News Day: Windy and green in Woodbury /Fong Lee verdict / Back to Mexico? / more

Forecast: Windy and green in Woodbury Woodbury’s city council is considering several green ordinances and encountering some opposition to expanding wind power, reports the PiPress. Proposed new ordinances include provisions for geothermal heating and cooling in homes, solar panels covering all roof spaces, and ground-mounted solar panel arrays up to 400 square feet in residential areas and 1000 square feet in rural areas.

The controversy comes over wind turbines. The proposed ordinance would allow 60-foot wind turbines in yards of more than an acre. Opponents focus on aesthetics and noise, while proponents say there’s little noise and focus on the benefits of renewable, green energy. Last fall, the Star Tribune reported plans for a 170-foot wind turbine at the high school to produce 30-50 percent of the school’s energy needs, but developers strongly objected, threatening to scuttle plans for a new housing development. Current plans for East Ridge High School, which is located in an R-4 residential area, are unclear – the high school has not yet submitted an official application to the city.

Large wind energy systems (generating 5 megawatts or more) are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, but smaller installations are subject to local regulation. A brochure published by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security notes that:

Another Minnesota program, net metering, allows home and building owners to install wind generation under 40 kW and connect to the grid. Utilities track the amount of electricity generated and credit the owner for the electricity produced. Any excess electricity not used by the owner is bought by the utility at the average retail rate. Other incentives available from the state include low interest loans and sales tax exemptions.

The Woodbury planning commission will take comments on the proposed ordinance at a June 15 meeting, and the city council will discuss it on June 17.
Fong Lee verdict A jury found that the police officer who shot 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006 did not use excessive force. The PiPress described an almost-empty courtroom for the reading of the jury verdict, which came when Fong Lee’s family was at lunch and lawyers for both sides were also absent from the courtroom. When the family was informed of the verdict, Fong Lee’s mother burst into tears. According to MPR:

Community activist Tou Ger Xiong says the verdict shows that Minneapolis police officers discriminate against people of color.

“This does nothing more than to reaffirm the fact that we should fear police and members of law enforcement. Because it is saying to us, ‘Watch out, if a cop thinks you pose a threat, you will be killed, you will shot, you will be killed.'”

Fong Lee’s sister, Shoua Lee, said her parents came to the U.S. from Laos in 1988 to find freedom and safety. “And on July 22, 2006, over 20 years later, that feeling of safety was shattered.”

Lee’s family believe he was unarmed and that police planted a gun found three feet from his body. They relied on evidence showing no fingerprints, blood or DNA evidence on the gun, and confused police reports about the ownership of the gun.

Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan said the officer acted with “courage and integrity.”

Heading back to Mexico? Is the economic recession driving immigrants back to Mexico? Evidence is anecdotal, but the Strib reports that many people are talking about it:

“Workers are thinking, ‘If I don’t have a job here or if I don’t have a job in Mexico, what’s the difference? Plus no one will harass me’ ” in Mexico, said Ramon Leon, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis. “And businesses look around and ask: ‘Am I relying on a customer base that may not be here?”’

Nationally, immigrant unemployment rates have risen from 4.6 percent in 2007 to more than 11 percent today, pushing many to consider returning to Mexico. But, as a student at Neighborhood House points out, people who return may find an even worse economic situation in Mexico.

Hard times on the farm A recent U of M survey shows that recession is hitting Minnesota farmers hard, reports the Strib:

Median profits for 2,417 farms included in the survey fell 15 percent in 2008 to $90,039, but that broad measure masks steeper losses for some sectors of the farm economy, particularly livestock operations that paid record prices for feed. The median beef farm profit was a loss of $6,810; the median hog farm profit was $4,876, down from $65,720 a year earlier.

Ford Dam flagged Although there’s no evidence to show any danger at the Ford Dam, the evidence to show that it’s safe is incomplete, reports MPR, so inspectors are coming. They will look at whether water is seeping underneath the concrete dam. The problem is more likely in the paperwork than in the dam, say officials, but they’re checking just the same.

MN Job Watch According to AP, electrical generator maker Kato Engineering will cut 20 percent of its workforce, or 94 jobs. Kato’s plant is in Mankato.

Thief River Falls-based Arctic Cat will eliminate 60 positions, or approximately 5 percent of its 1,200 employees, reports MPR, after losing $9.5 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31.

World/National News

Shrinking economy The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of 5.7 percent during the first quarter, reports NPR. But economists are more optimistic about the rest of the year:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and NABE forecasters say the recession will end later this year, barring any fresh shocks to the economy. NABE forecasters predict the economy could start growing again in the third or fourth quarter.

War Reports

Pakistan BBC The half-million residents of the steeply mountainous northwestern district of Kohistan don’t want either the Taliban or the army.

“If the army comes in, the Taliban will follow, and vice versa,” says an influential tribal elder and former member of parliament, Malik Saeed Ahmad.

“In either case, it threatens our way of life.”

They also don’t care much about Sharia law — “‘in fact, people are not interested in any government law,” says Mumtaz Khan Jalkoti, a local lawyer.”

In other war news, ten people were killed in two separate bombings in the city of Peshawar.

Iran An Iranian provincial official blamed U.S. “agents of arrogance” for a mosque bombing that killed 19 people last Thursday. The bombing took place in the poor, mostly Sunni province of Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Sudan BBC: “Sudan says more than 60 people were killed during the fighting with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement around the town of Kornoi, in Darfur.” The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

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