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Governor being urged to impose statewide mask requirement in Minnesota

Plus: effort to dismantle Minneapolis police gets pushback from several Black leaders; Minneapolis park board rejects plan to restrict homeless encampments in city parks; Walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake closes; and more.

Gov. Tim Walz
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Gov. Tim Walz

In the Star Tribune, Joe Carlson and Christopher Snowbeck write:Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is being urged to require residents of the state to wear masks when out in public, as COVID-19 cases hit record highs nationally and health officials worry infections may regain dangerous momentum here. … Walz’s potential step comes amid growing evidence for how masks can work in concert with other safety protocols health officials are pleading with people to adopt — if masks are worn properly and made with the right materials. Physician groups in Minnesota and the state Health Department are now fully backing a mandate.”

MPR’s Brandt Williams writes: “The commission in charge of approving language that could remove the Minneapolis Police Department from the city charter took first steps in the process, and indicated it would try to meet deadlines — but at the same time not rush to finish. If approved by voters in the fall, the City Council could eliminate the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. The new department could include licensed peace officers. Minneapolis Charter Commissioner Jana Metge said she’s heard from people who want reforms made to the Police Department. But she wants to know why the charter has to be amended.”

In the Star Tribune, Maya Rao writes: “Egregious, grotesque, absurd, crazy, ridiculous. These are a handful of the words that some local African American leaders are using to rebuke the Minneapolis City Council’s moves toward dismantling the Police Department, even as they demand an overhaul of law enforcement. While the movement to defund the police has been driven by Black activists, others say that city politicians rushed the process and failed to include a police chief who has the backing of many Black residents.”

An investigation by KARE-TV says, “As Minnesota public health officials faced the worst health crisis in the state’s history, they were doing so with less funding than a decade ago, a new analysis shows. Public health spending in Minnesota dropped about 9% between 2010 and 2018, according to data reviewed by the Associated Press, Kaiser Health News and KARE 11. … Still, Minnesota’s funding levels have fared better than the national average and some neighboring states. Since 2010, average spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18% nationwide, the analysis shows.”

Also in the Star Tribune, Miguel Otárola reports: “A divided Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Wednesday rejected a plan that could have restricted homeless encampments in parks across the city, including a sprawling community at Powderhorn Park that leaders say has become the largest in Minnesota history. The Park Board has accommodated hundreds of homeless residents who migrated across Minneapolis in the midst of the uprising following the police killing of George Floyd. … Yet it has struggled to contain the Powderhorn site, where two separate encampments at the northern end of the park have now grown to as many as 600 people in 400 tents, according to the board.”

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MPR’s Brian Bakst writes, “Dueling legislative hearings Wednesday focused on events surrounding the police killing of George Floyd, with senators drilling down on destructive disturbances in the days after and the House examining police accountability bills that remain hung up.  Senate Republican leaders set the tone of their hearing with an 18-minute video of news clippings describing a chaotic string of nights after Floyd’s killing on Memorial Day. … Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said the discussion was the wrong one. He criticized Republicans for not spending as much time on delving into policing policy and behavior as they were intending to devote to the events sparked by Floyd’s killing.

The Pioneer Press reports: “The westbound lanes of Interstate 94 through St. Paul were closed for about two hours Wednesday evening after a group representing the local Ethiopian community marched onto the freeway to protest a high-profile killing in their native country. The interstate reopened shortly after 8 p.m. The Minnesota State Patrol said no arrests were made.”

Says Evan Roberts for streets.mn, “The Covid-19 pandemic has given many of America’s governments—local, state, and federal—an opportunity to fail spectacularly at basic governing. A virus which has been contained in many European, Asian, and South Pacific countries within a couple of months rages on in the United States. One government that has done a decent (not perfect) job with the resources it has in the Minneapolis Park Board which rapidly opened more than 12 miles of parkways to pedestrian and bike use to allow for ‘physical distancing’, and greater use of the parkways by walkers, runners and bikers. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. As of today the parkways open to pedestrians and cyclists will revert to motorized vehicles in mid-July.”

Says Nicole Mitchell for MPR, “All of Minnesota had a hotter than average June, but precipitation was much more hit and miss. Now July is also starting off hot and humid, with above-average temperatures into next week. The entire state of Minnesota ended up with above-average temperatures during the month of June, many places by a few degrees. For the Twin Cities, the temperatures over the 30 days of the month averaged 4 degrees above normal.”

The AP reports: “Walleye fishing on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake has closed for July. The planned closure took effect Wednesday, in anticipation of a fall walleye season. Officials with the Department of Natural Resources determined closing the popular lake to walleye fishing in July would provide the best chance for walleye fishing this fall, by reducing hooking mortality when water temperatures are warmest.”

Says Howard Sinker for the Star Tribune, “Last month, we told you about a contest cooked up by John Millea, the publicist for the Minnesota State High School League, in which he seeded what he determined to be the best 64 prep nicknames into an NCAA-style bracket. It was a cyberspace surrogate for the spring tournament season that would have wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. And the question we asked at the time was: Can anyone knock off the Awesome Blossoms of Blooming Prairie? The answer is yes. The Moorhead Spuds edged the Awesome Blossoms, getting 50.4% of the 6,872 ballots cast in the title match-up.”

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