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Union-backed candidates sweep St. Paul school board races

Plus: Duluth elects a new mayor; the Twin Cities is No. 1 (of course); Dayton asks for extension on Real ID; and more.

CC/Flickr/mike w40

The big winner Tuesday: DFL/teachers union-backed candidates for the St. Paul school board: Says the PiPress’ Josh Verges, “Voters on Tuesday gave their emphatic blessing to the four newcomers anointed by city DFL Party delegates at their endorsing convention in April. ‘The district is not headed in the right direction,’ Mary Vanderwert, who led the 10-candidate field with more than 20 percent of the votes, said Tuesday night. ‘We’ve got a culture in the school that isn’t very positive, and we’ve got to change that first.’ Vanderwert, 64, was Head Start collaboration director for the Minnesota Department of Education and saw her three children graduate from district schools … The St. Paul Federation of Teachers began working against the incumbents almost a year ago, upset that the board members they endorsed in past elections weren’t responding to the union’s complaints. The union wanted more input on the district’s major initiatives, such as the mainstreaming of special-education students and a shift away from out-of-school suspensions.”

Meanwhile, in the St. Paul City Council races: “Rebecca Noecker held a tight lead late Tuesday night over Darren Tobolt, and both were running well ahead of four other candidates for the Ward 2 seat on the St. Paul City Council,” writes the PiPress’ Frederick Melo and Youssef Rddad. “Final results in the Ward 2 race will not be known for several days, when ranked-choice ballots are tallied. Meanwhile, incumbent council members Amy Brendmoen, Russ Stark, Dai Thao, Dan Bostrom and Chris Tolbert scored victories over their challengers. … Several races appeared more politically charged and personal than four years ago, though with two council seats uncontested, citywide voter turnout was expected to be light. In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, a series of candidates claimed that the seven-member council had failed to hold the mayor’s office accountable on key issues, from proposed parking meters on Grand Avenue to property tax exemptions for a Major League Soccer stadium.”

Also: It’s about time. “Emily Larson will be the first woman to lead Duluth after voters overwhelmingly elected her as the city’s next mayor on Tuesday,” writes Peter Passi of the Forum News Service. “‘I think together, as a community, we have changed the face of leadership in a way that’s going to really benefit girls and women for generations to come,’ Larson said Tuesday night, moments after learning of her election victory. Larson, who is president of the Duluth City Council, handily won election over her opponent, Chuck Horton. She captured 71.9 percent of the votes cast Tuesday to his 27.5 percent, with 0.6 percent of ballots listing write-in candidates, according to unofficial results issued by the city clerk’s office Tuesday night.”

Once and for all (or at least until the next “list of lists” comes out) we’re No. 1! Stribber CJ Sinner has the details: “When it comes to ‘Best of’ lists, Minneapolis-St. Paul have routinely appeared in rankings of things like parks, eats and jobs. Now, website Patch of Earth has combined seven such lists to create what we will happily call a Definitive U.S. City Power Ranking. They call it the ‘Absolute Top Cities.’ We’ll take it. Because guess who’s on top? We are. The Twin Cities appeared on five of the seven lists considered, making our fair pair of towns the best place to live in the entire country, basically. But you already knew that. Tied for second place were Denver, Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas.” So “Best Towns for Worst Potholes” wasn’t one of the lists, right?                           

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Also in the Strib, the editorial board takes an “either/or” view of news about the Keystone XL pipeline: “But the latest delay for the oil pipeline shouldn’t inspire political victory dances. Particularly in Minnesota, the snag should spur a sense of alarm. This is a serious setback for public safety in a state where more than 425,000 people live within half-mile wide blast zones along heavily traveled oil train routes. … At best, it’s unclear if rejecting the pipeline would slow climate change. It is clear, however, that public safety is best served when crude oil is transported through pipelines instead of the backyards of Minnesotans and others who live along oil train routes.”

Wait, last month? Libor Jany in the Strib reports: “Area authorities are searching for a recently released convicted sex offender who they say cut off his ankle monitoring bracelet and slipped out of a Minneapolis halfway house last month. Rico Ronondo Rodriguez, 34, of Minneapolis, had been staying in a halfway house, following his release from prison in early August, when he ‘absconded’ on Oct. 26, according to a Minnesota Department of Corrections news release issued on Tuesday.”

Why do we get the feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this. “State Auditor Rebecca Otto has paid more than $100,000 to an outside law firm while she mulls whether to sue the Legislature over a new law allowing counties to use private audit firms instead of her office to do their books,” reports the Strib’s J. Patrick Coolican. “Otto, elected to her third term in 2014, said in an interview and a news release Tuesday that while she is ‘loath to incur these costs, the risk to the future work of the [State Auditor], the Minnesota Constitution and today’s and future taxpayers is too great for me to just stand by.’ Otto’s own internal lawyers are working on the issue, but she hired the law firm of Fredrikson & Byron for additional assistance.”

Remember how you used to ask your teacher for another week to do your term paper? Ricardo Lopez of the Strib says, “Gov. Mark Dayton’s office will ask federal authorities for an extension that would give the state time to comply with Real ID requirements, potentially ending uncertainty over whether travelers would be barred from boarding domestic flights with only their Minnesota identification cards. A Dayton spokesman and top legislative leaders confirmed those plans to the Star Tribune Tuesday.”

Totally makes sense that the reward for having a great college football season would be a trip to Minneapolis. In January. “Minnesota will find out Wednesday if it will host the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2020,” reports KSTP-TV. “U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota is one of six cities bidding to host the high-profile game. Santa Clara, California, Charlotte, North Carolina, Houston, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana and San Antonio, Texas also want to host the game in 2020. The game was played for the first time in Dallas in January 2015 with Ohio State beating Oregon. U.S. Bank Stadium is under construction and will open in 2017. It will be the home of the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. The 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA basketball Final Four have already been scheduled at the stadium.”