Staff Directory 137128573

Jennifer Brooks

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

Jennifer Brooks is a local columnist for the Star Tribune. She travels across Minnesota, writing thoughtful and surprising stories about 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
Blama Massaquoi. The world took more from Massaquoi than it gave, and he repaid that cruelty with compassion.

Remembering Blama Massaquoi, who gave the world more than it took from him

The 34-year-old died in Cottage Grove on Feb. 11, from injuries suffered half a lifetime ago, as a schoolboy abducted and tortured during the Liberian civil war.
Mississippi Mushrooms is closing, but their landlord/hometown is giving them a little more time to sell off their equipment and the hundreds of pounds

Brooks: No room for mushrooms in Minneapolis' Upper Harbor Terminal plans

The city of Minneapolis has big plans for the land. But Mississippi Mushrooms wasn't part of them.
A pedestrian walks past a sign for the Iowa Caucuses on a downtown skywalk, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Des Moines. The first-in-the-nation presidential

Brooks: What Minnesotans saw at the caucus to end all caucuses

We still don't have a winner in Iowa. We still don't have an explanation.
Neighbors, police officers and members of the St. Paul Town Hall Facebook group gathered in support of El Burrito Mercado after a takeover style robbe

Brooks: Customers show support for St. Paul's El Burrito Mercado after frightening robbery

  For 40 years, El Burrito Mercado has been there for St. Paul. This week, St. Paul was there for El Burrito Mercado. “It’s a…
Counties still have to ask themselves: Are refugees welcome here? Or are we some sort of Beltrami County? Shown is the crowd at the Beltrami County Bo

Brooks: Minnesota's Pope County, in Trump Country, votes unanimously to welcome refugees

When the County Board met on Jan. 7, the vote was a swift, uncontested yes.
A look at several Minnesota driver's licenses that were made available starting in 2018.

Brooks: Real frustrations pile up over obtaining a Real ID

Minnesotans tell of making multiple return trips, juggling taller and taller stacks of documents, hoping each time they've hit on the correct paperwork combination.
Most North American churches don’t make it past the 80- or 100-year mark. Especially in Minnesota, which has been losing churches — and churchgoer

Brooks: Fight to save a small church turned into a battle for the ages in Cottage Grove

The leadership of the Grove United Methodist Church assured people all week that nobody is setting the elderly adrift on Mississippi ice floes to make space in the pews for younger, cuter families.
While Iowans were dreaming about caucusing, Minnesotans were casting early votes in the 2020 presidential primary.

Brooks: Who cast the first votes for the next president? Minnesota

Friday's start of early voting was too big an occasion for some voters to sit back and wait for Super Tuesday to come to them.
A look at several Minnesota driver's licenses that were made available starting in 2018.

Brooks: The long Minnesota goodbye to unReal ID

Think you don't have to beat the rush? Have you seen this state try to deal with a zipper merge?
In Minneapolis, the wait for affordable housing can stretch for a decade.

Brooks: Minneapolis' housing shortage puts a veteran's toddler out on the streets

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority could house another veteran. Or they could house a veteran's child. They couldn't do both.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called Monday for public hearings as a way to break an impasse over insulin affordability legislation. At right is an empty in

Brooks: As talks at State Capitol derail, Minnesota diabetics pay price

Meghan Mateuszczyk wants her lawmakers, who can't meet a 30-day deadline, to understand a real deadline.
Dennis Jensen Source: Obituary photo

Brooks: St. Paul bids farewell to a peace officer and peacemaker

Dennis Jensen could bring together people barely on speaking terms and hammer out an agreement that all sides liked, a former chief said.
There are so many kids saving so many lives, the Twin Cities-based Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America estimates it awards three or fou

Brooks: Lifesavers come in any size and age

The children will save us. They do it all the time. Kids like 8-year-old Logan Luedtke.
Leo Treadway in the Santa Claus and Joulupukki costume he donated to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Brooks: Latest donation to the Minnesota Historical Society is a Yuletide treasure

Archivists will probably build a mannequin especially for the suit. That's something they've done only one other time, with Prince's "Purple Rain" costume.
Mark Griffith, executive director of the South Central Minnesota EMS System, works with volunteer first responders at a cardiac arrest response class

Brooks: For EMTs in rural Minnesota, it's a job of bad hours, no pay, grateful neighbors

Eighty percent of the state's rural emergency medical services rely on volunteers, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. But it's getting harder to find volunteers to answer the call.
"Roger, I am proud to call you my friend!!!!" Big Lake Police Chief Joel Scharf took to social media to defend a resident who was falsely branded a "c

Brooks: A feeling's all you need on social media, as Big Lake and Eagan panics show

  There was no masked predator hiding in the bushes in Eagan. No one was snapping pictures of children at the bus stop in Big…
Patrick McClellan, who has been enrolled in Minnesota's medical cannabis program from day one, hopes upcoming changes make the program more affordable

Brooks: New year, big changes for struggling Minn. medical marijuana program

The number of clinics is doubling, from eight to 16. Next year, the program will open to chronic pain patients for the first time.
Clockwise from top left: Raven Bianca Gant; Carol and Barry Bennett; Kjersten, William and Nelson Schladetzky; Mark Franklin Jr.; Mary Jo Loons Jansen

Brooks: Remembering the victims we've already forgotten

Guns killed so many of us this year, Jennifer Brooks writes. Our neighbors keep dying, and we find ways to forget.
Demolition of the former St. Andrew's Church in St. Paul started in August.

Brooks: Minneapolis artists use 3-D printers to preserve endangered art, architecture

Scanning the former St. Andrew's Church inside and out, and gathering enough data ensured that the St. Paul landmark would live on.
Eshay Brantley (left) and Nakara White (right) staffed clothing designer/retailer Houston White's booth at 2017's Black Friday on Broadway sale.

Brooks: 'Black Friday on Broadway' seeks to keep north Minneapolis shoppers in the neighborhood

This year, the community is hoping to keep their dollars closer to home.
Baker Hiltrud Steimel teamed up with Chaska American Legion Post #57 to send hundreds of cakes to the troops this December. She met with Post Commande

Brooks: Bakers, American Legion team up to spread holiday cheer to troops

Together, they hope to send a sweet reminder that someone in Minnesota is thinking of them.
Despite years of outcry, some Minnesota schoolchildren still get turned away for a hot lunch if their families haven't paid up.

Brooks: Why do schoolkids keep paying the price in fights over school lunches?

We don't make children buy the textbook before they can read. We don't make them chip in for gas for the school bus.
The T-Shoppe -- the last bar serving 3.2 beer in the Twin Cities -- trusts its customers enough to let them run a tab. Owners Marion and Joe Abell kee

Brooks: Neighborhood loyalty is stronger than the beer at last 3.2 bar in Mpls.

There used to be hundreds. But time passed, laws shifted, and Minneapolis became a city of brewpubs and craft cocktail lounges.
Prairie Elementary ELL third-grade teacher Molly Scheidt gave a high-five to a student in her small classroom that was formerly a storage closet at th

Brooks: After all-out push, students get a 'yes' vote on Worthington schools

When the polls closed, all three of the school questions on the ballot passed — one by a margin of 19 votes.
Minnesotans worked for decades to try to get Washington's NFL football team to change its nickname, including protesting Thursday before Washington an

Brooks: Minnesota schools figured out how to play sports without stereotypes; why can't the NFL?

While the Vikings were curb-stomping his team in Minneapolis, owner Daniel Snyder could have spent the time researching better team names.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison met with Chaska residents at a discussion hosted by anti-racist community group Residents Organizing Against

Keith Ellison is jump-starting a conversation on race, one Minnesota city at a time

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a black Muslim man from Minneapolis, is leading a statewide conversation on race and hate.
Tyler Moon, with his fiancée, Amy Greene, collapsed during the TC 10 Mile.

When a young runner's heart stopped, bystanders rushed in to save the day

"This story, I don't think it's about me," Tyler Moon said. "I just went for a run and a bunch of great people stepped up and just saved my life."
Trump supporter Chris Windego, of International Falls, and Jennifer Fairchild, of Minneapolis, had a civil conversation as Windego shared his umbrella

Brooks: Trump rally, aftermath show it's going to be hard to hug our way out of this

Those with experience in finding common ground say it starts with finding us, not us and them.
Once ubiquitous across the Midwest, redheaded woodpeckers have lost about 95% of their population.

Eyes on empty skies: Minnesota bird watchers unsurprised by news of 3 billion-bird decline

The rain kept falling, but the birds kept singing. So the watchers stayed at their post, keeping count. Chickadee. Flicker. Pileated woodpecker. Yellow-bellied sapsucker. Each…
Judson Memorial Baptist responded to the vandalism with a competition for punchier messages for the church sign. Suggestions include: “666 Problems,

Brooks: Minneapolis congregation offers kindness, art classes to graffiti vandal

Tagged with the mark of the beast, this small Minneapolis congregation responded with grace, humor and empathy. The mark of the best.
Miss Richfield 1981 paused to let children study the pages of “Neither,” one of the featured books at Saturday’s Stories Together with Drag Perf

Brooks: Drag performers' story time delights kids at Minneapolis-area libraries

The Richfield event was the first in a series bringing children and entertainers to Hennepin County libraries to celebrate a love of stories, dress-up and accepting people just the way they are.
Toussaint Morrison

Brooks: New forum seeks community, one uncomfortable conversation at a time

"If and when you do feel uncomfortable, lean in to that," Toussaint Morrison said.
Complete count committees are organizing in every corner of the Minnesota: planning outreach into hard-to-count communities, trying to reassure reside

The Adventures of Census Man, and other tales from the trenches of the 2020 count

We’re counting on you, Burnsville. The 2020 census is six months away. Soon, census takers will roam the nation in the largest peacetime mobilization in…
Javier Sanmiguel with his wife and three of four children.

Brooks: Killing of a good Samaritan in St. Paul sparks outpouring of compassion

The next time there's a crash in the night, will the neighbors hesitate?
Visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., participate in a sunset memorial service on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, as the nation pr

Jennifer Brooks: For young Americans today, 9/11 is history

Most college students today were toddlers on Sept. 11, 2001. Their stories start in the world made afterward.
The 10-ton sculpture called 'Nimbus' which rests outside the Hennepin County Central Library in downtown Minneapolis has been closed off by barricades

Brooks: Homeless find community, comfort at Minneapolis Central Library

It's proof that libraries have always been more than just buildings full of books.
In a 2018 presentation, a historical interpreter who goes by Siyaka told students how native inhabitants of the region were forced from their lands ar

Minnesota Historical Society wants to hear from you about renaming Historic Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling didn't close the chapter on 1827. It just added more to the story.
Great state fair? Or greatest state fair?

Brooks: No way to stand pat at Minnesota State Fair

A daylong jaunt around the fairgrounds makes for 9 miles and touching all the animals one can.
The cost of birth control likely will go up now that Title X funds aren’t available.

Reproductive health care in Minnesota just got more expensive for people who can least afford it

The first day after the last day of Title X funding, two teenagers walked through the door of a Minnesota Planned Parenthood clinic. They needed…
Jeanne Giernet of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency worked on the Paul Bunyan exhibit before its 2016 State Fair debut. Paul Bunyan, dressed in c

Bidding on Bunyan: Auction of a 17-foot-tall lumberjack sets off bidding war

Plenty of Minnesotans are interested in buying the face of the Eco Experience's clothing and textile recycling exhibit at the State Fair since 2016.
White Earth chairman Eugene Tibbetts (right) testified at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday on the $25 million in alleged Medicaid overpayments. He i

Brooks: DHS turmoil hits bands where they were already hurting

White Earth officials are bracing for cuts to programs that have just started to help people heal.

Brooks: A family newspaper buys the Stevens County Times from the Forum chain

At a time when hometown papers are closing, consolidating or shriveling, Reed and Shelly Anfinson will be publishing more hometown papers.
Things are not OK for a lot of Minnesota farmers right now: They are collateral damage in an escalating, multifront trade war. Prices and income are l

Brooks: In hard times, farmers try to help each other through

Every other week, someone in farm country sits down at a microphone to talk about the unspeakable. The farm they lost. Stress. Depression. Strained marriages.…
After the latest mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, Minnesotans rallied for gun safety at the State Capitol on Wednesday.

Brooks: Do-nothing lawmakers and the countdown to the next mass shooting

Survivors and scholars have watched the American cycle of tragedy, outrage and inaction play out again and again.
Josefa Calleja, left, and Cecilia Morales worked on the presort line at the Eureka Recycling facility in Minneapolis, pulling nonrecyclables from the

Brooks: What belongs in your recycling bin? Not turtles, for a start

That jumble of nonrecyclable, nonanimal items causes real headaches at recycling centers.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., both from Midwest states. Right?

Brooks: New York Times editor ejects Minneapolis, Rep. Omar from Midwest

The Midwest gets defined by what it's not. But the Midwest is going to pick your next president.
Supporters held a tribute last Sunday to the former St. Andrew's Church in St. Paul.

Brooks: St. Paul school to host open house in church it's about to demolish

On the road to reconciliation, Twin Cities German Immersion School invited over the neighbors for one last look inside St. Andrew's Church. But for some, reconciliation can't be rushed.
A bicyclist made her way down the bike lane during rush hour near Blaisdell Avenue and 26th Street, Friday, October 13, 2017 in Minneapolis.

Brooks: Drivers crowd women on bikes more often than men, study finds

The findings shocked University of Minnesota researchers and Hennepin County transit planners.
In 2017, the Lake Minnetonka Association, in partnership with Life’s a Beach Shoreline Services and Tonka Bay Marina, as well as some lake homeowner

Brooks: Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, if you dare

If people are the cause of most of life's troubles, we're also the solution, as the lake cleanup shows.
Michelle Bennett has gone for topless swims in Lake Superior for the past five years. When someone called the cops on her this week, she pointed out t

Brooks: Topless Duluth swimmer has police called on her, touching off debate over indecent exposure

"I'm not half-naked," Duluth photographer Michelle Bennett tried to explain to the officer who approached her on Park Point beach last month. "I'm topless."
For kids at Angle Inlet School, Minnesota’s last one-room schoolhouse, the 2015 school day started with the Pledge of Allegiance. This photo was tak

Brooks: Like the flag, Pledge of Allegiance means something different to all of us

I Pledge Allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That was…
Democratic presidential candidates, author Marianne Williamson, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pet

Brooks: LOL, nothing matters this early when it comes to Democratic presidential debates

If you heard someone or something you liked on stage last week and you want to hear more, just wait.
Amal Bare, 14, left and Jazmine Bolden, 15, carried brush from the Urban Oasis Community garden at 37th and Fremont Avenue N. on Wednesdayin Minneapol

North Side community gardens are labor of love for teens

  It was morning in the garden. The start of the workday. Half a dozen 14- and 15-year-olds fanned out across an overgrown lot at…
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.