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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 29

A better response to rioting in Minneapolis

State, local officials moved quickly – without undue force – yet the damage was widespread.

It appears Minnesota is getting better at quelling civil unrest and violence. That is both hopeful but saddening, because repetition is the cause for improvement.

After the bungled response to the week of violence that followed George Floyd’s death in police custody in late May, state and local officials took a far different tack toward new unrest last week, one that proves the value of careful planning, coordination and commitment to well-controlled use of law enforcement resources without hesitation, but with judgment.

The response to rioting in Minneapolis on Wednesday showed that law enforcement, done correctly, can serve its intended purpose: protecting life and property without undue force.

The triggering event this time came when a rumor started that Minneapolis police had killed a homicide suspect they had cornered downtown. That was untrue. To avoid misinformation, Minneapolis police quickly released a graphic video that showed the moment Eddie Frank Sole Jr., 38, shot himself.

But the video itself proved a traumatizing event for many. Sole, who was Black, can clearly be seen slumping over after the shot, blood streaming from his head.

How and when police release videos is a topic that deserves more examination – and soon. There is too little transparency on how such decisions are made. If officials are to regain trust, there can be no sense that video will be quickly released when it exonerates officers but otherwise withheld.

Releasing the video of Sole’s suicide might have been a prudent move to tamp down inaccurate rumors, yet rioting still broke out Wednesday, leaving dozens of businesses damaged and many looted.

That said, city and state officials moved swiftly to curtail the unrest. A call for mutual aid went out quickly to the Hennepin County sheriffs and surrounding law enforcement agencies, sending 1,000 law enforcement officers surging into Minneapolis. Even before a request for state aid was made, more than 100 State Patrol officers were deployed to key parts of the city, and a National Guard unit was put on alert for activation.

With memories of the weeklong Floyd riots lingering, the presence of National Guard members downtown was a chilling yet reassuring sight. To those forces, add the inclusion of community groups. Gov. Tim Walz said he spent much of Thursday enlisting the support of groups such as MAD DADS, who were a strong presence alongside law enforcement officers.

On Thursday, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington noted in a news conference that “we spent last night working together to restore order and keep the peace.” Of more than 130 arrested, he said, no one was injured. “That is what good policing looks like.”

Walz noted in that same news conference that the necessary work to bring justice and equity “cannot happen when communities are not safe.” That is an important distinction. We can and must draw a firm line between addressing longstanding injustices while refusing to let violence and destruction be the outcome to every triggering event.

The fact is, communities of color want what every community wants: safe streets, free of crime and violence. They have every right to expect, to demand that law enforcement – in whatever form it takes – will protect and serve, not target them. And that their voices, their concerns, will be an integral part of creating safe communities.

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St. Cloud Times, Aug. 28

Welcome, students, to a year of college like no other!

It’s that time of year when St. Cloud streets get a little more crowded, lines get a little longer and – best of all – the community becomes a lot more vibrant as thousands of college students head to classes at one of the metro area’s four major post-secondary institutions.

Of course, 2020 is anything but a normal year! Still, amid the COVID-19 pandemic that seemingly reshapes life daily, it’s great to see students move to (and return to) this community.

From educational to economic opportunities, from fine arts to cultural connections, this area is fortunate to be home to St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Technical & Community College, the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.

To be certain, this school year is shaping up to be like no other. With that in mind, it’s worth emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility – both in the spirit of protecting public health and with the goal of keeping in-person instruction in place all year long.

After all, it would be sad to see the thousands of just-arrived students have to pack their bags and leave early just because basic preventive measures were ignored.

Those preventive measures are now well-known but worth repeating. Wear a mask as required. Make choices that allow for social distancing. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. Clean and disinfect your home, especially high-use areas. Monitor your health daily. And if you’re not feeling well stay home – and isolated from others.

While those are very simple steps, there is a growing list of colleges nationwide struggling to control the spread of COVID-19. Just this week, USC, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and the University of Missouri all reported substantial case increases.

Closer to home, the University of Minnesota this week announced it would delay letting students move to campus housing in the Twin Cities, Duluth and Rochester for at least two weeks. Classes, though, will start Sept. 8.

Those are just a few of the dozens of colleges nationwide now on the front lines of COVID-19. Reactions and solutions range from suspending in-person classes to suspending students who attend large gatherings and parties – on or off campus.

Clearly, we don’t want to see similar problems arise at local colleges. That’s why it’s important to be responsible and follow basic safety measures.

Of course, it’s not just students who should do so. Community members also must be responsible and adhere to respective colleges’ requirements for visiting their campuses.

All four major colleges lay out those and many other details for addressing COVID-19 on special websites. Print readers can just visit each main site and find the respective link.

St. Cloud State

St. Cloud Technical & Community College

College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University

Students, faculty, staff and all community residents should research these sites. They provide good perspective on how each institution is approaching COVID-19 – and what it will take to make sure students stay here as long as possible in a school year like no other.

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The Free Press of Mankato, Aug. 28

Line 3: Balance jobs with narrow legal appeal

Why it matters: Rebuilding a deteriorating pipeline across northern Minnesota has created a larger debate about fossil fuels and climate change.

Opposing sides in the controversy over building the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline across northern Minnesota seem more concerned with how the issue will play out politically rather than any reasoned concern for jobs and the environment.

Senate Republicans recently grilled Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelly on his decision to appeal a court decision. That appeal will further delay the project, which still faces permit requirements from several other agencies.

Kelly, a Democrat, decided to appeal the decision with the backing of Gov. Tim Walz. But the issue tends to split Democrats among those who want jobs in northern Minnesota and environmentalists.

Three Minnesota Indian tribes oppose the new line, worried about spills and other damage to Indian lands including those for wild rice harvesting. Another Minnesota Indian tribe supports the new line, fearing the old line is more dangerous.

Construction of the $ 2.6 billion pipeline is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the area.

The Public Utilities Commission has three times voted to approve the project, but the first two decisions were thrown out by courts for somewhat technical reasons.

Kelly told a Senate committee the latest appeal focuses on a narrow part of the law that deals with how pipeline owner Enbridge should have to analyze future demand for global oil. It seems like a small detail, but it’s an important nuance to some.

Enbridge cites its own analysis and that of another researcher to show demand for the oil carried by the pipeline – 766,000 barrels per day – will be strong for decades.

The Walz administration argument seems more about crossing T’s and dotting I’s in the demand analysis, and it argues that if Enbridge did a proper study it would show much lower demand for oil in light of an energy environment that will favor electric cars and far lower fossil fuel use.

That analysis, if oil demand is shown to be lower and pipelines won’t be needed, would likely force the PUC to deny the permit or certificate of need.

It’s important to note that the PUC voted 4-1 to approve the permit in the most recent case with three Democrat-appointed members and one Republican voting in favor while the member without party affiliation but appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton voted no.

Democrats face a political dilemma in that the issue is creating a party fissure.

The issue shouldn’t be viewed through the lens of political narrative, but rather through the lens of balancing environmental interests against those interests for jobs and economic opportunity in an economy decimated by the pandemic.

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