Police arrest one after 5 Jamar Clark protesters shot

Police late this morning arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with Monday night shootings at a protest of Jamar Clark’s Nov. 15 fatal shooting at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Minneapolis police said late this morning that a white man was arrested in Bloomington in connection with injuries of five protesters in the Monday night shootings. They said little else about the case.

In the meantime, Clark’s family says the Monday night shootings mean it is time to end a protest that has gone on since a Minneapolis policeman fatally shot the young black man early Nov. 15.

A statement from Clark’s brother, Eddie Sutton, followed the shooting and injuring of five protesters late Monday.

“We appreciate Black Lives Matter for holding it down and keeping the protests peaceful,” Sutton said in a statement released by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s office following the shootings near the 4th Precinct. “But in light of tonight’s shootings, the family feels out of imminent concern for the safety of the occupiers, we must get the occupation of the 4th Precinct ended and onto the next step.”

Sutton thanked the community for “incredible support” since the 24-year-old died from a single bullet to the head.

Sutton’s plea comes after five people were shot and injured late Monday near where protesters of Clark’s shooting have camped out for more than a week.

Police said injuries of those shot Monday did not appear life threatening.

The search continues for two more shooting suspects, police said.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges released a statement that said she “abhors last night’s attacks.”

“We are sparing no efforts to find the suspects and bring them to justice,” Hodges said.

Protesters at the encampment called the shooters white supremacists.

FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said on Tuesday that the FBI was “aware of last night’s incident and is coordinating with the Minneapolis police to assess the situation and determine whether federal action is appropriate.”

He declined to say whether the FBI was investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.

Protesters say they asked the men to leave, but the three later came back and fired six shots into the crowd.

“Dozens of officers responded almost immediately, attending to victims and secured the scene,” Minneapolis police reported. “Additional resources were called in and are actively investigating the shootings, interviewing a multitude of witnesses.”

Three of the victims went to North Memorial Medical Center by private vehicle, two were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance.

The incident occurred at 10:45 p.m. Monday.

Twin Cities media reported that Black Lives Matter Minneapolis spokeswoman Niski Noor said the group of white supremacists has been at the protest other nights since the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Clark early on Nov. 15.

A witness said one man wore a mask.

On its Facebook page, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis called the shootings an act of “domestic terrorism.”

“We will not be intimidated,” the page read. “Stand with us tomorrow.”

The organization plans a march at 2 p.m. today beginning at the 4th Precinct.

While Black Lives Matter Minneapolis had hinted that it could end its precinct occupation today, on its Facebook page it put out a call for supplies:

“Family! We need warm food, gloves/hats, chairs, firewood, and snacks!! We are very low on supplies. Please bring down ASAP. We will not be intimidated.”

On Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton said he had watched one of the videos shot at the scene of Clark’s shooting. He said the video, taken from an ambulance camera, was inconclusive and would not prove whether Clark was handcuffed.

Some witnesses of the incident said Clark was cuffed, but police have said he was not. Police say Clark was in the process of getting control of one of an officer’s gun when he was shot once in the head. He died the next day.

Reuters news service contributed to this story.

Turkey farmers thankful to be working

"Aaron Rodgers," as Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton named this turkey, is calm as the governor rubs his neck during an annual pre-Thanksgiving event to promote the state turkey industry. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

“Aaron Rodgers,” as Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton named this turkey, is calm as the governor rubs his neck during an annual pre-Thanksgiving event to promote the state turkey industry. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota turkey growers are back in time for Thanksgiving.

Minnesota governors annually recognize the state turkey industry, the country’s largest, this time of year. But this year the light-hearted event turned to serious talk about farmers rebounding from the worst livestock disaster in United States history.

“It has been a challenging year for turkey growers in Minnesota,” Gov. Mark Dayton said. “They are back in force.”

More than 9 million Minnesota chickens and turkeys died due to avian influenza last spring, about 5.5 million of them turkeys. But Steve Olson of the Minnesota Turkey Growers’ Association said most farmers have restocked their flocks and he knows of no one who went out of business because of the flu outbreak.

“They know there are good years and bad years, so they put money away,” Olson said.

But they will need more money than usual in coming years as they increase biosecurity to keep the flu virus away from their birds.

Robert Orsten of Willmar, who keeps 345,000 turkey hens a year for their eggs, said his “small family farm” will need to pay up to $1.8 million by 2016 to improve its biosecurity.

Security changes farmers are making range from installing devices to disinfect everything that enters poultry barns to enclosing areas between barns so birds are not moved from one to another outdoors, where viruses are more likely.

Despite what Orsten and other farmers face financially, he was in a good mood.

“This Thanksgiving, we give special thanks,” he said, rattling off a long list of government and other organizations that helped fight bird flu earlier this year.

Olson said that consumers probably will notice no difference with turkey prices this Thanksgiving.

“There will be plenty of turkey available for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said.

Stores lower turkey prices this time of year, making it a “loss leader” to attract customers to buy other groceries. However, Olson said in response to a reporter question, once the loss leader aspect disappears, turkeys may cost  $1.08 to $1.15 per bird more because, in part, of the new security in the turkey industry.

Minnesota’s 450 turkey growers usually sell 46 million turkeys a year, but the flu dropped that to 40 million this year.

No cases of bird flu have been reported this fall. Experts think the flu is transmitted by migrating ducks and geese, but some say it is more likely to be passed on in the spring than the fall.

Colleen Moriarty of Hunger Solutions Minnesota accepted $12,000 from turkey producers to help families that cannot afford food. She said she was especially thankful for the gift this year since turkey producers have has such a tough year.

Stealing the show during the traditional turkey event was an 18-week-old, 40-pound tom turkey from near Morristown.

Dayton named the turkey Aaron Rodgers after the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback who led his team over the Minnesota Vikings 30-13 less than 24 hours earlier.

Once Orsten put the turkey on a table, Dayton began petting it and it was so calm that it sat right down and placed its head down on the tabletop. At times over the years, some turkeys have escaped or at least flapped so much to startle governors and journalists covering the event.

NAACP, government leaders talk about easing Minneapolis tension

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges talks to reporters Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, after what she called a big-picture meeting about how her city's police deal with minorities. The meeting included local, state and national NAACP officials and Gov. Mark Dayton. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges talks to reporters Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, after what she called a big-picture meeting about how her city’s police deal with minorities. The meeting included local, state and national NAACP officials and Gov. Mark Dayton. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Tension over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man turned to talks about the future Friday, the most peaceful day in North Minneapolis since the early Sunday incident.

Minnesota leaders met with local, state and national NAACP representatives trying to find solutions to six days of conflicts between police and hundreds of protesters.

National NAACP President Cornell William Brooks urged the black community to stand up, but to be peaceful, as Minneapolis police have come under criticism of how they deal with the community.

“We have to vote, turn up the heat and turn up the light,” Brooks said as hundreds held up flaming lighters during a Friday night rally and vigil. “We have to press our case, make our case forcibly but also nonviolently.”

He urged his audience, which turned out in 30-degree weather, to be patient. “We need to be in this fight for the long run.”

The gathering came after protests over 24-year-old Jamar Clark’s death to a single bullet in the head fired by a Minneapolis police officer. Police said that he was interfering with ambulance personnel treating his girlfriend.

The shooting, which sounded much like other American cases of police shooting unarmed black men, set off the siege of a nearby North Minneapolis police precinct station.

Protesters have shut down Interstate 94 and tossed objects at police, and police have moved them away from the front door of the station. Tensions mounted through the week, but Friday night that was much less palpable than other nights.

About 400 attended the rally and vigil, then many walked to the shooting scene.

The big change from previous nights was there was no show of force, from either side, at the barricade separating police and protesters. There was no police presence noticeable outside the precinct building, where the rally was held.

“We must use the power of the vote,” Brooks said in his brief speech. “We must use the power of civil disobedience. We must use the power of non-violence, and we must use the power of love for one another.”

He advised the crowd to be organized and disciplined to “find the justice we seek.”

Brooks followed Minnesota civil rights legend Josie Johnson, who said she is passing the torch to those in the crowd.

She called the shooting “a repeat of history.”

“The way we can avoid this start and stop and start and stop is for us to stay focused,” Johnson said. “Understand this condition is one that has been in existence and has been created since slavery. There is no way for you to just come out once in awhile.”

Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said that people should not always turn to government for answers. “Sometimes, the answers are with the people: diverse backgrounds, diverse ideas.”

She urged the crowd not to harbor anti-police sentiments, but to oppose police brutality. “We want them to treat us like their own family.”

Before the rally, Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges met with local, state and national leaders of the NAACP, the country’s best-known civil rights group.

“I asked the president of the national NAACP to give us examples of other states in terms of community policing, in terms of various outreach that could be made,” Dayton said. “I want very much to learn from what other states are doing better than Minnesota, and we’ll engage NAACP leaders and others throughout the state.”

When leaving the meeting, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said the 90 minutes of talks were general and long-term.

“The governor and I expressed that our hands are out and our doors are open to anyone who wants to talk about what is happening now, but also long term to what solutions regarding police-community relationships,” Hodges said.

If Friday was relatively quiet, there still was activity.

Late Friday, police said they found lighter fluid, rags, bottles and other things used to make Molotov cocktails near where protesters have been camping. Two Molotov cocktails were tossed at police earlier in the week, police said.

Police said they arrested two people after the outside walls and windows of the station were vandalized with graffiti: “Jamar Clark,” “No Justice, No Peace” and an obscenity.

Also, a sports utility vehicle driver was arrested after driving into a precinct parking lot gate. There was no indication whether the incident was connected to the precinct occupation.

Three protesters were removed from a Minneapolis City Council meeting after they voiced their disapproval over how city leaders have handled the investigation.

Also Friday, about 30 students joined protesters at the precinct after marching from a nearby middle and high school.

Clark’s brother, 32-year-old Jermaine Robinson, was among a small group of people who congregated at a shrine of balloons and liquor bottles where the shooting took place.

Federal and state investigators are on the Clark case, with state officials saying it could take four months before they wrap it up.

Forum News Service reporter Robb Jeffries, Reuters news service and St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger contributed to this story. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.


Republicans increase demand to pause refugee flow

Republicans from the U.S. House speaker to Upper Midwest state lawmakers want the United States to delay admitting Syrian refugees until the country’s terrorist screening program can be reviewed.

While it is unclear whether more-than-two-dozen governors who want to pause the refugee flow have any power to do so, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is looking at legislation to stop the 10,000 refugees Democratic President Barack Obama wants the country to accept.

In the Upper Midwest, Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is the only state executive to say he is satisfied that the Obama administration’s plan would separate terrorists from refugees.

On Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple joined fellow Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who already said they oppose accepting refugees now.

Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota said Syrian refugees are unlikely to come there and called refugee resettlement a federal issue.

The concern is that a terrorist can hide among refugees, like is suspected in at least one case in Friday’s Paris attacks.

Dalrymple’s office issued a news release Tuesday saying Dalrymple would send Obama a letter outlining his position.

The North Dakota governor’s letter, like others already headed to the White House, cites testimony by the FBI Director James Comey, who told Congress of inadequacies in the system that would prevent the thorough vetting of the 10,000 refugees the administration has pledged to admit into the U.S.

Dalrymple joined other governors Tuesday on a call with senior administration officials from the White House, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Department of State and the National Counterterrorism Center to express his concerns with the administration’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees.

“For generations, our country has welcomed individuals and families seeking safety and asylum within the borders of the United States,” Dalrymple said. “However, I am deeply concerned about the recent terrorist attacks carried out in France and the potential for this situation to arise in the U.S., especially given the testimony by FBI Director James Comey revealing gaps in the refugee screening system.”

Syrians have not been a part of North Dakota’s refugee resettlement program in the past.

On Monday, Branstad told Iowa reporters that governors have no say in the refugee issue, but Tuesday he ordered all state agencies to stop work on Syrian refugee resettlements immediately.

Dayton said Republican governors opposing refugees is “showmanship” by governors “who have no expertise in the area.”

“I want to protect the people of Minnesota every bit that the governors of those states want to protect the people of their state,” Dayton said.

“There are people with children in their arms who are fleeing terrorists…” Dayton said. “They are not a threat to anyone.”

Minnesota officials know of seven Syrian refugees who have moved to the state, although people can move in and out without telling anyone.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, on Monday asked for confirmation that federal authorities have a workable plan in place to screen terrorists out of refugees. Dayton said he understands that and his aides have contacted the federal government to get that assurance.

In Washington, meanwhile, Republican House leaders are drawing up plans to suspend Obama’s efforts to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country.

Ryan, less than three weeks in office as leader of the House Republicans, said he set up a task force to consider legislation “as quickly as possible” that would pause Obama’s Syrian refugee plan.

“The prudent, the responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population,” Ryan told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Several Republicans said they wanted a vote as soon as this week on legislation to halt Obama’s plan.

The Senate, where Republicans hold a smaller majority than in the House, would also have to approve any legislation on the refugees before it could take effect. Rhetoric there has been less heated than in the House.

“All of us are God’s children … so I disagree with that assumption that only Christian children should be able to come to the United States,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.

Reuters news service contributed to this story.


Dayton seeks special session for unemployed miner benefits

Gov. Mark Dayton wants Minnesota lawmakers to meet in a special legislative session to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off miners.

The state projects that 596 miners will run out of regular unemployment payments before the Legislature is slated to return to work on March 8. The Democratic governor said he would like the special session by the end of this year or early in 2016.

Dayton opened his letter to legislative leaders with: “I want to make you aware of the financial crisis confronting Minnesota steelworkers, who are currently laid off in northeastern Minnesota.”

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, had no immediate reaction. A Bakk spokeswoman said Senate Democrats will meet Monday with a special session to be discussed.

Earlier this year, legislators extended by 13 weeks unemployment benefits for Minnesota’s turkey industry workers in light of bird flu that devastated flocks in many parts of the state. However, Dayton said, “fortunately, very few avian flu workers have needed those special benefits.”

However, many miners are expected to be off work at least six months.

Dayton’s letter said that two weeks ago, 1,413 workers were affected by Iron Range mine layoffs and had applied for unemployment insurance benefits. Most applications were filed from May through August, the governor wrote.

That figure has dropped to about 870 workers who still collect unemployment benefits, and almost 600 of them run out of benefits before the regular legislative session is set to begin.

Another 74 workers laid off from U.S. Steel probably will exhaust their benefits this month, the governor said.

Whenever Dayton has considered calling a special session, which only he can, he has demanded an agreement with legislative leaders about what will be taken up and passed. Once Dayton calls a session, lawmakers can debate and pass whatever they want.

A session like Dayton requests likely would last a day.

The Capitol building is closed for renovation, with only the House chambers to be open during the 2016 session. Senators plan to meet in a committee room in a Senate office building just being completed.

Dayton sent the letter Wednesday, but it was not released to the public. He has been away from his office for days to be with his ailing 97-year-old father, Bruce Dayton.

Minnesota’s taconite mines continue to struggle, with a glut of taconite part of a crushing depression in the U.S. steel and iron ore industries thanks to the influx of cheap, imported steel from places such as China. All of those imports have drastically cut demand for U.S.-made steel and its primary ingredient, taconite iron ore.

Hundreds of workers continue to be affected by shutdowns at several mining operations — U.S. Steel’s Keewatin Taconite, Cliffs Natural Resources’ United Taconite in Forbes, Mesabi Nugget near Aurora and the Mining Resources iron concentrate plant near Chisholm, as well as parts of Grand Rapids-based Magnetation’s operations.

There also were layoffs at U.S. Steel’s Minntac operations in Virginia over the summer, with most employees reportedly called back to work by September.

Forum News Service reporter Andrew Krueger contributed to this story.

Bruce Dayton dies, father of governor and leader of retail giant

Bruce B. Dayton, the last of the famed retailing family and father of Minnesota’s governor, died this morning at 97.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s office reported that he was surrounded by family at his Orono, Minn., home.

His death was expected and the governor has been out of the office for more than a week to spend time with family.

Bruce Dayton was the former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the Dayton-Hudson Corp. It owned the Dayton retail chain and formed Target.

A memorial service will be 11 a.m. Nov. 20 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 S. Marquette Ave, Minneapolis.

In addition to the governor, he is survived by his wife, Ruth Stricker Dayton; children Brandt (Tian), Lucy (Mark O’Keefe), and Anne; 11 grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

Bruce Dayton and his brothers expanded the Dayton Co. from a single Minneapolis department store into a national retailer. The Dayton family sold the company, which today is Minneapolis-based Target Corp., one of the best-known store chains in the country.

Gov. Dayton often talked about his father and how he wanted his children to understand the meaning of work even though they lived in a wealthy family.

The governor has called his father the “most important and positive influence” in his youth.

“My father often said, ‘The only thing worse than a bum is a rich bum’,” Mark Dayton frequently said. “He made us understand that we’re very fortunate, and with that came an opportunity and responsibility to give back.”

The St. Paul Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner, contributed to this story.


Dayton cancels trip to be with father

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton dropped scheduled events beginning Wednesday to spend time with his ailing father and his family.

A Dayton spokesman said the governor had planned to be at events surrounding the governor’s deer hunting opener and the groundbreaking of a new Highway 53 route on the Iron Range on today. However, Dayton opened up his schedule to be with his father, 97-year-old Bruce Dayton, and other family members.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who already planned to be there, is filling in for Dayton at the Range events.

Dayton says mine, community need interaction

Touring a Michigan mine Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, left, receives information about the operation as he prepares to decide whether the state will allow a copper-nickel mine to open. With him is Natural Resources Commmissioner Tom Landwehr, center. (Governor's office photo)

Touring a Michigan mine Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, left, receives information about the operation as he prepares to decide whether the state will allow a copper-nickel mine to open. With him is Natural Resources Commmissioner Tom Landwehr, center. (Governor’s office photo)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants PolyMet Mining to communicate with Minnesotans if the state issues a permit to open a copper-nickel mine, he said Friday after returning from a Michigan mine that impressed him.

Lundin Mining’s Eagle Mine engages its Upper Peninsula neighbors in many ways, Dayton said. They include holding regular public meetings, with no time limits, as well as giving regular public tours and staffing a storefront mine display in downtown Marquette.

Pollution Control Commissioner John Linc Stine, who accompanied Dayton to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, said a community group provides independent scientific environmental emissions monitoring near the mine. That is in addition to the company and state taking similar readings, which he and Dayton said gives the community more confidence than if only the company and state did the work.

“I would certainly insist that (PolyMet) meet those standards and more,” the governor said shortly after his airplane landed in St. Paul, adding that he is confident the company will do that. “They recognize this is crucial for the public to accept what they are doing.”

PolyMet’s Bruce Richardson said the company already is active in the Hoyt Lakes and nearby communities.

“We would deal with it much like they have,” he said about Eagle. “It is quite standard in the mining industry with good mining companies and good mining operations. We are already involved in the community and want to be a good neighbor.”

PolyMet has about 20 employees in the Hoyt Lakes area doing environmental work related to state permits they are requesting and to maintain facilities already on land where the mine would be.

“We consider ourselves a part of the community,” Richardson said, adding that the company already is involved in many events. “We want them to be informed. We want them to have assurance that what we are doing is protective of where they live and work and recreate.”

Friday’s trip aboard a state airplane was Dayton’s second of the week.

On Tuesday, he visited a South Dakota mine that closed in 1999, leaving the federal government to clean up polluted water and other problems in a process that continues at taxpayer expense. When he returned, Dayton said Gilt Ridge Mine was an example of a mine gone wrong and pledged to require PolyMet to put up enough money in advance to clean up any pollution left when it ends an estimated 20 years of copper-nickel mining.

Eagle was suggested for a Dayton trip by PolyMet supporters as an example of a responsible mine, even though critics of Michigan operation remain vocal.

Besides things like environmental monitoring and community involvement, Minnesota officials were impressed with Michigan’s efforts to ensure there will be enough money in the bank for any clean-up needed once the mine closes.

“They have a very comprehensive financial assurance program,” Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.

Eagle is much smaller than the proposed PolyMet mine, so the $60 million it set aside is a pittance compared to what PolyMet will need. Landwehr said PolyMet would be required to set aside “hundreds of millions of dollars” for clean-up, with the specific amount decided during the permitting process and updated annually.

Landwehr said a 3,000-page environmental impact statement will be released in the first half of November. Then, Dayton said, he will begin to meet with small groups to help him form his opinion about whether PolyMet should receive a mining permit.

It could be 2017 before a permit is issued, and even then a likely court challenge would delay the start of mining.


Political chatter: PolyMet unaffected by new rice rules, at first

Minnesota Natural Rersources Commissioner Tom Landwehr talks to reporters after visiting a South Dakota mine Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. Afterward, he said that proposed new wild rice water standards would not initially affect the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Natural Rersources Commissioner Tom Landwehr talks to reporters after visiting a South Dakota mine Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. Afterward, he said that proposed new wild rice water standards would not initially affect the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Proposed tightening of water pollution rules where wild rice is grown will not affect the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine plan, at least for now.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency just released a proposal to protect wild rice waters from sulfate. It uses a complicated formula to determine how much sulfate is allowed, a number different for each body of water where the rice is grown.

PolyMet Mining’s plan requires it to adhere to a standard of 10 milligrams per liter, Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said, a number that would fit into the new rules. The commissioner, whose office would issue a mining permit if the mine is approved, said that strict standard would apply during the permit’s duration, which has not been decided.

On the other hand, if the state lowers the standard, the mine would need to match it, Landwehr added, if a new permit is issued.

Sulfate is expected to be a byproduct of copper-nickel mining. The state pollution agency has decided that while sulfate is not directly toxic to wild rice, when it is in surface water, it can be converted into potentially toxic levels of sulfide.

The pollution agency decided that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, so devised a formula that factors in concentrations of sulfide, sediment iron and sediment organic carbon found wherever wild rice is grown.

The agency reports that its preliminary rule change “significantly expands the number of wild rice waters” that would be affected by state regulation, about “1,300 lakes, wetlands, streams and rivers.”

The pollution agency is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until Dec. 18. Information is available at www.pca.state.mn.us/ktqh1083.

Dayton blasts pay raise delay

Gov. Mark Dayton was not happy Thursday.

First, he questioned the wording in a federal judge’s ruling that requires Minnesota to greatly speed up reforms in its sex offender treatment program. He felt Judge Donovan Frank threatened the state, not to mention that the governor disagreed with the judge’s claim that the program is unconstitutional.

Then there was a legislative panel’s series of four 5-5 votes that killed or delayed raises for many state workers. Republicans voted to stop the raises while Democrats supported the negotiated pay increases.

“Just a terrible, terrible decision and denies good management principles to the executive branch” is how he described the vote.

For some workers, the vote just delays raises a month, although the panel could delay raises with another vote within that time. But some managers will not get raises until — and if — the Legislature approves them after it reconvenes on March 8.

Dayton said that he did not appoint or hire the managers. “Most of them were there when I arrived.”

The Democratic governor said the Republican votes against the contracts are a continuation of a long-standing fight.

“To deny that on a partisan vote is just despicable…” Dayton said. “Those people (Republicans) are against government and against me … To deny them a very modest increase, I have nothing but contempt for anyone with that attitude.”

The contracts would provide 2.5 percent pay raises to 14,800 members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 5 union, 13,700 Minnesota Association of Professional Employees members and members of four much smaller unions. The governor’s office said that while getting raises, employees also would pay more for health care.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, was not happy with the $300 million increase in state union worker pay, especially because raises were not specifically included in the state budget that began July 1. Drazkowski said the state raises would be bigger than most receive in private business.

Republicans also said they preferred to pay workers based on merit instead of approving an overall pay increase for everyone.

Oil battles ethanol

The Hill news source reports that oil companies are beginning an advertising campaign against ethanol, a mostly corn-based fuel added to gasoline.

“The American Petroleum Institute will run a ‘multifaceted advocacy campaign’ against the Renewable Fuel Standard for the next month ahead of a deadline for the Obama administration to finalize three years of standards under the mandate,” The Hill reported.

Radio, television and newspaper ads will be in the Washington, D.C. market since that is where decision-makers are most likely to see them.

The fuel standard requires ethanol to be blended with gasoline, but there is talk in Washington about lowering the percentage of ethanol that is required.

The Environmental Protection Agency is to finalize the standards within a month.

News hits home

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon tweeted Friday: “Sometimes, int’l news hits home. Latest American detained by Iran is a fmr college roommate of mine. Pray for him.”

The New York Times reports that Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American scholar and consultant who has advocated improved relations between the United States and Iran, was arrested in Tehran.

“The arrest appeared to signal increased risks for dual citizens from the United States who are visiting or living in Iran after the nuclear agreement was reached in July,” the Times reported.

‘Farm to School’ feted

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith recently led a celebration of a Minnesota program that provides locally grown food to school lunch programs.

“Minnesota’s Farm to School program provides thousands of schoolchildren with delicious, healthy, more nutritious meals, so they have the fuel they need to learn,” Smith said. “It also strengthens Minnesota farm communities by creating markets and raising incomes for Minnesota’s food producers.”

About 1,350 Minnesota schools participate. The Minnesota Agriculture Department provides grants to help schools buy local products.

Update: Judge orders quicker sex offender evaluations; state appeals

Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson watches Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, as he complains that a federal judge's order would move sex offenders through a treatment program too fast. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson watches Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, as he complains that a federal judge’s order would move sex offenders through a treatment program too fast. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

A federal judge ordered Minnesota Thursday to give sex offenders in a state treatment program a chance to be released, but  did not require the state to free anyone immediately.

Judge Donovan Frank told state officials they have 30 days to evaluate the public risk some specific offenders present and 60 days to draw up a detailed plan for evaluating the rest of the 700-plus in treatment. All must be evaluated within a year.

If followed, Frank’s plan could produce the first releases from the program in its two decades of existence.

The state appealed Frank’s ruling less than four hours after he released it and asked that the order not be enforced until the appeal can be decided.

Gov. Mark Dayton said that the state program is constitutional, adding that Frank’s plan would rush decisions about offenders and could result in dangerous people being freed.

“They committed horrible crimes and they repeatedly committed horrible crimes,” Dayton said of the sex offenders being held in prison-like conditions while being treated at state hospitals.

Dayton’s human services commissioner said the state already is making changes similar to ones Frank wants.

“We’re proceeding, but not as swiftly as he is talking about…” Lucinda Jesson said. “We are doing it in a way that is very thoughtful”

Jesson and Dayton said they need more time to evaluate patients to see if they can be released safety, and they need more money to do that. More money will not be available unless legislators approve it during a session that begins in March.

To Dayton, “the most important issue is to risk public safety by starting to funnel (offenders) out prematurely, before we have the funding, before we have the facilities and before we have the staff in place.”

Frank said he wants quick action.

He wrote that the state “must promptly conduct independent” assessment of each of the sex offenders in the program, all but one of whom are men, to see if they meet constitutional requirements to keep them in the post-prison treatment. State officials must determine if offenders could be housed in “less restricted alternative” settings, he wrote.

The judge said that he may order the state to make other treatment program changes and will maintain control of the program for five years.

Frank long has indicated he thinks the Minnesota sex offender program is unconstitutional, making it official in a June ruling.

He named former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson a “special master” who will be a go-between with the state.

Frank found the Minnesota sex offender program violates the U.S. Constitution’s provision stating that no state may “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

Sex offenders claim in their suit that they are being held unconstitutionally because they are in prison-like facilities after their sentences end, with little hope of getting out.

County attorneys can ask judges to commit sex offenders considered the most dangerous to a treatment program after they finish their prison sentences. Sex offenders are held in state hospitals in Moose Lake and St. Peter indefinitely.

Attorney Dan Gustafson, who represents sex offenders in the treatment program, said he expects the appeals court to decide the case in a year or two.

“It’s clear that the judge wants the independent evaluations to move forward quickly,” Gustafson told reporters. “That’s the main part of our lawsuit, that the state knows about people in Moose Lake and St. Peter who don’t belong there, and yet they don’t take affirmative action to have them moved to a lesser facility or released.”

Gustafson spoke at length about the roughly 200 sex offenders in the program who are elderly, intellectually disabled or committed their crimes as minors.

“I think the reason we shouldn’t be concerned about (releasing offenders) is the testimony at trial from the people who run the (treatment program) say these people are people who could be housed in less restrictive alternatives,” he said. “And you need to remember: Don’t confuse ‘less restrictive’ with ‘less safe.'”

In the two decades the program has been in place, no one has been totally released, although a few have been let out of the hospitals to high-security settings.

Minnesota began focusing on sex offender post-prison commitment after University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin was kidnapped and killed in 2003. A federal jury convicted Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. of the crime; he had been let out of a Minnesota prison after serving time on a sex crime charge, but was not committed to the treatment program.

Then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty began pushing for more sex offenders to go into the program, which dramatically increased the number of patients.

Gustafson pointed at Sjodin’s abduction as the origin of the program’s overly restrictive practices.

“That has created a public perception that everyone who has committed a sex offense is a ticking timebomb,” he said. “The truth is most of the sex offenders who get out of prison in Minnesota are not committed. Most of them live in the community under court supervision, and most of them don’t reoffend.”

Dan Gustafson, who represents sex offenders in a Minnesota treatment program, said that most sex offenders who are released from prison and do not undergo further treatment do not reoffend. (Forum News Service photo by Robb Jefferies)

Dan Gustafson, who represents sex offenders in a Minnesota treatment program, said that most sex offenders who are released from prison and do not undergo further treatment do not reoffend. (Forum News Service photo by Robb Jefferies)

Dayton demands mine clean-up money in advance

During a tour of a Black Hills gold and silver mine Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, rear, and Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr listen to issues federal officials needed to resolve after the mine closed in 1999. (Governor's office photo)

During a tour of a Black Hills gold and silver mine Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, rear, and Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr listen to issues federal officials needed to resolve after the mine closed in 1999. (Governor’s office photo)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton returned from touring a South Dakota mine Tuesday determined to make sure any northeastern Minnesota copper-nickel mine owner pays for clean-up costs before the mine opens.

He called the Gilt Edge gold and silver mine near Lead in the Black Hills “a textbook example of how not to do it.” The mine closed in 1999 when its owner went bankrupt, leaving just $6 million for clean-up costs that now easily have topped $105 million, mostly funded by the country’s taxpayers.

The governor said he cannot allow PolyMet Mining to begin operation before he is convinced funds are in hand to remove pollution from the PolyMet site after what the company thinks will be at least 20 years of mining.

“We want to make sure they have it locked away,” Dayton said of the money.

PolyMet officials say they will follow Minnesota law that requires that money to be in place before a permit is issued.

However, mine opponents say clean-up could take more than a 100 years and there is no way to predict how much money is needed.

The governor responded: “We have to rely on what we know now.”

Tuesday’s trip came as he and key aides prepare to decide whether to give the PolyMet copper and nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota the go-head to begin operations.

Dayton, Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Pollution Control Commissioner John Linc Stine said the South Dakota mine site is very different from where the proposed PolyMet mine will be, so geology and water condition information they learned Tuesday will not apply in Minnesota.

Also, when Gilt Edge’s last owners bought the mine in 1986, today’s environmental regulations did not exist.

“There really weren’t any regulations in place,” Landwehr said. “They left this whole legacy of pollution in place.”

PolyMet Mining produced an information sheet after Dayton met with reporters Tuesday night that showed some of the differences, including the fact that Gilt Edge mining began in 1876, during the height of the Black Hills gold rush, and pollution began then.

PolyMet officials pointed out that technology is more efficient at cleaning up water than when Gilt Edge was in business.

Dayton’s key environmental aides will release a final environmental impact statement later this month, but before deciding whether to go ahead and consider issuing PolyMet permits they must consider what likely will be thousands of public comments on the document.

If they decide to proceed, state officials must issue more than 20 permits, four significant ones, before PolyMet can begin mining.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would issue permits requiring air and water pollution requirements be satisfied. The Department of Natural Resources would issue a permit for a high-hazard dam and an overall mining permit.

However, that could be a long ways away, if it happens at all. Landwehr said a final mining permit could not be expected before late 2016.

Whatever the Dayton administration decides, it is bound to end up on court, where judges may make the final determination about whether PolyMet can open the mine.

Dayton said the big question he returned with on Tuesday would go to his commissioners who have the most responsibility in issuing permits: “I want to ask them if they are absolutely convinced we should proceed.”

Among the major questions are about water pollution, including the chance of harming wild rice crops that are important to American Indians.

If Dayton opts to reject permits, he said that he also would be turning down the chance for 1,000 Iron Range jobs to prepare the mine.

PolyMet opponents suggested Gilt Edge to Dayton as an example of what can go wrong with mines.

On Friday, he plans to tour what is called an example of a well-run operation when he visits Eagle Mine in Michigan, 10 miles from Lake Superior. The mine, open little more than a year, produces copper and nickel, like proposed for PolyMet, but it is an underground operation while PolyMet would be an open-pit mine.

Dayton took key aides who will be involved in the mine permit decision on his South Dakota trip and will again when he flies to Michigan.

The Gilt Edge-area mining began in the South Dakota gold rush of 1876, with miners dumping toxic tailings into local waterways. Canadian-based Brohm Mining Co. took over the Gilt Edge mine in 1986, when many nearby streams already were polluted with heavy metals.

From 1992 to 1999, the mine produced 102,274 ounces of gold and 172,504 ounces of silver. Brohm entered bankruptcy in 1999, leaving slightly more than $6 million to clean up nearby water.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, with some state support, is treating up to 300 gallons of water per minute to remove toxins. Clean-up costs top $100 million and EPA officials say they do not know how long they will need to be on site.

PolyMet opponents point to Gilt Edge as an example of what could happen at PolyMet: lots more clean-up costs than the company funds. South Dakota press reports indicate no one knew when Gilt Edge was operating the extent of clean-up needs.


Abandoned prison gets new support

Appleton, Minn., Mayor Chadwick Syltie tells a legislative task force Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, that his community is ready for a privately owned prison facility to reopen under state operation. With him is  Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Appleton, Minn., Mayor Chadwick Syltie tells a legislative task force Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, that his community is ready for a privately owned prison facility to reopen under state operation. With him is Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

An abandoned western Minnesota prison became a viable option to house state prisoners Wednesday when two Democratic senators said that leasing space in it makes more sense than new construction.

“I felt today there are legs under our proposal,” Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx said after a prison overcrowding task force meeting.

Several members of the task force said that they want to investigate leasing a private Appleton prison that closed in 2010 after Minnesota and others removed their prisoners.

Minnesota Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy, a Gov. Mark Dayton appointee, suggests constructing $142 million in new facilities at current prisons in Rush City and Lino Lakes.

Roy’s plan would add space for nearly 600 prisoners; the Appleton prison has space for 1,600.

Corrections Corporation of America offered lease its facility to the state for $6 million to $8 million a year, no matter how many prisoners are housed there, and that the Corrections Department hire employees and run the facility.

CCA would provide maintenance for the prison.

Democratic state Sens. Kathy Sheran of Mankato and Barb Goodwin of Columbia Heights said the Appleton prison could be a good short-term answer to what the Corrections Department says is a serious overcrowding issue, with a 565-bed shortage now that is predicted to more than double by 2022 if nothing is done.

“It is very difficult for me to understand why we would not want to look at it as a short-term opportunity or a long-term opportunity…” Sheran said. “We absolutely should consider this before spending $141 million.”

Goodwin added: “I wonder why we would build new (prison) beds when we have 1,600 sitting there in Appleton.”

Democrats generally have opposed Appleton, in part because when it was a private prison, it hired non-union workers. Under an outline Appleton and Swift County officials presented, the state would lease the now-abandoned prison but the Corrections Department would run it and could staff it with union workers.

Hendrickx and Appleton Mayor Chadwick Syltie told the task force that reopening the prison would provide a boost to an area with high unemployment.

Roy downplayed the CCA option, saying it could cost $50 million a year to run the Appleton facility, compared to his plan that would add a $16 million annual operating cost. However, Appleton supporters said his figures were to run a 1,600-inmate facility, but no one is talking about anywhere near that many prisoners.

The commissioner said that adding a new facility would add to administration costs.

The state proposal would remove 503 prisoners housed in county jails at state expense, Roy said.

Dayton is looking into the issue, but has not endorsed Roy’s proposal.

“He said that prison capacity population issues and everything involved in it is something he thinks should be considered in the next legislative session,” Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson said.

The task force is far from making decisions about how to deal with prison overcrowding. Its members hope to have suggestions for legislators when they convene in March, although the feeling is that it will take more than one legislative session to deal with the issue.

The task force is looking at many ways prison population could be managed, including:

— Lease the Appleton prison.

— Build more cells within existing prisons.

— Put two people in cells built for one.

— Reduce the number of crimes that come with prison sentences.

— Shorten sentences.

— Send more prisoners to county jails.

While it has not been a prison since 2010, the Appleton facility has received $1 million in upgrades. Syltie said CCA is doing the work in an effort to receive accreditation to house federal prisoners.

Workers are on duty there every day to maintain it, CCA lobbyist Todd Hill said.

Some task force members warned local officials that they could face a second prison closing if they are successful in prison populations

“It would be my intent that it would be the first one to be closed” as prison populations fall, Rep. Dan Schoen, D-St. Paul Park, said, adding that he opposes the Appleton prison even though he has family in the area.

“We could be creating a bubble that is going to burst,” Rep. Raymond Dehn, D-Minneapolis, said.

After the meeting, Appleton and Swift County officials said they have diversified their economy since the prison closed in 2010 and are better able to handle it if the prison reopened and later closed.