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What to watch for in 2016: the year ahead in Minnesota government, politics and culture

MinnPost photo by Brent Moore
Protesters gathered on Dec. 19 prior to a Black Lives Matter protest march.

With the new year upon us, MinnPost asked several writers to weigh in on the people, topics and ideas they expect to be a big part of the news in 2016: 

Local government
The relationship between elected officials and their police departments — and in turn, the relationship between cops and community — will continue to dominate local public affairs in 2016. 

Minneapolis remains in the midst of the response to the shooting of Jamar Clark by a Minneapolis police officer on Nov. 15. Investigations by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the U.S. Department of Justice are ongoing, protests of the shooting that began with an encampment at the 4th Precinct continue and the Minneapolis council and Mayor Betsy Hodges will revisit funding for repairs and renovations at the precinct. 

In St. Paul,  Mayor Chris Coleman continues his search for a new police chief to replace retiring Tom Smith. He has appointed a committee of community members to aide in the search which, based on Coleman’s appointments, will include conversations about race and policing.

And both cities will advance plans to place body cameras on all police officers after each received $600,000 federal grants to help pay for the equipment. — Peter Callaghan, local government reporter

State government
Last year, Minnesota lawmakers managed to do very little outside setting a two-year, $42 billion budget. Republicans in control of the state House and Democrats in the Senate clashed over whether a budget surplus should be spent on tax cuts or if lawmakers should pass a gas tax increase to improve transportation systems across the state. When no agreement could be reached, legislators left both priorities behind in an effort to finish on time.

A 2015 photo of the Minnesota Capitol surrounded by scaffolding.
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
A 2015 photo of the Minnesota Capitol surrounded by scaffolding.

In 2016, with a $1.2 billion projected budget surplus, the political debate is shaping up to be quite similar. There is one major difference, though: 2016 is the final year of the biennium, meaning legislators can’t push off a deal any longer. It’s also an election year, meaning a resolution could be harder to come by. — Briana Bierschbach, state politics reporter

Congressional politics
As the 2016 election season fires up in earnest, Minnesota will have two congressional races worth watching: the wild, open-seat race to replace John Kline in the 2nd District, and the rematch between Rep. Rick Nolan and Stewart Mills III in the 8th.

Rep. John Kline speaking on Election Night 2014.
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Rep. John Kline speaking on Election Night 2014.

There’s also the matter of the presidential election and how its politics affect congressional members’ re-election campaigns and day-to-day business in Washington. Congress famously gets even less done in presidential years, so even the smallest spats and rhetorical bursts have the potential to boil over into something big. Arguably, this has already started to happen (see: rebel flag, Trump Muslim plan.) Come the Iowa caucuses, expect the so-called “silly season” to go on steroids. — Sam Brodey, Washington correspondent

Arts & Culture
We’re already looking forward to more arts events than we can possibly attend and dreading having to choose. (In 2015, we never made it to “Glensheen” at the History Theatre. Argh!)

Wayne T. Carr in "Pericles," at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2015
Photo by Jenny Graham
Wayne T. Carr in “Pericles,” directed by Joseph Haj at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2015.

These are a few of the shiny things on the 2016 arts calendar: the Minnesota Orchestra’s January Beethoven marathon – eight concerts, all nine symphonies and five piano concertos. Joseph Haj’s “Pericles” at the Guthrie in January. Ragamala’s Aparna Ramaswamy solo at the Cowles in February. Watching the progress of the Walker campus and Sculpture Garden renovations. “What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones” at the History Center starting April 30. “The Unknown Faberge” at the Museum of Russian Art in October. And jazz, including Charles Lloyd and most of his new band, the Marvels, at the Dakota, Ches Smith (with Craig Taborn) at Icehouse and Rez Abbasi (with Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer) at the Walker, all in February. — Pamela Espeland, Artscape columnist

Along with more discussion of sulfide mining’s potential effects, Minnesotans will be talking about lake- and river-water quality, honeybees’ plight, cleaner energy, oil pipelines and, of course, climate change.

As 2015 was winding down, the magazine Pacific Standard was getting up to speed with “Catastrophic Consequences of Climate Change,” a series of quick reads billed as “an aggressive, year-long investigation into the devastating effects we can expect from anthropogenic global warming — and how scholars, activists, diplomats, and legislators can help stave off its most dire consequences.”

Chesapeake Bay overflowed its banks
REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
Michael O’Brien looks out the doorway of his flooded restaurant after the Chesapeake Bay overflowed its banks at City Dock in Annapolis, on May 16, 2014.

So what can we look forward to? Here’s a sample, from Nathan Collins’ piece on climate impacts in Chesapeake Bay:

It’s easy to think of climate change as a distant and not-too-terrible threat. Tell that to the 700-some residents of Virginia’s culturally unique Tangier Islands, which lie smack in the middle of Chesapeake Bay: New research shows that sea level rises due to climate change has already consumed two-thirds of the islands’ land since 1850, and much of the rest will be gone in 50 years unless something’s done to slow the sea’s advance.

The study’s authors do not mince words: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recognizes that climate change is upon us and that adaptation to climate change is ‘not optional,’ ” write Army Corp of Engineers researchers David Schulte, Karin Dridge, and Mark Hudgins in Scientific Reports. “The Tangier Islands and the Town [of Tangier] are running out of time, and if no action is taken, the citizens of Tangier may become among the first climate change refugees in the continental U.S.A.”

— Ron Meador, Earth Journal columnist


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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 01/04/2016 - 12:19 pm.

    Why White Silence?

    Perhaps, because Black Noise has become “white noise,” no longer heard by many.

  2. Submitted by Laura Weber on 01/07/2016 - 02:42 pm.

    Glensheen returns

    History Theatre is bringing Glensheen back in July 2016.

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