MN unemployment edges up: 7.6 percent / Policing the police in Minneapolis / TiZa hit with fines

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Minnesota’s unemployment rose to 7.6 percent in October, the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) reported this morning. That’s up 0.2 percent from September, but still far below the national rate of 10.2 percent for October. The state added 2,200 jobs in October, with the strongest growth coming in temp jobs, especially in the professional and business sector. According to DEED:

Professional and business services gained the most jobs during the month, adding 5,500 positions, followed by education and health services (up 3,700), leisure and hospitality (up 1,700), government (up 1,600), information (up 300) and financial activities (up 200). Logging and mining was flat for the month.
Job losses occurred in trade, transportation and utilities (down 4,900), manufacturing (down 4,500), construction (down 1,200) and other services (down 300).

More MN job losses are on the horizon, as the Hennepin County Medical Center looks ahead to 2010 budget cuts that will mean the loss of more than 150 jobs, reports the Star Tribune. HCMC will also restrict access to non-emergency services.

“This combination of cuts, closings and deferring necessary improvement projects reduces our projected 2010 budget gap to $25 million, but it is at the expense of programs that serve our patients,” said Chief Executive Officer Arthur Gonzalez in a prepared statement.

On the national level, the Department of Labor reported new unemployment claims this week at 505,000, unchanged from last week’s revised figures. That’s NEW unemployment claims, meaning the total jobless figure continues to rise, because new jobs for unemployed people just arent’ there yet.

Meanwhile, a million unemployed workers will lose their unemployment compensation benefits in January, unless Congress acts now to extend their eligibility period, according to the National Unemployment Law Project.

The critical benefits provided to jobless workers by the ARRA are set to expire at the end of the year, which means that even with the  latest 14 to 20 week extension enacted in November, 30,000 workers a day will be left without any jobless benefits in January. By March, the number without federal jobless benefits will swell to nearly three million workers.
“There is no time to waste to reauthorize the jobless benefits and health care subsidies that are now the lifeline for millions of jobless Americans hardest hit by the recession. Despite the crucial weeks of extensions Congress passed earlier this month, the looming question is what happens next year, if the entire ARRA unemployment package expires with nothing in its place. Congress has less than four weeks left on its schedule to legislate this year, and unless it acts to renew the unemployment provisions during this period, the clock will run out for a million workers,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project.

In addition, the federal subsidy that has helped unemployed workers pay for COBRA (health insurance) benefits is set to expire at the end of December.

Policing the police in Minneapolis File a complaint with the Civilian Review Authority in Minneapolis and you may never hear what happens to it. That’s not the choice of the CRA, reports MinnPost, it’s the result of “a 2007 memo by the city attorney’s office that said state data practices law means that the CRA can’t release ‘status information” on cases.”

The Minnesota Daily described police federation requests leading to the city attorney’s memo, and current legal challenges to the enforced secrecy.

Current and former members say the inability to release this information to the public severely cripples the Authority’s ability to perform effective civilian oversight of Minneapolis police.

Twenty-one months after the meeting , a community watchdog group led by a University of Minnesota employee sued the city for violating state data laws . A Hennepin County judge ruled on the case earlier this month, siding mostly with the city, and an appeal is in the works.

The only time that a complainant can hear what happened is if the Minneapolis Police Department actually disciplines an officer as a result of a complaint. And that, CRA members told MinnPost, almost never happens.

“We see things that should be an early warning to the police department that there are problems,” said Dave Bicking, one of the Unappreciated Seven on the board. “That’s where we could have the most effect. If the police took seriously the problems that come before us, maybe they could prevent some of the bigger problems. But there’s little indication that they do that. Very few of the complaints we sustain result in discipline.”

Assistant chief of police Sharon Lubinski says CRA-referred cases are taken seriously, citing the numbers on 19 cases reaching her desk in the past year.

Of those, Lubinski says, she’s responded with discipline in four cases. Five cases were so old — dating back to 2005 — that discipline was not warranted, she said. And in 10 cases she ordered no discipline.

TC Daily Planet blogger Chuck Turchick points out another problem with the process, saying:

According to the ordinance, the Chief is supposed to base his disciplinary decision on “the adjudicated facts as determined by the civilian review authority board.” De novo review of the facts is prohibited.
But the CRA’s annual reports reflect a different story. The 2008 report, for example, says that among the reasons the Chief has given for his no-discipline decisions are “dispute with the facts contained in the hearing panel decision and insufficient evidence.” That seems to violate the ordinance. How could the Chief determine there was a “dispute with the facts” or the evidence was “insufficient” without looking at the evidence anew?

The CRA, which lives in the city’s Civil Rights Department, has a director, two investigators and a board that reviews complaints. Four of the eleven positions on the board are vacant. MinnPost says backlog is a problem, with 150 complaints filed in the first nine months of the year, creating an overload for the two investigators.

TiZA hit with fines Minnesota Commissioner of Education Alice Seagren announcedthat the Minnesota Department of Education will fine charter school Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) almost $140,000 for employing teachers who do not hold valid teaching licenses or permits last year. The fine is reduced from the amount first ordered by the state, as TiZa appeals showed only 14 teachers out of compliance, rather than the 23 that MDE initially charged. According to the Star Tribune:

The school’s executive director, Asad Zaman, has said TiZA has struggled to find enough teachers with Minnesota licenses who speak languages such as Somali, Urdu and Farsi. More than 70 percent of TiZA’s students are English language learners, and the school credits the academic success of its students partly to bilingual teachers.

The state has also withheld two federal grants to TiZA, totaling $875,000.

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