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Historic Snowfall Gives Way to Historic Smog

Plus expensive cop lawsuits, more about Mora, and the state's richest companies in today's Flyover news roundup.

5:03 PM CDT on June 7, 2023

Twitter: @UMN_IH|

Our air on May 18.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Air Quality: An Oxymoron?

New York City is getting all the air-quality attention due to the apocalyptic orange skies on display today (you can thank Canadian wild fires for it):

But, as anyone who's been outside in Minnesota this week knows, it's bad here too. Over at MPR, Tim Nelson reports that it's not just your imagination: We're off to our worst start on record from an air quality standpoint, with more "orange alerts" from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at this point in the 2023 than in any prior year. That's bad news for everybody—especially vulnerable groups like the elderly and folks with lung conditions—and air quality meteorologist Nick Witcraft says it could get worse in the years to come. MPR's chief meteorologist Paul Huttner confirmed on air today that, yes, the disturbing haze is one of the many symptoms of climate change. Neat! Makes ya kinda wistful for the third-snowiest winter in Twin Cities history...

Operation Spend All the City’s Money

Local governments in Minnesota paid out $160 million to victims of police misconduct between 2010 and 2020, according to a new study by Hamline professor David Schultz. (If you’d like to kick back with the study tonight and learn more, here it is.) An unsettling figure, sure, but this study finding is even more upsetting: Violent cops cost the city of Minneapolis $136 million, or about 85% of the state total. (That figure does not include the $27 million paid out to the family of George Floyd, which occurred in 2021.) The study found that of 495 payouts statewide, 177, or a little more than a third, occurred in Minneapolis.

We probably don’t have to point out that the population of Minneapolis does not account for 85% of the state’s population, or even a third of it—the total is more like 7.5%. And before you say, well, big cities have disproportionate amounts of police interactions, consider St. Paul, which, at about half of Minneapolis’s population, accounted for 47 payouts. The MPD is disproportionately violent—though Bloomington, with 127 payouts, oughta get its shit together too. The city of Minneapolis disputes Schultz's figure, saying it only paid out $36 million during that time period, but even if we accept that lower figure, that’s about twice what the city is expected to spend on affordable housing in 2024. Meanwhile the budgeted cost of policing in Minneapolis is scraping close to $200 million.

UPDATE: Schultz issued a BIG correction on Thursday. Minneapolis did only pay out $36 million, and the state only paid out $60 million. That means Minneapolis is responsible for 60% of payouts. So while the numbers may be lower, Minneapolis police still seem disproportionately violent.

Ope Town Road

Have we expressed our general admiration for John Reinan before? The recently retired Strib reporter traversed the state for years, ear always smushed to the ground for unique, important stories that he’d deliver with infectious gusto. For the past couple years, Reinan has kept readers abreast of the zigzagging ordeal over the Crisman family’s contentious stretch of gravel road that provides the only access to their home near Mora, Minnesota. The Crismans have been in and out of courtrooms, begging judges to recognize the road that, under state law, doesn’t even legally exist. On Tuesday, the Kanabec County Board voted unanimously to deny any further efforts to litigate the road.

And who got pulled out of retirement to cover it? You know who. “With their legal and political options exhausted, the family appears to have no public path to recovering the quarter-mile segment of gravel road that's now been declared the property of neighbor Danny Schmoll,” Reinan writes, adding that “anti-outsider sentiment” may have been working against the family, who moved to the cattle farm in 2017. The board was "set up to be the heroes by simply doing the right thing, but they blew it," the Crismans said via a statement. Now, it seems, the marooned household's only option is to build a long private driveway. Revisit the small-town drama, as catalogued by the hardest working retiree in local journalism.  

MN Down 1 Fortune 500 Company This Year

Now in its 69th year, Fortune 500's megalist of companies living the American dream was just revealed, and it turns out that 15 Minnesota-based firms have made it. At a very respectable No. 5 is UnitedHealth Group, the massive insurance company that has been accused of overbilling, spilling private data, and denying health claims. That (allegedly) bad behavior has all paid off though; the company pulls $324.1 billion in annual revenue. Anti-union/performatively pro-gay Target is No. 33 this year at $109 billion, forever-chemical kings 3M ranks 116th, foreclosure-happy U.S. Bancorp hit No. 149, and Xcel Energy, which sulkily cancelled a plan to build 700 EV stations in Minnesota (using your money) after the state capped its rate increase at 9% over the next three years, is at No. 271 with $15.3 billion in the bank. Also on the list: Best Buy (No. 94, $46.2 billion), Land O'Lakes (No. 213, $19.2 billion), and General Mills (No. 219, $18.9 billion). Not on the list this year? At No. 567, Securian is down over 100 spots from 2022. You may remember Securian as the company that invited U of M President Joan Gabel to join its board of directors. It did not end well (for her, at least).

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