December 17, 2007

Explanation of Reporting

For my last entry, an explanation of how I reported the story about the Roseville City Council's decision to ban shooting bows and arrows in most cases is needed.

I found out about the proposed ordinance with help from my instructor. To get enough background to write clearly and intelligently about the city council action, I studied the Roseville city code and the documents pertaining to the proposal. These can all be found at the City of Roseville Web site. The council meeting agendas and minutes are found under the "City Government" tab, on the council's page.

I was not able to attend the meeting where the proposal was debated, but the council provides videos of all meetings.

When I talked to Councilmember Amy Ihlan I was upfront about not having attended the meeting in person, but I was able to ask her questions about the law. I was not able to contact Mayor Craig Klausing for comment.

December 16, 2007

Bows and Arrows in the Backyard

This article was written in November 2007 for my Public Affairs Journalism course at the University of Minnesota.

The Roseville City Council has restricted the use of bows and arrows in the city, but proponents do not think it goes far enough

Even though Councilmember Amy Ihlan proposed the ban, she cast the single vote against the proposed law at the council’s Oct. 15 meeting because she felt it was not a solution to the original problem once it was amended, she said.

Ihlan proposed the new law after a resident who was concerned about neighbors shooting bows and arrows contacted her anonymously, she said.

The new law would have banned the use of bows and arrows on all residential properties. The law as it stood before Oct. 15 only regulated the transportation of bows and arrows and prohibited their use against people.

Mayor Craig Klausing said that the ordinance may unfairly restrict residents who have larger or longer property lots. He said that residents should be able to gain police approval of archery ranges on their own property.

He and council member Tammy Pust amended the law to allow residents to obtain authorization from police to shoot bows and arrows in their backyards.

The law that was passed by the council states that it is unlawful to shoot a bow and arrow except in a school program that is on school grounds and supervised by a teacher, in a community class, or on a bow and arrow range that has been approved by the chief of police.

Ihlan said that the law is ambiguous because it still allows residents to shoot bows and arrows on their property with police approval.

“It’s still not clearly illegal,? she said.

Klausing said he trusted the chief of police to make decisions on who should be able to set up archery ranges in their backyards.

The ordinance was first discussed at a council meeting on Sept. 17, 2007. The council looked at similar laws in surrounding suburbs to write the new law, according to the proposal submitted to the council on Oct. 15.

Falcon Heights, a neighboring city, classifies bows and arrows under dangerous weapons in its laws. Ihlan said the resident who contacted her cited that city’s law when she made the complaint.

Ihlan said she would have preferred that Roseville define bows and arrows as dangerous weapons in order to ban their use. She said she was not sure why the mayor objected to an outright ban.

“It struck me as more of a common sense problem,? Ihlan said.

Jean Hopfensperger, a reporter at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was able to write a more in depth article on the new law later in November.

December 4, 2007

Some city roads still not paved

Surprisingly, even in a metropolitan area like the Twin Cities, some roads are not completely paved, an article published in the Star Tribune on December 3 shows.

This is an interesting example of a story found through observation.

December 2, 2007

Target gets in trouble on Facebook

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported in its business section on December 1 that Target had told students supporting them on the social networking site Facebook to keep their association with the company a secret.

The group is called the "Target Rounders." Its members receive discounts and other prizes for marketing Target to their friends on Facebook and giving feedback to Target.

After a member of the group, 21-year-old Rosie Siman, a senior at the University of Georgia, raised her concerns on the Rounders' Facebook group, any mention of keeping the promotion a secret was removed.

November 13, 2007

Small prairie lakes and ponds disappearing

After a federal report warned that "potholes," the small ponds, lakes and wetlands scattered across southwestern Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is trying to determine whether they are being drained illegally to make more room for farmland. The Star Tribune published a story on this state, federal, as well as environmental issue on Sunday.

The potholes are important because they provide habitat for hundreds of species of migrating birds.

Chaska High School offers hands on engineering classes

A program at Chaska High School offers engineering students a practical approach to learning, the Star Tribune's Patrice Relerford wrote in an article Monday. The program is led by technology teacher Rob Jacobs.

Relerford places Chaska's program in a national context as part of Project Lead the Way, in which more than 100 middle and high schools participate in Minnesota. Students who pass the courses can qualify for college credit.

November 11, 2007

MnDOT fires top emergency response official

The Minnesota Department of Transportation fired the emergency response official who failed to return to Minnesota for 10 days following the 35W bridge collapse, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Saturday.

Sonia Kay Morphew Pitt had been on paid leave since early September. Phone records showed that she used her state government issued phone more for personal calls than for work calls in those 10 days when she failed to return to the Twin Cities, instead directing from Washington D.C. Most of those calls were with a male friend who worked in the Federal Highway Administration.

November 8, 2007

Mistakes found in Minnesota Zoo audit

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Thursday that the Minnesota Zoo had problems with it's accounting practices. The Minnesota Zoo is funded publicly as well as privately and also receives revenue from ticket, food and gift sales. Most of the problems pertained to outside contracting for these and other services.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune also reported Thursday on the audit. They led with one of the most serious problems: that the zoo had overpaid one vendor $30,000.

Minnesota lawmakers debate offering financial help to bridge victims

Legislators are considering whether or not financial help should be offered to victims of the 35W bridge collapse. According to an Associated Press report published Thursday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Some of the complicating factors are whether or not they will be setting a precedent for victims of the next disaster, or whether they should wait until the cause of the collapse if known. Many were also concerned that bypassing the courts would be unfair to victims of other incidents who have waited years for compensation, according to the article.

Even more contentious is the perceived value of human life, and state laws limiting the amount the state can pay per victim and per incident.

November 4, 2007

Pawlenty, Steger plan tour to raise awareness of global warming

Governor Tim Pawlenty and Arctic explorer Will Steger will tour the state, visiting places where the effects of climate change can already by seen. They will host forums in communities near Lake Superior and where farmers produce alternative fuels to raise awareness of the issue and how it effects Minnesotans.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Monday on the partnership, which Pawlenty and Steger announced that day at a conference in Duluth on the threat climate change poses to Lake Superior. Pawlenty also reiterated his desire to rendezvous with Steger on his expedition to Ellsmere Island in Canada this spring but would not confirm the trip, saying it might interfere with the 2008 Legislative Session.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday on the tour and the new partnership.

Maplewood City Council elections heated, spendy

Candidates vying for two seats on the Maplewood City council have raised more money than in any previous race in that city, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Friday. Specifically, the four candidates running for the two seats have raised an average of $7,000 this year, the article stated.

The city council race is more competitive this year as council incumbents and newcomers react to the changes made to Maplewood's government and the turmoil and lawsuits that ensued.

The Pioneer Press reported earlier in October on the race, giving readers a short profile of each candidate.

State smoking ban legislation leads to a new kind of border battle

The smoking ban legislated by state lawmakers that went into effect in October has caused Minnesota smokers to drive across the border to Wisconsin to smoke while they dine out, an article published Saturday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune says.

Wisconsin currently has no such ban, and restaurant and bar owners in cities near the border claim they have seen an influx of Minnesotan customers who hop across the border. Geralyn Karl, a tobacco-free specialist at the St. Croix County's health department says that non-smoking Wisconsinites also travel to Minnesota for the smoke-free atmosphere.

Minnesota's and other states' bans have prompted some discussion of a statewide smoking ban in Wisconsin, the article also said.

October 28, 2007

Governor Pawlenty might visit melting ice cap

In a step to further establish his environmental credentials, Governor Tim Pawlenty is planning a trip to visit the melting ice caps in the northernmost regions of Canada, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Saturday.

The trip would be in collaboration with arctic explorer Will Steger, who hopes that Pawlenty may be able to raise awareness of the issue. He said Pawlenty has this ability, as the head of the National Governor's Association.

October 19, 2007

Oak Park Heights gains input on Minnesota 36 reconstruction

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Friday that the city of Oak Park Heights won a court case against the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The city and MnDOT had disputed Minnesota's Municipal Consent law, which allows cities to negotiate plans for construction of roadways.

MnDOT had claimed that the MN 36 project was subject to a 2001 change in the law that allows for an expedited appeals process. Washington County District Judge B. William Ekstrum ruled in favor of Oak Park Heights, saying that the upgrade plans for the Minnesota highway are related to the longstanding Stillwater bridge project, and are not subject to the 2001 change in the law.

Minneapolis sets time limit on police office statements

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Thursday that a new Minneapolis Police Department policy will require officers to give an official statement within 48 hours of the day after involvement in any incident in which a suspected in killed or seriously wounded. The policy was instituted because often officers will not make a statement until days or weeks after an incident, frustrating families of victims. The Police Federation disagrees with the new policy, saying that people who have been involved in traumatic experiences often can't immediately remember important and specific details of the event.

The incident that prompted the new policy was the killing of a mentally unstable man last year who grabbed an officers gun.