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Court clears way for planned 40-story condo tower in Minneapolis

Plus: RIP Ray Szmanda, the ‘Menards guy’; constitutional amendment to fund road projects hits roadblock; former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher wants a criminal investigation into the current Ramsey County sheriff; and more.

A rendering of the condo tower planned for 200 Central Ave. S.E.
ESG Architects

The Star Tribune’s Jim Buchta reports: “Plans for a 40-story condo tower, a new tallest building in Minneapolis outside of downtown, moved closer to fruition after the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling that sided with the developer. Minneapolis-based Alatus wants to build the tower at 200 Central Av. SE. just across the Mississippi River from downtown and within the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, where height limits exist. … A Hennepin County District Court judge granted a summary judgment to the city but the neighbors appealed. In the latest ruling, the state appeals court decided the lower-court ruling was neither unreasonable nor arbitrary.”

The one thing that won’t be on the ballot. MPR’s Tim Pugmire writes: “Republican lawmakers have been talking for months about permanently dedicating sales tax money to road and bridge projects. To do it, they would ask voters in November to approve a constitutional amendment. But now that plan has hit a major snag. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Monday he was counting on help from Senate Democrats to pass the constitutional amendment. But he’s been told those votes are no longer there. Republicans have a narrow 34-33 majority in the Senate.”

What competition? In the Strib Christopher Snowbeck reports, “Employer-health-plan costs increased at a faster rate in Minnesota last year than across the country, according to a new survey, with employers saying they hope new programs and competition will help put a lid on future cost jumps. The survey from the Bloomington-based Minnesota Health Action Group found that employer-health-plan costs in Minnesota increased by 5.7 percent, a faster rate of increase than the national average of 4.3 percent in 2017.”

What could possibly go wrong? Says Matt Sepic for MPR, “Two Minnesota lawmakers want a Twin Cities oil refinery to stop using the toxic chemical hydrogen fluoride. In a letter to state regulators, state Rep. Frank Hornstein and state Sen. Scott Dibble, who are both DFLers from Minneapolis, say the April 26 explosion and fire at the Husky Energy refinery in Superior, Wisconsin raises safety concerns about the Andeavor refinery in St. Paul Park. No hydrogen fluoride leaked in Superior, but if it did, an acidic cloud could have injured people downwind. Andeavor uses the same chemical to make high-octane gasoline.”

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CongratsThe Star Tribune’s Rick Nelson reports: “Gavin Kaysen, chef/owner of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis and Bellecour in Wayzata, was named the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef in the Midwest on Monday night. … The “Oscars of the food world” have been celebrating American culinary excellence since 1991. Along with a number of national categories, the foundation bestows its medallions in 10 Best Chef regional categories. The Midwest represents chefs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.”

He was as much of a media icon as we get around here. Says Bob Collins at MPR, “In the category of advertising icons, few can top Ray Szmanda, even if few people know his given name. They know him as the ‘Menards guy.’ Ray died on Sunday, his son reports. He was 91. … It hardly seems possible that it’s been 20 years since Szmanda has been the chain’s spokesperson, a job he held starting in 1976. His signature black glasses didn’t even have lenses in them, according to Nick Meyer, who worked with him for Menards.”

What is the problem we have with things related to cars and licenses? Don Davis of the Forum News Service says, “Minnesotans should be able to use their existing driver’s licenses and identification cards until 2020 to board domestic airline flights and enter some federal facilities. State officials announced Monday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has informed them that because the state is making progress in meeting federal Real ID standards, the deadline may be extended.”

OK. Mara Gottfried of the PiPress says, “Vadnais Heights Mayor Bob Fletcher is requesting a criminal investigation into Jack Serier’s residency at the time he was appointed Ramsey County sheriff. Serier is running for sheriff in November’s election and Fletcher, a former Ramsey County sheriff, may be running against him. Fletcher’s complaint to St. Paul police came the day after the Ramsey County DFL endorsed Serier.”

Speaking of police work, Amy Forliti of the AP says, “The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday in favor of two media organizations that covered the 2012 killing of a police officer, saying news stories that named a man as a suspect were protected because they accurately summarized official law enforcement statements. The case stems from the Nov. 29, 2012, killing of Cold Spring police officer Tom Decker. Shortly after Decker’s death, authorities announced that Ryan Larson was arrested — but Larson was released days later without being charged and was later cleared. Larson sued Twin Cities television station KARE-TV and the St. Cloud Times for defamation, arguing they went too far in reporting that authorities suspected him of ambushing and killing the officer. The media outlets argued their reporting was protected because it was based on information provided by law enforcement.”

And then there’s this guy? The PiPress story says, “A former Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to sexual contact with a Mendota Heights woman during a private Mass, according to Dakota County prosecutors. Jacob Andrew Bertrand, 35, who had been a priest in San Diego, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in January. … In the summer of 2010, Bertrand ‘wore his stole, and had candles burning,’ and the woman ‘straddled Bertrand while he performed the Sacrifice of the Mass’ in her Mendota Heights home, according to a criminal complaint. The two had previously kissed and Bertrand had ‘mystically proposed’ to her, according to the complaint.”