Missing U of M student remembered as a ‘superstar’ at vigil

Jennifer Houle
Jennifer Houle

The Star Tribune’s Kevin Giles has the latest on the University of Minnesota student who went missing early Friday: “Clustered close to Stillwater Area High School to shield against a ferocious wind, about 250 people held a vigil Sunday evening for Jennifer Houle, a University of Minnesota student missing since early Friday. … Houle, 22, is a Carlson School of Management student and Pi Beta Phi sorority member. She was last seen early Friday when she was out with friends at the Blarney Pub, 412 14th Av. SE. in  Minneapolis. Houle, from Lake Elmo, graduated from Stillwater Area High School. One of the people attending the vigil, Darrell Salmi, said everyone was ‘holding out hope’ that Houle would be found. ‘Jennifer is a positive kid, just an awesome kid,’ said Salmi, who had taught her and her two brothers at Oak-Land Junior High School in Lake Elmo. ‘She’s there for everybody, she’s kindhearted, she’s outgoing, she’s a very intelligent and compassionate person. Just a superstar.’” 

Another day, another case of bird flu. According to the AP: “An outbreak of a bird flu strain that’s deadly to poultry deepened Saturday when state and federal officials confirmed a third Minnesota turkey farm has been infected, this time in one of the state’s top poultry producing counties. The federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said a commercial flock of 39,000 turkeys in Stearns County of central Minnesota has been infected with the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of avian influenza, which also killed tens of thousands of turkeys at two other farms in Pope and Lac qui Parle counties of western Minnesota.”  

Just a guess, but more people would probably go to church if the music was always this good. Angela Davis at WCCO-TV reports on one local church’s special guest this weekend. “New Salem Baptist Church is known for its community activism and outreach. But fewer people knew about the pastor’s famous friend, Stevie Wonder, until he showed up for Sunday service. The singer was in town for a concert at Target Center, and Rev. Jerry McAfee’s wife, Carmen, said they were able to reach him Saturday night to extend an invitation. ‘He said the possibility of him coming by was a great chance,’ Carmen McAfee said, ‘However he was rather tired because he’s been on tour.’ When the service started, Wonder was in the front row. The crowd cheered loudly when he rose to sing a popular hymn, ‘I Won’t Complain.’”

Strange things are afoot in Houston County. The Star Tribune’s Matt McKinney weighs in on the battle over frac sand mining in southeast Minnesota: “A zoning official here wielded his power to retaliate against people who opposed frac sand mining, an independent investigation found, slapping frac opponents with bogus zoning violations, threatening to tear down their house or cabin and, in one case, warning a frac opponent that she should ‘watch what she says’ or risk getting cited. His targets were people who had spoken out at public meetings or sent letters to the Houston County Board to complain about the encroachment of frac-sand mines, an issue that’s torn the county’s social fabric as the local government wrestles with how to manage the emerging and potentially lucrative industry.”

Lawmakers are considering a bill to scrap remedial courses at state colleges and universitiesthe Strib’s Maura Lerner writes: “Last year, more than 40,000 Minnesota students were placed in remedial classes, mainly at community colleges, after tests showed they weren’t up to snuff in math, reading or writing. In all, more than a quarter of Minnesota high school graduates end up taking at least one remedial course in college, according to state data. Reformers argue that the placement tests are flawed and that such classes, while well-intentioned, often backfire on students like Carr, making it less likely that they’ll ever finish college. Now, they’re asking legislators to scrap the remedial-education system at Minnesota’s state colleges and universities, saying those students would be better off in ‘real’ college-level courses that offer some extra help, such as tutors.” 

Blame Canada. MPR’s John Enger writes about Best Buy’s latest troubles. The company  “is eliminating 1,500 jobs and closing stores in Canada in an effort to streamline branding. The consumer electronics retailer has been operating two brands in Canada since buying out the Future Shop chain in 2001. Many of the Future Shop and Best Buy stores were within a half-mile of each other. Some even shared a parking lot. For almost 15 years, company spokesman Jeff Shelman said it made sense to keep the Future Shops open because the electronics market was expanding. Recently the market became more sluggish. Saturday the company announced the closure of 66 Future Shop locations. Another 65 locations will close for a week before reopening under the Best Buy brand.”

Maybe the birds have started to plot their revenge? WCCO-TV reports on the message Mother Nature was clearly trying to send about the new Vikings stadium: “Authorities say there were no injuries after high winds caused scaffolding to come crashing down on a downtown Minneapolis street Sunday afternoon. The Minneapolis Police Department said it happened at about 3:42 p.m. Parts of the Twin Cities are under a Wind Advisory as winds picked up dramatically following rain showers late Sunday morning. The winds became so fierce that scaffolding blew over from the site of the Vikings stadium construction and came crashing down on 5th Street. Authorities say there was no traffic in the area at the time and nobody was on the scaffolding when it came down. There were no injuries, but driving in the area is not recommended until it can be cleared from the road.” 

Yeah, that’s not creepy. At all: Over the weekend, MPR’s Nikki Tundel reported on the Spring Grove laundromat, and its rather, uh, notable feature: 2,726 dolls that “watch” over the place.  

The St. Olaf baseball team won’t be playing this spring,  FOX9’s Jonathan Choe reports: “St. Olaf’s baseball team was set to play a doubleheader on Saturday, but instead, the players are benched for the entire season after an investigation revealed the team took part in several hazing incidents. The school is hoping this will be a teachable moment. School leaders say all the players struck out and used poor judgement by violating the NCAA’s hazing policy. ‘The administration learned of it rather anonymously through some chatter on social media,’ St. Olaf communications director Steve Blodgett said. Blodgett wouldn’t get into the details, but said several incidents happened last month both on and off campus. According to the investigation, the players ridiculed, harassed, and engaged in ‘public displays of servitude’ along with underage drinking, then lied and tried to cover it up.” 

ICYMI, this story by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Dan Bauman in the Pioneer Press details how stringent the rules are in Minnesota for former legislators who go into lobbying. (Spoiler alert: they’re not stringent at all.) “The revolving door at Minnesota’s Capitol moves so quickly, it can be dizzying. Longtime Rep. Jim Abeler pushed through this year. On Jan. 6 he ended his 16-year run representing Anoka in the Minnesota House. On Jan. 21, he registered to lobby his former colleagues. … While many states and the federal government prohibit such quick moves, in Minnesota it is commonplace. A Pioneer Press analysis of registered lobbyists found that since 2002 alone, at least five dozen legislators have registered to lobby their former colleagues once their election certificates expired. Their ranks include three former senate majority leaders, former House and Senate minority leaders, former committee chairs, former lawmakers who worked for the state government and then turned to lobbying, and a host of others.”  

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 03/30/2015 - 11:39 am.

    Houston Co.

    I’ll start by stating I know the zoning ad professionally and think he may have been responding in an unprofessional manner to people that are becoming increasingly nasty even though he has based his decisions (as he is required to by law) on the facts. The zoning ad is only there to provide factual evidence based on current science and findings to the board and while this person also votes on the planning commission this is not the end of the process. The approval goes to the board of commissioners for a final vote at which the zoning ad does not have a vote at all. I think the press has characterized his emails and letters as scathing and angry in an attempt to side with his opponents. Often people become resentful from a letter or email and assign their own tone to the communication based on their own feelings at the time. This could have very well have happened and for the press to characterize it this way is unprofessional in itself. His response to some of the opponents seems to have been unprofessional though and should be corrected. I am sure he would have never gone forward with forcing a homeowner to move their house nor would have the legal system but it seems like an unprofessional retaliation to some particularly nasty attacks on possibly his office and himself. I’m sure the training will have a positive effect on him. Keep your chin up Bob!

  2. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 03/30/2015 - 04:14 pm.

    Many years ago now

    but while going to the University of Iowa an older friend was made to take remedial English classes. While enrolled in that course, she and two co-authors won a National Book Award for a novel they’d finished the year before.

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