November 11, 2007

One Killed in Barbecue Shooting

An 18-year-old man was killed when a back-yard barbecue was interrupted by a "flurry" of 11 gun shots Saturday. According to the Star Tribune, the party was a 21st birthday celebration held in a house in the 3000 block of James Avenue N.

Another man, who had attempted to help the deceased, was wounded in the shooting. Two unnamed witnesses claim to have seen both white and black sedans fleeing the scene.

A friend of the deceased denies that the attack was gang related, citing that his friend was never involved with gangs. Accordingly, police have no suspects at this time.

Fortunately, though, a nieghtbor's recently installed security camera may have captured the event.

MnDOT's handling of 35W collapse comes under fire

Although months have passed since the collapse of the 35W bridge, new details are still emerging regarding MnDOt's handling of the catastrophe. Both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press have released reports criticizing the department’s handling of bridge-related matters, specifically its relationship with independent contractors.

According to the Star Tribune, an engineering firm hired to evaluate the structural integrity of the bridge (URS Inc.) played a “diminishing role? in decisions about the bridge. “The records also show that URS was puzzled when MnDOT suddenly cast doubt on the consultant's $2 million plan to strengthen the bridge with steel plates,? the report continues.

The report also claims that the management of URS changed their position on whether or not labor-intensive measures were necessary to renovate the bridge. While URS generally pushed for steel-plate replacement, e-mail exchanges provided puzzlingly contradictory views on the matter. “Three weeks after a top URS official had reiterated that the chance of a bridge truss failure ‘should be significantly reduced’ by the replating, the same official suddenly e-mailed a colleague that he no longer thought the replating was necessary.?

The Pioneer Press have also found fault with MnDOT’s conduct. Their article explores the relationship between Wiss Janney, a firm hired to assist in investigating the collapse, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and MnDOT. The article explores the possible conflict of interest between the parties, as Wiss Janney is also providing technical assistance to the NTSB, one of the parties that Wiss Janney would be expected to investigate. "The NTSB is having to rely on experts hired by the likely responsible party," said Chris Messerly, a Minneapolis attorney representing victims of the collapse.

The Pioneer Press criticizes the NTSB’s “party system? which determines how contracts are given out, but also gives a more pragmatic perspective on the system, which stresses its necessity.

"There is no other realistic alternative," NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said in an e-mail to the Pioneer Press. "... Even if the Board had the fiscal wherewithal to employ sufficient subject matter specialists, there would be no way for the Board to have available at any point in time the specific expertise with a particular product, industry process, or regulatory framework to adequately support the in-depth investigation the agency must conduct for significant accidents."

November 4, 2007

Mondale Endoreses Clinton

Former Vice President Walter Mondale has given his support to HIllary Clinton's presidential bid, Clinton's campaign officials announced Sunday, reports.

"America is ready for change, and Hillary Clinton has the strength and experience to deliver it," Mondale said. "Hillary is uniquely qualified to rebuild America's standing in the world and lead this nation from her first day in the White House."

reports that Mondale, who was the first presidential candidate to choose a woman as his running mate, feels that Clinton's life experiences make her uniquely qualified for the job. "One thing I like about her campaign is that she's stayed focused on her positive vision for change. She knows this is not the time to tear down our fellow Democrats with personal attacks," he said.

Mondale, who served as VP under Jimmy Carter, is currently a senior counsel at the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis.

Sewer Systems divide Golden Valley citizens

A new sewer maintenance plan in Golden Valley has defined mayoral and council races, the Star Tribune reports. The plan, which requires all citizens to have their sewer systems assessed before a property can be sold, has cost some citizens up to $13,000.

The program is intended to stop the flow of clear water and storm water into the city's sewer system. While some have suggested cheaper fixes, such as sump pump repair/disconnection, officials claim that the unusually old Golden Valley sewer systems require more maintenance.

The rising price of has become a central and divisive issue in the upcoming mayoral election. "Why don't the residents of Minnetonka get assessed?" Jeffrey Beck said in an interview with the Minnesota Sun. "Golden Valley is the only city with a program like this. It doesn't help out homeowners."

Of course, he also admitted that he boils his own water before drinking it.


October 28, 2007

Craigslist posting ends in Death

A local woman was found dead in the trunk of her car after responding to a job posting on craigslist. 24-year-old Katherine Ann Olson was last seen heading to Savage in response to the posting; her body was found in the trunk of her car at a Burnsville park late Friday, according to the Star Tribune. Savage Police Capt. David Muelken says that police responded to a park employee finding Olson's purse in a trash can, followed by the discovery of a bloody towel and, ultimately, Olson's car.

Police have taken the 19-year-old Savage man who posted the ad into custody. "We're confident we have the suspect in custody," Muelken said. Police are unsure of a motive or of any connection between the suspect and the victim.

The Guardian reports that "Olson's family told the newspaper she had taken nanny jobs at least twice before, including a job in Turkey, after answering online ads."

October 21, 2007

Hudson High-Schooler fires shots from home

A suicidal 15-year-old fired about 100 shots from his home during a police standoff saturday. The Pioneer Press reports that the boy called his friends, threatening suicide, and began to wildly fire shots. The shots prompted police to surround his house and evacuate surrounding homes. The standoff lasted more than three hours, while the boy fired shots from inside the home.

He was armed with two shotguns, a .22-caliber pistol and plenty of ammunition, according to the sheriff's office. reports:

"Of the 100 or so shots fired, police believe 30 to 50 went through the home's windows.
'It became fairly apparent that what he was doing was not directing fire at officers,'
Hillstead said. "It appears that he did shoot above the surrounding homes.'
The shots caused extensive damage to the interior of the home, in addition to shattering most of the main floor windows. A damage estimate was not available Saturday."

The boy is being held under mental health watch and likely faces charges for reckless endangerment.

Foreclosure Sale ends in charity, not disparity

When 300 foreclosed houses were put up for auction at the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend, the mood was grim. "These neighborhoods where we've seen concentrations of foreclosed homes are neighborhoods where we've been investing in, so we feel this is undercutting our public investment in building healthier communities," Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman told the Star Tribune.

Fortunately, though, the dynamic was less "a fool and his money are soon parted" and more, well, charitable. In fact, one philanthropic investor managed to secure eight properties for her organization. The Tribune reports:

"Carolyn Olson, who runs a venerable organization, Greater Metropolitan Housing Corp., works with neighborhood groups and developers to educate aspiring home buyers and stabilize communities. Since 1970, Olson's organization has constructed or renovated about 1,500 homes for working-class folks. She planned to bid on about 15 of 80 north Minneapolis houses, which were among 150 auctioned Saturday. She got eight."

Many private buyers also turned out looking for deals on foreclosed houses, some of them discounted by $50,000. Of course, it wasn't all hearts and flowers. "Many big lenders and investors in such mortgages lost millions or went out of business," the tribune succinctly ended their report on the sale.

October 14, 2007

Information continues to trickle out in Minneapolis Homicide

The shooting death of a minneapolis man has been front-page fodder for three days now and information continues to trickle out. Most recently, Police have released the name of Marvin Latimer, a 55-year-old Minneapolis resident who was shot to death near his apartment Friday, the Star Tribune reports:

"Officers found Latimer just after 4 a.m. in the 1400 block of Portland Avenue S., not far from his apartment building. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police have not discussed a motive but have said the killing wasn't random."

This is the 37th homicide in minneapolis this year; there were 48 homicides by this time last year.

MSNBC reports that no arrests have been made in the case.

Arlington High School becomes biotech magnet

Arlington High School in St. Paul has recieved a $6 million grant to open as a "Biosmart" school. The money will not only pay for additional staff and equipment, but will also fund an overhaul of the school's core curriculum, reports. To wit:

"All students at Arlington now are required to pick one of three academic tracks: bioengineering and technology, bio-business and -marketing or biomedical and health sciences.
The idea is to start directing students at Arlington, one of the city's most academically struggling high schools, toward careers in a field that continues to evolve and need new workers.
'This is where the jobs are going to be in Minnesota,' Murphy said."

This "makeover" of the school is an encouraging step for American science, a field that is consistency underplayed in our education system.

October 7, 2007

Two Injured in St. Paul Street Fight

A brawl in St. Paul's East Side sent two men to the hospital with stab wounds. The Star Tribune reports that the vicitms, a 15-year-old boy and 21-year-old man, sustained wounds from a sickle at about 10:15 p.m. outside of a house in the 1200 block of Bush Avenue. Kare-11 reports:

"Police believe there were 30 to 50 people involved and that the fight is possibly gang related. But those who live at the house say they were having a simple family gathering, a birthday party for a cousin, when uninvited guests started showing up thinking a much larger party was going on. Nyisha Baker was at the birthday party. She says people started fighting, '...because they couldn't get into the party.'"

Another 16-year-old was hit by a lawn-mower in the brawl, which witnesses claim involved dozens of people. Police have no suspects at this time.

Minnesota Architecture Awarded

The St. Cloud Times reports that Marcel Breuer's architectural work on the St. John's Abbey Church has been awarded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. An exterior expansion of the Chapter house was given a state award by the trust, who praised it as "amazing." “It defers to the older building, yet it maintains that level of meticulousness,? Anthony Rubano, of the Illinois Historic Preservation Society, said. “It embraces the work of modernism of the recent past.?

The award was given as part of the annual National Preservation Conference, which "brings together preservationists, architects, landscape architects and preservation fans from all 50 states and Guam to exchange and develop ideas on restoration," according to the Downtown Journal. The purpose of the conference, which was held at St. Paul's RiverCentre, is to teach participants, "different tools... to save buildings and historical resources,? according to Lori Feinman, associate director of conferences with The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

September 23, 2007

Minneapolis-St. Paul named best metro business center

The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has been named the top metro area for business by MarketWatch. MarketWatch reports on the study's conclusions: "A healthy collection of companies -- old and new, small and large, public and private -- put the greater Twin Cities near the top in many categories in the study, which measured the concentration of businesses in the nation's 50 most populous markets, as well as the job picture in each city. Minneapolis-St. Paul proved resilient in keeping its jobless rate low in a check of unemployment statistics."

"When you get here, you realize it's kind of a unique combination of manageable size and rich and diverse lifestyle offerings," said Steve Sanger of General Mills. The area is praised for its diversity of businesses as well as the sheer number of enterprises located in the cities. Interestingly, the study found the area lacking in job and population growth. One theory presented was that people tend to settle in the Twin Cities once they arrive, unlike other cities with higher turnover rates.

The area was also praised for its well-educated workforce, with many high-ranking executives coming straight from the Unniversity of Minnesota.

U's Dirty Water

The University of Minnesota may face thousand of dollars in fines after officials have declared their pollution prevention plans inadequate. "The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency inspected the construction site in April and issued an "enforcement letter of warning" that identified seven potential environmental violations, including a "sediment plume with a chemical odor" observed in the Mississippi River on May 3," the Star Tribune reports.

While university officials claim that the state never contacted them with grievances, they have agreed to provide "evnironmental benefits" for the area and ensure that further contamination is prevented. The fines stemmed from a state inspection that found anti pollution materials and personnel lacking.

The oversight is believed to be severe, with legal action pending. "All I can say about this case is that there's pending civil legal action and that's why the case is not public," said Katie Koelfgen, MPCA compliance coordinator for the construction stormwater program.

September 16, 2007

Light Rail Train Collides With Minivan

A Metro Transit Light Rail train collided with a minivan attempting to make a U-turn on its tracks Sunday. The Pioneer Press reports that the accident took place "on 54th Street between the 50th Street/Minnehaha Park and VA Medical Center rail stations."

According to the Star Tribune, the vehicle's driver, a 77-year-old man, escaped the crash without serious injury. The light rail passengers were also uninjured. While officials cited the damage to the train as "cosmetic," the light rail was shut down for an hour while the trian was pulled for inspection over fears of coupler damage.

A Metro Transit spokesman said that the 54th street area was not a problem area, but added that the U-turn attmept was not an "advised maneuver."

Flood Relief, Partisan Wrangling Stymies Bridge Aid

Recent flooding in southern Minnesota is cutting into recovery plans for the I-35W Bridge in the wake of its collapse, according to the Star Tribune. While Governor Pawlenty had envisioned “a gas tax increase, a transportation bill, a bonding bill and property tax relief,? the currently overstretched supply of funds and emergency professionals has blocked the realization of those plans.

“We just had the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, we just had the floods in southern Minnesota. You start looking at emergency responses, you look at ambulances, you look at fire, you look at police -- that just straps the heck out of those when you don't have those dollars available," said Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz

Recent congressional sessions have also showed a characteristic butting of heads between Democrats and Republicans over the allocation of tax dollars. While Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature have lobbied for more tax dollars to improve other bridges and roadways, Republicans have stood by their anti-tax stance. "The real reason transportation discussions were reaching an impasse is due to the DFL's insistence on massive tax hikes to fund big, urban transit projects," said the governor's spokesman, Brian McClung.

The session ended in $157 million package for flood relief, but a consensus has yet to be reached on other matters involving the allocation of tax dollars for transportation and rebuilding, according to the Pioneer Press. "'We are missing a huge opportunity here right now in the state of Minnesota,' Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said Tuesday, standing in front of a panoramic photo of the collapsed Interstate-35W bridge. Murphy said he was grateful Gov. Tim Pawlenty called lawmakers back in special session to deal with disaster relief, but Murphy said the state needs more."