From Wabasha to Warroad, from Sleepy Eye to Silver Bay, Dateline Minnesota scours the state to bring you breaking news from outside the Twin Cities.

Duluth's new terminal will bear Oberstar name

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks under Lions Updated: January 23, 2015 - 5:41 PM

Duluth International Airport will name its gleaming new airport terminal after the man who helped build it: the late Congressman Jim Oberstar.

The decision settles a friendly tug-of-war between Duluth and Hibbing over which of their brand-new terminals should be named in Oberstar's honor. Working with the Oberstar family, the airport authorities announced Friday that Duluth's terminal will bear the Oberstar name, while the Range Regional Airport -- the airport closest to his hometown of Chisholm -- will host a display celebrating the life and legacy of Minnesota's longest-serving congressman.

"Congressman Oberstar was a champion of aviation in our region," Duluth Airport Authority Executive Director Tom Werner said in a statement Friday. "It’s through his leadership and vision that we have such a vibrant aviation sector at the Duluth International Airport today.”

Oberstar, the longtime chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, steered millions of dollars for road, bridge, bike path and transit project back to his home state and his home district -- including crucial funding for the $78 million Duluth terminal project during his final years in Congress.

"Congressman Oberstar worked tirelessly to improve transportation infrastructure throughout our country," Peter Makowski, a former Oberstar aide, said in a statement Friday. "His goal was to improve the safety for everyone who used our highways, railroads, seaports and airports. He was very proud of his work in these critical areas and was particularly mindful of the projects in the Eighth Congressional District. It is fitting that the Duluth International Airport Terminal be named in his honor.”

Oberstar, who lost his bid for a 19th term in 2010, died in his sleep last May. He was 79.

Photo: Range Regional Airport AuthorityIn Hibbing, where the new terminal is still under construction, plans are underway for a display of photos and stories tracing Oberstar's life and his 36 years in Congress. Range Regional Airport Authority Executive Director Shaun Germolus said the two airports were never in competition for the name, but the fact that both sought naming rights was "a real testament to who he was and what he could accomplish."

Renaming the Duluth terminal will require additional private donations, which are being organized by the Monaco Air Foundation. The Oberstar family will work with city officials and community leaders to determine how the naming project will look, what it will cost and when it will be unveiled to the public. The renaming is expected to happen later in 2015.

The new passenger terminal at the Range Regional Airport, which is scheduled to open in December, will remain nameless.

Lawmakers fix a $6B glitch in the Destination Medical Center bill

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks under Lions Updated: January 22, 2015 - 5:55 PM
Concept sketch for a "light pavillion" in downtown Rochester.

Rochester planners breathed a sigh of relief Thursday as the State Legislature fixed $6 billion worth of fuzzy language in the legislation that greenlighted the massive Destination Medical Center project.

The fix sailed through the House last week and passed the Senate unanimously today as part of a tax conformity bill that brings other quirks in the Minnesota tax code in line with new federal tax breaks.

It also clears up language in the 2013 legislation that committed the state to steer half a billion in tax breaks to downtown Rochester's massive $6 billion redevelopment project. A mistaken multiplier would have blocked the project from access to the full tax breaks until $12 billion in private investment had gone into the project — double the $6 billion lawmakers had intended.

A relieved Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede issued a joint statement with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who chairs the board that oversees the project.

“The Destination Medical Center Corporation Board and City of Rochester would like to express our appreciation to Minnesota legislators for quickly addressing the Destination Medical Center (DMC) financing technical fix," the Thursday statement said. "The speed with which this legislation has moved through the House and Senate with bipartisan support is a testament to the belief in the DMC vision, and its ability to generate economic growth and jobs for all of Minnesota. This technical fix removes a cloud of uncertainty at a critical juncture for this ambitious initiative.

“Destination Medical Center represents the largest economic development opportunity in Minnesota and will significantly expand Rochester and Minnesota’s economic base with new businesses, thousands of news jobs and millions of dollars in additional tax revenue. We are excited to advance our vision of Minnesota as a truly global destination for healing and wellness.”

Mayo Clinic had lobbied hard for state support for the project, warning that it will be hard to recruit top talent to snowy Minnesota without massive investments in the clinic itself and the community it calls home.

Mayo has pledged $3.5 billion of its own money to the project, and promised to bring in another $2 billion in private investment to turn Rochester into a destination in its own right, full of gleaming new shops, restaurants, hotels and cultural amenities designed to attract patients, doctors alike.

Grand Marais tries for its own magazine contest title

Posted by: Pam Louwagie Updated: January 22, 2015 - 11:39 AM
Elizabeth Flores photo

File photo by Elizabeth Flores

First, Duluth-loving voters took to the Internet to catapult the Lake Superior city to the title of Outside Magazine’s “Best Town in America.”

Now fans of Grand Marais, the tiny tourist destination up the shore, are campaigning for a contest of their own.

The Boundary Waters gateway city is one of 15 semifinalists in Budget Travel magazine’s online contest for “America’s Coolest Small Town.”

The city became a semifinalist after receiving 472 nominations online. It’s competing with towns from Maine to Hawaii during online voting which closes at 11:59 p.m. on February 25. The top 10 towns will be featured online and in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

The only other Minnesota town to be a finalist was Ely, in 2010.

To vote on this year’s contest, go here

@pamlouwagie

"Olive Garden" food critic reviews every McDonald's in Grand Forks

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: January 21, 2015 - 2:31 PM

The latest restaurant review by North Dakota's indomitable 88-year-old food critic, Marilyn Hagerty, went viral faster than a salad bar without a sneeze guard.

Hagerty, who broke the Internet in 2012 with her earnest, endearing review of the new Olive Garden in town, doubled down Wednesday with a review of every single McDonald's in Greater Grand Forks. All four of them.

At the McDonald's on South Washington Street, she found the 47-cent senior coffee "strong, but not too hot." Once you've polished off one of the chain's 370-calorie sausage Egg McMuffins, she concludes, "you know you have eaten."

Then there's the McDonald's near Columbia Mall, where she was pleased to note that the latte machine was working and the service was speedy. She paired the latte with "my secret sin -- a big Mac for $4.39." If you're looking for ambience, the McDonald's on Gateway Drive "is the newest and perhaps most attractive McDonald's here."

Hagerty's restaurant reviews have made her a minor celebrity in culinary circles. She's been a guest judge on Top Chef and she released an anthology of her columns that included a foreword by chef Anthony Bourdain, who called it "the antidote to snark."

Hagerty, whose journalism career spans six decades, earned the  Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media in 2012.

Former U quarterback pleads guilty in Mankato assault of Isaac Kolstad

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: January 21, 2015 - 10:22 AM

MANKATO -- Former University of Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson pleaded guilty this morning to fifth-degree assault for his role in a drunken fight last May that left Isaac Kolstad with serious brain injuries and derailed Nelson's promising athletic career.

Nelson had initially been charged with two felony counts of assault that came with up to 20 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and saw those charges dropped after a prosecutor’s medical expert said Nelson did not deliver the kick that nearly killed Kolstad. The expert said the victim’s injuries were mainly, if not all, from being punched in the head by a third man, Trevor Shelley, and hitting his head when he fell.

Nelson will be sentenced on Feb. 25 and faces a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Dozens of family members and friends mulled outside the second-floor courtroom this morning, some looking hopeful, others with strained faces. One thanked Nelson’s attorney, Jim Fleming, for all he’d done for the family. Nelson strode in with Fleming just before 8 a.m., with his supporters filling up the benches behind him on the right side of the chambers.

Nelson answered affirmatively to all of Judge Bradley C. Walker’s questions, acknowledging that he had gone to a bar in downtown Mankato on May 11 to meet friends when an argument began with Kolstad around 2 in the morning outside. He confirmed that he’d been struck in the back of the head, was treated for a concussion, and didn’t remember everything that happened that night but had seen surveillance video showing that after Kolstad struck him he fell to the ground. Shelly then knocked Kolstad to the ground.

“The video shows you approaching Mr. Kolstad and making a motion to kick Mr. Kolstad, do you know that?” Walker asked.

“Yes,” Nelson said.

“You are not contesting that those facts show you attempting to inflict bodily harm upon Mr. Kolstad?”

Nelson agreed.

At Fleming’s request, Walker also lifted a prohibition on Nelson talking to witnesses – some of whom are friends – associated with the case.

It was over in 20 minutes. Afterward, Nelson hugged his supporters outside the chambers but did not address the media.

Nelson and his family are “relieved that this part is behind him,” Fleming told reporters afterward.

“From a parents’ point of view, this is a hard case to watch,” he said. “You have your children that you love, that … are capable of making mistakes, and things happen, and you just -- I don’t think there isn’t a parent in the world that … hears these facts and does not have some compassion for all the people involved.”

Asked about Nelson and his family’s interest in talking to reporters, Nelson said he didn’t think the family wanted to “say anything that inflames any situation … I think they’re just being cautious.”

On Tuesday, Nelson said in statement that he was saddened by what happened.

"I still don’t remember what happened that night after I was hit in the head, but I recognize that I let down my family and friends by my actions," Nelson said. "I offer my sincere apologies to everyone involved, and I wish Isaac Kolstad the best as he continues in his recovery.”

Kenneth White, an attorney for the Kolstad family, said Tuesday that they were disappointed that the county attorney's office agreed to the lesser charges. White said the family is pursuing other experts to counter the prosecution's expert, in anticipation of filing a civil suit.

The fight began when an angered Nelson shoved Kolstad, a former football player at Minnesota State, Mankato, after mistaking him for a bouncer who had kissed his girlfriend, according to a witness interview. Kolstad then knocked Nelson to the ground, but as he walked away, Shelley allegedly punched Kolstad in the head. Video shows Kolstad falling and smacking his head on the pavement. Nelson then kicked Kolstad in the head.

Nelson and Shelley, then 20 and 21 and former high school classmates, were charged with first- and third-degree assault and Nelson was kicked off the football team at Rutgers University, where he had transferred.

A prosecution expert said last week that Kolstad's injuries were mainly, if not all, due to being punched in the head by Shelley and hitting his head when he fell, rather than due to Nelson's kick. Pathologist Michael B. McGee reported that he couldn't differentiate the cause of Kolstad's severe brain injuries after reviewing CT scans, X-rays and other medical records.

Kolstad, a husband and father of two, was a 2013 graduate of University of Minnesota, Mankato and had played football there.

County Attorney Pat McDermott said afterwards that as he’s said from the beginning, the case would proceed based on medical evidence.

“We ask jurors to do their job without passion and prejudice, therefore as a prosecutor that’s what I must do as well. …  It’s my job to look at this from an objective standpoint.”

Like Fleming, he acknowledged the tragedy of the case.

“Decisions made by three people in 10 seconds have changed the course of their lives for years to come,” he said.

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