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Posts about Politics and government

DFLers press GOP for more evidence in Hayden inquiry

Posted by: Updated: October 22, 2014 - 4:43 PM

By Alejandra Matos

Staff Writer

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." 

City won't sue over Washington NFL mascot

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: October 22, 2014 - 3:31 PM

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.”

New uses for the city's upper river

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: October 13, 2014 - 9:58 AM

The Park Board in August took public comment on its plans for a Marshall St. NE property it bought on the Mississippi riverside, which includes a warehouse.

MPLS couldn't help but wonder if the Park Board was contemplating a new revenue source for its cash-strapped parks when the following summary of a citizen comment appeared in the board's minutes, presumably as a typographical error: 

"Shannon Weed, 60 Logan Parkway, asked how a storage whorehouse in the proposed location would support the above the falls plan."

Mayor's strategy for stress relief: cute cats

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: October 3, 2014 - 5:07 PM

Mayor Betsy Hodges, who previously gained Internet notoriety for live-tweeting a viewing of Die Hard, is touting another moment of online stardom  -- and noting that clicking through online cat pictures has helped her get through "tense" council hearings.

Friday, the mayor posted a tweet to the website "Cute Overload," thanking the site for posting a picture she'd submitted of her cat, Argyle, watching Aretha Franklin perform on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Hodges said she's a longtime fan of the website, which posts photos and videos of animals (other recent updates include a slow-motion video of a chihuaua popping bubbles and a series of photos of kittens photoshopped to resemble sloths.) 

And, the mayor said, she turned to Cute Overload to help her get through stressful meetings while she was serving on the Minneapolis City Council.

"When I was on the City Council," she wrote, "I would bring up your website on my screen during tense debates just to have a little balance of my attention. So thank you for being awesome!"

City weighs office building as visitor center site

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: October 2, 2014 - 5:31 PM

The Hotel Tallmadge -- now a city-owned office building -- as seen in an April 1960 Star Tribune photo.

A small, late 19th-century building tucked near the Minneapolis Convention Center could play a key role in encouraging convention-goers to get out of the skyways and explore the city.

For three decades, the brick building at 1219 S. Marquette Ave., once known as the Hotel Tallmadge, has been owned by the city and leased out to private businesses for office space. But as convention and tourism officials look for new ways to market the city —and prepare for an overhaul of the nearby Nicollet Mall — they say the Tallmadge might be better used as a visitor center. 

In a budget hearing Thursday, Jeff Johnson, the Convention Center’s executive director, told City Council members that his department has had recent success in attracting major conventions and improving its financial situation. This summer, the facility posted its highest-ever revenue month in history and its request for support in next year’s city budget — $8 million — is the lowest in more than a decade. 

Now, he said, the city needs to focus in on how people who come to those conventions spend their time in Minneapolis. Without many options for food, entertainment and local information near the Convention Center, Johnson said visitors often stick to the skyways and restaurants near their hotels, rather than exploring nearby destinations like Loring Park or other parts of downtown. He said a facility that could provide information — or even have an amenity like a restaurant – could provide some direction.

The city typically provides $200,000 each year for the Tallmadge Building. Officials project it will bring in about $97,000 in revenue next year. Johnson said the city hasn’t been actively seeking new tenants in recent years, since the building’s future is uncertain. Much of the space is currently vacant.

“Having the Tallmadge Building be what it is now is not going to have a future,” Johnson told council members. “So to go into that next step is a really important part of our growth and our connection to the city going forward.

Some council members were skeptical. 

Council Member Lisa Goodman said she’s spent time trying to launch an affordable housing project in the Tallmadge. So far, those plans have stalled out, but she said she still thinks affordable housing should be a higher priority than entertaining visitors.

“We do not need to be competing with the private sector in the restaurant (and) rental market industry,” she said. “If we think this is something that can’t be affordable housing, than we should sell the building, keep the money, and do something else with the money.”

Goodman said a visitor center should be located in a more central part of downtown. MEET Minneapolis, the group that works with the Convention Center to market the city, has been in talks about developing such a facility downtown.

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