Rep. Jim Oberstar goes away for a couple of years and the roads start to fall apart. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports that Interstate 35 will be closed for a week or more because a bridge support was horribly deteriorated. The bridge in question is the low bridge that runs from Mesaba Avenue west to near 21st Avenue West. He quotes Duane Hill, chief district engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, thusly: the piling that supports the pier “was so corroded we could see through it.” Hill also said that there wasn’t any indication the bridge was near failure. A rather convoluted detour has been set up.
The Rochester committee in charge of eyeballing ranked-choice voting for the city has put the idea aside indefinitely, writes Heather Carlson of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. The prime opponent to ranked-choice voting apparently was Sen. Dave Senjem, a Republican, who told Carlson the issue was overly partisan, with Republicans generally disliking the system against approval from Democrats. He said, “I can’t think of almost any other issue that might come before the people of Rochester that would be more related to partisan divide than ranked-choice voting.” Ranked-choice proponent and Rochester City Council member Michael Wojcik said ranked-choice voting would have saved the city money this year by eliminating the need for special elections. Plus, he thought the commission was being partisan. Commission Chairwoman Marcia Marcoux said commissioners want to see how the system works in a variety of elections before they make a decision. She said the commission has never received a petition in support of ranked-choice voting and the only supporter urging the commission to consider the issue has been Wojcik.
The Fargo Forum is keeping up on doings in Calgary, where the miniseries based on the movie “Fargo” is being filmed. Eric Burgess reports that local police are fielding calls from concerned Calgarians that cops from Duluth and Bemidji are patrolling the Canadian city’s streets. No so, he says. They are prop cop prowlers (Sheriff Marge calls her vehicle a “prowler” in the film) engaged in fictitious chases and arrests. Here’s the boilerplate on the show: “The 10-episode miniseries based on the acclaimed 1996 movie … will debut on FX in the spring. Joel and Ethan Coen, who wrote and directed the 1996 movie, are the show’s executive producers, and the series will star Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Kate Walsh, Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman. (The show is shooting in) Canada, which offers various tax incentives for film and TV production. The movie version of “Fargo” was filmed largely in Minnesota.” Nothing says Minnesota like Billy Bob Thornton.
Folks in Winona are among those across the country participating in the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, reports Abby Eisenberg of the Winona Daily News. The event memorializes people in the trans and gender nonconforming community who have been killed. Eisenberg writes that the Trans Murder Monitoring Project says there were 267 reported killings of transgender people in 2012, and many more slayings are thought to have gone unreported. The story focuses on JamieAnn Meyers, who transitioned from a male to a female while a geoscience professor at Winona State University. She said society is slowing beginning to accept the transgender community. “For me, it means an opportunity to stand together and say how much our lives matter and that we aren’t disposable,” Meyers said.
Farmers in Lakefield, near Worthington, are happy with a program that allows them to plant cover crops, reports Julie Buntjer of the Worthington Daily Globe. She writes about Jerry Ackermannm, who planted purple-topped turnips and tillage radish on land that had been washed out this spring. The land is also hard and doesn’t take to corn or soybeans well. About 40 farmers came to his place last week on Cover Crops Field Day, when speakers told how cover crops improve soil health, soak up nitrogen and increase rainwater infiltration. It was part of a Heron Lake Watershed District program in which the district received a National Wildlife Federation grant to help farmers in Jackson and Nobles counties grow cover crops. “The roots are really loosening things up,” Ackermann said.
The Willmar School Board is being mum, mysterious and cryptic about the resignation of one of its members after a closed meeting last week. That closed meeting may have been illegal, writes Linda Vanderwerf of the West Central Tribune. Here’s how it went down: The board’s attorney, Trevor Helmers of Minneapolis, said the board should close the meeting “for preliminary consideration of allegations that were made against members of the school board.” Usually, when personnel matters are discussed, the district’s superintendent and human resources manager are allowed to stay, but both were excused from this meeting. After the secret meeting, Board Chairman Nathan Streed read a statement that mentioned allegations against the board but provided no details. He said the investigation was closed and there would be no disciplinary action. Then he announced the resignation of member Dan Croonquist. Attorney Mark Anfinson, who specializes in open meeting laws, said the board violated state law when elected officials closed the meeting to talk about elected officials. Croonquist’s resignation was for personal reasons. He left the meeting without commenting and has not responded to messages.
After President John F. Kennedy died, a shaken Gretchen Lundstrom put pen to St. Olaf letterhead stationery and wrote a condolence letter to Jackie Kennedy. Fifty years later, that letter has resurfaced with others in a book and movie about letters sent to the former first lady after JFK’s assassination, writes Jerry Smith of the Northfield News. Lundstrom – now Gretchen Farwell – “wrote Jackie Kennedy a letter expressing her condolences to the family, her personal grief and the connection she felt to her president,” Smith wrote. Hers was one of 800,000 sent to Jackie Kennedy, but hers was included in a 2010 book by Ellen Fitzpatricks: “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation.” The letter is also one of 20 included in a movie called “Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy” that was released in October and will premiere on The Learning Channel. Her letter will be read by actress Jessica Chastain. Filmmaker Bill Couturié said in an interview that “Gretchen’s letter so perfectly embodied college students’ attitude toward JFK and the Cold War. Young people identified with Kennedy’s relative youth and shared his concerns about the perils of the Cold War.”
Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press is keeping tabs on the legal shenanigans of a bank robber known as The Man in Black. Mark Wetsch, 51, is also known as Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat and has tossed dozens of legal impediments into the spokes as his trial has moved along. He was scheduled to be sentenced for bank robbery by Judge Susan Nelson. Wetsch has admitted robbing a bank in St. Peter, a bank in Gaylord and about 30 other banks in Minnesota. On Monday, Wetsch filed motions to withdraw his plea and to have Nelson removed from his case. Nelson delayed the sentencing and gave prosecutors until Dec. 9 to respond to Wetsch’s motions.
The Albert Lea Salvation Army wants to break the world record for most consecutive bell ringing, the Albert Lea Tribune reports. Stand Up for Freeborn County will begin at 11 a.m. Dec. 3 at Northbridge Mall. During the contest, Capt. Jim Brickson will not be allowed to sit, eat or drink, outside of small breaks of five minutes for each 60 minutes of ringing. The mall will keep center court doors open for people to provide support.