What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Posts about Public safety

26th, 28th each likely to get protected bike lanes

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: February 26, 2015 - 2:03 PM

Two major cross-city arteries on the South Side will get one-way protected bike lanes this year under a plan that’s being recommended by city transportation planners.

Adding one-way lanes to E. 26th and 28th streets won out over an alternative that would have installed a two-way protected lane on 26th. They’re part of a street resurfacing planned this year.

The protected bike lanes will offer a seven-foot-wide biking lane plus a seven-foot space lined with flexible plastic posts buffering the lane from motor traffic. The two streets now have no dedicated bike space.

The proposal covers 32 blocks on the two streets lying between Portland and Cedar avenues. That stretch such includes major businesses as Wells Fargo and the Chicago Avenue medical complex.  Additional planning will flesh out the design between Cedar and Hiawatha avenues.

The proposal stops at Portland in part because of a scheduled replacement of Interstate 35W bridges on the two streets. A draft city plan for protected bike lanes recommends continuing the protected lanes west to Hennepin Avenue by 2020.

The bike lanes will be accommodated by removing a lane or travel or by removing parking during peak travel periods.

The resurfacing project has already asked area residents in open houses what other changes they’d like to see on the two streets from the project  The proposed design would add six medians at intersections – four on 28th and two on 26th – so that pedestrians have a refuge partway across.

Simon Blenski, a city bike planner, said the proposed design goes back to major institutions, neighborhoods and pedestrian and biking representatives for a final review. Some who attended earlier sessions with the city opposed removing parking or traffic lanes, but others advocated for making it reach major employers, schools and parks by bike.   

U raises bar for revealing suspect's race in crime alerts

Posted by: Updated: February 25, 2015 - 3:33 PM

Authorities prepare student protesters for transport after their arrests. (Mark Vancleave/StarTribune)

After a wave of student-led protests, including one earlier this month in which protesters staged a sit-in in president Eric Kaler’s office, University of Minnesota officials have agreed to end their policy of always publishing the race of suspects in campus crime alerts.

From now on, the bulletins triggered by serious crimes like robbery and aggravated assault will only include the suspect’s description “when there is sufficient detail that would help identify a specific individual or group,” U vice president Pamela Wheelock said Wednesday in an email to students, faculty and staff.

“For some, knowing they have all the information available about a crime, including the complete suspect description, makes them feel better informed and increases how safe they feel,” Wheelock said. “But others – particularly Black men – have shared that suspect descriptions negatively impact their sense of safety. They express concern that Crime Alerts that include race reinforce stereotypes of Black men as threats and create a hostile campus climate.”

On Feb. 9, about 16 members of the campus advocacy group Whose Diversity? – some lugging sleeping bags – took over Kaler’s second-floor office in Morrill Hall, vowing to stay until their demands were met. The sit-in ended nearly eight hours later with the arrests 13 people.

Among their demands was greater racial and ethnic diversity in university hiring practices and more money for the school’s ethnic studies program, which they contended Kaler had promised would happen by the end of last year.

The university's announcement Wednesday didn't appear to address these issues.

Kaler said in a statement that he reached the decision after conferring with outgoing university police chief Greg Hestness, Wheelock and other school leaders, and reviewing "the practices of a number of other colleges and universities."

"This new approach advances public safety while recognizing the harm caused by using race in otherwise limited suspect descriptions," Kaler said. "While not all will embrace our new approach, I want to assure you that we have heard and sincerely considered the diverse voices and opinions that have been shared."

The protest group didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

St. Paul man acquitted in '99 grocery store killing

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: February 25, 2015 - 4:24 PM

By Rochelle Olson

A 33-year-old St. Paul man won acquittal on a first-degree murder charge in the 1999 killing of a man in front of a Minneapolis grocery store.

After nine months in jail in lieu of $2 million bail, Earl Vang left the Hennepin County District Court a free man on Tuesday.

Last year, Vang and Tou Lu Yang were indicted in the murder of Miguel Destiny McElroy in front of a store on the 2300 block of Lyndale Avenue N. on July 9, 1999. McElroy’s father was also wounded in the shooting.

After a trial in front of Judge Tamara Garcia, the jury took less than four hours to acquit Vang. During the trial, defense lawyer Earl Gray strongly questioned the reliability of witness identifications of Vang in police photo line-ups.

"Justice was done and my client was able to go home to see his family," Gray said by telephone on Wednesday.

Vang was indicted only last year because of a twist in the case related to Yang, who was convicted previously of second-degree murder in the death.

In 2014, Judge Bruce Peterson ordered a new trial for Yang based on ineffective assistance of counsel, a new witness statement and new evidence identifying other possible suspects.

After further investigation, County Attorney Mike Freeman won first-degree indictments against Yang and Vang. At the time, Freeman said witnesses “confirmed Mr. Vang was part of the murder.”

But the jury didn’t believe his witnesses.

Freeman expressed disappointment Wednesday. “We would not have prosecuted Mr. Vang if we didn’t think he was guilty. But we respect the jury process and accept their verdict,” he said in a statement.

According to the prosecution, McElroy’s brother met with two men who gave him $60 to buy marijuana. The complaint alleged that the defendants later demanded that McElroy get their money back from his brother.
The complaint said the two men pulled out guns and started shooting.

Walkers, cyclists meet their City Hall voice

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: February 25, 2015 - 11:35 AM

Matthew Dyrdahl arrived at The Wedge Table Wednesday morning dressed in a gray suit, but with a folding bike in tow. And he wore a helmet.

It was subtle reminder that a winter commuter can dress for work, yet commute without hands on a steering wheel. Dyrdahl took a bus and then biked from his northeast Minneapolis home to the event in Whittier.

Dyrdahl spoke at an early-morning event arranged by Council Member Lisa Bender that drew about 25 people to the new Eat Street eatery.  He’s the city’s new bike-walk coordinator. His job within the Department of Public Works involves integrating walking and biking friendly features into city streets. He’s also car free, living in northeast Minneapolis and getting around by bus, bike and foot.

Bikers and walkers were curious to know how he felt about the various problems they perceive as holding back more active transportation by city residents, but Dyrdahl also got an earful of free advice.

Dyrdahl comes to the job with five years of experience helping to promote active living in Bemidji. “It was really great to see the progress cities can make when you invest in biking and walking,” he said. His ambition is to make Minneapolis rival European cities in 10 years when it comes to walkable, bikeable streets.

Part of that will be eliminating the fear factor felt by some more timid commuters. “I don’t think that biking and walking is the easy choice right now,” he said. One of his goals is creating spaces that are inviting places to walk or bike. The city goal of 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020 will be key in that effort, he said.

Some still regard winter biking as a mountain too tall to climb. Janne Flisrand told Dyrdahl and Bender that co-workers regard her biking 2.5 miles to work as something of a superhuman feat. Bender interjected that bikers need more consistent maintenance for winter bike lanes so they have routes on which they can rely. “It shouldn’t be this major conquest to bike to work,” Dyrdahl added. Tony Desnick said his sampling on social media of about 300 bikers, mostly from the Twin Cities, but also from around the world, found about three times as many were likely to be deterred by poor maintenance of roads as by extreme cold.

One suggestion for getting Minneapolitans to consider winter bike commuting came from Michael Peterson, who would like to see a winter Open Streets events with food trucks and people to answer questions about cold-weather commuting.  Open Streets are a creation of Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which works with city officials to close major arteries temporarily to motor traffic. Minneapolis and St. Paul will host the fourth annual International Winter Cycling Congress in 2016.

Dyrdahl urged one questioner reluctant to invest in cold-weather biking gear because of the cost to weigh that against the cost of operating a car.  He also urged people to make the transition from driving to bus, bike or walking gradually.

“Don’t start by getting rid of your car.  End by getting rid of your car.”      

Wounded police officer speaks about outpouring of support

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: February 23, 2015 - 8:48 PM

In his first public comments since being shot after responding to a burglary early Saturday, Minneapolis police officer Jordan Davis praised the efforts of his colleagues who "stepped out to the plate and got me to the emergency room." Davis said he was also grateful for the outpouring of support that followed.

Police said that Davis, who was released from the hospital over the weekend, is recovering from his injuries.

The three-minute video was released by the department Monday evening.

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