Duluth Police acquire 3 ATVs for patrolling trails

The Duluth News Tribune reported a few days ago that the Duluth Police Department has acquired three ATVs at an overall reduced cost to be used in regular patrolling of the city trails, Lakewalk, Canal Park, and Park Point. Great news!

Personally I haven't witnessed much ATV use/abuse on city trails, although I haven't really hiked on too many of the city's wider trails. I do notice ATV abuse on state trails and grant in aid trails, but not much within the city limits. Regardless, increased enforcement can't hurt.

There are some that argue that the DPD's ATVs will cause harm to the trails, although I would make the argument that they will cause less harm than those that they are patrolling for. They claim the increased ATV enforcement is in response to citizen complaints (which I don't doubt).

I also learned something new - if you flee police on an ATV you can have it forfeited to police under a state law.

Duluth looking to borrow close to $4 million for zoo

It's not enough (apparently) that the city taxpayers are bailing out the failing aquarium. Duluth Zoo officials are now looking to borrow $3.7 million dollars (to net it $7.4 total after matching funds) to try and bring the zoo back up to snuff.

Part of what I find humorous is that they aren't sure yet what they're going to do with the money. There's no budget for it. It's like getting $7 million and then trying to figure out how to spend it. They have a couple of ideas for it, including expanding some exhibits, although when the zoo lost it's accrediation it was largely over repair and maintenance issues.

Someone remind me why the Duluth taxpayers are paying for another failing attraction? Seems like it's time to move the zoo into a non-government management system as well..

Senate Leader Arrested After D.U.I. Stop

This is always fun... MN State Senator James Metzen was arrested during the early hours of Tuesday, May 22nd, after an officer observed him weaving in his lane in South Saint Paul. Mr. Metzen is the State Senate president. He gaveled the 2007 session to a close just a few hours before he was picked up for drunk driving.

To make it all better he apologized in a letter to the Senate majority leader “for my lapse in judgment.”

Good job. I know I feel better about the leadership of the state.

State budget woes

A friend at work gave me an article in the Duluth Budgeteer News from this past Sunday, May 20th, by Dick Palmer.

Mr. Palmer predicted (incorrectly) that a budget bill wouldn't be passed. He did predict correctly however that the finger pointing would start on Tuesday. It did. It's amazing that the finger pointing happens whether or not the budget gets passed.

Pawlenty says that legislators didn't listen to him when he said he would veto certain items. He said “They received my message. They just chose to plow ahead anyway.”

House Speaker Kelliher accused GOP lawmakers of delaying proceedings.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said funding for the DECC expansion, and $30 million for Iron Range steel plant projects, fell victim to last-minute Republican delays on the House floor.

None of them are big enough to admit that it's a group effort - it's always the "other guy's" fault.

Did somebody say unicameral?

Duluth Central High School to close

The Duluth school district announced on Friday that it is recommending the red plan (for fixing it's financial problems). The red plan puts it on course to close Central along with about 5 other schools. The plan still needs to be voted on by the school board.

This will dramatically change schools in Duluth. Duluth will become a two-high-school city, with Denfeld and Ordean (East will become a middle school). A new building will be constructed on the west side of town as a new middle school.

The plan is expected to cost $257 million to implement. For the average taxpayer thats $96-$132 per year.

The details of the red plan (and the other two plans as well) can be found here.

This is a bummer for me personally as I graduated from Central. Oh well. On the flip side, I'm happy to not be a Duluth taxpayer once again.

Ham Lake fire winding down

The Ham Lake fire is finally winding down. It's burned almost 76,000 acres in the US and Canada, making it Minnesota's largest fire since 1918. The Cook County Sheriff is allowing residents back into the area finally to see what's left of it.

Now comes the issue of responsibility. Apparently the US Forest Service is wrapping up it's investigation of who may be responsible. Depending on the circumstances, the party or parties responsible may be prosecuted by the US Dept of Justice or a county (Cook I assume) attorney. Anyone found responsible could be subject to jail time, fines, or restitution (for a fire that has cost nearly $7 million to fight plus at least that in lost buildings).

I'd hate to be the person responsible, whether caught or not, whether negligent or not. The USFS has suggested that charges may not necessarily be filed if the fire was an accident, such as a doused fire that rekindled. Even so, just knowing that your campfire caused such destruction would be a heavy burden.

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