Minnesota Now June 23, 2022

A woman in front of a microphone
MPR News host Cathy Wurzer
MPR

Critics are calling for sweeping changes at the Shakopee women’s prison after an alleged assault of an inmate by a guard. We’ll get the details on what they’re asking and the department of corrections’ response.

Ely’s community radio station WELY was slated to go off air on June 1. But it may have a new lease on life. We’ll hear how it might be saved — and why.

Poet Douglas Kearney made headlines this week after wining a prestigious intentional poetry award. He’ll share a little of his work with us.

And we’ll get the latest lowdown on the Minnesota sports scene.

Stay tuned for all that and more on Minnesota Now.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Subscribe to the Minnesota Now podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Audio transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] CATHY WURZER: It's Minnesota Now. I'm Kathy Wurzer. Critics are calling for sweeping changes at Shakopee women's prison after an alleged assault of an inmate by a guard. We'll talk to a critic and then get the Department of Correction's response. Eli's iconic community radio station WELY was supposed to go off the air June 1, but it may stay on the air after all. Who or what will save the station? Coming up.

Poet Douglas Kearney made headlines this week after winning a prestigious inter international poetry award. He'll share a little of his work with us. We'll get the lowdown on the Minnesota sports scene with Wally and Eric. And of course, we'll have the Minnesota Music Minute and the song of the day. All of that coming up right after the news.

LAKSHMI SINGH: Live from NPR News, I'm Lakshmi Singh. In a ruling that could affect laws in at least half a dozen states and the District of Columbia, the US Supreme Court has struck down a New York law that limits the concealed carrying of handguns. The court's conservative supermajority says the restrictions are unconstitutional. NPR'S Brian Mann reports on the implications for federal efforts to pass stricter gun measures in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and other towns and cities across the US.

BRIAN MANN: It lands right at a moment when this very careful negotiation around restrictions, including red flag laws that would deny some people the right to purchase firearms are in this package. This could raise new questions about whether those will pass muster before the Supreme Court.

CATHY WURZER: NPR's Brian Mann. This afternoon, the US Senate is advancing a narrow bipartisan bill that could become the first gun control measure to pass Congress in decades. The chamber voted 65 to 34 in a procedural motion to limit debate on the bill and clear a filibuster. The chamber is expected to vote on final passage of the bill soon.

Another congressional hearing is getting underway into former President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election that led to last year's attack on the US Capitol. Here's NPR'S Deirdre Walsh.

DEIRDRE WALSH: Today's witnesses are three former DoJ officials, including then acting attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Illinois Republican, Adam Kinzinger will help lead the questioning.

ADAM KINZINGER: We'll talk about the details of the former president's efforts to use the DoJ not just to help overthrow an election, but to put doubt in the election.

DEIRDRE WALSH: The panel is expected to reveal new details about the push to make Jeffrey Clark, who supported Trump's efforts, the acting attorney general when other officials rejected fraud claims. The committee could also have more on Republican lawmakers who pushed doubts about certified election results in several states. Deirdre Walsh, NPR News, the Capitol.

CATHY WURZER: The Biden administration is marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the law barring sex-based discrimination in schools that get federal funds with proposed changes on how the law is enforced. Here's NPR'S Melissa Block.

MELISSA BLOCK: Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says the proposed rules make clear that Title IX protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

MIGUEL CARDONA: You belong in our schools. You have worthy dreams and incredible talents. You deserve the opportunity to shine authentically and unapologetically.

MELISSA BLOCK: But the education department punted to a later date the hotly debated issue of whether Title IX should apply to transgender students eligibility for athletic teams. The Biden administration is also seeking to undo controversial regulations from the Trump administration that gave more rights to those accused of sexual assault and harassment. Melissa Block, NPR News, Washington.

SPEAKER 1: This is NPR News.

SPEAKER 2: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations. Other contributors include DuckDuckGo, a privacy company committed to making privacy online simple. Used by tens of millions, they offer private search and tracker blocking with one download. DuckDuckGo, privacy simplified.

CATHY WURZER: Around Minnesota right now, skies are sunny. It's getting warmer. Highs today, upper 80s to the mid 90s. At noon in Rochester, it's sunny at 84, it's 80 in Hibbing. And outside The Sugar Shack in downtown Alexandria, it's sunny and 85. I'm Cathy Wurzer with Minnesota news headlines. A man who was involved in a protracted standoff with police at his home in St. Michael, Minnesota remains in a hospital today after being shot in a confrontation with law enforcement agencies last night. Tim Nelson has more.

TIM NELSON: The Wright County Sheriff's Office identified the man who was shot as 39-year-old Brandon Gaddis. Authorities had been in a two-day standoff at the home after initially responding to a report of a domestic dispute involving weapons. Deputies surrounded the home with Gaddis inside. The Sheriff's Office said efforts to get him to surrender failed, and authorities said they believed shots were fired from inside the home during the standoff.

They closed nearby roads and evacuated neighbors. A statement from Wright County said officers entered the home about 8:30 Wednesday night, and that Gaddis was shot during what authorities described as "an armed confrontation." Authorities offered no indication of the severity of his injuries. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating. I'm Tim Nelson.

CATHY WURZER: Top Minnesota Democrats made their case today to move up in the presidential nominating calendar. Lieutenant Peggy Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and Secretary of State Steve Simon were part of Minnesota's presentation to a panel of the Democratic National Committee. The DNC is hearing pitches from states and territories about why they deserve to be among the first four to kick off the nominating process.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Of course, music means that usually at this time we have our top story. We will with any luck be talking to someone from the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. That's a group of activists inside and outside of the prison system. They're holding a rally tonight in support of an inmate at Shakopee women's prison. We'll tell you more about that when the guest joins us.

Quick check of the forecast because I didn't get to tell you about that. It is a little warm and sticky outside. Temperatures right now are in the 80s, generally speaking, 70s and 80s. Around the region, they range from 84 in Rochester to 82 in International Falls, 86 in the Twin Cities. The forecast today, sunny skies, highs in the upper 80s to the mid 90s.

Chance of showers and thunderstorms in Central Minnesota tonight. Some could get severe by the way. So keep an ear to the radio or an eye to your favorite weather app. Then for tomorrow, more showers and thunderstorms. That will be statewide. Again, a better chance of severe weather tomorrow around the state highs, mid-80s, lower 90s, except in the lower 70s to the lower 80s near Lake Superior.

So as I mentioned, tonight, the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is holding a rally in support of an inmate at Shakopee women's prison. They say the inmate was sexually assaulted by a corrections officer in the prison back in April. The group has a list of demands to keep Shakopee prison safe for incarcerated people. Joining me now with more is David Boehnke. We'll also talk to the Department of Corrections commissioner, Paul Schnell. David is on the line. He knows the inmate who was allegedly assaulted. He's also a member of the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. David, are you with me?

DAVID BOEHNKE: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

CATHY WURZER: Thanks for being here. What do you know about the alleged assault that happened in April?

DAVID BOEHNKE: Yeah. So I got a call from my friend Angela Jackson saying that she was taken to solitary confinement. She was in handcuffs, and that she was sexually assaulted in handcuffs by a guard. So that's what I know. Also, she recorded testimony that we have distributed to the press and also the public at tinyurl.com/justiceforangela. So yeah, that's what we know, that she was sexually assaulted in solitary confinement in handcuffs.

CATHY WURZER: And do you know what may have been a complaint officially filed with the Department of Corrections? Do what's been going on when it comes to the investigation?

DAVID BOEHNKE: Yes. So she reported it to mental health on April 15, two days after the assault. And the DOC has talked to her. Unfortunately, multiple weeks later, she had to have a friend complain because the guard who had assaulted her was seeing her in the cafeteria every single day. And to this day and to this point, they have not released the video footage nor have they fired the officer who perpetrated the assault.

CATHY WURZER: Can you tell me what are the demands you're making of the Shakopee prison in response to this alleged assault?

DAVID BOEHNKE: Yeah. So I mean, really what we need to understand is we have a system that responds to abuse with abuse. And that's a really crazy situation, I think something we don't totally realize. In this case, Angela is being retaliated against for reporting. She's not being placed on a job assignment, which means she can only leave her cell for at most one hour a day. That denies her support and access to loved ones.

Not only that, we have a system where when people do report things, they get retaliated against by guards including being taken into solitary confinement and sexually abused. We also have a thing that I think is really important to understand which people are starting to call the sexual assault to prison pipeline, which is to understand that most women in prison, in fact, the vast majority and nearly all native women in Minnesota prisons were sexually assaulted prior to their incarceration.

And that was the driving factor in how they ended up in prison in the first place. So we have a system where people are sexually assaulted are not supported. And then they're put in abusive situations with no accountability where they can be revictimized and are revictimized on a regular basis.

CATHY WURZER: And to this point as you're talking about sexual assault, I see your list of demands includes stopping daily strip searches. Instead, you're suggesting using body scanners. Can you tell me more about that?

DAVID BOEHNKE: Yeah. So there's a task force on incarcerated women and girls. And people on that legislative task force over a number of years got the Department of Corrections to a big fight to purchase with taxpayer money airport-style body scanners so that instead of being strip searched, the women in Shakopee prison, again, who are overwhelmingly survivors of sexual violence, would not have to be sexually violated through daily strip searches.

And that's been in the facility now for multiple years. And the Department of Corrections has refused to use that body scanner just by having purchased it. And so that's, I think, a very good example of institutional sexual violence happening within Shakopee prison. So it's not only guards and it's not only the institution allowing guards to behave with impunity, but it's also setting up policies and practices or failing to use things that would reduce harm and reduce trauma and instead choosing not to do that.

CATHY WURZER: I see that the organizing committee has created a timeline regarding abuse at the Shakopee prison. Now, some of the cases mentioned are alleged they were never investigated. Some of the other cases mentioned in this timeline were investigated, and the suspected officer was fired or reassigned. What are you asking the commissioner of corrections to do with this information?

DAVID BOEHNKE: Well, so what we want Commissioner Schnell and the public to understand is that this is history and an ongoing problem. This is not a one time thing. This is not a bad apple. This is an ongoing problem. And so first of all, of course, we need the guard fired. Because if you don't draw a line in the sand and say, hey, physical or sexual abuse on your job is OK well I mean that's unacceptable.

So that needs to be the first step. And then the second step is we need to understand that because the overwhelming majority of women in Shakopee prison are victims of sexual violence prior to incarceration that we need to change how we think about incarceration.

That we can't keep abusive practices like daily strip searches, like putting people who are suicidal naked in wet cells, like humiliating people on a daily basis and abusing people. These are not things that help people heal, that help people come back to our society in a place where they can succeed. And it's simply abuse on abuse, and that's not acceptable in a society.

CATHY WURZER: David, any indication that Scott County will prosecute this corrections officer?

DAVID BOEHNKE: So we have not heard from Scott County that they're going to prosecute. So far, they have said they're not going to. They have failed however to release the video just like the Department of Corrections has failed to release the video. And we see this in other cases with police officers and government employees where government officials like Paul Schnell. And he was also formerly a police officer and a spokesman for police.

Unfortunately, they cover up misconduct by government officials. And so this really needs to be addressed, and it really needs to be addressed on a systemic basis where when people speak out, they're supported so that the prison system is changed so we don't have to keep having this whole long, decades long history of abuse over the next decades.

CATHY WURZER: David Boehnke, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

DAVID BOEHNKE: Yeah, appreciate you.

CATHY WURZER: David Boehnke is a member of the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. Joining us right now is the actual commissioner of the Department of Corrections, Paul Schnell. You heard his name mentioned when I was talking to Mr. Boehnke. Commissioner Schnell, welcome.

PAUL SCHNELL: Good afternoon.

CATHY WURZER: What do you know about this complaint?

PAUL SCHNELL: Well, we are aware of it. We know that a preliminary investigation was done. I personally looked into it after becoming aware of it through some social media posts, and ultimately, directed that some additional investigation follow up be done. But I am aware that law enforcement was called in.

And I think really what Mr. Boehnke doesn't do is he doesn't clearly understand the law and due process and the fact that investigations have to occur when things like this happen. And we take these allegations incredibly seriously. They're troubling. And we addressed them. And I think there is a history of addressing these sorts of problems when they come up.

CATHY WURZER: Let me ask you about the history of sexual abuse and assault at Shakopee women's prison. I understand there were four officers fired a couple of years ago at Shakopee in the aftermath of a female inmate sexual assault allegations. Two guards were reinstated. What are your concerns with problem guards at the prison?

PAUL SCHNELL: So we do have-- there are collective bargaining, there are rights that people have. There are hearings, arbitration hearings. And we took action we believe was necessary and an appropriate. Arbitrator deemed that in two cases, we did not have adequate level of proof to sustain termination. And the best we can do then is to manage that in accordance with our policies and procedures and the rule of law. And I think that's what we have done.

CATHY WURZER: Do you think there may be other assaults that are going unreported at the prison?

PAUL SCHNELL: Here's what we do know. I don't know what we don't know, but we know that there are processes and procedures even outside the Department of Corrections for things to be reported. For instance, the Minnesota has an ombudsman office for people that are correctionally involved. And there are also ways that a person who would be victimized could reach out to victim advocacy in the community. And those possibilities exist, and we're not hearing of other additional reports.

CATHY WURZER: You know, let's talk a little bit about what Mr. Boehnke mentioned. And it is true that many women in the prison are prior sexual assault victims. What can be done about practices like solitary confinement, strip searches that really can further traumatize inmates who are victims of past assaults?

PAUL SCHNELL: And we are definitely concerned about trauma and retraumatizing people. It's something that I think we have to be mindful about if we want people to come out better. The same time I want to just correct that people are not subjected to daily unclothed body searches. That's just not the reality or victims of harassment on a day to day basis as was described.

I would that we do have new technology, one that has been implemented at Shakopee. It is new. We have a small number of people that are trained to use these body scanners, which are similar the airport uses but a bit more advanced because it can detect contraband that is not just on the person but actually maybe inside of a person.

So there is some level of concern we have to have around the radiation emissions that happen and how frequently somebody undergoes those types of searches. But ultimately, we want to use those as much as possible to maximize-- or minimize rather-- the potential exposure or trauma around an enclosed body search, which is completely understandable.

CATHY WURZER: So there are body scanners, they are being used.

PAUL SCHNELL: We have one right now in the system, and that is that Shakopee, as I said, new technology. We have others in order for other facilities across the state that we simply have not received yet. But use of this technology is something that we want to advance across the system.

CATHY WURZER: This group is asking that you release video footage they believe you may have of this alleged assault. Do you have video?

PAUL SCHNELL: Whatever video we have related to this investigation, we will release when that investigation is completed. I anticipate that will be relatively soon, and we will release that video. I would also just say that fixed camera video, which is really what the prisons currently have, has profound and deep limitations that we don't cover every area within a facility.

And so I am not going to speak to things active to this investigation, but there may not even be video covering the interaction that has been alleged here. One of the things that we have proposed and we are strong advocates of and we just pushed in the last legislative process, which as you know did not result in ultimately a lot of action, especially on this public safety front, but we wanted body cameras for our staff.

Because we think it's a way that not only protects the folks who are incarcerated, but it protects staff. And that has been seen in law enforcement across the nation, and we think it's really appropriate and something that should happen here to ensure levels of accountability for everyone in these types of encounters. And it's something that we will continue to push and pursue because we think it's in the best interest of all.

CATHY WURZER: What have been your past interactions with the group making the allegations and the demands, the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee? Are you willing to sit down with them?

PAUL SCHNELL: We have multiple times. There have been things that they have proposed that we have actually implemented. We will talk to anybody about anything. I was a bit surprised that in this particular case, we found out about it through a social media post without anybody reaching out directly. And so our ability to more directly and immediately jump on that was impacted. And that's disturbing and something that I hope in the future, we want to be able to get on concerns as opposed to finding out or reading about them in media.

CATHY WURZER: I believe the inmate in question though didn't make it did make a report according to what we heard and was retaliated against. Is that what you're understanding too?

PAUL SCHNELL: So retaliation was not something I had heard about. I think what we had heard about was that a report had been made, information have been received about this. Staff that ultimately check into it. There was a preliminary investigation. And law enforcement, outside law enforcement was brought in. And they conduct their own investigation, which ultimately gets sent off to the local county for review and consideration of charges.

CATHY WURZER: Officer in question still on the job?

PAUL SCHNELL: Yes, he's in a different job assignment, so not in a place of contact with folks, but remains on the job during this investigation, absolutely.

CATHY WURZER: Sir, your final question. Corrections officers like other law enforcement facing staffing shortages, does that impact some of the procedures or how an allegation of sexual assault is handled or just general numbers in the prison to try to curtail some of this alleged activity?

PAUL SCHNELL: Well, I mean, certainly we do face as almost every workplace does as challenges around staffing. But always, that will never impact of the seriousness with which we take these types of allegations. We will act to protect the people that are in our custody first and foremost, and then conduct a thorough and complete investigation. And based on that investigation, take actions.

CATHY WURZER: All right. Commissioner Schnell, thank you for your time.

PAUL SCHNELL: Thank you. Have a good day.

CATHY WURZER: You too. Department of Corrections commissioner is Paul Schnell. We also were talking with David Boehnke. David is with the group, the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. It's 12:23 here on "Minnesota Now."

SPEAKER 2: Support for NPR comes from The Technological Leadership Institute at the U of M offering graduate programs, short courses, and certificates to help working tech professionals step up into leadership roles. Online at tli.umn.edu. Tech leaders start here.

CATHY WURZER: It is time for our Minnesota Music Minute. And this is a new one for you. This is May by Minneapolis singer songwriter Siri Undlin who performs as hummingbird. She's playing at the blue ox music festival in Eau Claire this Friday before taking off on a tour in the UK and Ireland.

[MUSIC - SIRI UNDLIN, "MAY"] Mh, May you find your river. May it take you all the way. May it whisper all the little things. I couldn't say--

SPEAKER 1: Support comes from the Alzheimer's Association and their 14 walks to end Alzheimer's in Minnesota. Join one to contribute to research and family support programs. alz.org/walk. Where there's a walk, there's a way.

CATHY WURZER: Well, some good news. If you're in the Twin Cities and you use the Mendota bridge, the eastbound lanes of Highway 55 and 62 across the Mendota bridge right near the airport, well, they're close to mid-August. It's the westbound lanes that are open, which is fantastic because that's been a bit of a pain for Twin Cities drivers.

The closure went into effect this morning. Again, that's eastbound lanes. Westbound lanes across the bridge, they're back open after being closed for nearly two months. MnDOT says crews continue to work on resurfacing the bridge decks. so it's going to take a little while.

Sports. We're going to talk, of course, about sports with our sports gurus, Wally Langfellow and Eric Nelson here in the next half hour. They're going to talk about the Twins. Well, they were doing fine early in the season. They're now behind Cleveland, the Cleveland Guardians. They're going to close out a three-game series.

Actually, there on the field now noon at Target Field. Twins lost to Cleveland last night 11 to 10. Cleveland scored 4 runs in the ninth inning. Now, they're in first place, a game ahead of the Twins in their division. I'm sure Wally and Eric have a lot to say about this. Twins have lost four of the last five games.

We are going to be watching the NBA draft. Draft begins tonight. The T Wolves have the 19th selection of the first round. We'll be watching to see where Minnehaha Academy graduate Chet Holmgren goes. Chet is expected to be selected in the top three at least.

If he does, the last person that was drafted that high in the NBA was Kevin McHale, Hibbing, Minnesota native, U of M stern, of course, NBA star Kevin McHale was the top Minnesota draft pick many years ago. We'll see where Chet ends up. It's 12:27. Let's get a news update right now from Steven John. Stephen.

STEVEN JOHN: Hi, Cathy. The US Senate today pushed a bipartisan gun violence bill to the brink of passage as it voted to halt a Republican filibuster against the measure. The package would toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders, and help states implement red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people declared dangerous. It would also fund local programs for school safety, mental health, and violence prevention.

Final Senate passage was expected by week's end with a House vote to follow, though timing was uncertain. Today's action in the Senate occurred minutes after the Supreme Court issued a decision expanding the right of Americans to carry arms in public. The high court's ruling struck down a New York law that has required people to prove a need for carrying a weapon before they get a license to do so.

Health officials have ordered vaping company Juul to pull its electronic cigarettes from the US market. It's the biggest blow yet to the embattled company that is widely blamed for sparking a surge in teen vaping. The announcement today by the Food and Drug Administration is part of a sweeping regulatory review of e-cigs. To stay on the market, manufacturers must show their products help reduce the harm of smoking for adults without appealing to kids.

In regional news, an ongoing staffing shortage has prompted changes in how the Duluth Police Department responds to certain calls for service. Officers will no longer complete full police reports for crashes that don't result in injuries or citations. The Duluth PD also plans to add additional community service office interns and use more electronic reporting for people to report crimes that don't require a police officer to respond. The Duluth Police Department is 22 officers short of its authorized staffing levels.

Mostly sunny today and warm upper 80s to mid-90s for high temps. Slight chance of some showers and thunderstorms in mainly the northern half of the state. 89 in the Twin Cities now. It's 12:29.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you Steven John. I'll admit, I love, love small town radio stations. Back in the day, they truly reflected the areas they served. They had local news and high school sports, swap shops where folks would call in trying to sell or give away stuff. On-air obits and farm market reports. There are still some stations around where you can call and request a song or ask the DJ to wish your kid a happy birthday or report that you've lost something.

SPEAKER 3: WELY, this is The End of The Road Radio. It's time for community events. The job search file and personal and emergency messages. All dogs that we had missing are now home. I would guess there's still a dog running around out there somewhere, but we don't have any messages regarding them.

So Lars made it home. And the other dog, the yellow lab that we have missing this morning made it home as well. So success. Someone still looking for their drone. It was in a gray case the size of a book. They lost it leaving the Garden Lake area on Monday. If you happen to have found this drone in a case, call 218-365--

CATHY WURZER: I love this. That's from WELY Community Radio in Ely, Minnesota. The iconic station was supposed to shut down June 1, but there are efforts in Ely to save the beloved radio station. Roger Skraba is the mayor of Ely, one of the people working to keep WELY alive and he's on the line. Mayor Skraba, how are you doing?

ROGER SKRABA: I'm doing great. It's hotter than a pistol up here today, but--

[LAUGHTER]

You played that clip, and-- I guide canoe trips, and sometimes I play my morning earbuds in and no one can hear when I'm listening to the radio. And once in a while they'll say, can we hear? Can we listen? So I put it on and they hear the 6:30 AM report, emergency personal messages and they're like, what is that? What? Well, because we're located in an area that doesn't have a lot of coverage, and the federal government allows us to broadcast these as a service.

And I said, it's very unique. There aren't very many places in the world that have this in United States so-- And again, to segue into the story, when I became mayor last August, I got an email from tribal council workers, the people that work for the tribal council saying, hey, would you be interested in receiving the radio station? And I'm like, like as in giving it to us? And they're like, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Giving it to you? OK.

ROGER SKRABA: I'm like, wow! That's a load because is that what government needs to do? It's kind of like-- so as the time has gone on, they finally came to in May they called up the station manager and said June 1, we're done. And then when I found that out I'm like, hey, hey, wait, wait, what happened to the deal? And they're like, what deal? I go, OK. Let's say it didn't happen. We can't lose our radio station. It's too important to the community.

CATHY WURZER: I was going to say, mayor, because WELY has been around for a while in town, right? I mean, it's got it's kind of a cool history.

ROGER SKRABA: 1960s.

CATHY WURZER: 1960s?

ROGER SKRABA: The '50s. Late, early '60. As a kid the station used to be-- I lived on Beacon Hill-- it was like a block and a half away. And the tower, we grew up with the tower in our front yard or whatever. And we used to listen to it, you know, like fifth, sixth, seventh grade, calling in the requests.

And you'd be sitting in the dark with your girl and you'd be, this is our song. Then the lion sleeps tonight and all those things that happened with a small radio station. Because you call, this is for Roger and Cecilia. It's like wooh! It's like Facebook except it was on the radio. And now and now there's a chance that we could lose it. And it was like, no, not right now. Not on my watch. I don't want to see that happen.

CATHY WURZER: But you don't want to get city government involved, right?

ROGER SKRABA: It would be nice if we didn't have to, yes. I mean, that's the last resort. The scenario we're playing out is if the tribal council wants to give it to the city of Ely and the city of Ely only for whatever reason. We would accept it, and we would find a 501(c)(5) (6). A (c)(6) seems to make the most sense. And then find a group that would operate it and then that's how it would operate.

Since that conversation, I've tried to last two days to contact anyone and just no one's calling me back, I mean, I'm left messages, I'm not getting anything. So I know there's no less than five private groups that are interested in purchasing the radio station from the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. And the only caveat that I have, and that's one of the reasons I brought this all up was whoever buys it needs to keep it a small market radio station.

As much as I like KQDS out of Duluth, I would hate to see a big company buy it and then run it like that. There's nothing wrong with that if you have five other radio stations to listen to. But when you only have one, this is what we get, this is what we have. It's nice when it still has that local flair.

CATHY WURZER: Right. I was going to say-- yes-- because many stations as you know, some of the larger stations run via satellite. Oftentimes, the DJ is not even in town.

ROGER SKRABA: No, no. And my plea to the members of the committee that I spoke to was I said, here's how I view it. This is my personal-- I view it like there are parents that have kids in the school system that just can't afford time off from work or the dollars to drive to Grand Marais, to International Falls to cook, whatever, they have other family members. And they just can't make their kids games.

But WELY shows up and they broadcast them live. So the family member is listening to the radio station while their kid is playing, if for whatever reason we don't get that coverage anymore, to me, that's just one more nail in the poverty coffin. Poverty works in different ways, and it demoralizes people. But when you take that away, it's like, I can't sit back and watch it. I can't let it happen.

So we have no-- like I say, I know of three small town, small operation radio stations, private, that are trying to get a hold of the folks over at Bois Forte that assured me they would operate it like it is right now. And I'm like, oh, please do. I mean, if you can buy it and you can make a go at it, by all means, I would appreciate you keeping it a small town radio so we get-- I mean, I don't know of another radio station anywhere in the United States that broadcasts live cross-country ski meets.

CATHY WURZER: I have to say, I have not heard that. And that's why WELY, it is a gem. It is a gem, truly it is. But I'm wondering, obviously, we're talking here on a non-commercial radio station. I mean, is there a possibility that this could be a community-based radio station like WTIP or KAXE in Grand Rapids?

ROGER SKRABA: Yes. And I talked to Scott over at KAXE. I'm on a board with him on. I'm on Club Mesabi, the bike trail board president, and Scott Hall who helped set up KAXE. And he's like, "Roger, when it gets to that point, please include me. I will help You." He goes, "it's phenomenal. It's taken us 20 years," he said, "but we're finally running on all cylinders and it's an absolute wonderful feeling when it's working." And he goes, "I have no doubt that your community could do that." So again, if that happens that is part of our exit strategy, our plan, so that the radio station will still-- that WELY monkey will still work.

CATHY WURZER: Now, as of now, WELY is set to be on air until September 1, right? So it's had a bit of a reprieve.

ROGER SKRABA: Correct.

CATHY WURZER: OK. That's positive.

ROGER SKRABA: But there's not a lot of live radio Sunday nights. The couple that does the call in requests, they were on Sunday night. Usually they're Saturday night. And Trader Craig is usually every morning, although I have not heard him the last couple of weeks if he's doing it or not. It seems like the radio station right now is on autopilot.

Again, I haven't been able to talk to Bret, the manager, or anyone. They're ghosting. It's hard to get a hold of anyone and say factual what's happening. But you can turn it on and get-- I mean, what do you call that news, the Minnesota--

CATHY WURZER: Minnesota News Network. Minnesota News Network, yeah.

ROGER SKRABA: That's up to date. That's current. And then the Associated Press News. So there's someone moving around and making sure that works. But there's not a lot of people, on-air personalities like we're used to. There's some irony to this because people I never dreamed, I mean, these are hardcore locals that they have their first dollar from a confirmation.

And the guy's like, what's going on with the radio station? Can I still get a mug or a T-shirt? Can I help? I'm looking at him I'm like, really? I mean, it's so wonderful to see. It's like people I never dreamt that wanted to help the radio station are out there going-- and it means something to them. It's kind of like part of them.

So I'm going to stay at it. I'm going to keep at it. I'm going to stay in the loop, the small market radio stations that are interested in it, the ones that have contacted me have talked to me at length about it. They've heard my spiel. They're like, what you're hearing? And they're like, yes, sir. That's kind of what we want. Same thing. And hopefully our local businesses will keep it going.

CATHY WURZER: The key though too, as you know, mayor, is to have local support. And that means financial support too. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. And we're going to have our fingers crossed for WELY.

ROGER SKRABA: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you. Take care.

ROGER SKRABA: Have a great day.

CATHY WURZER: You too. Roger Skraba, the mayor of Ely, Minnesota.

FREDDIE BELL: Hello, Cathy. Jim Seals of Seals and Crofts, a duo that was a mainstay in the '70s for those who favor soft rock has passed away at the age of 80. The duo had great hits like Diamond Girl and this one, Summer Breeze.

[MUSIC - SEALS AND CROFTS, "SUMMER BREEZE"]

(SINGING) See the curtains hanging in the window in the evening on a Friday night. A little light is shining through the window, lets me know everything's all right.

[CHORUS] Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind. Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind.

See the paper laying on the sidewalk, a little music from the house next door. So I walk on up to the doorstep through the screen and across the floor.

[CHORUS] Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind. Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind.

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom. July is dressed up and playing the tune. And I come back from a hard day's work, and you're waiting there not a care in the world.

See the smile awaiting in the kitchen, through the cooking and the plates for two. Feel the arms that reach out to hold me in the evening when the day is through.

[CHORUS]

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind. Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind.

FREDDIE BELL: "Summer Breeze," as we remember Jim Seals of Seals and Crofts gone too soon at the age of 80. I'm Freddie Bell. You can hear my show mornings 6:00 till 9:00 streaming live on kmojfm.com.

CATHY WURZER: I adore Freddie Bell, of course. He is a DJ the general manager at KMOJ in Minneapolis.

SPEAKER 1: Support comes from Care Counseling, named the face of counseling by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. Care Counseling is hiring for their new location in Edina. More about open positions and how one hour talk therapy can help at carecounseling.com

CATHY WURZER: 12:44 here on Minnesota Now. This has been a very good month for St. Paul-based poet, Douglas Kearney. Kearney who is also a professor at the University of Minnesota and a McKnight presidential fellow won this year's International Griffin Poetry Prize and $65,000 for his most recent poetry collection, "Show." He's on the line with me right now. Welcome, Douglas.

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Hey, how are you?

CATHY WURZER: I am great, thank you. Congratulations on the award. That's amazing.

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: I know, right? This is wild times.

CATHY WURZER: So where were you when you heard?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Well, I was actually in my office at The U when they made the announcement over social media. They played the video, and I just kind of clapped my hands over my mouth. And you know, I might have fallen down. But who knows? That could just be a trick of the imagination.

CATHY WURZER: It might be. But I would if I were you, probably had fallen right off my chair. Say, I have to tell you that your work is beautiful, beautiful.

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Gosh, thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Talk about some of your influences. Who or what inspires your work?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Oh, wow. Well, I would say that the work of Harriet Mullen who is a poet from Texas but is living in Los Angeles now. Her work was really foundational for me when I started. Really, seriously writing poetry. And then there's the different music groups that I've grown up listening to everybody from Public Enemy and De La Soul to Pharcyde and producers like Madlib and J Dilla. Their work oftentimes is less about informing the content of the work and more about informing my approaches to syntax, my approaches to composition of the kinds of things that I will juxtapose.

CATHY WURZER: I'm wondering, could you read something from the most recent book, the most recent collection that kind of underscores what you've just mentioned?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Absolutely. This is a poem called "Every Day I Gets." I play the stone while old river tonguing me, could fret me to grit. No, not fret. But loves me up what they do, what they do on the regular. I'm a lover when I'm fighting, peaceful here lately. When I cry say, he's having rivers babies.

And so on the regular, I tend them. I tend to look mad as I find me more sand now. But no, I'm fitful when I'm sleeping, wakeful. A minute my ears wet when I get up like drowning, though I've never. All my dreams Chevrolet-heavy. This land would swallow me for one damn pearl.

CATHY WURZER: For one damn pearl. Where's that Pearl coming from?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: The idea of being a piece of grit, something that kind of gets in the way of a perception of smoothness or in some eyes might mar a surface to be swallowed up by something like that, only to be transformed into a commodity, only to be exchanged for that commodity as an oyster builds maker around a grit of sand. That act of being swallowed to be transformed into something that is a value for somebody else but not for yourself is where that kind of comes from.

CATHY WURZER: I understand. In interviews, you've said you want to explore what it means to reckon with instability and discomfort.

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Absolutely.

CATHY WURZER: Many people don't want to do that.

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: No, no, no.

CATHY WURZER: No. What does that mean to you?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Well, I think that the project of being in what we'll put in quotations, "not of snideness but just to make sure that we're kind of recognize this a modern civilization" is actually I think a project of rolling within living in discomfort. I think that so many of our problems come because we insist on our own personal comfort as being paramount.

And there's just things about US American culture that a thing isn't as valuable if everybody else has it. So we want to be comfortable. We don't want other people to be comfortable. And I don't think that the endpoint of living in a dynamic society, even living in a dynamic household is going to be one of constantly being in comfort.

So I want to do something that like the Parliament song says, "dance underwater and not get wet." How do we manage to like live in discomfort in such a way that we recognize it as one of the frictions that makes the possible heat, which can make the possible light of being together?

CATHY WURZER: I find the greatest growth comes from discomfort, don't you?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Absolutely. Because I mean, comfort tells you like, chill, stop, you're fine, right? Right?

CATHY WURZER: Right. Say, how did you get into this work?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Wow. Well, I grew up in a household that really loved language. Whether it was the books that my mother would read with my aunts and various book clubs she had joined or the kind of signifying and trash talk that my father would do or all the hip hop that my brother brought into the house. We all were deeply invested in language.

And then you could see that kind of echoing out in other parts of the community like every place like the barbershop to the bus stop on my way to school, whatever. So like being very intentionally engaged with language as not just a means to communicate, but a source of pleasure in and of itself it's just such a huge part of the cultural traditions that I've identified with.

And so when I learned that a poem, that some poems are simply-- and simply, that's something to put into quotes-- "simply" like play with language. But then you come across somebody like Harriet Mullen who was doing all of this work with double, triple meanings. English that is more double jointed than broken. And she's playing all these kinds of games and yet they're so serious. I call them serious play. The stakes are so high in that work.

And she has also written poems that tell stories. But some of the poems that I've been most interested in with her and what told me, OK, you can do this is the work that feels like it is engaging a question of how we are with each other through this kind of serious play with language. And that's when I knew. I was like, OK, I can do this. I can do this. And people might be interested.

CATHY WURZER: And yes, they are interested. And you have done it very, very well my friend. I wish I had more time. And I think I want to have you back on the program. Is that OK?

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: I would love that. It'd be an honor.

CATHY WURZER: I would love that too. Douglas Kearney, thank you and congratulations again.

DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Thank you so much. Have a great day.

CATHY WURZER: You too. We have been talking to Douglas Kearney. He's a professor at the University of Minnesota, McKnight presidential fellow, and he won this year's International Griffin Poetry Prize.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

There is a crowded Target Field right now watching the Twins battle the Cleveland Guardians. Our good friend Wally Langfellow is there watching the game. He joins us now with Eric Nelson to give us an update on the game and other big sports news this week. You know that Wally of course, is the founder of Minnesota Score Magazine and the co-host of 10,000 Takes sports talk show. Eric Nelson is the other host of 10,000 Takes. And Eric is also the Minnesota Vikings reporter for CBS Sports radio's Eye on Football. Hey, guys. Wally, you're at The Twins game. What's happening out there?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Well, they're not losing. There no score here in the third inning. Of course, coming off of last night's really, a debacle for the Twins. They had a 5-1 lead, they had a 10-7 lead, and then they let that get away in the ninth inning. They gave up four runs in the top of the ninth. Ended up losing 11-10.

So that moves Cleveland into first place ahead of the Minnesota Twins. And if the Twins could win today, they will move into a virtual tie, although Cleveland would still be ahead by percentage points. But very pivotal game for the Twins because the last thing they want to do is get swept at home against a divisional rival. And it's a red hot divisional rival with Cleveland.

And so right now, no score in the bottom of the third inning. But the Twins have Devin Schmetzer on the mound. He is throwing three scoreless innings, giving up just one hit. And Cleveland has countered with Zach Plesac. But beautiful day, but it's very, very warm and kind of a scant crowded. I know Eric, he had some thoughts on the cloud situation over the last few days.

ERIC NELSON: Yeah, I do, Wally. I was out there last night. I saw that Minnesota meltdown with my own eyes. And really, it's amazing to me, Cathy, two teams, Cleveland and Minnesota battling for first place. And they only had 22,000 at Target Field on Tuesday, 25K last night. The crowd will be probably similar today, the game Wally's at.

And it tells me that twins territory is staying away from the ballpark. And you can't blame the weather now. It's heated up. The kids are out of school, so the twins are running out of excuses. Now, to be fair, the weather did not warm up until this month. And the Twins had potential drawing card teams like the LA Dodgers, Houston, and the New York Yankees come in to play midweek games. So that's not really a good break for Minnesota.

But when you look at Major League Baseball attendance, there's 30 teams. Minnesota ranks 21st, averaging just under 20,000 fans per game. And remember, until two nights ago, the twins had been in first place since April 24. So I'm not sure why people aren't embracing the Minnesota Twins.

CATHY WURZER: Well, let's go from the twins to the NBA. There's the big draft tonight, Wally. And who do you think Minnesota is going to get in that 19th pick in round one?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Oh, boy. That's really a crapshoot, Cathy. Obviously, it's a 19th pick. It's not going to be an impact player. I don't necessarily know that they draft for position either. I think that they're in a situation with the 19th pick, they might move it. They might try to trade up if they see a player that they like.

They might trade down if they think they can get something in return that'll help them down the road. They also have three second round picks. So Tim Conley now in charge of running the draft. He's the Timberwolves' new man in charge, and we're going to see what direction he takes.

The big thing, of course, and all the talk over the last couple of weeks is, do they stay with DeAngelo Russell, who they made that big trade with Andrew Wiggins from Golden State a couple of years ago? Is he going to be their point guard of the future? Is it going to continue or are they going to deal him away? All that probably comes to a head sometime if not tonight between now and the end of the summer.

CATHY WURZER: Say, Eric, Chet Holmgren has a chance to become the highest selected Minnesota-raised player in the NBA draft since Kevin McHale. How cool is that?

ERIC NELSON: Yeah, it's really a fabulous story. And he could go one, to Orlando, maybe two, to Oklahoma City. Here's a guy that played at Minnehaha Academy then went to Gonzaga, played one year with the Gonzaga team. And now he's going to be a lottery pick. The other thing that's really just adds to this storyline is that Jalen Suggs was his teammate in high school at Minnehaha Academy.

He left the year before Chet Holmgren, went to Gonzaga, almost won an NCAA title, and then got drafted fifth overall last season by the Orlando Magic. There are some people hoping that Magic take Holmgren to pair him up with his old high school teammate, Jalen Suggs. It's really a remarkable story.

There's some other Minnesota angles also. David Roddy will get drafted. He played at Eastbridge and then went to Baylor University down in Waco, Texas. And then Roddy Brown who was a star at Breck in Golden Valley went on to Colorado State. And you know, Cathy, Minnesota has always been a hockey hotbed. It's now a hoops hotbed too. There have been nine players from the land of lakes drafted by NBA teams since 2015. So Minnesota is on the radar of basketball scouts.

CATHY WURZER: Wow, I did not know that. Say, before you all go, Wally, let's talk about the NFL. Roger Goodell is testifying before Congress. What's he doing?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Well, I mean, he's basically going before Congress and specifically talking about a lot of the sexual harassment issues that the National Football League has been dealing with, more specifically, Daniel Snyder, who is the owner of the Washington Commanders. That's the team that was formerly known as the Redskins. And you know it took them forever to convince Snyder to change the name.

And obviously, it was pressure from FedEx who has their name on their football field and is a major sponsor. That's what finally changed his mind. But, yeah, it's-- here's the takeaway from yesterday's hearing. Roger Goodell was asked about removing Daniel Snyder as an owner. And his answer was, he doesn't have the power to do that.

Now, who does have the power are the other owners. You have to get 24 of them on board in order to remove Daniel Snyder as an owner. And right now, that does not look like it's going to happen. So it's kind of a wait and see. And oh, by the way, before I let you go, the Twins just scored. Nick Gordon got a home run. So they're now up one up in the third.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, there you go! OK, we're going to leave it there, you guys. Wally, enjoy the game. Thank you. And Eric, thanks for joining us too.

ERIC NELSON: All right. Sounds good, Cathy. Have a good day.

CATHY WURZER: See you. Wally Langfellow is the founder of Minnesota Score Magazine. Eric Nelson is the Minnesota Vikings reporter for CBS Sports radio's Eye on Football. Always good to talk to those guys. It's a nice day to go and watch baseball. It's a little sweaty though, with temperatures and dew points rising in the Twin Cities. We'll check the forecast in a moment.

Download transcript (PDF)

Transcription services provided by 3Play Media.