MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Election Day in Minnesota, polls open
Voters in a number of Minnesota communities go to the polls today for municipal elections and/or school district referendums.
Thirty-six municipalities have elections, including Duluth, Moorhead and most notably Minneapolis, where about three dozen candidates are vying for mayor. It will be the first time the City of Lakes uses the new ranked-choice voting system. Fifty-seven school districts have operating levy requests before voters and 26 are asking voters to approve bond levies. The largest in Greater Minnesota is the Mankato School District, where officials are asking $69 million for a new middle school plus other renovations. The Detroit Lakes School District wants $59 million for a new K-3 elementary plus other renovations. Hermantown, Worthington and Red Lake also have bond referendums in excess of $25 million.
Voters in the Pelican Rapids School District go to the polls today to vote on a $22-million bond referendum. An earlier vote for a new school failed, and the proposal before voters would remodel the current middle school and high school. Board member Kathy Ouren says just think of the having 500 people running through your house for the last 40 years. She says they have sections that are 26 years old to 85 years old, and the wear-and-tear over the years just takes its toll. There is strong opposition by many, which are opposed to the tax increase new school construction would bring. Seventeen school districts in Greater Minnesota have bond requests on the ballot today. Dozens also have operating levy referendums.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is reminding voters they can register at the polling place on Election Day in Minnesota. He's encouraging everyone to participate in our democracy by voting today. Ritchie says you can check your registration and polling place or view a sample ballot on his office's website at MNvotes.org He suggests getting to the polls early today because a winter storm expected in parts of the state.
A winter storm watch takes effect for parts of Minnesota later today and that has the state's snowplow operators on high alert. Kevin Gutknect with MnDOT says their maintenance operation has been getting ready for snow and ice for several weeks now, making sure vehicles are in good working order and ensuring salt sheds and sand piles are at required capacity. Mn-DOT has 14-hundred snowplow operators stationed around the state.
The police chief in a small southeastern Minnesota town charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct has been fired. The Brownsdale City Council voted unanimously to terminate Police Chief Jason Mindrup, who has been on leave since the investigation began in September. The victim claims Mindrup assaulted her after offering her a ride home from a bar. Mindrup will be in court November 14th. Brownsdale is about 40 miles southwest of Rochester, near Austin.
The 67-year-old southeastern Minnesota man charged with felony stalking after he was accused of leaving letters and gifts for a 16-year-old Austin girl is missing after Loren Bellrichard was given a one day pass but never returned to the Mower County Jail. The sheriff's department says Bellrichard was allowed to attend his mother's funeral on Friday and was expected to return to jail by Saturday night. He didn't, and when Bellrichard is caught police say he'll face charges and so will anyone helping him.
Xcel Energy is asking the state Public Utilities Commission to approve an electric rate increase. The utility says a typical residential bill would go up four dollars per month beginning in January, followed by a six-dollar-a-month increase in 2015. VP Laura McCarten says Xcel needs the increase to invest in carbon-free energy sources such as nuclear and wind, and for investments in the power grid and other power plants. McCarten says the utility has a lot of tools to help customers manage their energy use and their utility bills. She encourages people to visit ResponsibleByNature.com.
Low sugar prices are having a huge impact on payments to farmers at American Crystal Sugar Company. CEO David Berg is telling growers to brace for a "massive reduction" in payments for this year's beet crop. He announced in a company blog that Crystal will pay its farmers just 38 dollars a ton. Last year, they got over 68 dollars. Berg says most of the company's growers will lose money, and in many cases "they will lose a lot of money." He says Mexico's impact on the sugar market is the main reason for the price drop. Berg says this year's crop also has a much lower sugar content.
Seventh District U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson (DFL-Detroit Lakes) wants top lawmakers to continue negotiating on a Farm Bill this week even though the U.S. House is on break -- but whether he gets his wish remains to be seen. Peterson, the lead House Democrat on the Farm Bill conference committee, says he's optimistic that they'll finally "spend some serious time and get this worked out." Peterson wants to meet with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) this week -- but Lucas' office said late yesterday that details were still being worked out and a meeting hadn't been set.
________________________________________________Minnesotans pay among the highest rates in the nation for child care -- and the overall cost continues to increase faster than income. Since quality opportunities for all are vital for future success of the children and the state, executive director of Child Care Aware of Minnesota Ann McCully says the 2013 Legislature did approve funding to provide scholarships so some of those living in poverty or from low-income families can have access to high-quality early care and education. The average annual cost for care for an infant in Minnesota is nearly $14,000, and for a four-year-old it's more than $10,000. The report from Child Care Aware of America also found that in the last year, the cost of child care increased at up to eight times the rate of increases in family income.
A new report says the first eight years of a child's life are the most critical in determining if the child will go on to success, and that's why investments in early education are needed. Stephanie Hogenson of the Children's Defense Fund Minnesota says supporting children takes a two-generational approach, meaning also strengthening programs that help their parents. In Minnesota, one-third of children, or more than 400,000 kids, live in poverty or in families considered low-income.
The Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud will be getting a new leader tomorrow. Bishop Donald Kettler will be installed as the 9th bishop of the diocese. He'll officially become the bishop at solemn vespers - or evening prayers - at St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown St Cloud at 7:30 p.m. The event is open to the public. Pope Francis announced Kettler's appointment in September. He is taking over for Bishop John Kinney, who had led the Diocese since 1995.
Six Minneapolis City Council members are joining the protest of the Washington Redskins nickname prior to this week's game. Council members Cam Gordon, Lisa Goodman, Gary Schiff, Robert Lilligren, Elizabeth Glidden and Betsy Hodges sent an open letter yesterday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder. In it, they called the NFL team name "offensive" and asked them to change. The Redskins visit the Metrodome on Thursday night.
Cast members from "The Hunger Games:Catching Fire" will be at the Mall of America Rotunda today in Bloomington starting at 5:30 p.m. Cast members appearing will include Jena Malone (playing the character Johanna), Sam Claflin (Finnick), Meta Golding (Enobaria) and Bruno Gunn (Brutus). The cast will participate in a question and answer session and sign autographs for fans. Orhanizers are asking fans to bring a long a canned food donation in support of Feeding America and World Food Programme. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" premieres in theatres November 22nd.