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.

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.