News Day: Green leaving MPS / Ellison fires back / No new bushes – and get those eagles out of here / more

William_Green-webGreen leaving MPS Schools superintendent William Green announced that he will leave the Minneapolis Public School system at the end of his four-year term in 2010, continuing what many see as a trend to one-term superintendents in major metroplitan school districts. According to the Star Tribune, “Green will have spent 4 1/2 years with the district when he leaves — 50 percent longer than the national average for urban districts.”

Unlike St. Paul’s Meria Carstarphen, Green does not appear to be headed for another superintendent position, but, according to MinnPost“decided to return to his ‘first loves,’ teaching and writing.” He is still a tenured professor at Augsburg, where he taught history courses.

MPS faces many challenges, including downsizing as student numbers decline, budget deficits, and a continuing achievement gap. When Green took office, however, the district was in far worse shape, “coming apart at the seams for many, many reasons,” according to Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

Keith Ellison fires back The Star Tribune has front-paged the story that the Muslim American Society (MAS) paid for Congress member Keith Ellison’s hajj or pilgrimage trip to Mecca in 2008. According to the Strib and the Minnesota Independent. MAS “received nearly $900,000 in taxpayer funds in 2006 and 2007 for renting space to Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a school that receives public funds.”

Republicans immediately jumped on the story, demanding and apology and saying that “Taxpayer money intended for students must never be used for a politician’s personal travel.” To be clear, the taxpayer money in question was rent paid in 2006 and 2007 to a holding company that owns the TIZA building. That holding company then made donations to MAS in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, after these payments had stopped, MAS gave money for the trip.

In a letter to the editor to the Strib, Ellison pointed out that he had carefully sought and received approval from the House Ethics Committee before the trip, and had “followed the spirit and the letter of the House rules, as communicated to me by House ethics lawyers, at every step of the process.” Furthermore, he wrote:

Privacy is not undiscovered dishonesty. Some things are private. For example, family and religion. My trip, which was not at taxpayer expense, and paid for by a nonprofit organization that does not lobby, was handled according to the House rules, which balance disclosure and privacy.

HERC decision delayed In a surprise move, the HERC garbage burner’s request to increase the amount of garbage burned was put on hold for the moment. Covanta and Hennepin County officials told the Minneapolis City Council Zoning and Planning Committee that they will be going to the state for changes to the burner’s air emissions permit before seeking local approval for increased burning. The city Planning Commission had already denied the application for a 21 percent increase in burning.

According to the Star Tribune, “state officials may be reconsidering an earlier determination that further environmental review for the expansion isn’t needed.”

“Missing persons” protest at MnDOT Charging that people of color, women and low-income people are “missing persons” in MnDOT construction projects, about 300 protesters rallied in front of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) headquarters in St. Paul, according to the TC Daily Planet. The protest was led by HIRE Minnesota, a coalition of 65 community organizations, demanding that MnDOT do more in contracting and training women, minorities and low-income people on MnDOT projects.

No new bushes – and get those eagles out of here The temporary Joint Airport Zoning Board proposed a new set of zoning regulations designed to protect St. Paul’s Holman Field airport, and those present at Thursday’s public meeting did not like what they heard. According to the Pioneer Press, the new regs provide:

No new waterfowl habitat along the Mississippi River, no new homes in the Railroad Island neighborhood of St. Paul, no proposed Saints baseball stadium, no tall buildings — or upgrades on existing ones — without special permission.

And the capper: no new trees, or even bushes, on the state Capitol grounds …

Officials admitted that planes do not fly over the Capitol grounds.

Community resident Tom Dimond was among the opponents:

“If you’ve ever been in Swede Hollow, it’s a hollow. (There’s a) 20-foot height maximum (according to the proposal). To hit a tree that’s 20 feet tall, you’d have to fly down into the hollow to hit it. I mean, c’mon,”

And then there are the birds, always a problem for airplanes. The airport has already trapped two young bald eagles and relocated them “up north,” and wants to can plans for improved waterfowl habitat in the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.

World/National Headlines

Delaying health care reform For the first time, majority leader Sen. Harry Reid said that there wil be no health care reform vote until after the August recess. The New York Times reported that Reid attributed the delay to Republicans’ need for more time. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she is still trying to schedule a vote for next week, and would consider keeping the House in session past July 31. In a speech in Ohio, President Obama called on the cheering crowd to “stay on your members of Congress. Keep up the heat. We’ve got to get this done.”

Massive amounts of lobbying money continue to pour into the debate. NPR reports that, during the three months ending June 30, drug companies “spent $40 million lobbying Congress. That’s more than $3 million each week.”

Iran Mir Hossein Moussavi announced plans to form a new opposition political front, reports BBC. The front will offer a legal, political framework for the Green movement’s opposition to the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Shahpour Kazemi, 62, the brother of Mr Mousavi’s wife, was among the hundreds arrested after the election. According to the New York Times:

The wife of the Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi spoke out forcefully on Thursday against the recent publication of accusations against her imprisoned brother, saying the accusations were false and amounted to a new effort by Iran’s hard-line leadership to discredit the opposition movement.

Mr. Moussavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, is a well-known figure in Iran who played an important role in his campaign before the disputed June 12 election.

Meanwhile, hardliners continue pressuring Ahmadinejad to fire his top deputy, who has in the past made “friendly” comments about Israel.

War Reports

Afghanistan The U.S. death toll continues to rise, with two U.S. service members killed in a bomb attack in southern Afghanistan. AP reports:

July has been the deadliest month for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Friday’s deaths raised the American toll to 37, well above the 28 who were killed in two months last summer.

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