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State of Minnesota doles out $25 million for launch of pre-K program

Plus: Wisconsin county looks to rehire a dead guy; violent crime up in Hennepin County; state’s largest solar project will start producing power this fall; and more.

Gov. Mark Dayton
Office of the Governor

Cash for kiddies. The KMSP-TV story on the state’s dole out for pre-kindergarten says, “Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius have announced the 74 school districts and charter schools that will receive state funding for preschool this year. The state passed a scaled-back voluntary pre-K program this year that aims to improve early childhood education in impoverished school districts. Nearly 60 percent of the school districts that applied for the funding were rejected. The governor said the high number of rejections highlights the need to increase funding, which has been a top legislative priority of his for several years now.”

For the Forum News Service Don Davis writes, “Minnesota taxpayers will fund free pre-kindergarten for 3,302 4-year-olds this fall — but it’s still a far cry from what Gov. Mark Dayton would like. Dayton and state education officials on Monday announced what districts will receive money to start the programs. Those in the area include Duluth — which will get about $409,000 to serve 66 kids — as well as Grand Rapids, Greenway and Cook County. The $25 million legislators approved earlier this year means slightly more than a fifth of the state’s school districts will provide free pre-kindergarten.”

All “reasonable” means: Libor Jany writes in the Star Tribune: “Minneapolis police officers will be trained to exhaust all reasonable means in defusing potentially violent encounters before resorting to force, under new department rules unveiled Monday. The guideline changes … are designed to mend broken public trust in the wake of high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men, department officials said.”

Today in Second Amendment rights. The Forum folks also report, “A Polk County Sheriff’s deputy suffered injuries from breaking glass when a man fired at a helicopter the deputy was riding in Monday morning, authorities said. Charges are pending against a Clearbrook, Minn., man, who reportedly shot twice at the helicopter with a high-powered rifle in the far northwest Minnesota county. … The shots were fired at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter about 10 a.m. while it flew over an area in rural Clearwater County where suspected drug activity was thought to be occurring, the release said.”

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Needs more ‘splainin’. In the PiPress, Maya Beckstrom reports, “Caroline Amplatz, who donated $50 million to help build the University of Minnesota’s children’s hospital, dissolved her charitable foundation last month and gave the remaining $1.77 million to a new medical device company started by her father, Kurt Amplatz. Her decision triggered an investigation by the office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. The office has asked Amplatz to retrieve the foundation’s assets pending a review into the legality of giving money intended for charitable purposes to a private company. On Thursday, Amplatz said in an email that she returned the funds to the foundation’s bank account to comply with a mandatory waiting period.”

The AP story says, “Her wealth comes from the medical inventions of her father, Kurt Amplatz, who founded AGA Medical with his daughter’s then husband, Franck Gougeon. After her divorce, Amplatz gave money as an individual donor and through her foundation, which she established in 2008. She said she is dissolving the foundation now because it ‘interferes’ with her goals. ‘It didn’t benefit me and it slowed down my philanthropy,’ Amplatz said. ‘It required accounting and lawyers and board meetings and the funds weren’t invested the way I wanted them to be.’” 

Wisconsin. Where the dead are rehired. Doug Schneider for the Green Bay Press-Gazette says: “Brown County fired Robert Welsing Jr. from his public works job last year when he was alive. But now that he has died, the county might reinstate him. Lawmakers on Monday will begin the rare process of considering reinstatement of an employee who can no longer work. It’s a move that some say is about helping Welsing’s family claim death benefits and possibly some back pay, and others say is simply about enabling them to clear his name. … Welsing, a 55-year-old Suamico resident, was earning almost $67,000 per year as a highway superintendent when he was let go in August 2015 by county officials who said he used excessive profanity, interfered with an investigation into complaints against him, and allegedly falsified time cards.” Just wondering, but at what point does it become “excessive” profanity? 

Red meat for the Trumpists. An MPR story says, “Violent crime in Hennepin County is up 6 percent so far in 2016 compared to 2015, an ‘alarming trend,’ Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said Monday as he appealed for the public’s help. Mid-year statistics show countywide increases in rape (11 percent), business robbery (22 percent) and aggravated assault (11 percent) in 2016 compared to the same period last year.”

Protecting and serving … in the dressing rooms. Caroline Grueskin of the Bismarck Tribune reports, “Authorities say the deputy U.S. marshal accused of peeping on a 16-year-old girl at Target recorded young girls at several other stores in Bismarck. … A complaint filed in the case alleges the 29-year-old law enforcement officer used a cellphone camera to record under the doors of changing rooms at numerous clothing stores, including several at the Kirkwood Mall. The 19 victims identified by their initials in the complaint range in age from 12 to 33 years old.”

More ching for juice. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune says, “Duluth-based Allete Inc. last week reported strong second-quarter earnings and revealed that its Minnesota Power division will seek a general rate increase in coming months, the first general increase in nearly seven years. Allete reported second quarter 2016 earnings of 50 cents per share on net income of $24.8 million and operating revenue of $314.8 million. That’s up from last year’s 46 cents per share on net income of $22.5 million and operating revenue of $323.3 million. Officials said the slow recovery of taconite iron ore production has weighed on electronic sales.”

Solar juice. Carolyn Lange of the Forum News Service reports, “On a 100-acre field where crops grew last year near Paynesville, thousands of metal posts are being pounded into the ground, tracker motors assembled and torque tubes put in place in preparation for the installation of solar panels that will start producing power this fall. … With a total capacity of 150 megawatts of direct current power, the Aurora solar project will be the largest — and the first utility-scale distributed solar plant — in the state, according to Enel Green Power North America, which owns the project and has a long-term contract to sell the solar power to Xcel Energy.”

Speaking of cranking it up. Paul Huttner at MPR says, “Get ready for another surge in ‘water vapor’ over Minnesota and the upper Midwest Tuesday. When winds blow a wetter air mass north into Minnesota, meteorologists call it ‘moisture advection.’ You might have other names for this phenomenon, some of which may be 4-letter words. Dew points surge toward the 70 degree mark over southern Minnesota Tuesday afternoon and evening. You’ll feel the sticky factor rising tomorrow. … Big storms should blow along the front Wednesday night. I can see a few severe storms, and the potential for multi-inch rains returns.”

Always tough PR when the whistleblower sues you. In the Strib, Erin Adler writes, “A Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) employee says he was let go after reporting the athletic department for treating men’s and women’s teams unequally and mismanaging department funds. Cameron Stoltz, the Rosemount college’s former athletic coordinator, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the college and Minnesota State, formerly known as the Minnesota State Colleges and University (MnSCU) system. … Stoltz alleged that men’s teams at DCTC had better facilities and bigger budgets than women’s teams and that the school failed to appoint a coordinator to supervise compliance with Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.”