Editorial Roundup: Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune. June 25, 2022.

Editorial: Ruling should end cop funding nonsense

Minnesota Supreme Court rightly decides that Minneapolis must follow its charter requirements.

Minnesota’s highest court recently made it official: Minneapolis must hire dozens more police officers to comply with its City Charter.

Last week, the state Supreme Court unanimously and wisely concluded that city leaders need to fund policing and hire cops based on charter language that says the city is required to maintain a force at a ratio of 1.7 employees per 1,000 residents. That means the Police Department must have at least 731 sworn officers, based on the most recent census data.

MPD currently has significantly fewer cops than that minimum. As of late May, it had 621 officers, including 39 on a “continuous leave” lasting nearly two weeks or longer. The city has about 300 fewer officers than it did before the May 2020 murder of George Floyd while in police custody — a troubling loss of public safety resources that the Star Tribune Editorial Board has consistently decried.

The Editorial Board also has argued that the city needs more community-oriented officers on the streets in a growing city of more than 400,000 residents. With violent crime rising, citizens deserve better police response times, regular patrolling and effective investigations.

The legal case drew renewed attention to the Minneapolis charter police funding requirements, which featured prominently in campaign discussions about transforming policing and public safety following Floyd’s murder. Last November, voters rightly rejected a proposal that would have eliminated those requirements and would have cleared the way to replace the Police Department with a new agency.

The state Supreme Court found that the City Council met its obligation to fund at least the minimum number of officers in its last budget, but hiring is lagging. The ruling should put to rest the ongoing misguided efforts of some council members to decrease police funding even after the voters have spoken.

The case was brought by eight North Side residents who argued that they and others across the city were experiencing increased violent crime and that the city had fallen short on hiring enough officers to protect them. One of the plaintiffs is Don Samuels, a former City Council and school board member running for Congress in the Fifth District as a Democrat.

The Supreme Court’s ruling sends the case back to a district court that had previously given city officials until June 30 to hire more police officers or demonstrate in good faith why they couldn’t. City leaders acknowledge that they are unlikely to meet that deadline. They should at least be able to demonstrate their obstacles in short order, and the district court should be amenable given conditions among police ranks in Minnesota.

The competition for good recruits is stiff across the state. Interim City Attorney Peter Ginder said in a statement that the city’s “unprecedented loss″ of police personnel is a situation that “is not easily corrected.”

Mayor Jacob Frey, the MPD and the city “are working in good faith to recruit and hire more community-oriented peace officers as quickly as reasonably possible,” Ginder said.

The city has cadet classes underway, with more planned, as well as other efforts outlined in a commentary by Frey. Funding has been provided for additional recruit classes, hiring bonuses and officer wellness programs.

“We need to both pay officers properly for their good work and hold them accountable when trust is broken,” Frey wrote.

Absolutely. And as hiring picks up, the city must recruit and train officers who will not break that trust and help city residents, businesses and visitors regain faith in the Minneapolis Police Department.

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Mankato Free Press. June 28, 2022.

Editorial: Study should prompt mining ban near BWCA

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is much closer to the protection it needs from mining pollution after the release of a long-awaited U.S. Forest Service study that gives support to a 20-year mining moratorium on federal land near the BWCA.

The report provides more details on the likelihood that copper-nickel mining carries too much risk of acid drainage and other serious water pollution and shouldn’t be allowed in the watershed of the fragile BWCA.

The review looked at 20 other copper-nickel mines in the U.S. and Canada and found that all harmed the environment and that those damages were often underestimated during environmental reviews.

A proposal to mine so near the pristine waters that enter into the BWCA was a bad idea that was allowed to linger during the last presidency.

The 20-year ban on mineral extraction was first proposed at the end of the Obama administration, but President Donald Trump canceled the proposed moratorium. Last fall the Biden administration resurrected the proposal and ordered the unfinished review be completed.

The public has 30 days to comment on the environmental review, which will then be forwarded to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. She will make the final decision whether to place about 350 square miles (250,000 acres) of northern Minnesota off-limits to new copper-nickel mines.

Twin Metals has faced multiple setbacks on the state and federal levels to its proposal to build an underground mine for copper, nickel and precious metals near Ely, including the cancellation of two previously awarded leases.

The 20-year moratorium would not affect a PolyMet Mining proposal for a copper-nickel mine because it is outside the Boundary Waters watershed. But that plan is also tied up in court and regulatory reviews.

The U.S. does need the metals mined from the ground, but there are places so pristine that mining is inappropriate.

While a 20-year moratorium on mining near the BWCA now appears likely, a permanent mining ban should be enacted. But that’s something only Congress can do.

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