Minneapolis Star Tribune. February 5, 2021.
Editorial: Fully fund police plan for upcoming Chauvin trial
DFLers, Republicans need to reach a compromise that helps prevent a repeat of 2020 riots.
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin goes on trial March 8 for the killing of George Floyd, who died with Chauvin's knee pressed against his neck. The riots, destruction and protests that erupted in the wake of the incident were seen around the world, making Minneapolis a flash point for the tensions between police and communities of color.
City and state officials are attempting to prepare for the possibility of further unrest during Chauvin's trial. They rightly want to avoid a repeat of the delays in deploying law enforcement and military that resulted in damage that has yet to be fully repaired.
A state plan to create a $35 million emergency fund for jurisdictions to draw on in a time of public safety emergencies appears prudent. It would guarantee that other law enforcement agencies, including smaller police departments, could render whatever assistance is needed with the knowledge that their costs would be reimbursed.
Republicans in the Legislature have raised concerns that the money would be a "bailout" for Minneapolis, allowing the city to escape its obligation to maintain needed law enforcement levels. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has more explicitly said that Minneapolis should be made to cover the expenses and that he is not worried about having adequate security for the trial.
That is at odds with an appeal Senate Republicans made to Gov. Tim Walz in December, when they called the request for funds to prepare for security "a matter of the utmost importance" and urged Walz's support for $7.6 million to help fund overtime needed to offset the anticipated need for increased security. In that letter, Gazelka and others wrote that the need for funds was urgent, "to prevent a recurrence of the violence we experienced last summer."
There can be little valid debate about the need to plan for every contingency. On Friday Walz signed an executive order to activate the National Guard during the trial. And Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington has said he is coordinating with the FBI, the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force and more than 200 chief law enforcement officers across Minnesota.
The scale of such an operation cannot fall to any one city's tax base. If a tornado levels a small town in our state, we don't tell them they're on their own, tough luck. We don't take it out of the city's state aid. We pitch in to help as one state, secure in the knowledge that doing so helps us all.
Leaders can haggle over the amount needed. But they should dispense with the rhetoric, the desire to punish on the Republican side and, similarly, attempts on the DFL side to attach police reforms to the fund. They can require that Minneapolis to do its share and honor Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo's request that the City Council release $6.4 million to hire more officers for a force that has dropped to dangerously skimpy levels.
A Friday Star Tribune story reported that Minneapolis, a city of more than 400,000, now is averaging 448 patrol officers on a total force of just 662. That's down from pre-Floyd levels in 2019 of 552 and 851, respectively.
What leaders must not do is trivialize or politicize the very real need to prepare for a potential emergency that could again jeopardize people, property and businesses in the city that is the economic engine for this state.
Republican concerns that city officials are too caught up in debates over how to police to give proper attention to the number of police are not without merit. The Minneapolis City Council — and indeed the state — should continue work toward reforms that address longstanding issues of racial inequity and disproportionate force.
But there is an urgent situation before us that demands action. The eyes of the nation and world soon will again be fixed on Minneapolis. Surely leaders at all levels and in both parties can find common purpose in ensuring that proper precautions are taken and needed funds are allocated. That includes not waiting until the last possible minute, creating uncertainty and fear in residents and businesses alike.
Mankato Free Press. February 9, 2021.
Editorial: New hope to protect BWCA from mining damage
Those who embrace environmental protection have been cheered by President Joe Biden's restoration of practices and reviews that don't place profits above protection of natural resources.
That renewed embrace of the environment should aid in preventing approval of a copper mine in the Superior National Forest near Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The Twin Metals project, being sought by a Chilean mining giant, would mine 20,000 tons of copper daily.
In 2016 the Obama administration rejected lease renewals for Twin Metals. The decision triggered an in-depth study on the risks of copper mining next to the BWCA. But the Trump administration stopped the study before it was done and buried the findings. The Trump administration also maneuvered to reinstate Twin Metals leases on national land.
While Biden hasn't so far directly addressed the BWCA project, his cabinet appointments bode well for protecting the BWCA's pristine waters from copper mining.
There are also bills pending or soon to be introduced in Congress and the Minnesota Legislature aimed at slowing or stopping copper mining near the BWCA, while another bill would aid Twin Metals in their efforts.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-St. Paul, is proposing a bill that would effectively prevent Twin Metals from locating near the BWCA. On the state level, legislators are set to introduce legislation similar to McCollum's.
Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, is pushing a bill that would require an act of Congress to halt mining on federal lands where it's currently allowed. Fortunately, Stauber's bill is unlikely to be embraced in the U.S. House.
Nearly five years ago the chief of the U.S. Forest Service issued a decision that copper mining next to the BWCA would pose a high risk of doing irreparable harm to the pristine waters. Indeed, the history of metal mining is that it is highly polluting, despite industry claims it can be done safely.
The Biden administration needs to return to following long established federal laws that protect public lands from being opened to uses with high risks of polluting. The BWCA is a one-of-a-kind gem that is enjoyed by people from around the world. Risking its water by allowing copper mining is unacceptable.