What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

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City launches open data site

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: December 8, 2014 - 3:32 PM

The City of Minneapolis' new open data portal made its debut Monday afternoon, providing information on subjects ranging from fires and police incidents to air quality study results.

Most of the data was previously only available to people who submitted formal requests to the city. The city says it is now one of 38 states and 46 cities and counties that make open data portals available to the public.

Other information available includes: 311 incidents, crime statistics, open rental licenses, open liquor licenses, digital inclusion survey results, city boundaries and neighborhood revitalization program budgets.

Data can be downloaded in charts and maps, and will be updated with more current information.

Monitor finds particle violation on upper riverfront

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: November 26, 2014 - 8:55 PM

A state air monitor near the upper Minneapolis riverfront twice recently measured airborne particles at a level that violates the state standard.

The monitor is located is located on a rooftop just south of Lowry Avenue, and is sited across the street from a scrap recycling yard and its controversial metal shredder owned by Northern Metal Recycling at 2800 N. Pacific St.

Company President Stephen Ettinger said in an e-mail that he's been told that the state will need to evaluate about 17 companies.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the wind was blowing from the direction of the yard on both Oct. 26 and Nov. 1, when the violations were recorded. It said no violations have been recorded since.  

However, the agency said it is still analyzing the type of particles that were captured by the monitor, which has been operating since the beginning of 2013. It said the source of the particles is likely to be within one-quarter mile of the monitor. It said that multiple sources may contribute to the violation.

The agency said that the violation involves total particles, rather than the more worrisome fine particles that can be inhaled into lungs more deeply.  

The monitor was installed in response to community concerns about potential air emissions expressed when the agency decided in 2012 to modify the Northern Metal emissions permit, which a 2009 test showed that the company was violating.  There was no immediate response from the company.

Yonis wanted cash in larger bills, accuser says

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: November 19, 2014 - 9:53 PM

Soccer promoter Moises Hernandez described former Minneapolis park worker Hashim Yonis as someone who wanted no bills smaller than $20 when paid in cash for renting public soccer fields, but who issued no receipts.
Hernandez said he preferred to pay in cash because he collected $4 apiece from the players in his mostly Latino leagues.  He rented fields at three south Minnepaolis parks. But only Yonis, who rented fields at Currie Park in the Cedar Riverside area, refused to give the receipts Hernandez wanted so that he could chase pickup players off the turf if needed.
Hernandez testified as a key prosecution witness in the second day of the trial of Yonis on a felony theft charge. The Hennepin County attorney’s office alleges Yonis pocketed money for field rentals at Currie that Hernandez gave him in 2013.
The charge is a stunning reversal for the young onetime park and school worker who lost those jobs after the allegations surfaced last year.  He once was taken to the White House by Mayor R.T. Rybak to tout the city’s jobs program for teens in which he participated. He was running for a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board seat when the accusations  emerged.
Hernandez denied that the Park Board forgave him a past due obligation of more than $13,000 in exchange for his statement fingering Yonis. “I never have debt,” Hernandez said through an interpreter. “I paid every week.”

Ira Whitlock, attorney for Yonis, asserted the debt forgiveness in his opening argument, but so far no evidence has been presented to document that. Whitlock sought to undermine the credibility of Hernandez by highlighting inconsistencies in his testimony.
Hernandez admitted he lied when first questioned by a park police investigator, but he said that was only because Yonis urged him to conceal any field rentals before a certain date.  Prosecutor Susan Crumb asserted that was part of an effort by Yonis to conceal taking cash and not remitting it to park authorities.

Mpls. council committee backs tighter e-cigarette rules

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: November 17, 2014 - 3:10 PM

A proposal to ban the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants, offices and other public spaces cleared a Minneapolis City Council committee Monday.

After listening to testimony from nearly two dozen people -- about half in favor of tighter rules, half opposed -- the council's Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee voted 6-0 in support of the regulations. The move follows a recent change in state law banning the devices from schools, hospitals and public university campuses. 

Supporters, including a handful of medical professionals, told council members that e-cigarettes release potentially harmful vapor into the air and serve as a way to get young people hooked on nicotine. Opponents said such claims lack verification and pointed to high numbers of people who have used e-cigarettes to break addictions to traditional tobacco products.

The issue will now go to the full council for a vote.

CPED releases more on UHT TIF proposal

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: November 6, 2014 - 5:56 PM

Minneapolis development officials have released additional details on a potential legislative proposal they're pitching for easing restrictions on tax-increment financing to assist redevelopment at the Upper Harbor Terminal.

Tax-increment financing allows a city to use additional taxes generated by a development to pay for public improvements associated with preparing the site for that development. The 48-acre terminal shuts down at the end of the year, and riverfront plans for the area call for a business park with a fringe of riverside park. It's the first major site -- and likely the largest -- for carrying out a landmark 1999 plan for revamping the upper river. 

The Department of Community Planning and Economic Development's ideas for special legislation are intended to loosen time frames and cross-subsidy restrictions. That would make  use of the financing tool more feasible as the redevelopment unfolds over an undetermined period, The department offered its proposals at a Thursday afternoon meeting of the City Council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

The public investments at the terminal are expected to include clearing the site, building new streets and relocating utilities, moving an overhead high-voltage line and building a parkway and trails. The city estimated that would cost $10 million, but Park Board construction of a parkway and associaed parks would be on top of that.

Some of that money is expected to come from grants and selling land, but the city said in its Power Point presentation that tax-increment revenue "could be an important tool."



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