Our View: Open meeting law needs social media disclaimer

If you've been ignoring your Facebook page for a while, or if you haven't yet taken the plunge into Twitter, you might want to think about dusting off your passwords and reconnecting — with your public officials.

Rep. Duane Quam, a Republican from Byron who also represents part of Rochester, has introduced legislation that attempts to clarify waters that have been muddied by the collision of social media with the state's open meeting laws.

Basically, Quam's bill specifies that as long as your city council members, school board members, county board members and other local elected officials are using forms of social media that are "generally open to public participation," then they can freely communicate with each other, even if a quorum of members are participating. They can't vote during these discussions, nor can an online conversation take place in lieu of a regular meeting. But otherwise, Quam's bill would leave the online doors pretty much wide open for discussions that normally would occur in public meetings.

We're fine with this plan, but we should point out that, if public officials do start having discussions of public interest on Facebook, they might be legally obligated to accept every friend request they receive.



Don't panic on Vikings stadium

Minnesota Legislators and citizens who opposed the use of public funding for the new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis have been having a field day with the news that revenue from electronic pull-tabs isn't coming close to what had been projected.

Yes, this is a problem. A variety of production, licensing and promotional problems have plagued the launch of electronic pull-tabs across the state, and right now, revenue is coming in at roughly 20 percent of what had been projected. By now, we'd been told that 900 sites would be equipped with the devices, but that figure is less than 150, and the state has downgraded its pull-tab revenue forecast through 2016 by $46 million.

But there are several reasons not to push the panic button (which is what the Legislature would be doing if it re-opened debate on how to pay the state's $338 million share of the new stadium). More sites are offering pull-tabs every day, so the revenue is likely to grow dramatically during the next year. Also, within a month, linked electronic bingo is expected to make its much-anticipated debut in Minnesota, perhaps instantly surpassing pull-tabs with its promise of prizes that could hit six figures — and that revenue also will go toward the stadium.

More important, however, is no money has yet been borrowed by the state for the stadium, so there aren't any bills coming due. With construction slated to begin later than had been expected, the first bonds won't be sold until August.

By then, the funding picture could change dramatically.


Stars aligning for Whalen?


On Friday, the University of Minnesota came under fire after revealing that its embattled women's basketball coach, Pam Borton, has received a two-year contract extension, which means she'll earn at least $485,000 annually for the next three years.

Barring a minor miracle, Borton's squad will miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year, and fan interest has never been lower during her 11-year tenure. Attendance has plummeted to 3,500 per game, and last year, the program posted an operating loss of nearly $2 million.

One can make the case that Borton is still employed based on what happened nine years ago. In her second year at the U, stars Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville had fans flocking to Williams Arena during an amazing run to the Final Four.

We'll soon see if that combination still captivates fans, as on Friday the Minnesota Lynx acquired McCarville in a trade, which means she and Whalen will take the court together at Target Center this summer.

We don't know how much basketball McCarville has left in her, but this is a great move by the Lynx. Minnesota sports fans have long memories and a tremendous sense of nostalgia, and they'll turn out in big numbers to see if this once-dynamic duo can recapture some of their former magic.

Meanwhile, don't bet against Whalen becoming the Gophers head coach once her playing days are over. If she wants the job, it should be hers.

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