- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Minneapolis Star Tribune. February 28, 2021.

Editorial: Bracing for trial with ample time to prepare

Local and state officials appear to have a good public safety strategy for Chauvin trial.

State and local officials deserved much of the criticism they received for their handling of the violence and destruction after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody last year.

Failure to act quickly and flawed communication created a public safety vacuum that allowed rioting, looting and vandalism that cost millions in damage. The evacuation and arson that destroyed the city’s Third Precinct police station became a sort of poster child for that failure.

Fortunately, those same officials and agencies appear to have learned valuable lessons. They have stepped up to put smart security plans in place for the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who was one of four cops involved in Floyd’s arrest.

Jury selection in the Chauvin trial is scheduled to begin March 8. In preparation, visitors, workers and residents of Minneapolis will see a greater police and National Guard presence. And workers have already begun fortifying government buildings and police stations with concrete barriers and fencing.

During one of a series of public briefings early last week, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey promised that the city and police will protect peaceful demonstrators. But they also plan to protect government buildings, businesses and other property.

And on Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted 11-2 to allow the MPD to reach agreements with at least 14 other local law enforcement agencies for extra help. That could cost up to $1.5 million, but the city hopes to get state help to cover the costs.

The council also approved spending nearly $1.2 million to contract with community groups that will work with residents to ease tensions and prevent violence.

St. Paul officials also have wisely prepared for any possible spillover unrest from the trial in downtown Minneapolis. Nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers and first responders have had specialized training to handle problems that might occur.

St. Paul Police Deputy Chief Stacy Murphy told the City Council last week that the department’s plans, which also include fencing, barricades and additional law enforcement presence, are designed to “protect people, protect property and protect free speech” during the Chauvin trial.

The SPPD is also part of an east metro response group that includes the city’s Fire Department, the State Patrol, the National Guard and the sheriff’s offices of Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties. Murphy said protecting free speech is a top priority, but that violent, destructive behavior won’t be tolerated.

The administrations of both cities have also offered advice to businesses and other property owners about improving lighting, boarding up windows and using security cameras. And they’ve been reaching out to community groups that work with young people and others to calm tensions and help prevent violence.

As Frey said during last week’s briefing on trial preparations, a major difference between last May and now is “time.” Knowing that the trial and possibility of unrest was coming, officials had months to prepare. It appears that the time was well-spent and that comprehensive, well-coordinated public safety plans are in place.

It’s better to be overprepared to prevent violence and vandalism than have to deal with deaths, injuries or property damage after the fact.


St. Cloud Times. February 28, 2021.

Editorial: Disconnect in Minnesota bonding bill leaves 63-year hole in prison maintenance

It’s not every year Minnesota legislators consider a new bonding bill. Traditionally, in fact, it’s every two years.

But in keeping with the oddities of the 2020s so far, another bonding bill is in front of state legislators just a few months after the passing a $1.87 billion bonding package in October.

Gov. Tim Walz’s office has put a $518 million package of projects in front of legislators to consider this session. Among the priorities are $100 million for competitive projects to support home ownership through development, home rehab and other initiatives; $52.5 million for the Department of Natural Resources, with about two-thirds of it earmarked for maintenance and upgrades of existing infrastructure; and $43 million for security improvements at the Capitol complex.

There’s also $10 million on the wish list for the design and environmental work needed to add a second daily Amtrak run between the Twin Cities and Chicago, and $9.7 million for deferred maintenance at Minnesota’s 11 state correctional facilities.

Let’s pause here to add this fact to the conversation:

The estimated cost of catching up on all of the deferred maintenance at the state’s prison facilities is not $9.7 million. It’s not even $97 million. To meet all of the deferred maintenance needs at the state’s correctional facilities would take almost $612 million - more than 63 times the spending proposed in the current bonding proposal.

The enumerated needs include perimeter security systems upgrades, window and door replacements and hazmat abatement, along with general investment in maintenance including roof replacements, masonry tuck pointing and code compliance issues.

In other words, we are $612 million behind on work that needs to be done to keep our communities and corrections workers as safe as we expect - and to provide adequate shelter to an average of 8,500 incarcerated men and women per day, less those in contracted housing in county jails.

We are in no way proposing that the state bond for all of the needed projects at state prisons in a single year. We’re taken aback, however, at the disconnects in this bonding proposal. We support in concept the need to upgrade security at the state Capitol; we wonder if $43 million is the right price for that when less than $10 million can be spared for corrections. Is $11 million for a second Amtrak run the right price, in the same context?

Pragmatically, Minnesota can’t afford to allow maintenance on major physical state assets like those in the corrections system to fall decades behind, which is the only logical outcome if funding levels like those reflected in this bonding proposal continue. Remember, if nothing else goes wrong anywhere in the prison system, it will still take 63 years to fix everything, at this year’s bonding pace.

And ethically, Minnesota can’t afford to allow health, safety and security issues to languish in buildings where is employs and houses thousands of Minnesotans, ostensibly in an effort to protect other Minnesotans. When we say we want to be tough on crime, that means we have to be willing to pay for decent places for criminals to live while they serve their sentences, and for our corrections workers to do their jobs.

We’ll let the governor’s own words make our case for more bonding money for the Department of Corrections’ deferred maintenance projects:

“By maintaining existing assets, we can keep our state’s infrastructure strong and reliable for generations to come. What’s more, we can create jobs that boost our economy in the process,” Walz said in a statement Monday afternoon.

Maintenance is less expensive than replacement of these assets. Providing adequate corrections facilities for inmates and workers is the right thing to do. Let’s catch up a little faster.


Mankato Free Press. March 1, 2021.

Editorial: Land transaction benefits Lower Sioux community

The Dakota people will never be able to regain what was stolen from them as U.S. treaties were broken and their land and way of life were lost in the 1800s, but the state’s recent return of 114 acres to the Lower Sioux Indian Community is welcome action.

The U.S. government established the Lower Sioux Agency in 1853 as an administrative center for the newly created Dakota reservation. Nine years later, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 occurred. As a result of losing the war and losing the land in nullified treaty agreements, the Dakota were denied access to millions of acres in southern Minnesota.

A visitor center at the agency near Morton explores the history of the area, its people, the war and what led up to it. Along with running the history center in more recent times, the Minnesota Historical Society bought area land in the 1960s and 1970s from private landowners. Those were the acres returned to the Indigenous community in mid-February.

Sensitivity to what was lost and acknowledgement of what can be gained by taking appropriate action are important steps to reconciliation. Down the road at the Jeffers Petroglyphs near Comfrey, Indigenous people are asking the state to take protection of the sacred site into consideration as a wind project asks for permission to build nearby.

For the Lower Sioux community, it’s been a 20-year process to reclaim the land near the Lower Sioux Agency but worth the perseverance it took to complete. To again access land that truly belongs to them is no small thing and the transaction should be an example for other governments and land owners to recognize as progress.

What a joy it will be to add details of this land exchange to the museum’s exhibit area, where every visitor can get a more complete picture of our state’s history.


Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide