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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.

October 14, 2007

Smoking ban might prompt even more restrictions for restaurants

And article published Sunday in the St. Paul Pioneer Press highlights the issues municipalities have had to deal with in the wake of the smoking band, which went into effect October 1.

Reporter Maricella Miranda cites the examples of many restaurants and businesses that have responded to the smoking ban by setting up patios which sometimes consist of merely a canvas tent. The article includes examples of how cities have responded to these businesses by proposing stricter regulations on these patios. This includes requiring additional liquor licenses and emergency exits.

This article points out the top-down reactions that occur when new state laws are passed, requiring local governments to increase their own statutes and ordinances to comply.

Possible development in Bloomington to create a "downtown" feeling

City planners in Bloomington are looking toward other aging suburbs for insight into how to develop a city center. Mary Jane Smetanka wrote about the issue in an article published Saturday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The goals of the city of Bloomington are common to many cities in the Twin Cities area, as the article illustrates. Different cities have also had differing levels of success with development focused on creating a place where residents want to spend time. This is an important issue in the metro area as many inner ring suburbs struggle to build a sense of community, according to the article.

October 5, 2007

Law firm sues MnDOT for access to bridge documents

Law firm Schwebel, Goetz, & Sieben filled a suit in Hennepin County District Court Thursday to gain access to all Minnesota Department of Transportations documents and records pertaining to the 35W bridge collapse. The case cites the Minnesota Data Practices Act.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported the filing Thursday. The Star Tribune published an Associated Press report on the case on Thursday. Both articles refer to the lawsuit prominently.

Analysis:

The primary document that the articles dealt with was the civil complaint that was filed to initiate the lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court. The lawsuit itself was pursuant to and based off of the Minnesota Data Practices Act requests the firm had made. Most journalists are familiar with this statute, so the reporters handled writing about the issues the lawsuit raised well. Next to the civil complaint, the primary source in the story was attorney James Schwebel. He was quoted extensively about the filing and why the firm is pursuing the case on behalf of victims. MnDOT spokeswoman Lucy Kender was also quoted. She pointed out that the department has received numerous requests for the information, but declined to comment on the lawsuit. Overall, the article was reported fairly and well, and the lawsuit was interpreted correctly.