By Alejandra Matos
Senate Republicans were pressed to present more evidence to support their claims that DFL Sen. Jeff Hayden threatened the Minneapolis School District to award a $375,000 to a community group with ties to his father.
A state Senate ethics committee deliberated for more than two hours Wednesday without coming to a consensus on how to proceed on an ethics complaint filed by the GOP. The committee, made up of two Republicans and two DFLers, could not pass a motion to dismiss the case because there was no probable cause.
The ethics inquiry stems from Star Tribune reporting that Hayden threatened to withhold state education money if Minneapolis school officials did not award a $375,000 contract to Community Standards Initiative, a group aimed at curbing the achievement gap.
Hayden's father, Peter, has represented himself as being a member of CSI, but insists he has never been paid by the group.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, says Hayden violated Senate ethics.
The committee heard testimony from both sides to determine if Hayden used his influence to steer a contract to CSI.
State Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, questioned Hann's reliance on the press accounts without doing his own investigation.
"We are public officials. People can, and do, say all kinds of things about us," Lourey said.
He said Hann's complaint relied on an unnamed source quoted in the Star Tribune saying Hayden and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, threatened to withhold funding if it did not award the contract to CSI.
"I did not call the school board because no one would say that on the record without a subpoena," Hann said. "I think they will have to be compelled to come, and say if that happened."
The City of Minneapolis lacks the legal standing to keep Washington’s NFL team from using its nickname when it plays the Vikings here next month, the city’s attorney said Wednesday.
City Council members had expressed interested in taking action against the team, which has been criticized by Native American groups and other organizations for its use of the Redskins nickname. The game will take place at the University of Minnesota, which has publicized its own objection to the use of the word.
City Attorney Susan Segal said that while her she and some members of her office “would like nothing better” than to take legal action to help force the team to change its name, the city has limited options. She told a council committee that a ban on the name could be seen as a violation of the First Amendment, and noted that the city’s civil rights ordinance does not apply to the University of Minnesota.
Segal said it’s possible someone could launch a lawsuit on the basis that the use of the name violated rules about public accommodations, but that would have to be done by an individual who could claim that the use of the word created a hostile environment.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “I think we’ve come to the conclusion that the city itself does not have a cause of action against the team that is likely to be successful. In some ways, we are about the worst plaintiff you can try to (use) for an expansion of law in this area.”
Fearing that millions of new dollars may be redirected away from the city’s neighborhood organizations, two council members urged residents Tuesday night to start lobbying City Hall in what may prove to be a contentious funding battle.
Speaking to the annual meeting of the Longfellow Community Council, the city’s most populous neighborhood organization, Council Members Cam Gordon and Andrew Johnson said residents should start attending public meetings, as well as contacting Mayor Betsy Hodges and other elected officials.
At issue is a growing pot of money earmarked for neighborhoods that Hodges has proposed spending in new ways – rather than merely allocating it to the city’s 70 non-profit neighborhood groups.
“We’re hoping that you’ll get involved and interested in helping us through the next few months with the budget decisions,” Gordon said.
City finance officials are projecting that a group of special taxing districts, whose revenues are directed to neighborhoods and Target Center debt, will exceed earlier estimates by about $15 million over the next six years. The districts expire by 2020 under state law.
That new revenue is setting up the first major test of support for neighborhood organizations since the city took more control over their funding in 2011. The groups currently receive about $3.8 million a year, a shadow of their funding in the 1990s.
In her 2015 budget, Hodges has proposed spending next year's share of the new funds to grow the city’s neighborhood department, plan for closure of the city’s port and hire two new communications specialists -- neighborhood groups would see only an inflationary increase.
Gordon said those are worthy causes, but the decision conflicts with some earlier policies and is being made without a complete discussion. “The policy we have, I think, says it should go back to neighborhoods and neighborhood uses,” Gordon told about 100 people gathered in the basement of Minnehaha Academy.
A former president of the Longfellow Community Council board, Johnson said some of his colleagues are skeptical about the value of neighborhood groups. “We’ve seen the political climate really changing in terms of sentiment, feeling around neighborhood associations,” Johnson said.
The pair then reviewed some of the arguments they have heard at City Hall. Some would like to better evaluate neighborhood groups and the city's neighborhood department, for example. Johnson and Gordon agreed.
"But the important piece is that does not need to happen at the expense of neighborhood associations," Johnson said.
They said some at City Hall have also criticized neighborhoods for not representing their communities well enough, or for being dysfunctional.
Gordon said the response should be to improve – rather than de-fund – the organizations. He said the city is reaching out to healthier neighborhoods to help define what expectations should be set across the board.
“When you have an organization in your midst that’s having trouble and it's something you care about like your city, you reach out and you want to support, you want to help, you want to fix that," Gordon said.
A member of the audience asked which council members were opposing the neighborhood associations. Gordon and Johnson declined to name specific people, noting that the entire council is weighing the issue.
“We’re not trying to perpetuate an adversarial relationship with council members and neighborhood associations," Johnson said. "Because that has happened in the past and that is counterproductive. We want people going to the council members saying 'Look at all the value your neighborhood associations are adding' and then being able to actually address some of [their] concerns.”
Gordon’s health, environment and community engagement committee will discuss the issue on Nov. 3 and Nov. 17.
Two patrol officers, who saved the life of a man who had been stabbed in downtown Minneapolis after refusing to give a cigarette to a 14-year-old girl, were praised for their actions today.
Department spokesman John Elder praised the quick thinking of officers Adam Moen and Corey Schmidt in responding to a stabbing call near the corner of 5th Street and Nicolet Mall. The incident occurred about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, according to police.
"It was all the right place, right time," said Moen, who has been with the department for two years, "and there weren't many people out here so we could pick them up real quick."
Police later arrested three people in connection with the stabbing — two girls, ages 14 and 16, and an 18-year-old Anoka woman — and charged each with first-degree assault with great bodily harm, a felony, Elder said.
The three were arrested shortly after the incident. Elder said that prosecutors were considering whether to charge the 16-year-old girl as an adult.
According to police, the victim was approached by the three suspects, one of whom pulled out a knife and stabbed him after he refused a request for a cigarette.
Schmidt, a 15-year veteran of the force, said that he and his partner pulled up to the scene to find the 19-year-old victim "stumbling, holding his chest." The man had a two-inch stab wound in his chest, Schmidt said. The officers used an adhesive patch, known as a “chest seal,” to close the stab wound, trying to staunch the bleeding before paramedics arrived.
The officers' actions most likely saved the man's life, Elder told a group of reporters near where the stabbing occurred.
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