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Northfield City Council to consider domestic partnership registry

ALSO: Experts eye agriculture in 2022; Brainerd cuts school dance short; USPS confirms closures — and more.

Although domestic partnership registries carry little weight, the Northfield City Council decided last week to draft an ordinance allowing a domestic partnership registry, writes Suzanne Rook of the Northfield News. The ordinance is voluntary and businesses don’t have to make accommodations for registrants, but the registry does offer an outlet for same- or different-sex couples that don’t like Minnesota’s marriage laws, or for the elderly for whom marriage would interfere with financial considerations, yet still want documentation of their partnership.

Even with these caveats, Dan Hudson of Northfield says it’s about doing what’s right. He’s the one credited with pushing the City Council to ask the state Human Rights Commission to draft an ordinance and determine how it should be implemented. Currently, nearly 20 Minnesota cities offer domestic partnership registries, Rook reported. City Council member Betsey Buckheit said “It’s what we can do at the local level to guarantee rights for everyone,” adding that a domestic partnership registry ordinance is a civil-rights issue. While religious organizations can make their own rules about rights for same-sex couples, governmental entities must not discriminate, Buckheit said.

Agweek, a sister publication of the Grand Forks Herald, asked deep thinkers in the ag community to envision what the industry will look like in 2022 in Montana, Minnesota and the Dakotas. While the story by Jonathan Knutson focuses on many issues of interest to Minnesota farmers, only one of the 11 experts interviewed was from Minnesota: Dan Svedarsky, director of the Center for Sustainability at the University of Minnesota-Crookston. He focused on sustainability and viewing the land “more holistically as a multifunctional landscape providing not only food and fiber, but healthy watersheds providing clean water for drinking and recreation, wetlands, forests, brushlands and grasslands for wildlife habitat, biofuels, pollinators and carbon traps.” He added that soil conservation is important, as is strategic land-use planning to protect good farmland from development.

Kids in Brainerd got a little out of hand at a dance recently and the adults had to put their collective feet down. Jennifer Stockinger of the Brainerd Dispatch writes how Friday’s Winter Wonder Week dance at Brainerd High was shut down an hour early after a small group of students were acting inappropriately. Principal Andrea Rusk said a group of about 20 students was “grinding” on the dance floor, and sitting on the floor when a song came on they didn’t like. Rusk said the school has been more cautious about school dances since the homecoming dance, after there were complaints about teens “bumping and grinding” on the dance floor. The next school dance will be prom; if any student engages in inappropriate behavior, they will be told to leave the dance and parents will be contacted.

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The Sartell-St. Stephen school board stood behind its controversial decision eliminating the weeklong spring break starting next school year, writes Sue Halena of the St. Cloud Daily Times despite two petitions and 45 minutes of testimony at Monday’s board meeting. Board members voted 4-2 on Jan. 23 to end the traditional weeklong spring break and instead take a number of long weekends. More than 150 parents and students crowded into the meeting room. Students who presented one of the petitions said it had more than 300 signatures. The change had the recommendation of Sartell Superintendent Joe Hill, who said the plan included opportunities for input from the parents’ groups.

The U.S. Postal Service confirmed Thursday it plans to close processing centers in Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Bemidji and Mankato, according to a staff report from the Duluth News TribuneThe work from those plants will be consolidated with centers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. No closing dates were offered, but Duluth employees were told Wednesday that the center could close in 120 days. Closing the Duluth center would cost about 60 jobs, local officials have said, although the number could be lower because some employees already are transferring to other positions or retiring. The agency said it needs to cut $20 billion by 2015 to make up for a 50 percent reduction in first-class mail in recent years.

Former Duluth school Superintendent I.V. Foster was out of the office for more than a quarter of the time during his five-months on the job. Jana Hollingsworth of the News Tribune reports that the superintendent used 21 days of combined vacation, personal and sick time and 10.5 days of professional leave from July 1 until he was put on paid administrative leave Dec. 19. That represents 27 percent of the 117 work days in that period. Foster left the district because he had been working without a Minnesota superintendent’s license — a violation of state law. His contract included a yearly allowance for 25 vacation days, 13 sick days, 10 paid holidays and three personal days. In the time before Foster was placed on leave, he used 11 vacation days, three personal days and 7.3 sick days. Also, records show he had $5,064 in work-related expenses, mostly for conference fees, airfare, mileage and lodging. Those expenses include two four-night trips: one to Albuquerque, N.M., for a conference of the National Indian Education Association and one to New Orleans for a conference of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. He also attended three short conferences. The News Tribune noted it began asking for this data on Jan. 4, before Foster was placed on leave. The paper received the data in its entirety only late last week.

A group of fourth-graders was stuck inside an elevator for about an hour Saturday at a Rochester hotel, the Rochester Post-Bulletin reportedThe four girls were stuck inside the elevator on the first floor of America’s Best Value Inn, according to Assistant Fire Marshal Larry Mueller. Firefighters first tried emergency-access keys to open the doors, but they would only come open around eight inches. The elevator maintenance company then went to an adjoining elevator to enter the elevator shaft and get on top of the elevator in which the girls were stuck. Resulting work caused the door to open about 18 inches, allowing the girls to quickly exit, Mueller said. There were no injuries.

Here’s a shocker: The 27-year-old Moorhead man who publicly opposed the city’s drug paraphernalia ban was arrested during a traffic stop, allegedly with marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his possession. The Fargo Forum reports that Tobias Mulvihill was pulled over at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday after, police say, he disobeyed a stop sign. The officer detected a “very strong odor” of marijuana coming from the vehicle. Police searched the vehicle and seized 62.4 grams – about 0.14 pound – of marijuana wrapped for sale, drug paraphernalia and $565 in cash. Mulvihill was arrested on suspicion of fifth-degree controlled substance crime and taken to the Clay County Jail. Charges are pending. Last August, Mulvihill, at the time an employee at Mellow Mood, a Moorhead smoke shop, spoke in front of the Moorhead City Council in opposition to the proposed drug paraphernalia ordinance that eventually was approved on Nov. 28.