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Biden administration includes Minneapolis, St. Paul in violence intervention program

Plus: Chauvin to be sentenced Friday; report details growing use of drones by Minnesota law enforcement; Metro Transit workers start picketing over lack of contract; and more.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Says Susan Du in the Star Tribune, “The Biden administration announced that communities experiencing a surge in gun violence can use American Rescue Plan funding to rehire police officers to pre-pandemic levels, pay overtime, upgrade technology and boost prosecution of gun crimes. The White House also declared Wednesday that the administration will convene a Community Violence Intervention Collaborative of 15 jurisdictions, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, that are committing to use a portion of their COVID-19 relief to address summer violence. Over the next year and a half, the administration will meet with local officials as part of that collaborative. ‘Our country is experiencing an epidemic of gun violence, and Minneapolis isn’t immune to it. My proposal for the first wave of federal rescue plan funding features a strong commitment to violence prevention and intervention work in addition to resources for law enforcement,’ said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey in a statement. … The number of Minneapolis gunshot victims has increased 90% from last year, while violent crime arrests have dropped by a third, according to police statistics.”

At USA Today Tami Abdollah writes, “More than a year after George Floyd took his last breath, the ex-cop who murdered him will face a Minnesota judge Friday and receive a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, has sat in a maximum-security prison cell since a jury found him guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter April 20. Chauvin, who has never expressed remorse for Floyd’s death, will have the opportunity to speak for the first time at the hearing. … Whatever the sentence, per Minnesota law, Chauvin will serve two-thirds of it behind bars and the remainder under a type of supervised release that’s similar to parole. Chauvin, 45, will get credit for time served in prison while awaiting sentencing.”

Bill Salisbury writes in the Pioneer Press: “Minnesota’s summer road construction season appears on track to proceed as scheduled after the state House on Wednesday passed a transportation funding bill that will provide $7.27 billion for projects over the next two years. The House approved the bill on a strong, bipartisan 112-21 vote. The Senate debated the measure Tuesday and could take final action on it Thursday. …  In addition to appropriating $6.5 billion to MnDOT for 2021-23, the transportation bill provides $516 million to the Department of Public Safety for the Minnesota State Patrol and other transportation-related services and $236 million to the Metropolitan Council for bus and rail transit.”

Also in the Star Tribune, Stephen Montemayor says: “A simmering dispute between Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea prompted the postponement this week of the state pardon board’s first scheduled meeting of the year. The two — who with Attorney General Keith Ellison form the three-person board — are at odds over how to respond to a recent court ruling that the state law requiring pardon seekers to win unanimous approval from the board is unconstitutional. Days before the three officials were scheduled to consider 34 applications on Monday, Gildea wrote in a letter to Walz and Ellison that the board had ‘no choice but to postpone’ until the appellate process ran its course after the Ramsey County District Court ruling in April. …  Gildea’s letter prompted a sharply worded rebuke from Walz late last week in which he wrote that he was ‘disappointed’ at the news that the chief justice was ‘refusing’ to attend Monday’s meeting. He added that Gildea had ‘construed’ the Ramsey County court ruling to mean that the board could not meet or grant pardons.”

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Frederick Melo writes in the Pioneer Press: “The St. Paul City Council voted 4-3 on Wednesday to officially rescind wide-ranging residential tenant protections that had barely rolled out before they were put on hold by a federal judge in April. Council members promised to revisit the protections and return to the table with a refined proposal that will survive legal scrutiny. ‘A vote for rescission is a vote for tenant protections because it will enable us to pass actual tenant protections at a quicker pace,’ said St. Paul City Council Member Chris Tolbert, who chairs the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority. … As in St. Paul, a group of Minneapolis landlords have banded together to oppose a raft of tenant protections there through legal action, and St. Paul officials say they’re keeping close watch over how that discussion unfolds in the courts.”

For KSTP-TV, Callan Gray reports: “A growing number of law enforcement agencies are using drones to assist with search and rescue efforts, for public safety and with investigations in Minnesota. Nearly 100 law enforcement agencies statewide maintained a drone in 2020, according to a new report. The 2020 Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles legislative report gives a picture of drone use across the state. It’s the first year it’s been published. According to the report, 93 agencies either maintained or used a drone during 2020. There were 1,171 flights recorded. The report is the result of new regulations the legislature passed last year. The bipartisan law prevents an agency from deploying a drone with facial recognition technology unless authorized by a warrant, prohibits law enforcement agencies from equipping drones with weapons and limits how long drone video can be retained.”

At MPR, Tim Nelson says, “Metro Transit workers said they started picketing Wednesday to call attention to ongoing contract negotiations with the state’s largest transit agency. Union leaders said their members have been working without a contract for the last 10 months and authorized a strike by an overwhelming margin last September. The union says it has avoided a strike out of concern for transit users and the Twin Cities — although ridership also plummeted during the pandemic.”

At BringMeTheNews, Shaymus McLaughlin reports, “Minnesota has just one true National Park. But it’s a gem. Located in the far north of the state, up against the Canadian border, is Voyageurs National Park. At 218,055 acres and comprising multiple lakes (Including Rainy and  Kabetogama), it is essentially true wilderness, a ‘transition’, as the National Park Service explains, between land and water, wild and developed, southern boreal and northern hardwood. … So of course, it is one of the least-visited National Parks in the country. Voyageurs saw 263,091 visitors in 2020, the highest figure in the past five years for the park, according to federal figures. But it was still among the least popular of the country’s 63 National Parks, coming in at 43rd overall.

A WCCO-TV story says, “The ceiling of a Minneapolis hotel is getting some very prestigious attention. The art installation inside the Canopy Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, in the Mill District, is one of only 100 pieces of public art in the world to be a finalist for the prestigious CODAwards. The hotel used to be a thresher factory, so the top symbolizes a sifter. All of the dangling pieces represent flour, and the base of the mill area economy. The award is given ‘to those who successfully integrate commissioned art into interior, architectural or public spaces’.”

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