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Jennifer Brooks

Columnist | Local
Phone: 612-673-4008
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Jennifer Brooks is a columnist for the Star Tribune. She travels across Minnesota, writing thoughtful and surprising stories about the state's residents and issues.


Previously as a Star Tribune reporter, Brooks covered the State Capitol and the Minnesota congressional delegation in Washington.
Recent content from Jennifer Brooks
St. Paul used to pay for July 4th fireworks, but last year the mayor canceled the display.

Brooks: There'll be July 4th fireworks anyway, even if not in St. Paul

If a save-the-fireworks effort doesn't come together this year, Grand Old Day Anyway plans to return the donations and try again in 2020.
More than a thousand St. Paul residents jumped at a chance to dump their junk at a citywide trash drop-off last Saturday. Many were unaware that their

Brooks: For once, St. Paul residents were smiling about garbage

For six straight hours, people in St. Paul smiled when they talked about garbage.
Troy Forcier, facilities project manager for Hennepin County, helped beekeeper Misty Hoffman remove a massive swarm of honeybees Monday in downtown Mi

Amateur beekeeper stages a honey of a rescue in downtown Mpls.

It's swarm season in Minnesota, when honeybees fan out in search of new homes. Sometimes, they pick the wrong neighborhood.
When Nicole Smith-Holt's son Alec Smith turned 26 and rolled off his parents’ health insurance, he couldn’t afford his own plan, so instead he wen

Brooks: When Minnesotans can't afford insulin — but can't live without it

The Legislature's session ended with no emergency insulin aid. Some would die for a special session.
The $50 million renovation of Nicollet Mall included plenty of public seating, like these streetside chairs.

Mpls. struggles to build a more inviting downtown, with room to, well, sit

You can find a seat downtown, if you know where to look. You just have to navigate blocks of seatless streets and charmless plazas to get there.
The current Rochester city flag.

Brooks: Not-so-grand Minnesota flags aren't so easy to replace

Coming up with a banner to rally your town is exactly as hard as it sounds.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig shown in January at a town-hall meeting in Burnsville.

Brooks: A new generation in Congress embraces town halls

Rep. Angie Craig said there is a big difference between the topics her constituents care about and the ones that fascinate the Beltway.
In this 2009 photo, a group of Marines en route to the home base in Arizona are greeted -- and fed -- by volunteers from the Armed Forces Service Cent

At MSP, there's always a warm welcome waiting for troops and veterans in transit

During the Vietnam War, when airports could feel like hostile territory to troops traveling in uniform, a young sailor from Minneapolis dreamed of a warmer…
Protesters rallied at the Minnesota State Capitol on Tuesday to call for a stop to the abortion bans being instituted in some states around the countr

Brooks: Battle over abortion rights leaps from the legislatures to the streets

On a windy Wednesday in Uptown Minneapolis, people gathered to cheer the demolition of a Planned Parenthood clinic — a demolition that’s making way for…
Before and after every run, members of the Mile In My Shoes running group huddle up to encourage each other. The group, pictured here on a 2018 run, c

Brooks: Nonprofit brings power, pleasure of running to homeless shelters and halfway houses

Mile in My Shoes pairs residents with experienced runners from the community in the hope that everyone can find some joy and common ground.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar offered a plate of dates to others at her table as iftar commenced. At center is her father, Nur Omar Mohamed.

Brooks: Who's the monster at the end of Omar's book?

Ramadan is a time to avoid conflict and quarrels, but anyone who follows U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar on Twitter knows conflict avoidance is not her style.
Linsey Rippy conducted a home blood test on her daughter Madi, who has a transplanted heart and a weakened immune system and needs others to be vaccin

Brooks: Roll up a sleeve, Minnesota — we know how to stop measles

  There have been zero cases of measles in Minnesota this year, no thanks to me. Measles is back in a big, dumb way.…
Justine Ruszczyk Damond's life was celebrated on Aug. 11, 2017, after she was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.

Brooks: Justine Damond settlement has unsettling side

The city's attempt to put a price on Damond's life — like everything else about her death — stirred painful questions about whose lives we value and which deaths we can explain away.
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walked through the elevator lobby of the Hennepin County Government Center with his legal team on Frida

Brooks: Noor verdict challenges police to live up to their motto next time

The murder trial was so tangled up in race and politics and public policy, it's hard to tell where justice begins for some and ends for others.
A sign for Bde Maka Ska at 32nd Street Beach.

Brooks: Ruling brings politics into campaign to rename Lake Calhoun

Two hundred years ago, somebody befouled a Minnesota lake with John C. Calhoun’s name. Now a state appellate court says we’re stuck with it until…
Kindergarteners from Cedar Ridge Elementary in Eden Prairie are among the thousands of Minnesotans who have adopted, named and cleaned metro storm dra

Brooks: Grate volunteers keep Minnesota waters clean by adopting storm drains

Eden Prairie kindergartners join the ranks of almost 4,000 Minnesotans who have spent more than 4,000 hours tidying metro storm grates.
The welcome sign at Fort Snelling.

Brooks: State senators try to slash Historical Society's budget over Fort Snelling sign

There's a $4 million word on a sign at Fort Snelling.Bdote. The Dakota name for this spur of land at the confluence of the Mississippi…
Cheryl Miller of Eden Prairie wrote a message in a book of prayers for Notre Dame on the Altar of the Sacred Heart at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapo

Brooks: In awful times, we can pull each other through

In times of tragedy, which seemed to surround us this past week, we're reminded we don't have to go through them alone.
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, center, is accompanied by his attorneys Peter Wold, not pictured, and Thomas Plunkett, right, as he wa

Brooks: At Noor trial and in other police shootings, bearing witness is all we have left

Justine Ruszczyk Damond was one of an estimated 987 people shot and killed by police in this country in 2017.
Mark Westpfahl, an American studies teacher at St. Paul’s Capitol Hill Gifted And Talented Magnet School.

St. Paul teacher says airline bumped him from flight home with 16 middle-schoolers

Mark Westpfahl stood in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport last week and watched a planeload of his students take to the skies without him.
Fargo residents are closely watching the Red River’s rise. The city has flooded 53 times since 1903.

Brooks: Facing an uncertain forecast, Fargo mayor musters hope and sandbags

The river will rise this spring, almost everyone agrees on that. The question is, how high?
FBI Special Agent in Charge Boston Division Joseph Bonavolonta, left, and U.S. Attorney for District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling, right, face repo

Brooks: Hard-working college students feel scandal is a slap in the face

A comforting thought, straight from the admissions department at the University of Minnesota: 99.999 percent of those who get into college get in the right way.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, would lock Minnesota on daylight saving time.

Brooks: Sleep-deprived Minn. lawmakers are tired of springing forward, falling back

Suddenly, Minnesota has an issue that doesn't break along party lines and doesn't spark a bitter debate: The time change affects everyone.
People gathered around the Bde Maka Ska sign in Minneapolis.

Brooks: This state likes to drag its feet on renaming ... well ... anything

Naming things is hard. This is a land of 11,842 lakes, and a surprisingly large number of them are named Mud. Renaming things is harder.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar walked from her new office in the Longworth House Office Building to the U.S. Capitol, a few hours before being sworn in as a mem

Brooks: Hard to separate Omar and criticism from politics, prejudice and pride

Someone, somewhere in America, is yelling about Ilhan Omar. Right now, it's Congress.
The Hoffman family in Chatfield, Minn., lost the barn roof, collapsed by the weight of the snow that fell in February.

Brooks: February snowstorms may have been the last straw for some struggling dairy farms

At least 19 dairy barns collapsed across southern and central Minnesota during the month's storms, the Minnesota Milk Producers Association estimates.
Minnesota welcomes you sign at the state border

Oh no-go zones: Minnesota survives an unwelcome weekend invasion

Columnist Jennifer Brooks: This weekend, a group of people whose names aren't worth the ink it would take to print their names rolled into Minnesota and cast lie after lie.
The Snowball Battle of 2019 starts at 1 p.m. Sunday at Como Regional Park’s McMurray Athletic Fields, 1151 Wynne Av., in St. Paul.

Brooks: When Minnesota gets a lot of snow, Minnesotans make a lot of snowballs

Anyone can talk about the weather. Minnesotans prefer to do something about it.
Seventy years ago, Maj. Henry A. Courtney Jr. earned a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Brooks: Freedoms Foundation votes to send Medal of Honor back to Minnesota

Maj. Henry Courtney Jr.'s Medal of Honor is coming home to Duluth after long years in storage in a Pennsylvania vault.
A billing mix-up cost Isaiah Breen his health insurance, a story that he shared on Twitter. Others chimed in.

Brooks: Fighting for health care in a system that doesn't care

Every American knows the only thing worse than our health coverage is losing our health coverage.
The closing of Moorhead schools on Jan. 30 was announced with "It's Colder Than Fargo!"

Brooks: Superintendents break into song to break the news of another snow day

School leaders make the best call they can. And if they can, they turn the call into performance art.
Revelers from the St. Paul Winter Carnival in the early 1900s proudly wore blackface.

Brooks: Blackface left a stain in Minnesota yearbooks, too

We were so cruel. We had no idea how cruel, which is why this keeps happening.
In 2012, Davis Gohman was among the students from Andover Elementary School to bring teddy bears to the Capitol as the students lobbied unsuccessfully

Brooks: Minnesota finds picking out state symbols unbearable

Slapfights seem to break out at the Capitol every time Minnesota tries to pick an official state thing.
Co-owners Giovan Jenkins, left, and Steven Brown looked over their stock of CBD products at the Nothing But Hemp shop.

Brooks: Minnesota's CBD business is booming in a legal gray area

CBD doesn't fall on anyone's desk, and the tiny Board of Pharmacy couldn't crack down, even if it wanted to.
Weather observer Jack Lamar checks the National Weather Service equipment in his back yard on a brisk 21-below morning in Embarrass, Minn.

Brooks: Minnesota's weather watchers embrace their temp gig

The worse the weather, the happier they are.
Maj. Henry A. Courtney Jr.'s Medal of Honor.

January: Minn. family pleads with foundation to return uncle's Medal of Honor

Maj. Henry A. Courtney's Medal of Honor is locked away in a vault in Pennsylvania.
Hopeful applicants attended a job fair for prospective TSA employees at the agency’s Minnesota headquarters in Bloomington on Saturday. The shutdown

Brooks: Hope draws hundreds of Minnesotans to TSA's mid-shutdown job fair

  In the middle of a government shutdown, an agency that hadn’t cut a paycheck in four weeks held a job fair. Not the greatest…
As baby Oliver gains strength in the NICU, the bills pile up for his dad, a furloughed air traffic controller from Lakeville.

Brooks: As bills pile up, furloughed workers suffer in the shadows

The parents of a newborn are spending the first weeks of 2019 in the neonatal intensive care unit watching over their son, while the medical bills pile up and no paychecks arrive.
Signs, along US Highway 8 in Barron, Wis., welcoming Jayme Closs home, were photographed Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

Brooks: Jayme Closs' spirit is a lesson to us all

We didn't find Jayme. Jayme found us.
Outgoing Gov. Mark Dayton was recognized by Gov. Tim Walz as he spoke after taking the oath of office Monday.

Brooks: Dayton makes a humble retreat after eight years as governor

By the time you read this, former Gov. Mark Dayton will be off on his first vacation in eight years. On his way out the…
Representative-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) during a House freshmen class orientation in the Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium in Washington, Nov. 15,

For five Minnesotans new to Congress, it's ready, set, stop

Minnesota’s newest members of Congress are getting ready to start work in a government that just stopped working. For weeks, our five newly elected lawmakers…
Gov. Mark Dayton questioned a woman who came before the Minnesota Board of Pardons on Thursday, seeking to have a decades-old conviction cleared from

Brooks: Minnesota lawbreakers beg your pardon this holiday season

Pardon hearing day means four hours of high drama, heartbreak and small mercies for people who are trying hard to be better than they used to be.
Joan Gabel, sole finalist for University of Minnesota president, met with faculty, students and the public this week on the Twin Cities campus.

Brooks: What do you think a new U president is worth?

Minnesota taxpayers won't know how much the Board of Regents will propose to pay Joan Gabel until a public offer is made, probably next week.
Blessing Caldwell, a first-grader from north Minneapolis, got a boost so she could place a star atop the community Christmas tree outside the Fourth P

Brooks: North Minneapolis gets the Christmas tree it deserves this weekend

Even with the setback of an offensive display, the city has come far since Jamar Clark's death and the vigil held outside the Fourth Precinct station.
Once Upon A Crime bookstore manager Devin Abraham: “We have days when only one or two people come through the door.”

Brooks: Struggling bookshops turn to online fundraisers to keep lights on

For small businesses, small setbacks — like the headaches from an ongoing, yearslong highway construction — can create huge problems.
Special agent in charge Chris Deremer with the Wisconsin DCI stands next to a photo of Jayme Closs during a news conference in October.

Brooks: A story of two Christmas trees, law enforcement agencies and the places in their communities

While Wisconsin law enforcement uses a Christmas tree to bring a community together, a Minneapolis precinct does the opposite.
Ilhan Omar, congresswoman-elect for Minnesota, at a Congressional Progressive Caucus news conference at the AFL-CIO International Headquarters in Wash

Brooks: Ilhan Omar and the long, strange history of congressional 'decorum'

Congress banned head covering during its 20th session, in 1837. More than 180 years later, that might come to an end.
Fresh veggies at 360 Communities Food Shelf in Burnsville, shown in May.

Brooks: Scaring immigrants away from the table this Thanksgiving

“Mami! Mami!” the little girl calls out when her mother returns home with bags of fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and yogurt. “You filled up…
Tai chi, shown here in 2015, is an ancient martial art you can practice in your office clothes without breaking a sweat.

Brooks: Hennepin County tries to ease the stress of stressful jobs

Hennepin County's $1.4 million HealthWorks program aims to save taxpayers money in the long run by easing stress, illness and burnout.
Noted sculptor Sabin Howard, right, stages live models to represent the new National World War I Memorial, which is being created by the Centennial Co

Brooks: 100 years after the guns fell silent on the Western Front, Minnesota remembers

About 118,500 Minnesotans served in World War I and 3,607 of them died, and this year, like every year, Minnesota remembers.
Governor-elect Tim Walz embraced running mate, Lt. Governor-elect Peggy Flanagan, as they took the stage for their acceptance speech Tuesday night at

Brooks: It's time to move on from campaigning to conversation

  Our government is divided and our electorate is divided and the 2018 attack ads and robocalls are still ringing in our ears. Good people…
In this Sept. 20, 2018 photo, voting booths stand ready in downtown Minneapolis for early voting in Minnesota.

Brooks: Minnesota voters the best in the country? Don't let us down

Every ballots is a little miracle, an act of faith and hope, a show of strength and duty by citizens.
A photo of Tree of Life Synagogue victim Dr. Jerry P. Rabinowitz is surrounded Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, by flowers, part of a spontaneous memorial of fl

Jennifer Brooks: It's time to repair a broken world

It could break your heart, if it hasn't already. This random, repetitive cruelty.
The Higher Ground shelter in St. Paul, shown in 2017.

Brooks: Minnesotans mobilize to find the homeless and listen to their stories

Every three years, Minnesotans spend one long day finding and talking with thousands of their unsheltered neighbors.
Julie Plumer, center, performed with the WAC band during the 1970s. She believes her hearing loss is related to her service.

Brooks: Musical military experience taking a toll on Minnesota veteran

There's no reason to wait until Nov. 11 to remember that millions of U.S. veterans could use our help.
Mark Osler, chairman of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, lobbies to win clemency for prisoners through the school's Federal Commutations Cl

Through St. Thomas project, law students seek mercy for the guilty

Erin was seven months pregnant when they locked her away. Her daughter turns 5 next month, and there’s a third-year law student from the University…
Sen. Karin Housley

Brooks: Karin Housley blew a chance when Facebook hot take re-emerged

We're three weeks from Election Day and Minnesota is running on outrage.
Jessica Hartshorn, a forester with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, cut the bark away from a tamarack tree as she looked for larch beetl

When it comes to climate change, you can argue, or adapt

Minnesota is trying to cope with just how much its climate has changed already.
This T-shirt, inspired by the online nuttiness, was for sale on Amazon.com.

Brooks: It gets a little nuts in Northeast, online over post by 'barefoot runner'

Everybody was having a grand time. Especially the guy who started the whole acornmageddon after a BuzzFeed News report cracked the truth wide open.
Dave Sheridan skippered his 31-foot sailboat Dragonfly on Lake Pepin, with his second ship, Messenger, close behind.

Brooks: Lake Pepin bids final farewell to Captain Dave

To the grieving friends and family scattering rose petals on the lake last week, how David Sheridan died was far less important than how he lived.
“We know that kids who are scared aren’t any safer than kids who are not. We don’t want to focus on fear,” said Alison Feigh, shown in 2014.

Brooks: Hope lives on outside the Wetterling Room

The decades of records tells another story: They were trying so hard.
Father Jim Callahan, right, of St. Mary's Catholic Church played with Maria, 2, who relaxed with her father Enrique at the church in February 2017 in

Brooks: Free clinic for undocumented immigrants draws doctors, volunteers from across Minnesota

Worthington is a city of 13,000 people, and more than 40 percent of its population is Latino.
No matter how much black dirt Carrie Edberg and her family dumped in, the sinkhole never seemed to fill. Then the mystery grew.

Brooks: Sinkhole taking toll on Minnesota single mother with special needs kids

And under the yard, the mystery only grew. Still, Carrie Edberg of Zimmerman faces a repair estimate of $15,000.
“The choice to report versus not to report is not an easy choice. The important thing is that it is the *survivor’s* choice,” said Sarah Super,

Brooks: Why don't sex assault victims report the crime? Just read their stories

Actresses, authors and grandmas ripped open old wounds and poured out their pain through a hashtag after President Donald Trump's tweet.
Sometimes, what you pay for health care in America depends on how loudly you scream when the bill arrives.

Brooks: Remember the Tale of Two Splinters? Here's more from the annals of health-care haggling

Sometimes, what you pay for health care in America depends on how loudly you scream when the bill arrives.
Cyclists negotiate the evening rush hour traffic on Portland Avenue near the corner of Franklin in south Minneapolis. On World Car-Free Day, the city

Brooks: Can you give up your car for one day? Minneapolis hopes you can

Happy World Car-Free Day, to those who celebrate. On Friday, Minneapolis is hoping some of its 160,000 downtown workers find a new route to work.…
A Canadian flag with a cannabis leaf flies on Parliament Hill during a 4/20 event in Ottawa, Ontario. Canada’s legalizing recreational marijuana in

Brooks: O Cannabis! What happens when pot's legal next door?

Canada's legalizing recreational marijuana in October. In November, North Dakota voters will decide whether to follow suit.
Judy Garland's stolen ruby slippers were recovered in a sting operation earlier this summer after disappearing 13 years ago from the Judy Garland Muse

Brooks: Grand Rapids celebrates recovery of stolen slippers

The mystery of the stolen slippers gripped Grand Rapids and haunted the small Judy Garland Museum.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan tests out the ping-pong table dedicated in his honor during a 2009 visit to Macalester College.

Kofi Annan: Diplomat, peacemaker, Ping-Pong legend

Annan in August at age 80, leaving his mark on international diplomacy and his name on Macalester's Institute for Global Citizenship.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, takes back the microphone from Gayle Quinnell, who said she read about Sen. Barack

Brooks: McCain's 'Lakeville moment' became his defining legacy

John McCain lived a life overcrowded with great and terrible moments. But the one that got replayed over and over on the news after his…
This undated photo released by the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation shows Mollie Tibbetts.

Brooks: Minnesota race to empower women begins with a lesson in self-defense

The training made it hard not to think about Mollie Tibbetts or other local cases where a woman has come across danger while out by herself.
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen and DFL challenger Dean Phillips squared off Tuesday in their first debate for a seat in Congress from Minnesota's Third Distric

Brooks: To see your congressional candidates debate, it costs just $60 a seat

If there's another debate in the Third District race for Congress, maybe there will be time to talk about health care policy or for the audience to ask a few questions.

Brooks: A hometown newspaper writes its own obituary and a second act

It may be difficult for the community to miss its paper if it doesn't really feel like it's gone.
Tim Pawlenty stood with his wife, Mary, and running mate Michelle Fischbach as he conceded his run for governor at his election night gathering at Gra

Brooks: Analyzing Tim Pawlenty's three-peat defeat

As far as the national political analysts were concerned, the campaign postmortem was complete: Trump Train.
In one clinic visit, a Band-Aid from a doctor cost $40. This time, the Band-Aid was on the house.

Brooks: A tale of 2 splinters (and one $751 medical bill)

This is a story of bloodshed and cupcakes and our stupid-expensive health care system.
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