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State can’t say how long it will take to fix vehicle licensing and registration system

Plus: U of M basketball player Lynch faces suspension; suspected heroin kingpin evades arrest; Minnesota’s solar capacity is growing; temperatures will start to rise; and more.

A Says Jessie Van Berkel in the Star Tribune: “Administrators of Minnesota’s new, glitch-plagued vehicle licensing and registration computer system said Thursday they should have a roadmap by later this month to fix problems that continue to delay car title transfers, license plates and tabs. But until then, to the dismay of state lawmakers, they wouldn’t estimate how long it will take after that to repair the system, or how much it will cost. … The cost estimate for the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS, ballooned from $48 million to $93 million in recent years, and that total is expected to grow.”

Facing suspensionThe Pioneer Press’ John Shipley writes: “University of Minnesota center Reggie Lynch has been found responsible for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy in the spring of 2016 and faces suspension from school and the team until August 2020. That’s the recommendation of the U’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, according to a copy of findings from an investigation acquired by the Pioneer Press. The ruling stems from an incident in Lynch’s dorm room in Spring 2016. Lynch, 23, can appeal the decision. Otherwise, it will go into effect on Jan. 9. It was the second EOAA investigation into an alleged sexual assault by Lynch, a senior from Edina who transferred to Minnesota after two seasons at Illinois State.”

Frey talks cops. Says Brandt Williams for MPR, “In his first public meeting with top police officials, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced initiatives he says will help improve police-community relations. Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo also held a joint press conference Thursday at a new grocery store located in the Webber-Camden neighborhood on the city’s north side. The new mayor reiterated some of the goals he talked about during his campaign. He called for more accountability and transparency in the police department. Frey said police officers involved in confrontations should exhaust all other options before using deadly force.” 

Let’s see if Jeff Sessions can crack down on this guy. Stephen Montemayor of the Strib writes, “Leo Wayne Cook has been described by an FBI informant as “the largest drug dealer” on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, allegedly trafficking heroin up through Indian Country despite a series of drug arrests between Chicago and Minnesota over the past two years. The 33-year-old Redby, MN, man was first stopped alongside his girlfriend and another friend more than two years ago after authorities found about a pound of heroin in their car on their way back to Minnesota from Chicago. But a judge suppressed evidence seized from Illinois investigators and the case was later dismissed. Almost exactly one year after that search, Cook was again arrested with even more heroin in his car during a stop along a northern Minnesota highway. Cook was back on the street after bonding out of jail a day later.”

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Not huge, but growing. MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar writes: “Minnesota added enough solar panels in 2017 to power about 53,000 homes, and strong growth is expected to continue in the new year. The state’s overall capacity is now at more than 700 megawatts, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which tracks solar installations. ‘Our goal is to possibly reach a full gigawatt of solar in Minnesota by 2019,’ Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman said. A gigawatt is less than half the capacity of Minnesota’s largest coal-fired power plant, the Sherburne County Generating Station, or Sherco.”

This qualifies as disturbing. Says Tad Vezner for the PiPress, “After pulling New Year’ Eve surveillance footage from the apartment building of the suspected killer of a St. Paul woman, police saw something suspicious in one of the stairwells. ‘The defendant is carrying a limp, lifeless female body over his shoulder,’ read a criminal complaint filed Thursday.”

He didn’t go far. Says Paul Walsh for the Strib, “A Burnsville man wanted on suspicion of abducting his ex-girlfriend at gunpoint outside her Minnetonka workplace was arrested Thursday after two weeks on the run. Jahon K. Douglas, 37, was apprehended without incident about 1 p.m. at 3854 Girard Av. N. in Minneapolis, according to Minnetonka authorities. … He’s been convicted three times in the state for assault, four times for illicit drug crimes, twice for drunken driving, once each for violating a court order for protection, property damage and disorderly conduct, and more than 20 times for driving after having his license revoked.” Other than that, a stand up guy.

Need a glimmer of hope? MPR’s Paul Huttner says, “Minnesota’s deep freeze continues Friday. But temperature begin to moderate late Saturday. A pacific front blows in Sunday, and temperatures will surge into the upper 20s on a Seattle breeze. NOAA’s numbers below could be conservative for early next week. The Euro model hints at 30s.”