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.

Brainerd debates renaming Columbus Day

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: September 4, 2014 - 11:59 AM
Photo: Associated Press

Photo: Associated Press

Brainerd is the latest Minnesota community to consider giving Columbus Day a name change.

The city council will take up a proposal to change the federal holiday's name to Native People's Day at its upcoming mid-September meeting.

Red Wing and Minneapolis have already dropped the controversial explorer's name, and in a memo to the council, Alderman Chip Borkenhagen suggested Brainerd make its own "bold move."

Brainerd and neighboring tribes collaborated on a recent history week event, he wrote, and it represented the "beginning of a huge healing process for us all." It seemed like an "appropriate time" to rename a day many American Indians find hurtful.

The council took up the proposal Tuesday, but tabled until their Sept. 15 meeting after some debate.

In April, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to refer to Columbus Day as "Indigenous People's Day" in official correspondence. In May, the Red Wing City Council voted to rename the holiday Chief Red Wing Day.


Resort drops plan to open liquor store near Red Lake reservation

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: September 3, 2014 - 12:27 PM

A northern Minnesota resort owner scrapped plans to open a liquor store after the neighboring Red Lake Band objected to the business opening so close to the border of their dry reservation.

"My first response was to dig into a trench and fight," Chris Freudenberg, owner of Roger’s Resort, told Minnesota Public Radio. "But when you sit back and think, the tribe has a point."

Alcohol is banned from the lands of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, and tribal leaders worried about the damage an easily accessible source of liquor would have on a community where many members have struggled with substance abuse.

Freudenberg said he had wanted to open the shop to give his guests a way to get a drink without having to drive, but realized it might simply encourage tribal residents to drink their purchases before driving home, where alcohol is banned.

“That would just undo what I was trying to do,” he told MPR. Instead, he said, he plans to sell drinks at a small restaurant and bar under construction at the resort, where he said a bartender could keep an eye on customers’ consumption.

Freudenberg dropped his permit request last week, ahead of Tuesday’s night’s meeting of the Beltrami County Board. Nevertheless, tribal legal adviser Michelle Paquin asked board members to consider a “buffer zone” around the reservation when considering future liquor license requests.

Beltrami County Chairman Jim Lucachick pledged to take the tribe’s concerns into account.

“We want to be in touch with the Red Lake Tribal Council,” he said, according to the Bemidji Pioneer. “We want to work together."

Dayton blasts North Dakota over Red River diversion

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: September 3, 2014 - 12:34 PM

The Red River Diversion project will never happen without Minnesota's approval, Gov. Mark Dayton warned North Dakota officials Tuesday.

"If you're going to kick sand in the face of will come back to haunt you. I'm certain of that," Dayton told a crowd at a public forum in Breckenridge Tuesday, according to the Fargo Forum.

The governor and other state officials are fuming over North Dakota's decision to push ahead with the massive flood control project without waiting for Minnesota to complete its environmental review. After Breckenridge, Dayton headed to Moorhead, across the river from Fargo, Wednesday morning, to share his concerns with state and local officials there.

The $1.8 billion Fargo-Moorhead diversion project would protect flood-prone Fargo, but at the cost of pushing floodwaters onto Minnesota farmland instead.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in in the midst of an extensive environmental review of the project, and has asked North Dakota to hold off on construction until the review is complete sometime next year. But North Dakota broke ground this summer on the first phase of the diversion -- a ring levee around several of its small towns that would be in the path of the diverted floodwater.

Last week, Dayton formally asked U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to halt work on the project until Minnesota completes its review. On Tuesday, he also criticized the makeup of the nine-member Diversion Authority that governs the project, saying it is "absolutely unacceptable" that only two of the seats are filled by Minnesotans.

Congress has authorized the project, which would dig a 36-mile channel around Fargo and put a diversion dam across the Red River to back floodwaters into the surrounding countryside, including farms on the Minnesota side of the river that are currently well above the floodplain.

But Congress has not yet come up with the money.

“I served six years in the U.S. Senate,” Dayton said. “Authorization and appropriation are very different matters.”

And without Minnesota's cooperation, Dayton warned, "you're not going to get the money."

Atwater police chief kills chicken

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: September 2, 2014 - 11:33 AM

Police in Atwater, Minn., had warned a family that they weren't allowed to keep chickens. Then in August, Police Chief Trevor Berger took things into his own hands -- stopping by their home and beheading one of the hens with a shovel.

"I came home to find the chicken’s head lying in front of its coop," Ashley Turnbull said Tuesday.

Turnbull said the small red hen was like a puppy to her 5-year-old son, Phoenix. The boy got several hens and ducks as a birthday present, she said, and he likes to load them into a red wagon, bringing them to the sand box and the park. "They’re his babies," she said.

Turnbull said she knows she's in violation of the city's ordinance; an officer had stopped by earlier in August to warn her. But she doesn't believe that Berger handled the situation appropriately. She recently filed a formal complaint with the city, which is in central Minnesota.

Berger told the West Central Tribune, which first reported this story, that the killing was justified:

Berger said he was simply enforcing the city ordinance that has been on the books since 1960 and was responding to a “frustrated’ neighbor’s repeated complaints, including a report on Aug. 16 that one of Turnbull’s chickens was running loose in the residential area near the elementary school.

“I’m sorry it had to happen that way,” said Berger, adding that he didn’t intend to leave the severed chicken head in the yard to send a message to the homeowners. Berger said he thought the head was still attached to the chicken when he carried the carcass away.

“It’s against city ordinance for a chicken to be in the city and running around in people’s yards,” he said.

Read more here.

Blue Plate backs off employee tip fee

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: August 20, 2014 - 1:02 PM

The Blue Plate restaurant chain no longer plans to take a cut out of its servers' tips to offset Minnesota's higher minimum wage.

In the face of blistering community backlash, the St. Paul-based restaurant chain announced Wednesday that it will resume paying a 2 percent credit card fee it had been passing along to its minimum-wage waitstaff every time someone paid their tip with a credit card.

Blue Plate's owners, David Burley and Stephanie Shimp, also announced they will be offering an additional wage hike of their own to their non-tipped employees.

"We have always listened to our guests and our community," Burley said in a statement. "We've reflected and decided to try a different approach that will give our communities a clear indicator of who we are as a business."

Minnesota's minimum wage -- which had been one of the lowest in the nation -- increased by 75 cents an hour on Aug. 1. In response, the Blue Restaurant Company sent a memo to its employees alerting them that the new wage hike, coupled with rising health insurance costs, would cost the company $1.25 million. Therefore, the 2 percent credit card fee on tips that the restaurant used to pay would now be coming out of servers' tips.

A number of restaurants already pass credit card fees along to waiters and waitresses, arguing that tips can make servers some of the best-paid employees on staff. But to the Blue Plate's tipped employees, it looked like they were being asked to pay for their own pay raise.

On Wednesday, management backpedaled, pledging to immediately resume paying the credit card fees themselves.

"I think Blue Plate made a business decision that backfired on them: 'Enjoy your increase in the minimum wage increase but we're going to nick you on the back end,'" said Wade Luneburg, political director of UNITE HERE Minnesota, a union representing restaurant and hospitality industry workers. "It was a tacky policy. It is legal, but that probably doesn't make it right."

The company also announced that beginning Sept. 1, it will offer its non-tipped employees a new, higher minimum wage of $9.69 per hour. Minnesota's current minimum wage is now $8 an hour and will increase to $9.50 by 2016.

Burley also said the restaurant chain would begin holding monthly meetings with employees to "share ideas and innovations."


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