MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: St. Thomas priest takes leave of absence
ST. PAUL -- As the cries for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul to release a list of Minnesota priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse continue to grow louder, a Catholic priest and professor soon to be accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl more than a decade ago has taken a voluntary leave of absence from the University of St. Thomas. Lawyer Jeff Anderson notified the Archdiocese on Saturday that he'll file the suit today (Mon) against Reverend Michael Keating. Anderson says the victim reported the abuse to the Archdiocese in 2006. Keating became a full-time faculty member at St. Thomas in 2005. Officials with the school confirm that he is on leave, but are not commenting on the allegations or the reason for the sudden time off. More details of the allegations against Keating are expected in an afternoon (1pm) news conference in St. Paul.
Federal courthouses in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth, and Fergus Falls are operating normally during the government shutdown, having been deemed essential, and court officials say cases continue to be heard and judgments made. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts says that may not be the case if the federal doors remain closed beyond Thursday or Friday. When the shutdown was announced federal court officials estimated they had enough cash on hand to operate for about ten days. With spending severely restricted since the shutdown began they have been able to stretch that funding beyond the earlier estimate, but now say that if Congress doesn't pass a bill to fund the court and reopen -- the U-S, the federal court system will have to shut down by the end of the week.
A just-released report from Wilder Research estimates 14-thousand people are homeless on a typical night in Minnesota -- a six-percent increase from three years earlier. The foundation's Ellen Shelton says on October 26, 2012, they counted about 22-hundred people who were not using any kind of a homeless shelter--that includes people who were in tent encampments, or riding a bus overnight or staying in a transit shelter. The rest of those in the homeless census were in emergency shelters, transitional housing and the like. Wilder Research is presenting the findings at its Homeless Annual Conference tomorrow (Tues) in Willmar.
It's not too early to apply for energy assistance to help pay winter heating bills. Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says the government shutdown is not impacting LIHEAP (Low Income Home Home Energy Assistance Program) funding. The average annual grant per household last year was 500-dollars. Rothman says they have already processed over 20-thousand LIHEAP applications so far this season.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's online Minnesota Grown Directory has 143 local farmers' markets -- and an expert says failure of Congress to pass a farm bill has put each of them at risk. Union of Concerned Scientists economist Jeffrey O'Hara says local farmers give a surprisingly big boost to rural economies, and to people's health, and studies have found people who go to them eat more fruits and vegetables. O'Hara says small incentives have boosted farmers' market produce for seniors and low-income mothers and children but those programs have expired, even though they cost less than a $100 million. Gridlock in Congress has killed several attempts at a farm bill this year, with nutrition assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program the sticking point.
Part of Highway 210 through scenic Jay Cooke State Park near Duluth remains washed-out after severe floods in summer 2012, and officials are asking the public to take an on-line survey on whether it should be rebuilt. Andy Hubley with the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission says even though a number of people like to drive through the park, and though it's extremely popular with motorcyclists--the average daily traffic was only about 200 cars per day when averaged out over a whole year, which Hubley says is very low for a MN-DOT highway. You can give your input through this Thursday (10/17). Visit arrowheadplanning-dot-org and click on "Highway 210 Jay Cooke."
The 9-year-old boy who snuck on to a flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas is back in Minnesota. Hennepin County has custody of the boy and a court hearing is scheduled for tomorrow (Tue). It's a case that drew national attention after the child made it past three security checkpoints at the airport on October 3 and boarded a Delta flight without a ticket or a boarding pass. Last week his father spoke to reporters, saying that he had asked for help with the boy's behavior problems in the past but was told authorities couldn't get involved unless the child's actions became more serious. Just before the wayward solo flight the boy was accused of stealing a truck and damaging several other vehicles with it. The court hearing will start the process of determining whether the boy should be removed from the home and/or receive mental health treatment. He has a history of running away from home and other aggressive behavior.
There was more than a little irony involved in a single-vehicle accident yesterday (Sun) near Long Prairie. Police say an Alexandria man was driving a semi pulling a tanker filled with milk when he struck a black angus cow that was in the road. The driver wasn't hurt. No word on the condition of the cow.