MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Kaler orders stepped-up patrols at U-of-M
President Eric Kaler is directing the University of Minnesota police department to step up foot and bicycle patrols after a rash of robberies and assaults, including Monday's attempted armed robbery in a classroom building. Kaler says the University will continue working with the City of Minneapolis to expand coordinated patrol efforts around campus. And he says the U will add more security cameras and is developing a plan to enhance building security. Kaler says "unfortunately, this may inconvenience some, but it will add to our security."
Minnesota-based American Refugee Committee has dispatched a team to the Philippines to help with relief efforts. On Friday, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit, killing thousands and wiping out entire communities. Refugee Committee President Daniel Wordsworth says they will help with whatever people need most -- clean water, food, relief items, or shelter. Wordsworth says the first team they send is typically a rapid-response group and, while that group is assisting, they then usually try to mobilize a larger team that will stay longer. The American Refugee Committee is accepting donations to help with relief efforts in the Philippines. For more information go to arc-relief-dot-org. (www.arcrelief.org)
Officials with the Minnesota Department of Revenue says most Minnesotans will be paying more in property taxes next year. The state revenue department has released a preliminary estimate of overall property tax levies that were released by local governments and school districts across the state. There is an expected increase of 2.1 percent on property taxes within the state's cities and townships, a 1.5 percent bump in county taxes, and 2.6 percent more tax dollars being collected by Minnesota school districts. Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans says the official tallies aren� expected until February, and he believes some of the initial numbers will drop after local officials hold their public tax hearings.
Lawmakers have a hearing at the State Capitol this afternoon (1230pm) after a media investigation found nearly 300 actively-licensed nurses in Minnesota with criminal convictions -- and a state agency admitted gaps in its review process. Mankato Senator Kathy Sheran (SHARE'-in), chair of a key Senate committee, says the public must be protected. Sheran says as a nurse she's also very concerned that the public's confidence in the profession is maintained. She wants the legislative auditor to do a complete review and bring back recommendations to the legislature.
Employees and contract workers that clean big-box stores like Target and Walmart have released the findings of a new report, which they say shows that low-wage employees are costing the Minnesota economy millions. The study claims that those employees often have to reply on public assistance and that it costs Minnesota taxpayers 150 million dollars a year. Brian Payne with the Center of Workers United in Struggle says contract janitorial workers that clean many major retail stores in the Twin Cities area may walk off the job on Black Friday if they don't receive agreement from their companies on the right to unionize in order to negotiate for fair wages and better working conditions by Thanksgiving.
State Senator Matt Schmit from Red Wing and Blandin Foundation officials are touring rural Minnesota this week to talk about ways of improving broadband Internet access. Schmit says broadband connectivity is as important now as the transcontinental railroad system was in the 19th century and the interstate highway system in the 20th century. Schmit says the state has identified a lot of "next steps" and now it's time to decide what to pursue. The group was in Bemidji and Grand Rapids yesterday (Tues). They're in Staples and Mora today (Wed) and will stop in Willmar and Winthrop tomorrow and in Austin on Friday.
A pair of turkeys raised in northwestern Minnesota will be pardoned at the White House the week of Thanksgiving (11/26). John Burkel of Badger, president of the National Turkey Federation, says they're working on taming the birds by playing music and any noise, to get them used to people and sounds. He says it's been a job, but so far so good. Burkel says the senior class at Badger/Greenbush Middle River High School is going to Washington D-C to participate in the Rose Garden ceremony. People can vote on the proposed names of the "presidential flock" at minnesotaturkey.com.
In an effort to address the critical and growing issue of the state's primary care physician shortage, physicians from across the state gathered last night in Minneapolis. While the number of patients is growing, the number of physicians is decreasing. A recent study by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that in order to maintain current utilization levels, Minnesota will need an additional 1,187 primary care physicians by 2030, a 28 percent increase. In 2011, more than a third of Minnesota's primary care physicians were age 55 and older. The Minnesota Medical Association hosted Tuesday's Primary Care Physician Workforce Summit after organizing a special task force in January to address the issue.
The Stearns History Museum has become the first Smithsonian Affiliate in Minnesota. Smithsonian Affiliations Director Harold Closter says the Stearns Museum is the type of museum they've had their most successful partnerships with. By being an affiliate, the Stearns Museum will have greater access to the millions of artifacts in the Smithsonian collection. Museum members will also have the potential for more educational programs. There are 181 Smithsonian Affiliates in more than 40 states. There are 562 museums in Minnesota.
Late last week the Food and Drug Administration made a preliminary determination that trans fats are "not generally recognized as safe for use in food," and if that becomes a final ruling then partially hydrogenated oils -- or liquid oils turned into solids like margarine and shortening by adding hydrogen -- will become additives that can't be used in most foods. Mayo Clinic public health specialist Dr. Donald Hensrud says he understands that some feel it's too much government intrusion, but in this case he feels that intrusion is not a bad thing. Hensrud says trans fats raise LDL, or bad, cholesterol and lower HDL, or good, cholesterol and likely contribute to many incidents of coronary heart disease.