Anoka-Ramsey college in running for big prize

Anoka-Ramsey Community College has been picked as one of 10 finalists for a national award that President Obama likened to the "Oscars for great community colleges."

The award is the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which carries with it a prize of $1 million. Anoka-Ramsey is the only Minnesota school in the running.

In a statement, Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C., cited Anoka-Ramsey's "uniquely supportive educational environment" and praised its "unusually strong undergraduate research program."

The school's three-year graduation/transfer rate is 56 percent, which according to the school is virtually identical for white and minority students. It enrolls about 12,500 students annually at its campuses in Coon Rapids and Cambridge.


Washington County

County Board weighing changes for three libraries

Two Washington County branch libraries could be replaced, and a third relocated, because of growing repair and maintenance costs.

Wildwood Library in Mahtomedi and Park Grove Library in Cottage Grove each need major structural repairs, Library Director Keith Ryskoski said. A library assessment presented to the County Board showed that Wildwood requires more than $1.5 million in repairs and maintenance and Park Grove $2.3 million.

In addition, Valley Library in Lakeland needs a new home because of increasing usage and the looming cost of upgrades, which the county estimated at $127,000. The library rents space in a shopping mall.

The recommended changes were included in a new library strategic plan. Commissioners haven't yet voted on the recommendations.

The Washington County Library system has three other branches in Woodbury, Oakdale and Forest Lake.

Kevin Giles


Minnesota voters can cast absentee ballots this week

Starting Friday, Minnesotans can cast absentee ballots for this year's general election — the first presidential election in which they can do so without needing a specific reason for not going to the polls.

It's a way to make early voting more convenient and help voters avoid Election Day lines, election officials said.

In Hennepin County alone, officials anticipate a historic number of absentee votes this year.

The Legislature changed the law in 2013 to allow absentee voting without having to give a reason. Previously, voters had to swear they were disabled, ill, away from home, serving as an election judge or fulfilling a religious observance to vote absentee.

Now voters can cast absentee ballots in person through Nov. 7 at most city halls or by mail (after requesting a ballot at

To count, all ballots must be received on or before Election Day on Nov. 8. For more details, visit


St. Paul

Council backs statewide paid sick-leave policy

A week after St. Paul leaders approved a paid sick-leave requirement for all businesses in the city, they asked legislators to take up the same charge.

The City Council unanimously voted last week to request that the Legislature enact an earned sick- and safe-leave policy for workers statewide and offered the city's support to help make that happen.

St. Paul approved a sick-leave mandate earlier this month.

"We're relying on their leadership to keep driving this forward," Council Member Amy Brendmoen said of legislators.

The move to a uniform statewide policy would "avoid a patchwork of regulatory provisions that challenge businesses who operate in multiple cities in the state of Minnesota," according to the council resolution.

Business owners, sick-leave advocates and labor representatives have said a statewide approach is preferable to having a variety of rules in different cities.