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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.