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November 4, 2007

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.

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.