A group of former public officials met Friday morning to propose forming an independent commission to redraw congressional and legislative district lines after the 2010 census. The Minnesota state demographer has said the state may lose one US Congressional seat and population shifts within the state mean some areas will lose legislative seats and others will gain. Minnesota Labor Secretary and former State Legislator Steve Sviggum said forming an independent commission is an attempt to take politics out of redistricting as much as possible. The proposal would be delivered to this year's state legislature and if passed, could be a constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot in November.
ICE RACING AT BIR
Brainerd International Raceway has found a featured race especially for us; people who love to slip and slide around on the ice. International Ice Racing Association drivers will compete all day long both Saturday and Sunday, January 12th and 13th. Spokesman Geoff Gorvin said the races start at 9am and they're just a riot. "You know what it's like to drive on ice. Imagine trying to race on ice." Gorvin said some of the mostly smaller compact cars have studded tires and some are bare and there is a bit of bumping and pushing. About 75 drivers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Canada will compete for series points toward a class championship. BIR is on Highway 371 north of Baxter.
SUSPECTED IDENTITY THIEF, FORGER CAPTURED
Stearn County Sheriff's Deputies have arrested a 22-year old man they suspect of using another man's identity as well as stealing cars and license plates in Central Minnesota earlier this week. Law enforcement suspects Nathan Richard Johnson committed identity theft, car theft and forgery in Morrison, Kandiyohi, Wright, Stearns, and Benton Counties. He had been using the identity of Brian James Marquardt as well as his driver's license and check book. Johnson remains in custody in the Stearns County Jail.
NEW LEGISLATIVE SESSION MAY INCLUDE CONFLICT
The 2008 session may be similar to the 2007 session in some areas. Governor Tim Pawlenty said Thursday that 95% of the people of Minnesota travel by car, he prefers transportation spending on roads and bridges rather than light rail and busses. But House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said a new transportation bill would be introduced and it will be similar to last year's bill the one that was vetoed. Kelliher added that Democrats prefer raising taxes for transportation whereas Republicans favor borrowing the money. The governor may unveil his bonding proposal on Monday and it will probably be around $965-Million. Kelliher said lawmakers have been asked to support more than $4-Billion worth of projects. Other issues lawmakers will deal with include a $373-Million state deficit, health care reform, property tax reform, and money for schools. The session is supposed to be over on May 19th. Some leaders think the work could be finished early.
RURAL AND CITY DRIVERS DON'T DRIVE ALIKE
A new University of Minnesota study says that people who drive in urban settings are a bit more cautious than those who drive in rural areas. Transportation Researcher Mick Rakauskas has been testing subjects with a state of the art driving simulator and found that people who drive in the city tend to drive a straighter course and stay within their driving lane more than rural drivers. Rakauskas said urban drivers use their seat belts more too. And while more crashes happen in the big city, a higher percentage of people survive those crashes, Rakauskas believes, because of those seat belts.
TODD COUNTY BURGLARY
Todd County Sheriff Peter Mikkelson said a homeowner on Sylvan Shores stopped a burglary in progress around noon on Wednesday. The homeowner was in the basement, heard noises upstairs, and found a locked door had been opened from the inside and had been left open. Nothing was taken but the sheriff said another burglary was reported in the same neighborhood on Monday of this week. If you have information about these crimes, call the Todd County Sheriff's Office.
STUDY:MINNESOTA TEACHING IMPROVEMENT LAGS
A report by Education Week magazine had good news and bad for Minnesota education. While Minnesota students enjoyed better chances for success compared to other states. teaching in the state, particularly in helping poorer students to achieve, is not as good. The 12th annual, "Quality Counts" report gave Minnesota a B+ for student outcome, but a D+ for how well teaching is getting better. Researcher Christopher Swanson worked on the report and said the weakest area in Minnesota education was teachers not trained and certified to as high a standard as other states, especially as it relates to help poor versus non-poor students achieve. Swanson added that he expects more reports comparing US education to that of other countries. He said international reports tend to show "we're not doing so hot." Swanson said the studies tend to show that our younger students are doing well, middle school students not as well, and high school students worse compared to others in the rest of the world. What seems to be happening, Swanson said, is that the older students get, the further behind international standards they fall. Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said the report will begin the discussion of how to improve teaching and attract more highly qualified people to the profession.
DRU SJODIN CASE YIELDS TOUGHER PENALTY
43-year old Robert O. Bollett could have faced life in prison without parole under the 2005 law pass in the wake of Dru Sjodin's kidnap and murder. Under the old law, sex offenders could get a life sentence only if they killed their victims. Bollett was convicted most recently criminal sexual conduct with two young boys. The man has had convictions in Carver and Hennepin Counties. Bollett plead guilty to the recent molestation and may be sentenced to two concurrent life sentences and eligible for parole in 12 years.
FORTUNATE 40 PICK UP THEIR CHECKS
Forty co-workers officially picked up their portions of the second $1,000,000 Minnesota Raffle prize on Wednesday. Lottery officials traveled to the Consolidated Telecommunications Company's office in south Brainerd. Members of the "CTC Lucky 40" have been kicking in a dollar a week for Lottery tickets for the past 16 months. Group leader Jennie Johnson took some of the winnings to buy 10 Raffle tickets from the Super America gas station in Brainerd. Johnson said she gave the numbers to the group before Christmas last year and one employee called her on January 1st to make sure she had copied the numbers correctly. Johnson said most of the Lucky 40 are still making lists of things they want to do with the money, about $17,000 after taxes. CEO Kevin Larson said he had an idea; CTC employees donated more money per capita to last year's United Way campaign than any other Brainerd company and this is United Way campaign time. The gas station gets a $5,000 bonus for selling one of the winning tickets. All the prizes from last year's Minnesota Millionaire Raffle have been claimed except for one $100,000 ticket. Winners have until January 2nd of next year to claim the prize.
COMM ED CATALOG HITS THE STREET
The 'Winter 2008' Pequot Lakes/Pine River Community Education class catalog arrived in homes this week. Community Education Director Julie Despot said the catalog lists a good offering of computer classes again this semester. She said computers have been a strong category because of a very active Lakes Computer Club. Despot said the category includes scanners and digital cameras, items many people get for Christmas gifts. Despot said a new course offering she's excited about is the 8-session performing arts course for young people. The class covers various aspects of theatre and will include a run-through performance, dress rehearsal and public show during the Festival of the Arts later in the spring.
ICE STILL A BIT IFFY
Law enforcement officials have always said there's no such thing as safe ice and this year's ice is a great case in point. Nadine Meyer is the aquatic specialist with the DNR's MinnAqua program. Meyer said her agency was going to put on a family program as the Breezy Point Ice Fest that had been scheduled for this weekend. The festival was canceled because the ice that is there is not uniformly thick and solid. Meyer said it remains to be seen whether the weather will provice enough ice for the 18th Annual Brainerd Jaycees Icefishing Extravaganza. That event is scheduled for January 26th.
EMILY COUNCIL VOTES FOR EIS
The Emily City Council decided Tuesday night to require the developers of the Northern Lights Over Roosevelt project to complete an environmental impact study. The Planning and Zoning Commission had decided last month that the more expensive and inclusive study was not needed and City Planner Chuck Marohn had said the study was not necessary. The project has been opposed by a number of Roosevelt Lake homeowners who have insisted the study is necessary to ensure the lake's environment is protected. The project north of Emily straddles State Highway 6.
NEWS DIRECTOR TO DO TIME
When the phone rang this morning, the woman identified herself as a parole officer. And she wanted to talk to the guy in the news department. Kim Parmeter called to see how well the accused was doing in raising bail money. Parmeter said the bail money goes to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the more money raised, the less time spent behind bars. Parmeter said friends, acquaintences, co-workers and even total strangers can donate to the cause. Go on line at www.mdausa.org to get more information.
NYSTROM NEW COUNTY BOARD CHAIR
The chairmanship of the Crow Wing County Board revolves based on district so even though she's been on the board for little over a year, Rachel Reabe Nystrom now has the top job. Nystrom said one of the things she wants to deal with during her tenure is the board's committee structure. Nystrom said the five members of the board sit on 70 different committees and some of them haven't met for decades. Nystrom said the size of some of the committees is also a problem. If a committee has five members, things tend to get done; if a committee has ten or fifteen, not as much is accomplished and its harder to get everyone to the meeting. Nystrom represents County District Three and was elected in the fall of 2006.
AUTHOR JOHN SANDFORD HEADING TO IRAQ
Best-selling mystery writer John Sandford left last week for a two week stay with the Minnesota National Guard. The 63-year old author plans to file stories on www.MinnPost.com, a new online news site that is sponsoring the trip. Sandford is well-known for his "Prey" series featuring stylish detective Lucas Davenport. Camp - Sandford's real name - said he was more excited than scared and wanted to find stories on Minnesota people, a Baghdad surgical hospital, and archeological looting around ancient site near Babylon.
CHECK'S IN THE MAIL
The Minnesota Department of Human Services mailed out 15,000 checks to wrong addresses last month. The checks totaled just over $3.7-Million and were supposed to go to people who get cash payments and food vouchures in a number of public assistance programs. DHS officials say the cause of the snafu was a computer programming error. They've reissued checks mailed to the wrong addresses and stopped payment on outstanding checks.
VIETNAM VETERANS DAY
Walker State Representative Larry Howes intends to introduce a bill into this year's session of the Minnesota legislature to set March 29th as Minnesota Vietnam Veteran's Day. Howes said March 29, 1973 was the day the last 2,500 troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam. Thw war lasted 11 years, the longest in US history. The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington lists the names of 1,072 Minnesota who died in service. More than 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam. This year's legislative session begins on February 12th.
2nd MILLION DOLLAR PRIZE AWARDED WEDNESDAY
The Minnesota Lottery will hand out the second $1,000,000 raffle prize Wednesday morning in Brainerd. 40 Consolidated Telecommunications Company co-workers bought a pool of ten tickets last year and one of them paid off. Lottery officials will hold a news conference at 11am to take a picture of the group and congratulate them. CTC is at 1102 Madison Street in Brainerd. Each member of the group won $25,000, about $17,000 after taxes.
ICE LOOKS GOOD
Organizers of the 18th annual Brainerd Jaycees Icefishing Extravaganza are crossing their fingers and hoping for more cold ice-making weather. The big event is two weeks from Saturday. Deputies with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Water Patrol drilled five holes in Hole in the Day Bay Monday and found ice 11-14" thick. Sheriff Todd Dahl said he would issue a permit for the event when the ice became 16" thick. The Jaycees have sold 5,000 tickets for the event so far for the evnet that usually draws in excess of 10,000 anglers.
C-I BOARD ADOPTS A MEDIUM CUT
The Crosby Ironton School Board decided not to take the advice of administration at Monday night's meeting. Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland and Business Manager Bill Tollefson suggested trimming next year's budget by $1.3-Million, partly to insure a comfortable financial cushion in case of emergencies. Skjeveland said the board approved a somewhat lower figure; $750,000. The superintendent said he also told the board, "once they've approved those reductions, we're going to follow those marching orders. No, we're not going to go back and ask for more, we have other issues we need to start addressing." Some members of the board would like to consider another operating levy referendum. Chairman Bob Sandin said the board would be working on another levy. Former Chairman Mike Domin said the board has not officially discussed a levy and in his opinion has no desire to move forward on the issue.
LOCAL PHOTOGS STAKE OUT TERRITORY
We've all hear the cliche'd story about high school grads going away to pursue their dream and landing far away from childhood homes. Professional portrait photographers Lacey Stiller and Alicia Schermann have a different story. Lacey and Alica graduated from Pine River and Pequot Lakes High Schools in 2005 and went to the Twin Cities for photo school. That's where they met and became friends and decided that working together close to home made sense. Alicia said she fell in love with photography years ago and has wanted to make a career of it for some time. She believes that if you love what you, you'll become better at it and work will never grow old. Lacey said she prefers shooting her clients in natural settings and in relaxed, informal poses and someday would like to do travel photography. The two share studio space in in the Professional Phogograhpy Studio in Jenkins in the old Watts Microsystems building on the west side of Highway 371.
SPONSORING THE FISHING OPENER
The 2008 Governor's Walleye Fishing Opener returns to Breezy Point. And if you or your business would like to share your name or expertise, one possibility is to buy a sponsorship. Brainerd Lakes Chamber spokeswoman Cathy Schneider said sponsoring the opener reaches a whole new audience. Schneider said hundreds of media representatives are brought in from around the state and the country and they file stories for their home newspapers or broadcast outlets. Schneider said there is one event that includes local people and that's the picnic Friday afternoon before the opener at Pequot Lakes' Trailside Park. If you're interested, contact Cathy Schneider at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, 218=822-7118.
TODD COUNTY BREAK-INS
The Todd County Sheriff Deputies are investigating a number of break-ins to businesses in the Hewitt and Clarissa area. Officers responded to a burglary at Denim and Diamonds Bar in Hewitt in the early morning hours on Monday. A moderate amount of damage was done and a number of items was taken. Someone also attempted to break into Jon's Super Value Grocery Store in Clarissa and the Stampede Bar and Grill in Hewitt. If you have information about these crimes, call the Todd County Sheriff's Department at 1-800-794-5733.
STATE PATROL ASKS FOR A LITTLE HELP
Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant Curt Mowers said this is that time of the year when people slide off roadways and into ditches and sometimes aren't able to get their vehicle pulled back on the road right away. Mowers said if that happens to be you, the patrol would appreciate it if you gave them a call and let them know. Officers are sent out to check on vehicles left on the side of the road or in the ditch and if they know you don't need immediate assistance and you'll be taking care of the matter, they won't have to spend the time and tax money. And Mowers said to keep up the good work on calling in sightings of impaired drivers. More eyes and ears on the road are a good thing.
U RESEARCHER SUGGESTS ALGAE FOR BIOFUEL SOURCE
University researcher Roger Ruan told a House/Senate meeting yesterday algae could be a good biomass source to make fuel, and algae won't cause corn and soybean shortages. Ruan said there isn't enough agricultural land in the United States to meet national fuel needs using existing crops. Ruan said right now, the technology to turn algae into fuel is not as efficient as other biofuels. State Senator Jim Vickerman didn't care for Ruan's ideas and said ethanol production has helped raise the price of corn and been very good for corn farmers.
MALL OF AMERICA SUICIDE
Bloomington Police are investigating the death of a man who apparently jumped off the 6th floor of the Mall of America parking ramp. Someone reported a body on the road on the east side of the shopping mall. Police Sergeant Mark Stehlik said there were no indications of foul play. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide. The man's name has not been released.
The 18th annual Brainerd Jaycees Icefishing Extravaganza is two weeks from Saturday. Area fishing guide WalleyeDan said Monday on his web site that average ice thickness on Gull Lake is about 11 inches. One Jaycee official said he'd checked ice on Hole in the Day Bay last weekend and ice thickness ranged between 12 and 16 inches. The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department wants ice to be at least 14 inches thick for the contest that draws thousands of anglers and lots of heavy trucks. Sheriff Todd Dahl said the ice conditions right now are not great and public safety is his number one concern. Dahl said venturing out on area lakes is never safe and he wants people to use common sense when they do it. The Jaycees were to meet Monday night to talk about final plans for the Extravaganza. A Jaycee spokesman said Monday he expects a public statement about the contest on Wednesday. Check the website for more information about this year's Extravaganza at www.icefishing.org.
C-I STUDENTS EVACUATED
Crosby-Ironton students were evacuated from the high school Monday afternoon just after 1pm after a threat was made against the school. Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland told the Brainerd Dispatch that an anonymous caller contacted the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department and threatened the school. Chief Deputy Debi Backdahl said officers searched the school building but found nothing out of the ordinary. Classes at C-I are to resume on Tuesday.
RED KETTLE RESULTS
The Brainerd Salvation Army exceeded its $100,000 Red Kettle goal this year, by about $3,000. In addition, gifts and food came in from the Food Baskets, Angel Tree, and Adopt-A-Family programs this year and the agency was able to serve 725 households this year, nearly 2300 individuals and almost 1200 children. Salvation Army officials said they know they couldn't do it without you and to send out a huge 'thank you' to all you helped out.
TRF MAN DIES IN CRASH
40 year old James C. Dennis lost control of his vehicle on an icy Highway 220 south of Alvarado Saturday. His vehicle began to fishtail when he crossed into opposing traffic and he collided with another vehicle. Dennis died at the scene of the crash just before 10pm Saturday night. One of the people in the other vehicle sustained minor injuries, the other non-life threatening.
DNR ATV PLAN FOR MISSISSIPPI HEADWATERS
The Department of Natural Resources has compiled a plan to designate certain roads in the Minnessippi Headwaters State Forest for all terrain vehicle use and place other roads off-limits. TRails and Waterways Manager Bill Johnson said the forest is currently controlled by three counties and the DNR and each governmental entity has its own specific rules. Johnson said which of the 130 miles in the forest can be used for motor vehicle travel and use will depend upon who owns the land. Johnson said the biggest change will occur on Hubbard County and DNR lands where the rules will change from open unless posted closed to closed unless posted open and reducing the amount of roads that can be used. You can take a look at the plan on the DNR web site at www.mndnr.gov. Public comments are being taken on the plan until January 22nd. A public hearing will be held on Wednesday night, January 16th at the Bemidji State University Student Union from 6-8:30pm.
"BETTER ICE CONDITIONS NOW THAN LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME"
Those in the know think the ice for this year's Brainerd Jaycees Icefishing Extravaganza will be thick and solid. A spokesman didn't want to say anything on the air but he said he drilled holes in Hole In The Day Bay over the weekend and found between 12 and 16 inches of thick, white stuff. He said because the bay gets a lot of wind, the snow was blown away and didn't keep the ice from forming. The spokesman said the Jaycees are meeting Monday night to talk about this year's Icefishing Extravaganza and will probably announce something official later this week. And he said no matter what you hear from Floyd the Barber or your cousin's neighbor's best uncle, the only official information will be on the web site, www.icefishing.org.
EMILY COUNCIL DECIDES ON ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY
The Emily Planning and Zoning decided last week that the Northern Lights Over Roosevelt Lake project did not require a more comprehensive environmental impact study. The city council will decide the question at Tuesday night's meeting. The council could order the EIS despite the planning and zoning board's decision or City Planner Chuck Marohn's support for a 'negative declaration', not requiring even the less comprehensive environmental assessment worksheet. The 48-lot housing project south of Emily covers 90 acres and straddles State Highway 6. Tuesday night's Emily City Council meeting starts at 7pm.
CLC FOUNDATION PULLS FUNDING REQUEST
The Central Lakes College Foundation has decided not to ask the legislature for bonding money this year for a 1500-seat regional cultural arts center. The Brainerd City Council had forwarded the formal request to lawmakers. CLC Foundation President Dr. Jerry Poland said the council will be asked to withdraw its request at Monday's meeting. Poland said the feasibility study completed last year put the price tag for the center at $27-Million. The city was going to ask lawmakers for $21-Million. The Foundation president said the November state revenue forecast and the I-35W bridge collapse convinced the board that now was not the best time to begin the project. Poland said the foundation will look for more private money and put a request for bonding money off for two years. The arts center would be built on CLC's Brainerd campus.
MINNESOTA HEART HEALTHY
American Heart Association spokeswoman Elizabeth Warmka said the state last in deaths from all cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. Warmka said the 45% drop in heart disease related deaths is because of major lifestyle changes. Minnesotans are getting more exercise, eating healthier, seeing their doctor more often. And many stop smoking. Warmka said the state has been a leader in those statistics for many years and now we're seeing the results. The rate nationwide is also dropping but not as much as in Minnesota. Warmka said the new smoking ban in public places should lead to even healthier hearts.
NEW POLITICAL TREND?
Carlton College political analyst Stephen Schier said the special election results from last month's election in Northfield indicates that Minnesota Democrats are enthusiastic, at least in southern Minnnesota. Northfield teacher Kevin Dahle defeated two other challengers to replace State Senator Tom Neuville who was appointed to a judgeship. Schier said the election gives DFL-ers a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Senate Majority Larry Pogemiller said the victory is indicative of voter mood but it won't have a lot of impact on business in the Senate.