Council members expressed support today for legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota, as advocates prepare to push for the measure at the State Capitol this year.
“Medical marijuana is a valuable tool for doctors,” Council Member Andrew Johnson declared at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
The panel voted to add support for a medical marijuana law to the city’s legislative agenda.
Johnson said he underwent three eye surgeries for glaucoma and “was on every single drug possible” beforehand to reduce his loss of vision and improve the outcome of the operations. His doctor, who also treated patients in Florida, was permitted to prescribe them marijuana.
He added: “She told me flat out this improves the outcomes for our patients … I didn’t have that option in this state, and I don’t want to see any of our residents or any residents in this state lose vision.”
Council Member Lisa Bender made a special trip to the committee – though she is not a member – to share her experience surviving breast cancer.
“This is a big deal,” she said.
Bender said she had surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy and years of drugs to prevent a reoccurrence of bre
Drugs for patients today include sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and narcotic pain medications, she said, and “I don’t see any reasons that policymakers should stand in the way of … adding medical marijuana to that toolkit.”
“It is the smart thing to do,” she said, “and the compassionate thing to do for many people who are suffering today.”
A south Minneapolis bar fighting accusations that it has enabled violence and drug-dealing lost a bid to renew its liquor license today from a regulatory committee of the Minneapolis City Council.
The panel voted 5-0 against granting another liquor license to Champions Saloon and Eatery at the corner of West Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue South, after city regulators and attorneys contended that allowing the bar to continue serving alcohol was not in the public interest.
The move follows Administrative Law Judge Jeanne Cochran’s findings in a report this month that Champions failed to provide adequate security. She recommended either not renewing the bar’s license or renewing it with strict conditions that could keep patrons safe.
Champions attorney Ed Matthews vowed to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, arguing before council members that the matter was similar to the city’s case against Gabby’s Saloon and Eatery. The appeals court in 2009 sided with that bar, which has since closed, and directed the city to award it a settlement of more than $200,000, claiming that Minneapolis had gone too far in penalizing the establishment for what happened off the premises.
The Community Development and Regulatory Services Committee also denied Champions’ move to stay the action during the appeals process. The matter now goes to the full City Council for final approval.
Owner Rick Nelson said he would keep the restaurant open even without selling alcohol, which now accounts for about 70 percent of his sales. The bar employs 25 people.
Matthews argued that the bus stop right outside the bar had brought in a lot of crime, and that the police department’s prohibition on Champions continuing to employ off-duty cops made the problem worse. But assistant city attorney Joel Fussy said the bar refused to accept responsibility for escalating criminal and nuisance activity, which came to a head last August when a man was shot to death inside Champions while it was packed.
It looks like northeast Minneapolis is on the verge of getting a long-awaited new bridge.
Here’s a look at the proposed design for the long-planned replacement of the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge over the Northtown Yard.
Construction is expected to start next fall or early 2015 on the new bridge, which has a $30 million project cost, all but $1 million of it funded. It will be wider than the current span, and the project will include upgrading two nearby streets.
The city has been working since the late 1980s to replace the fracture-critical 1925 bridge that scores only two points on a bridge evaluation index of 100 possible. That’s the worst rating in Hennepin County. It also has weight restrictions, and even the sidewalk that serves adjoining Park Board bike and walking paths has been restricted.
Public Works representatives described the bridge's engineering to the council as innovative but so far have not responded to further inquiries by the Star Tribune to explain why.
The project is complicated by crossing a railyard of 24 tracks, and the railroad's request that it be limited to two piers, according to Public Works staff. One of the three spans will be a 305-foot truss that visually echoes the five-truss design that makes the old bridge distinctive.
The location of the bridge on the Grand Rounds parkway system and over the rail yard, both considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, complicated the design process. There were lengthy consultations with federal and state agencies, which combine for about half of the project's funding, and a series of community meetings. .
The parkway nearby carries several thousand vehicles per day. The new bridge will have a 14-foot traffic lane in each direction, a 14-foot trail space on the south side, and a 10-foot sidewalk on the north side.
The project also includes realignment where California and Main Streets SE connect with the bridge approaches to improve visibility for drivers. Both streets are to be rebuilt, with California going from an oiled-dirt road without curb or gutter to a modern street.
The proposed replacement was presented to the City Council in committee Tuesday.
The 2013 Legislature backloaded the increases in school aid to Minnesota schools this biennium , and the payoff comes next school year for Minneapolis and other districts.
Initial projections are that Minneapolis can expect 2.5 percent more money for the 2014-2015 school year, measured by general fund revenue. But the news looks much better at the school level, where the district's finance folks project a 5.8 percent increase in money going directly to schools.
Schools will get their budgets on March 14, which starts the process in buildings of determining what positions are safe or not. The preliminary allocations for this year's school budgets last March prompted howls of protest, especially from growing schools in southwest Minneapolis, before several million dollars more was added.
When money that goes to central departments but is spent at the school level is included, the projected increase in money available for school use is 5.4 percent. Finance officials said their goal is to bump that to 8 percent. Some of that will be consumed by yet-to-be-determined wage increases for teachers and other school-level workers, with teacher contract negotiations continuing.
In what may come as a surprise to some, the projected budget next year for the district's central departments is forecast to drop by just over 8 percent. That's despite expected hefty fuel bills and an expected need to boost spending on busing.
The shift in spending from central departments to schools reflects the SHIFT agenda articulated by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson last May.
Led by a stronger graduation showing by its Indian, black and Latino students, Minneapolis Public Schools posted its second straight year of steady gains in its four-year graduation rate.
What's notable for the district is not simply the overall increase in its graduation rate from 51.8 percent in 2012 to just under 54 percent this year, a magnitude of increase that tracked the statewide increase from 77.5 to 79.5 percent
Rather, what's significant is that much of the growth was posted by Indian students, who jumped from 26.9 percent graduating in four years to 33.7 percent; black students, who rose from 38 to 43.6 percent; and Latino students, whose graduation rate grew from 37 to 41.3 percent.
Meanwhile, Asian students held virtually steady at 68 percent, while white student graduation actually fell slightly to 72.1 percent, a 1.2 percentage point drop.
Still Michael Goar, the district's chief executive office, hailed the gains as a sign that district strategies and more effective teaching are beginning to pay off. He predicted bigger gains for this year's graduating class after a revamping of how high school students regain credits missed earlier and an expansion in district support programs for students. The district is also focusing its new student achievement office on improving results for black male students.
Now, he said, “People believe that we can do it. This is a positive sign. Sometimes I feel like we have a belief gap.”
The news of gains among Indian students is particularly encouraging for the district, given years of trying different approaches to raising the academic standing of the district's lowest-performing racial group. Black student gains are particularly important for the district, given that they represent the largest district's racial-ethnic block of students.
Propelling the gain in black graduation rates were Henry, where black graduation in four years rose from 50.7 percent in 2012 to 68.7 percent in 2013, Southwest, where it rose from 52.2 percent to 78 percent; and Washburn, where the increase went from 53.7 percent to 62.5 percent.
Yet the district was held back in further gains overall by low success in graduating students in more than a dozen alternative schools, where only 15 percent of students graduate in four years. In some ways, it's penalized for taking students not making it in other districts. That's one key difference from St. Paul, which boasts a higher graduation rate About 20 percent of Minneapolis alternative school students arrive from other districts, and about half of those are seniors who have earned few credits, the district said.
Minneapolis has now increased its graduation rate by 5.5 percentage points in the last two years, That's twice the 2.7 percentage gain over the past two years posted by students statewide. But St. Paul recorded an eight percentage point gain over two years to stand at 73.3 percent.
Since 2003, the Minneapolis graduation rate has risen from 39 percent to this year's 54 percent, adjusted for federally mandated changes in methods for calculating that rate.
The Minneapolis results include the district's seven big high schools, a smaller immigrant-focused high school known as Wellstone, and its bevy of much smaller alternative high schools. The graduation rate rose for four of the seven big schools, while two fell and one stayed virtually even.
Washburn (63.6 percent) led the gainers at 10.9 percent points, followed by Henry (77.7 percent) with a 9.3 percentage point gain, then Edison (55.9 percent) with a 4.4 percentage point gain, and Southwest (81.1 percent) with a 1.2 percent gain. North 36.8 percent), which is phasing out one academic program by 2015 while adding another, recorded the sharpest drop at 7.3 percentage points. South (70.2 percent) fell by 4,4 percentage points, and Roosevelt (49 percent) held virtually even.
Among subgroups of students, those with limited English skills increased their graduation rate by 6.3 percentage points to 44.3 percent, special education students gained by 5.6 percentage points to 24.9 percent, and low-income students gained by 1.8 percentage points to 44.2 percent percent.
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