- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Oct. 8

Controversy builds over Trump’s Minneapolis rally

Questions are raised over police policies and public costs, and a little transparency would be welcome.

President Donald Trump’s Minneapolis campaign rally scheduled for Thursday at Target Center has raised several political, policing and public cost issues that demand answers.

Let’s take them one at a time:



Should Minneapolis police officers be allowed to appear in uniform in support of political candidates? A new Minneapolis Police Department policy rightly prohibits that practice, though Lt. Robert Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, attacked the move as partisan. Last week, MPD officials, with the support of Mayor Jacob Frey, announced a new policy that states that “no employee shall make appearances in political advertisements while wearing the MPD uniform, or cause MPD trademarks to appear in political advertisements or be used in any other way that could lead a reasonable person to believe the MPD is endorsing a political party, candidate or campaign.”

In a statement, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said, “Trust is the cornerstone of our service, and I believe this policy helps to strengthen that.”

He’s right, but the city’s welcome directive led to another question:

Should the police union be allowed to sell “Cops for Trump” T-shirts online and at union headquarters?

Kroll posted an image of the T-shirt on his personal Facebook page. The red shirt has stars and stripes in the shape of Minnesota along with outlines of three different law enforcement badges. The $20 shirts sold out in less than 24 hours.

Kroll and other officers are well within their rights as private citizens to support candidates and to produce and wear the shirts. But officers should also keep in mind that they are public employees who are sworn to serve all citizens regardless of their political views. In a city already struggling with strained police-community relations, politicizing the police force is asking for more trouble.

Should the city pick up the public safety costs associated with the rally?

Frey wants the Trump campaign to foot the bill for $530,000 in additional costs the city estimates it will incur because of Thursday’s rally. In a series of tweets on Tuesday, the president said that Frey cannot “price out free speech.” His campaign threatened to sue the city over what it called a “phony and outlandish” proposed bill.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal recently told a reporter that the city has been in discussions for some time with organizations including the Twins, the Vikings and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority about sharing public costs of hosting games or major events. She said the city plans to be more proactive in the future with AEG, the management firm for the city-owned Target Center, about public costs.

A representative of Segal’s office told an editorial writer in a Tuesday email that the city hasn’t previously charged campaigns for rallies held in the city.

Once the firestorm over Trump’s rally has passed, Minneapolis should establish a written, nonpartisan policy on cost reimbursement for political campaign events. Rewriting the rules on the fly is a bad look.

___

The Free Press of Mankato, Oct. 7

Posting caused panic about deer

Of course, it’s easy. Of course it’s fast. Of course, it’s going to attract lots of attention.

But, oh dear, what a complicated mess.

Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm learned that firsthand when a post on social media in September bemoaned the condition of the deer on the brewery grounds.

Yes, they look scraggly. That’s how deer look in the fall when they shed their summer coats.

Instead of calling the brewery to inquire about the health of the penned-in deer, the concerned person took to social media instead, posting that the deer looked thin and unhealthy and then asked people to bring food for the buck, does and fawns.

Good intentions ran amok quickly. Fellow animal lovers heard the call - and dumped lots of inedible trash into the pen, including plastic, paper, chicken meat with bones and a beef burrito still wrapped in plastic, according to the brewery.

Employees then had to gather up the garbage by entering the pens, which is dangerous during mating season because when bucks are in heat, they get very aggressive.

A New Ulm animal control officer inspected the deer and their conditions and reported the animals appeared to be healthy but slightly skinny. He concluded the does, which had multiple fawns this year, are still nursing and the fact that the deer were being dewormed could be causing the weight issues.

The officer had no concerns the deer were being improperly cared for. The brewery provides the deer with a certified commercial deer food in addition to grains, alfalfa and a de-wormer feed.

Schell’s summarized the situation on a Facebook post and said public concern about the deer often arises every fall as the animals’ coats are in transition in preparation for winter. The brewery, which has had deer on the grounds for 159 years, diplomatically voiced its appreciation for the concern but outlined all the steps its takes to ensure a healthy herd.

It was a herd mentality that resulted in the inappropriate public feeding of the deer, but hopefully the public paid attention to the explanation and will think twice before stampeding to social media and causing a panic.

___

St. Cloud Times, Oct. 4

Moving City Hall to old Tech is a great plan; go slow, though, after that

In the decade (or more) of discussions that went into convincing St. Cloud school district voters to fund a new Tech High School, one thing was constant: concern about what would happen to the historic school downtown.

The community may be just one formal vote away from having an answer: The city of St. Cloud expects to take it over, with the intent to turn its historic parts - portions built in 1917 and 1938 - into City Hall, perhaps as soon as the spring.

City leaders have said the other parts of Tech would remain under city control for potential redevelopment. The city plans to sell land along Minnesota Highway 23 - property the district used for its media services building - for commercial development.

A school board vote Wednesday night made the district’s commitment official. Now a vote by the St. Cloud City Council is all that remains.

Overall - and assuming the cost estimates put forth so far are accurate - this is a solid answer to voters’ original question. Kudos to city and school district leaders for working on a way to make it happen.

Assuming council approval, the city is then responsible for high-quality renovations that are performed in ways that ensure an attractive and viable City Hall that honors the building’s architecture and century-plus of public service.

City Hall plans

Mayor Dave Kleis, schools Superintendent Willie Jett and other officials announced Sept. 13 the city’s proposal to renovate the historic parts of Tech and move City Hall there.

The plan came after a private developer cited high costs and dropped out of taking over and redeveloping Tech. Kleis also noted that the current City Hall at 400 Second St. S needs more than $5 million in deferred maintenance.

Kleis has told the Times the cost of converting Tech into City Hall is between $6 million to $9 million - similar to the work needed on the current City Hall.

He cited the sale of the old media services site as one source of the renovation costs.

Unknown at this time is what, if any, funds the city might get from the sale of its current headquarters on Second Street.

The rest of the old Tech site

In announcing the City Hall plan last month, Kleis also proposed eventually building a hockey arena adjacent to the new City Hall.

As the Times reported, the city is working with legislators to get $16 million in state bonding as part of $24 million in improvements to the Municipal Athletic Complex on the west end of the city.

Those include expanding the ice arena, adding a new lobby, replacing Dick Putz Field and installing artificial turf on it and Joe Faber Field.

Already a top-notch facility, those upgrades would make it a marquee sports destination.

Kleis, though, proposed moving the hockey arena to the north of the new City Hall and use the existing hockey space at the MAC for a field house.

That idea deserves plenty of public discussion.

Remember, in 2018 the city surveyed residents about potential uses of old Tech and their recreational desires were facilities like a community center, residential area or artist lofts, and a fitness and recreation center.

Based on that public input, it makes more sense to put something like a field house downtown - along with other public spaces not focused on just sports and courts. Even better, ask residents about their vision again.

Knowing Lake George already is a neighboring public gem and that the city is working with impassioned residents to convert Tech’s Clark Field into green space, it only makes sense to have more public discussion about the rest of old Tech’s future uses.

After all, that’s what residents have been asking about for more than a decade.

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