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Traffic at MSP now matches pre-pandemic levels

Plus: Former Republican donor Tony Lazzaro goes on trial Tuesday; DFLer Leigh Finke named USA Today honoree for Women of the Year for Minnesota; Dawn Plitzuweit becomes Gopher women’s basketball coach; and more.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

At KSTP-TV Pafoua Yang says, “Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is preparing for a spring break passenger surge by adding more parking, more venues and staff to meet demand this year. … In 2022, five out of the top 20 busiest days at MSP occurred during the spring break travel period. This year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects national spring break passenger volumes to rival pre-pandemic levels. MSP is projecting overall passenger volumes in 2023 to increase 10%.”

For the AP Steve Karnowski says, “A formerly well-connected Republican donor, accused of plying petite, vulnerable teenage girls with cash, liquor and gifts, goes on trial Tuesday on federal charges of sex trafficking minors. Anton ‘Tony’ Lazzaro is charged with seven counts involving ‘commercial sex acts’ with five minors ages 15 and 16 in 2020, when he was 30 years old. His indictment touched off a political firestorm that led to the downfall of Jennifer Carnahan as chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. His co-defendant, Gisela Castro Medina, who formerly led the College Republicans chapter at the University of St. Thomas, pleaded guilty to two counts last year. She is cooperating with prosecutors and will testify against him. She faces sentencing in August.”

Stribber Kim Hyatt reports, “As a transgender woman continues her recovery from a brutal assault and robbery at a Minneapolis light-rail station last month, an ongoing investigation looks to determine if the attack was a hate crime — and motive can be a challenging thing for prosecutors to prove. … Words were exchanged between the woman and the suspects, though audio isn’t clear enough at this point to know if they hurled anti-trans remarks. If so, that could prove bias and charges would be amended to reflect that.”

For Trey Hawkins writes, “ … the Chevy Silverado is one of the most popular vehicles to have its catalytic converters stolen. According to a report from CARFAX, as many as 153,000 vehicles in the U.S. had their catalytic converters stolen during the 2022 calendar year. For reference, the number of insurance claims for cat replacement stood at roughly 52,000 during the 2021 calendar year. … As far as vehicles specifically targeted, the Ford F-Series pickup truck lineup ranked as number one overall, while the Honda Accord came in at second. The Chevy Silverado is the eighth most-targeted vehicle, which is actually down three spots from 2021 figures. Meanwhile, the Chevy Equinox is the seventh most-targeted vehicle, up one spot from 2021 numbers.”

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Also at KSTP Renee Cooper says, “A retired Minneapolis nurse given a prognosis that she had just months to live became cancer-free within that same time frame thanks to a first-of-its-kind procedure. Tannaz Ameli’s recovery stemmed from an innovative surgery at Northwestern Medicine initially inspired to treat COVID-19 patients, and because she blazed the trail, the door is opening for many others. After years of chronic cold-like symptoms, Ameli got a test result in early 2022 that confirmed the worst possible news: She had stage 4 lung cancer. … Ameli saw the story of Albert Khoury, a man who traveled from Philadelphia to Northwestern Medicine in Chicago to undergo a first-of-its kind double lung transplant. Without pause, she reached out, and there she heard the single best sentence a cancer patient could from a doctor: ‘I can make you cancer free.’”

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For the St. Cloud Times Becca Most reports, “Growing up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, [Leigh] Finke was always interested in politics but never planned to be a political candidate herself. In November after her first bid for public office, Finke became the first transgender legislator appointed to the Minnesota House of Representatives after winning 81% of the vote in her district. … Finke is USA TODAY’s honoree for Women of the Year for the state of Minnesota.”

For the Pioneer Press, John Shipley writes, “Just more than two weeks after Lindsay Whalen stepped down as basketball coach at her alma mater, Minnesota has hired her successor, Dawn Plitzuweit, who led South Dakota to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2022. The university and Plitzuweit have agreed to a six-year contract with a base salary of $800,000 pending Board of Regents approval and the completion of a background check. A native of West Bend, Wisconsin, she will be introduced at a news conference scheduled for Monday afternoon.”

For MPR News, Ron Trenda says, “Computer models show an area of precipitation spreading into Minnesota and Wisconsin Tuesday afternoon and then lingering Tuesday night into early Wednesday. It may be rain or a rain/snow mix in southern Minnesota, the Twin Cities metro area and west-central Wisconsin, with mainly snow over central and northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.”