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

Monitor finds particle violation on upper riverfront

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Local business, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Public safety, Urban living 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.

Council member will push for lower tax levy increase

Posted by: Erin Golden under Politics and government Updated: November 26, 2014 - 3:20 PM



The council member who represents Minneapolis' southwest corner says she'll propose a plan that would lower the total tax levy increase in Mayor Betsy Hodges' proposed 2015 budget.

In a newsletter to her ward, Council Member Linea Palmisano said the increase in property values in the 13th Ward --where there's been a considerable uptick in building permits -- means residents are facing a significant burden from a levy increase. The mayor's $1.2 billion budget calls for a 2.4 percent overall increase. 

"While I do think it's important to accept the inflationary and debt-payback portions of the increase, I am proposing specific strategies to my colleagues to lower the total levy increase," Palmisano wrote.

The council member said her plan focuses on retaining spending for basic services, including adding police officers. She backs the mayor's plan not to add funding for the arts, and did not commit to supporting additional funding for affordable housing, which has been urged by some advocates.

"I will work with my colleagues to employ any and all tools the City has available that will help those in need of affordable housing, while trying to decrease the total dollar amount of the levy at the same time," she wrote.

Council members will discuss the budget at meetings next week before holding a final public hearing and voting on Dec. 10. 

Small police accountability protest sprouts outside union HQ

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: November 25, 2014 - 12:51 PM

A grand jury decision Monday night not to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, brought renewed criticism of police treatment of minority groups, prompting a small protest outside police union headquarters this morning.

About two dozen demonstrators, holding signs reading “#ThePointIs END POLICE ABUSE” and “#ThePointIs We are all Connected,” converged on the offices of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, 1811 University Av. NE, to deliver a letter to union chief John Delmonico calling for more accountability from police leaders.

The letter, published in the Star Tribune last week, demands an apology from Delmonico for recent public comments and a pledge to “ending the racist and abusive culture of MPD, and improving police-community relations.”

The two-page letter went on to say:

"We will not stay quiet as your attempts at political gamesmanship do damage to those working to improve our community. We stand united in calling for a public apology to Navell Gordon and Mayor Hodges for your involvement in Pointergate."

Delmonico has come under fire for publicly criticizing Mayor Betsy Hodges and questioning her allegiances to the city’s police officers, after a photo surfaced of her posing with a young canvasser with a criminal record. Observers said the episode revealed a deeper rift between the mayor and Federation, which represents the city's rank-and-file officers.

Several speakers at the rally Tuesday called for Delmonico's resignation.

"Good cops deserve a leader who will lead with strength and courage - a leader who is willing to face the facts and commit to ending a police culture of racism and abuse," Rev. Jennifer Crow, of First Universalist Church, told a group of reporters.

Another speaker, Jason Sole, a colleague of Delmonico’s at Metro State University (where both men teach criminal justice), said that he agreed in principle with the protesters in Ferguson and across the country who took to the streets after the grand jury decision was announced.

“Yeah they should be peaceful, but you can’t tell other people how to grieve,” he said.

Delmonico didn't immediately respond to a call for comment.

Black church, civic leaders decry 'inconsistent' treatment of Adrian Peterson

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: November 24, 2014 - 4:43 PM

A coalition of black ministers and community leaders on Monday decried the “inconsistent, harsh and culturally insensitive” treatment of Adrian Peterson for his recent suspension from the Minnesota Vikings, days after pleading no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault for beating his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.

Led by Rev. Alfred Babington-Johnson, head of the Stairstep Foundation, a network of churches and community outposts that works to improve access to health care in black neighborhoods, the group issued a statement denouncing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend Peterson without pay for the remainder of the season. Under the ruling, Peterson, who has appealed the suspension, will be eligible for reinstatement next April.

Babington-Johnson insisted that while the group doesn’t condone “child abuse of any kind…we are, however, clear that the black community historically has had a much different approach and attitude to the issue of physical discipline than whites.”

“Much of the public discussion dominated by European American talking heads has not demonstrated any sense of legitimate cultural difference,” he said. "Our community is not monolithic. We have different points of view, but we believe that our broader views are not being reflected."

The group, he added, is just "looking for fairness and clarity...in the process."

Babington-Johnson read from the statement -- which was signed by more than a dozen community leaders, including Rev. Jerry McAfee, president of the Minneapolis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) -- at a Monday morning press conference at New Salem Baptist Church.

The group also strongly defended the records of DFL Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden, while criticizing the Star Tribune’s reporting on the lawmakers’ involvement with two community organizations, Community Standards Initiative and Community Action of Minneapolis.

Champion and Hayden face a state Senate ethics inquiry into their ties to both groups.

Yonis guilty of stealing Minneapolis park rental fees, jury finds

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Public safety, Urban living Updated: November 25, 2014 - 11:53 AM

Hashim Yonis, once a rising star in Minneapolis, is guilty of felony theft for pocketing soccer field rental money due the public, a Hennepin County District Court jury found Monday.

But the jury found that Yonis took less than $1,000, far less than the more than $5,000 the prosecution claimed. Jury Foreman Greg Auston called the prosecution's proof for the higher amount "woefully inadquate."

Yonis was accused of not turning over money collected from the organizer of a soccer league for weekend rental of Currie Park in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood last year. The presumptive sentence for his offense is probation and a stayed sentence of one year and one day. Prosecutor Susan Crumb said the ocnty will seek restitution of the money.

The 27-year-old North Side resident was running for a city-wide seat on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board when the allegations broke just before he filed for office.  He subsequently lost jobs  with both the park and school districts.

The conviction was a stunning reversal for a man that park Commissioner Scott Vreeland praised as a rising star even as he testified against Yonis.  Yonis had been cited for his accomplishments by both employers. Mayor R.T. Rybak took Yonis with him to the White House to tout a city youth jobs program, and President Obama embraced him as “my East African brother.” Yonis is a refugee from Somalia’s civil war.

Crumb argued that Yonis came to regard Currie as his turf which he could run as he sought, free from oversight. “That’s what happened to Mr. Yonis – too big for his britches,” she said.

Yonis, his voice burning with emotion, last week in his testimony accused Vreeland, a commissioner for the district including Currie, and another incumbent, John Erwin, who was also seeking one of the three city-wide seats in a 10-person field, of a political conspiracy against him. He denounced a 77-name petition filed against him with Vreeland over lack of Currie soccer field time for local East African youth teams as a put-up job. The petition included names and e-mails for Somali mothers who have a low literacy rate, he said.

Testimony did not mention the $3,000 that Yonis lent his campaign in mid-August.  Attorney Ira Whitlock, representing Yonis, sought to whittle away at the amount that the charge alleged, and poked at the credibility of key witness, Moises Hernandez, the organizer of a mostly Latino league, who said he paid Yonis in cash but got no receipts.

Susan Crumb said Yonis lied about when the payments started, and initially got Hernandez to lie. But Hernandez later said he or others paid Yonis weekly inside a small park building at Currie for the rentals. Worried that he’d be discovered not turning over cash, Yonis at last created a permit and turned in some money, and eventually told an investigator that more was in his office.

Whitlock argued that the Park Board forgave Hernandez more than $13,000 after he accused Yonis, but a Park Board supervisor said the alleged debt was an error. Hernandez testified that he has paid the park system some $16,000 in fees.



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