Between the flurry of COVID-19 emergency orders in mid-March and the lifting of Minnesota’s stay-at-home order this week, much of normal life ground to halt. Other things didn’t stop happening, though, and some of them might have generated more discussion if not for the distraction of the disease. No list like this is complete, but here’s some of what transpired locally.
Legislators dislodged, and Gov. Tim Walz signed, a previously stuck bill providing relief to Minnesotans who had been struggling to afford insulin. Likewise, the state caught up with some of its communities and with the federal government by raising the legal age for buying tobacco products to 21. It also imposed restrictions on industrial use of trichloroethylene (TCE), a cancer-causing chemical. Awareness had been raised, in particular, by residents in Ramsey County’s White Bear Township following pollution violations at Water Gremlin, a maker of lead fishing sinkers and lead acid battery terminals.
Walz made his first appointment to the state Supreme Court, choosing Nobles County District Judge Gordon Moore to replace retiring Justice David Lillehaug. He said the selection would bring geographic diversity to the court, and others touted Moore’s experience serving a diverse and evolving culture from his district bench in Worthington. (Justices on the seven-member court face the voters at six-year intervals, but appointments are made when a midterm vacancy occurs.)
A report showed Minnesota’s progress on energy and the environment. In 2019, carbon emissions by the electricity sector were reduced by 14% with greater reliance on renewables and natural gas. Meanwhile, Dakota County approved a one-year moratorium on proposals to extract groundwater and export it to the western United States.
The late Minnesota superstar Prince got a 24/7 music channel on SiriusXM, the first devoted solely to the catalog of a single artist of color. Meanwhile, Minnesota native Bob Dylan released an acclaimed new song, then another, then another en route to his first album of original material since 2012. And the legendary Minneapolis music venue First Avenue, though silenced for the moment, passed its 50th anniversary.
Good things stemming from bad things
Charges were filed in a series of sexual assaults that took place over several years near the University of Minnesota and elsewhere. One of the alleged victims was featured in the Star Tribune’s 2018 series “Denied Justice,” which documented systemic failures in the criminal justice system’s handling of sexual assault cases.
A Waseca, Minn., police officer who had been shot in the head while pursuing a suspect in January advanced his recovery, taking his first steps without help.
Things that represent a culmination of longstanding matters
Restoration of the Stillwater Lift Bridge neared completion, and the 1931 structure was set to reopen to pedestrians and cyclists. It previously had been targeted for demolition following construction of the much-disputed four-lane St. Croix Crossing south of town. The new bridge opened in 2017.
After a St. Paul City Council vote, the crumbling Ayd Mill Road is finally going to be repaired, and a greenway for bicyclists and pedestrians will be added. The trenched roadway, a partial connection between Interstates 94 and 35E, has been the subject of decades of discussion.
Things that reflect change that isn’t universally wanted
The Minneapolis school board approved a major restructuring plan meant in part to reduce segregation and improve achievement. Thousands of students will have to change schools, however, and critics are skeptical about the redesign. Some were frustrated that it proceeded amid the pandemic.
The state Supreme Court resolved a dispute, at least from a procedural standpoint, over the name of one of the aquatic features Minneapolis boasts. “Under Minnesota law, the body of water that was Lake Calhoun is now Bde Maka Ska,” the court wrote.
Things that warm the heart
A 911 operator for the State Patrol spent 22 minutes on the phone with a speeding motorist, forming a rapport that persuaded the man not to take his life by driving off the road.
A dog rescued from a crowded shelter in Texas escaped her new adoptive home in Chanhassen in midwinter and was missing for three months before showing up at her former foster caretaker’s home 22 miles away in St. Paul.
Things that make you go “hmmm …”
A Minneapolis police commander and a Hennepin County’s chief public defender both faced consequences over the use of social media. A Winona County district judge was reprimanded for, among other things, making derogatory comments through e-mail about attorneys with court in session.
A Duluth man tried to steal a squad car as a police officer’s legs dangled out of the speeding vehicle. (The situation was resolved without serious injury.) A driver in Anoka County hit a deer, then killed it with a baseball bat rather than waiting for help and a more humane solution.
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If you want to read more about any of these subjects, the online version of this editorial, found at startribune.com/opinion/editorials, has hyperlinks.
Now onward, with the hope that the coming summer will bring at least a taste of normality. As of this writing, biting gnats are swarming, algae are blooming and mosquito season pends. But also, garden centers are open, the ground is warm enough for bare feet and the last vestiges of twilight linger toward the 10 p.m. news hour. This feels like the Minnesota we know.
But there’ll be no State Fair at the end of the season, and COVID-19 is far from over. Take care.