensive to start a medical school than, say, a law school.
Although the U at first claimed there was no physician shortage and that all this expansion business was just osteopath talk, all of a sudden enrollment has been increased at BigU's med school.
Sometimes a little competition, or even the threat of it, is good?
Off to the lab - Bonzo
Friday, April 11, 2008
From the MPR website:
House Majority Leader alleges Pawlenty payback
The DFL Majority Leader in the Minnesota House is accusing Gov. Tim Pawlenty of using his veto pen to take revenge against him and other partisan critics.
Sertich, who is from the Iron Range town of Chisholm, said he apparently fell into Gov. Tim Pawlenty's disfavor last month, when he was quoted in a MPR News story on the governor's out-of-state travels.
In that story, Sertich accused Pawlenty of not being engaged in legislative discussions. Sertich said the story prompted a telephone call from a Pawlenty staffer.
"He had a message from the governor to me," Sertich said. "And the direct words were -- it's a hockey analogy. 'Cheap shots are cheap, but they're not free.' That the governor was looking forward to seeing my area's bonding recommendations when they come across his desk. A direct threat to veto the projects in my district, from the governor."
As for the bonding bill vetoes, Pawlenty has repeatedly said Democrats exceeded the state debt guidelines. But a spokesman for the governor confirmed the phone call to Sertich took place, but he denied any threats were made.
In a written statement, Brian McClung said,
"We respect the spirit of confidentiality that is generally part of private conversations, so I won't go into great detail regarding who said what."
He said nothing was said about the relative value of cheap shots.
"Sertich and all Democrats had fair notice of the consequences if they chose to violate the state's credit card limit by passing a fiscally irresponsible bonding bill," McClung added.
Pawlenty himself made that point earlier in the day during his weekly radio show.
"They should not be shocked or surprised. They were warned that that was going to happen. They made their choice to blow the spending limit anyhow and so they need to be responsible for those actions as well," Pawlenty said.
Another idea making the rounds is that the governor may let funding for light rail surface again, if certain of his other priorities (a new state park and a veteran's home) are funded. He has been outstate to personally deliver good hockey arena funding news. One man's pork is apparently another's prudent investment in exercise facilities and (some) biomedical research. Mesothelioma? Naw, ... that's pork.
A Magnificent Gift from Masonic Grand Lodge of Minnesota
From the Star-Tribune:
U Cancer Center gets $65 million donation
April 10, 2008
In the largest gift ever made to the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Masonic Charities announced a donation today of $65 million to the University of Minnesota Cancer Center.
The money is being targeted for research and treatment of cancer. The Masons in Minnesota have a long relationship with the university supporting work in that area.
This most recent donation also will be used to expand research of cancer “survivorship, to improve care.
The cancer care facility in the University’s massive Academic Health Center will be renamed the Masonic Cancer Center. Over the past 53 years, the Masons have raised a total of $100 million for cancer care and research.
The donation was announced by Grand Master Raymond Christensen of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Minnesota who also is assistant dean of the medical school’s Duluth campus. He was joined by University President Robert Bruininks.
The Mason’s donation will be distributed to the University over 15 years. Previously, the largest private donation to a Minnesota college or university was $60 million given to the University of St. Thomas last year by Lee and Penny Anderson.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
(Dead, that is...)
From the PP:
On the day Democrats bashed Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of state funding for the Central Corridor light-rail line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis — with several lawmakers even alleging he "killed" the plan — another picture emerged.
"It's not dead," Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told the Pioneer Press.
The plea from St. Paul City Hall was essentially: "We want the train, whatever it takes."
For now, Pawlenty controls the train's fate. The Republican governor can use it as a bargaining chip to get something he wants from the Democratic-controlled Legislature, or he can scrap it for this year.
"The governor said he's pulling the train into the maintenance shed. He is the chief engineer, so whenever he wants to pull it right back out and put it back on the tracks, he can do so," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud.
"The governor is hard to negotiate with because he doesn't want anything," said Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul.
Democrats suspect he wants one thing they can't give him: the Republican vice presidential nomination. He denies that he wants to be Sen. John McCain's running mate, but most political pundits have him on their "veepstakes" list.
So far, Pawlenty has told lawmakers he wants them to hold down taxes and spending in balancing the budget, but he hasn't offered details on what he would accept.
"If Democrats are interested in discussing Central Corridor or other projects, we would be willing to listen," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said.
Some issues in play at the Capitol could be trade bait for the train. Here are some examples suggested by Ramsey County commissioners, lobbyists and legislators:
A balanced budget. Pawlenty could offer to fund the train in exchange for the Legislature's approval of his plans for erasing a projected $935 million deficit in the state budget.
Land and a building. Pawlenty wants up to $40 million to buy 2,500 acres on Lake Vermilion for a new state park, plus $26 million for a new Minneapolis veterans' home. That's close to the $70 million price tag for the Central Corridor, but policymakers would have to find a way to circumvent the state's $825 million debt management limit to finance all three projects.
Health care funds. Pawlenty wants to use $298 million of a surplus in a Health Care Access Fund to help balance the budget. DFL legislators have refused to release that money.
JOBZ and teacher pay. To plug the hole in the budget, DFLers have proposed scrapping JOBZ, Pawlenty's pet rural economic development program, and taking a $20 million surplus from his Q Comp program that provides merit pay for teachers. They could drop those proposals to appease the governor. But he doesn't need to trade anything for those two programs because he could veto any bill that would take their money.
If Pawlenty remains true to form, he won't tip his hand on what he wants until late in the budget negotiations next month.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
"Who killed light rail?" "I," said the Guv,
"With my little lunch pail, I killed light rail."
"Who helped it die?" "I," said OurLeader
"With my four expensive trophies, I helped it die."
From the Pioneer Press:
Democrats blame Pawlenty for Central Corridor's apparent demise
Legislators don't see a way to bring it back
Article Last Updated: 04/08/2008 01:55:43 PM CDT
Democrats at the state Capitol and in Congress have all but given up on saving the Central Corridor light-rail project after Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed state funding for the project on Monday.
At a Capitol news conference today, Democratic legislators, mayors and members of Congress paraded to a microphone to proclaim their outrage and disappointment in Pawlenty's veto of a $70 million state appropriation for the train in the University Avenue corridor between St. Paul and Minneapolis. But they offered no solutions to get it back on track.
"Our solution was on the table," Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said referring to the funding lawmakers approved for the Central Corridor in a $925 million public works bill. Pawlenty used line-item vetoes to chop down that measure by $208 million.
Of nine Democrats who spoke, only two — Rep. Michael Paymar of St. Paul and Sen. Kathy Saltzman of Woodbury — expressed any hope that the $909 million project could be resuscitated. "I don't think the project is dead," Paymar said, noting that Pawlenty and the Legislature still could find a way to fund it.
Saltzman said she told St. Paul Chamber of Commerce officials, "We can't give up. We've worked way too hard in the east metro." Later, she said she would ask people close to the governor to urge him to "keep the door open" on the project.
But all the other speakers pronounced it deceased.
"Yesterday Gov Tim Pawlenty killed the Central Corridor light-rail transit project with his veto pen," said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL-St. Paul. She called the veto "reckless and irresponsible" and accused Pawlenty and his appointees of breaking promises to federal and local officials to fund the project if they brought down the cost to his desired level.
The Legislature could override Pawlenty's veto, but Murphy said it would be politically impossible to line up the votes needed because the governor approved the funding for projects in the districts many suburban and rural legislators.
"Unless the governor puts (Central Corridor) back on the table, it's dead," he said.
Officials in about 20 other metro areas around the country "are smiling this morning" because they now have a leg up in competing for the federal transit dollars that would go to Central Corridor, said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. Twin Cities officials have until early September to apply for about $455 million in federal aid that would pay for half of the project or they will lose the money. All the local funding is in place, he said, but they can't qualify for the federal money without $70 million from the state.
Our Governor's response to goading by the DFL in Minnesota is not a total surprise. I actually thought that he might veto the whole bill and force the legislature to come back with a reasonable number. But he chose to send a message that may have inadvertently been too harsh. Or perhaps it was deliberate; I am not close enough to the pulse of the state legislature to really know.
But one of the consequences of the line item vetoes is that a light rail connection between Minneapolis and St. Paul may be dead for the forseeable future or perhaps for good. There is an outside chance that this is all a ploy for the governor to get a few things on the table of interest to him along with more air in the balloon tire of the light rail project. The governor asked for a cut of roughly one hundred million dollars and when the legislature failed to do this, he cut the bonding proposal by two hundred million dollars.
The city of St. Paul was upset because they took the brunt of the cuts. Some felt that the governor was deliberately targeting St. Paul DFL leadership in retaliation for the override of his recent veto of some tax-related legislation. The governor denies this charge.
Things are strangely silent from OurLeader. Maybe he'd rather have no light rail than one at grade?
He did express his pleasure at four new biomedical research buildings. But the money, several hundred million dollars, makes it quite clear what OurLeader's actual priorities are, since the Bell Museum and the Folwell remodel were not funded. With all the new jobs and the vast new biomedical industry as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of NIH funding that have been promised, you can be certain that Mr. Bonzo will be keeping an eye on these trophy buildings and the trophy researchers that will be acquired to inhabit them.
I feel particulary sorry for Peter Bell who did a masterful job of getting the parties involved to agree on a number that was supposedly what Pawlenty said he wanted. Too bad he changed his mind. Given that cuts could have been made elsewhere, axing light rail doesn't seem rational to me. I guess that is why I have voted for the losing candidate in most recent elections.