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Walz chief of staff criticizes Gazelka absence from COVID-19 meetings in open letter

Plus: Minneapolis parks superintendent speaks about homeless encampments; Minneapolis police officers share “#MplsRiot2020” challenge coins; St. Paul mayor signs order establishing guaranteed income pilot program; and more.

Chris Schmitter
Chris Schmitter
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

It wouldn’t be a Minnesota political argument without open letters. The Star Tribune’s Briana Bierschbach reports: “Gov. Tim Walz’s chief of staff blasted Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka’s absence in coronavirus-related meetings Wednesday evening as tensions escalate between the two parties over the state’s pandemic response. … An open letter from Walz aide Chris Schmitter said Gazelka has been ‘shockingly absent’ at a number of ‘critical informational and decisionmaking meetings,’ including the recent visit from Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House’s coronavirus response task force.”

Minneapolis parks superintendent on homeless encampments. WCCO’s Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield reports: “With limited shelter space, Minneapolis’ nationally renowned parks have become a refuge for those with nowhere to turn. There are now 347 tents in 29 parks. … At first, this Midtown hotel became a place of refuge. Then those without homes poured into parks. By July, there were tents in more than 40 Minneapolis parks, 561 tents in Powderhorn alone. … Al Bangoura is the Superintendent of Parks. He sat down with WCCO for an exclusive interview. … ‘One week we had 400 needles, the next week we had 1500 needles so the increase in drug use, violence, there were many instances when people were being shot,’ Bangoura explained. … He moved from Charlotte last year to take over the prestigious job of overseeing one of the country’s top park systems. Lately, he says his recreation department has turned into a social service agency.

At least it’s not a Minion? City Pages’s Hannah Jones reports: “There is probably no right way to commemorate a moment like the Minneapolis protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. There have been murals, memorials, protests, speeches, calls for peace, calls for action, neighborhood cleanup – the works. … That said, there are a few wrong ways. … And boy is this one of them. …  [A] commemorative coin features a photo of officers, the slogans ‘A family of one’ and ‘MPD Strong,’ as well as the hashtag ‘#MplsRiot2020.’ … Another photo of a coin featured the slogan ‘5th Precinct Dogwatch’ (a term for the overnight policing shift) and ‘Hold the Line,’ as well as, we shit you not, a cartoon of Baby Yoda wearing riot gear.

St. Paul experimenting with guaranteed income. KSTP’s Tommy Wiita reportx: “On Thursday, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter signed Executive Order 2020-24 that authorizes the creation of the People’s Prosperity Pilot, St. Paul’s Guaranteed Income Demonstration Program. … A release from the mayor’s office states the program is led by the Office of Financial Empowerment. The People’s Prosperity Pilot will provide up to 150 St. Paul families with $500 a month in guaranteed income for a period of up to 18 months.

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In other news…

We’re betting on the lake:In Duluth, shoring up Superior’s encroachment on Park Point” [MPR]

Big oopsie:Cracked affordable apartment demolished in the Wedge” [Southwest Journal]

Plan alternate routes:A holiday rarity, Hwy. 100 to close over Labor Day weekend” [Star Tribune]

Watch those pic-a-nic baskets:Minnesota DNR report: Bear baiting in full swing, nuisance bears in full force” [Duluth News Tribune]