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

Posts about Politics and government

Man charged with trafficking 16-year-old girl in Hennepin County

Posted by: Updated: April 27, 2015 - 6:15 PM

A 24-year-old man was charged Monday after he and other men allegedly trafficked a 16-year-old girl out of Twin Cities hotels.

Dante Ohaier Jones, 24, of St. Paul, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with two counts of promoting prostitution. Jones is one of five men who have been charged in the case. Three of the men have pleaded guilty.

According to the complaint:

In early 2014, the girl told police she had been brought to the Twin Cities area by a friend and dropped off at a trailer in Burnsville where she was introduced to men who trafficked her in December of 2013 and January of 2014. Police were able to get the girl away from the men, but a few months later, the girl went missing again.

Later in Minneapolis, police found the girl, who said that in March of 2014, a man named "Billz" took photos of her and posted them in prostitution advertisements on Backpage.com. The girl said that "dates" would pay to have sex with her or another woman when they went to hotels and that Billz or Jones, whom she knew as "Bossman," would keep most of the money.

The other woman said Jones took photos of her and put them on Backpage.com and when she went on "dates," she would give the money to Jones or "Billz." "Billz" told authorities that he would place advertisements online and he would give Jones money for driving them to the "dates."

Rep. Ellison meets with Somali youth

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: April 24, 2015 - 7:47 PM

Rep. Keith Ellison talks with volunteers at the University of Minnesota. GLEN STUBBE/Star Tribune

In an effort to smooth frayed relations between the city’s Somali-American community and law enforcement, Rep. Keith Ellison traveled to south Minneapolis today to meet with friends and relatives of four Twin Cities men accused of plotting to join the Islamic State.

Ellison’s office declined to discuss the details of the closed-door meeting Friday afternoon at South High School — which at least two of the defendants attended — and school officials directed questions to a Minneapolis Public Schools spokeswoman. But a source with knowledge of the meeting said it was aimed at easing tensions between authorities and the Somali community, particularly its youth, which surfaced after the indictment this week of six young men on charges of conspiring to aid and support a terrorist organization; in this case, a particularly violent group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the four defendants being prosecuted in Minnesota — Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, Adnan Abdihamid Farah, Hanad Mustafe Musse and Guled Ali Omar — held without bail until trial, citing the seriousness of the charges and concerns that they would flee the country. The decision was met with outrage by the 200 or so supporters who crammed into the downtown St. Paul courthouse on Friday, and a tense standoff in the lobby ensued.

The strained tensions have attracted the attention of telawmakers, including Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, who in 2006 was the first Muslim to be elected to Congress.

Authorities will have to be even more resourceful and creative to get through to disillusioned young Somali-American kids at the “tipping point,” he said in a lengthy interview with the Star Tribune.

Minneapolis was one of three cities picked earlier this year to participate in a White House pilot program called “Countering Violent Extremism,” which focused on strengthening relationships between law enforcement and Muslim community leaders.

Camden area residents like proposed library design

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 23, 2015 - 12:47 PM

Architect Mohammed Lawal drew applause from residents in the Camden area of the city this week after presenting the proposed schematic design for the new Webber Park library that his team at the LSE firm is designing.

The exterior design for a building on Webber Parkway features a mix of Cold Spring granite, grey or green zinc shingles and wood accents. The interior is designed for flexible space. The project has a $12 million budget and is scheduled for a spring 2016 opening.

“I think he’s done an outstanding job,” area resident Sue Quist. “He’s heard everything we’ve said and nuanced it into the design.”

The planned building of about 8,000 square feet has an east-west axis paralleling the parkway, lying between Humboldt Av. N. and the Hamilton Manor senior public housing building. That axis is designed to maximize daylight for the building, but wide overhangs are planned to keep that light indirect.

The proposal also creates outdoor spaces, including an outdoor reading area east of the building where a shallow storm water retention pond is planned. There will be one plaza at the building’s northwest entrance off parkway bike-walk paths, and another at the south entrance from a 24-car parking lot. A porch with seating will from the Humboldt side.

 “We want this building to settle nicely into the neighborhood,” Lawal told about 30 residents who attended LSE’s presentation for the Hennepin County project.

LSE is proposing to use accents of cedar or fir, especially around windows, to warm the building’s exterior,, and also plans substantial use of wood inside.  It has also broken up the building’s exterior faces into more blocky modules since an earlier design, something that pleased county Commissioner Linda Higgins.

The proposed schematic design goes to the County Board later this spring for approval. Construction would begin about a year from now. The proposed library includes three meeting or conference rooms.

The proposal is the first new library built by Lawal within Minneapolis, but he’s previously designed renovations at four libraries within the city. He’s also designed new libraries elsewhere in the metro area at Elk River and at three locations in Chisago County.

One question that county library officials aren’t ready to answer is how many hours the new library will operate. That’s an important topic for area residents because the current temporary library in a shopping area is open only 24 hours week spread over three days. That opening followed two shutdowns of the old library in Webber Park.  The first occurred after city libraries ran short of funds. After city libraries merged into the county’s library system, the building was closed again when ceiling tiles fell.

Another new county library in Excelsior that’s slightly smaller than the proposed Webber Park library is open 48 hours weekly that are spread over six days.

Sheridan riverside park snares federal grant

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 21, 2015 - 2:20 PM

A $500,000 federal grant will jumpstart development of a park just north of the Broadway Avenue Bridge in northeast Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was one of eight locales nationally to score Department of the Interior money in a new program that provides money to disadvantaged areas.

The money will help to develop the first park in the Sheridan neighborhood, which lies north of Broadway and stretches a dozen block inland from the Mississippi River. The Park Board already owns most of the site, which is tucked between the river and former Grain Belt complex.

The Park Board will match the federal money, meaning that $1 million will be available to create the park around a riverside veterans memorial dedicated last year.

A master plan for the area calls for the memorial, a large grassy open play field, a playground and a picnic area. A pedestrian path would run close to the river, and a bike path would run on the inland side of the park, as part of the East Bank Trail connecting Boom Island Park and NE Marshall Street. That trail is separately funded and is scheduled to open next year if a necessary easement can be obtained from Graco Minnesota Inc.

The $1 million will fund about half of the expected ultimate development cost for the park, according to park design officials.

“This is just one of the many in a string of parks we intend to have as you drive up the riverfront,” Park Board President Liz Wielinski, who represents the area, said Tuesday after the grant was announced.

The Sheridan park is one of  number envisioned in the 1999 Above The Falls master plan for redeveloping the city's upper riverfront.

Minneapolis pushes for organics recycling customers

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: April 22, 2015 - 1:03 PM

More than 10,000 Minneapolis households have already signed up for a new organics pickup service that will launch in August in some parts of the city and next spring in others.

That amounts to about 10 percent of eligible homes. The city is hoping to increase that number to 40 percent when the program begins in about a quarter of the city later this year. Officials are encouraging all households with city service to sign up now, so they can design efficient pickup routes and prepare for distributing the new green bins.

Standing in an alley in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood on Monday, Mayor Betsy Hodges and Council Members Cam Gordon and Kevin Reich showed off one of the 32-gallon bins. The mayor said the new addition to city waste pickup is the next step for a city that “loves to recycle.” 

Eligible residents are already seeing an increase in their bills; most of a recent $48 per year increase is to help fund organics recycling. 

“Now (residents will) have the blue cart, the black cart and the green cart, and between those three things ... we’re going to be able to have a big impact on our recycling and trash stream,” she said.

Among the items eligible for organics collection: food waste, including eggshells, meat, fish and bones, paper plates and cups, pizza boxes and other food packaging, tissue paper, cotton balls, dryer lint, popsicle sticks and plant trimmings.

Hodges noted that she’s a veteran of organics recycling; her southwest Minneapolis neighborhood has been part of a years-long pilot project by the city. That experiment helped figure out what size of bin to offer residents.

The initial rollout of the program will be spread across the city. A map of neighborhoods included in the first phase is available at the city’s website.

Gordon noted that residents will still have the option of hauling their own organics to one of several designated collection sites. That’s still the only option available for people who live in multi-family buildings.

Residents interested in signing up for the service can do so by phone at 612-673-2917 or email: SWRcustomer@minneapolismn.gov.

Above: Council Member Cam Gordon, Mayor Betsy Hodges and Council Member Kevin Reich show off one of the city's new organics recycling bins.

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