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Austin to offer bike-sharing program

ALSO: Duluth designates arts/theater district; Winona man reports being terrorized in warehouse; ex-Richmond mayor charged with theft by swindle; and more.

Not an Austin bike-share bike, but this is more or less the idea.

Austin is the latest city to get on the bike-sharing bandwagon, writes Trey Mewes of the Austin Daily Herald. The City Council approved a public bike sharing program Monday. Officials believe this will allow Austin to join the 15 other Minnesota cities that have earned the Bike Friendly City designation. Organizers will gather bikes through donations, police forfeitures and other means, and paint them bright red (the school colors) after Rydjor Bike Shop fixes them up. The bikes will then be stationed around town in designated racks for anyone to borrow. “If you need a bike to go someplace, ride it, take care when you’re riding it, and bring it to a red bike rack,” said Bike/Walk Trail Committee chairman Steven Kime.

A bevy of Minnesota cities want police body camera footage to remain private. They face opposition from groups that say the cameras allow the public to track police activity to hold them accountable, writes Don Davis of the Forum Newspapers. The Legislature failed to decide whether video produced by body cameras should be private or public. Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell is leading the effort to ask a judge to limit public access until the Legislature will make a permanent decision. Cities that are part of the application are Aitkin, Baxter, Big Lake, Brainerd, Brooklyn Park, Burnsville, Farmington, Grand Rapids, Jordan, Montevideo, Onamia, Richfield, Rochester, St. Anthony and Starbuck. Cities that offered support for the application are Bloomington, Duluth, Eden Prairie, Madelia, Maple Grove, Mounds View, Oak Park Heights, Plymouth and Worthington.

Meanwhile, this happened: A 19-year-old man told Winona officers he got lost on his way home from a house party early Sunday morning, the Winona Daily News reported. Two men approached him and took him to a warehouse on Laird Street where they accused him of stealing from them and forced him to take off his clothes. A band saw and a meat grinder were in the room. “The man’s captors turned on the saw and grinder with the implication they might be used on the captive,” the story said. After about half an hour, the naked man escaped down East Second Street and found help. Police found articles of the man’s clothing at a warehouse, as well as a meat saw and sausage grinder. Abdirhahman Hassan Samatar, 34, and John Arnold Demaske, 45, both of Winona, have been charged with second-degree assault, false imprisonment, and making terroristic threats.

Northfield teachers aren’t letting any grass grow under their feet. iPads for district sixth- through 12th-graders are a full week old, but Faribault High School’s science department has already rewritten the first chapter of their textbook for students, writes Brittney Neset of the Faribault Daily News. Physical science teachers Sharon King and David Wieber worked with the rest of their department to create an interactive textbook that has reviews, videos and instructions that support the labs students do in class rather than the other way around, something that the teachers rarely see in standard textbooks. They will continue to add to the text throughout the year.

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Mike Klein of the Rochester Post-Bulletin takes a look at the latest “Best Place To Live” award and asks the very logical question: Does that mean anything? He’s referring to a recent list by that ranks Rochester high on a livability scale, yet looks at another list that recently ranked Mower and Dodge counties among the ugliest in the nation. Experts in Rochester say the publicity doesn’t hurt, especially since Rochester needs an additional 500 people each year above the traditional population influx to meet projected job needs, according to Tom Reiter, transportation planner for Olmsted County. Whether someone moves to Rochester usually comes down to the local job market, Reiter said.

And then there’s this from the Owatonna People’s Press: Lee Efta, 39, of Owatonna, allegedly head-butted a police officer and broke his nose Sunday night. Officers responding to a reported suicide attempt found an agitated Efta. They tried to calm him down and one officer apparently put his hand on Efta’s chest, resulting in the head-butt. The officer suffered a broken nose and a nasal fracture. Efta is charged with third-degree assault causing substantial bodily harm and fourth-degree assault on a police officer. He faces up to eight years in prison or $16,000 in fines if convicted. His only past criminal record is a citation from December for a public noise nuisance.

Duluth has officially designated a portion of downtown a historic arts and theater district. Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune writes that the nine-block stretch of both East Superior Street and East Michigan Street, bounded by Lake Avenue on the west and Ninth Avenue on the east, will be a haven for the performing, visual and culinary arts. Among the district’s attractions will be the soon-to-be-restored NorShor Theatre, the Fitger’s complex, Tycoons, Zeitgeist Arts, the Temple Opera building, Greysolon Plaza, the Technology Village building, Carmody Irish Pub, the Electric Fetus, the Sheraton, the Pickwick, the Wieland Block, the Duluth Trading Co., Coney Island and the Fannie Rose Building. “Most everyone wanted to rebrand the business district, instead of just calling it ‘Old Downtown,’ as people have in the past,” 3rd District city councilor Sharla Gardner said.

Former Richmond Mayor Scott Kron has been charged with stealing money from the amateur baseball team he used to manage, writes David Unze in the St. Cloud Daily Times. Kron, 43, faces four counts of theft by swindle. A court complaint indicates he took more than $40,000 from the Richmond Royals since 2008. Kron was Richmond’s mayor at the time the theft was reported. He resigned as team manager and then as mayor in June 2014. Kron was elected to city council in 2004, then resigned in 2007 after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He was elected again to the council in 2010 and won the mayoral election in 2012.