A Minnesota pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraception. Did he violate the rights of a McGregor woman? We'll get the details on a court case.
It was 15 years ago today that the Interstate 35W Bridge collapsed in the Twin Cities. We'll hear from a survivor.
Seven candidates are running for the job of Hennepin County Attorney. How will they handle police, public safety and child protection? We're talking to each one of them this week.
Do you identify as "Finndian?" We'll hear from some of the growing number of Minnesotans who do.
All that plus the Minnesota music minute on Minnesota Now.
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Seven candidates are vying for the job of Hennepin County Attorney. How will they handle police, public safety and child protection? We'll talk to each of them this week. And do you identify as [? Findian? ?] We'll hear from some of the growing number of Minnesotans who do. All that plus the Minnesota Music Minute. I think you're going to like it.
It's all coming up right after the news.
LAKSHMI SINGH: Live from NPR News in Washington, I'm Lakshmi Singh. The National Football League says it's reviewing next steps after a disciplinary officer recommended a six game suspension for quarterback Deshaun Watson. More than two dozen women had accused the Cleveland Browns QB of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. The treatments happened when he was with the Houston Texans. He has reportedly settled most of the cases without admitting any wrongdoing. Watson recently signed with the Browns for $230 million.
Republican voters in Arizona will decide Tuesday whether they want to become the latest state to nominate a candidate to oversee voting, who denies the 2020 election results. NPR'S Miles Parks reports two of the four Republican candidates running for Secretary of State questioned Joe Biden's victory.
MILES PARKS: If either Mark Finchem or Shawna Bullock wins Arizona's Republican primary for Secretary of State on Tuesday, they will become the sixth election denier to make it on November's ballot for a role that would oversee elections in a state. Nevada, Indiana, New Mexico, Alabama, and Michigan are the other five. That has democracy experts sounding the alarm. Joanna Lydgate runs States United Action, a nonpartisan group that has been tracking these races.
JOANNA LYDGATE: A single election denier in a single state could throw our elections into chaos.
MILES PARKS: People who believe the 2020 election was stolen have used that false narrative to justify cutting back voting access. Miles Parks, NPR News, Washington.
LAKSHMI SINGH: The governor of Kentucky is confirming a rising death toll from last week's flooding. At least 30 lives lost so far.
ANDY BESHEAR: That's going to grow. We know about additional bodies beyond these 30 confirmed.
LAKSHMI SINGH: Governor Andy Beshear's latest update on floods generated by torrential rains in Eastern Kentucky. He says 14 counties and three cities have declared states of emergency, thousands of people in his state have lost access to power and clean water. However, he highlights what he calls a ray of light in the ordeal, the work of volunteer responders handing out donations even though some of them lost their own homes. Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a new naval doctrine that identifies the US as its main rival for supremacy of the seas. Here's NPR'S Charles Maynes.
CHARLES MAYNES: Putin signed the doctrine as part of events commemorating Naval Day in Saint Petersburg, the city founded by Tsar Peter the Great, and a symbol of Russian imperial power at sea. The doctrine identifies US efforts to dominate the world's oceans and expand native towards Russian borders as the primary threats facing the country.
The document also calls on Russia to develop sufficient Maritime power to defend its sovereignty in the world's oceans, and identified the Arctic as an area of particular strategic and commercial interest going forward. Putin also touted a next generation hypersonic cruise missile as a guarantor of Russian security, arguing that with the so-called Zircon missile, Russia possessed a weapon unrivaled by the West. Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.
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KATHY WURZER: Around Minnesota right now, skies are partly too mostly sunny. It's a pleasant start to August. Highs today will be in the mid 70s and lower 80s. At noon in Cloquet, it's sunny and 62. It's 72 in Austin. And outside Arndt's Mug N Jug in Nicollet, Minnesota, it's 68 degrees. I'm Kathy Wurzer with Minnesota News Headlines.
A 52-year-old Prior Lake man may face murder charges as soon as today in connection with a mass stabbing on Western Wisconsin's Apple River over the weekend. Tim Nelson has details.
TIM NELSON: The St Croix County Sheriff's Office said it was called to a report of multiple people injured in a stabbing incident among those tubing on the Apple River on Saturday afternoon. Deputies found five people injured near the Highways 35 and 64 bridge over the river. One of them a 17-year-old Stillwater high school student identified by Carl Levin as Isaac Schumann died of his injuries at Lakeview hospital in Stillwater.
Two of the other four people were flown to Regions hospital in Saint Paul. The injured include two men in their 20s from Lake Wisconsin, a 22-year-old Elk River man, and a 24-year-old woman from Burnsville. Witnesses pointed out the suspect and deputies arrested him in Somerset at the traditional exit point for Apple river tubers. He was booked on pending murder, mayhem and aggravated battery charges. I'm Tim Nelson.
KATHY WURZER: Governor Tim Walz assured school administrators today that he has not given up on a plan to steer more money to schools. The DFL governor spoke to the Conference of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, and says he's considering calling a special session to reboot an education funding agreement that failed to pass by the legislature's adjournment deadline. He says the state surplus presents, in his words, a golden opportunity to give students in schools a lift after difficulties during the pandemic.
Our top story is the jury selection that's underway today in Aiken County for a case believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. At issue is whether the rights of a McGregor Minnesota woman were violated when her local pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraception. The pharmacist cited his religious beliefs for the refusal. John Reinan is a reporter at The Star Tribune who's been following this case for the past three years, he joins me now to talk about what happened. John, welcome to Minnesota Now. How have you been?
JOHN REINAN: I've been very good, Kathy. Thank you.
KATHY WURZER: Good. Thanks for being here. How did this story start?
JOHN REINAN: Well, it started in 2019, three years ago, actually in the wintertime, when a woman, a mother of five from McGregor, that's a town kind of in the Brainerd area. She had a condom fail during intercourse, and she went in to her local pharmacy to get an emergency contraceptive. And at some point, we should discuss the difference between emergency contraceptives and abortion pills because they're not the same.
KATHY WURZER: Yes, you are right. We're talking about emergency contraception in this case.
JOHN REINAN: Yes. So she went in to get an emergency contraceptive. It was called Ella. E-L-L-A like a woman's name. And it works similar to what's known as the Plan B pill. What it does is if you take it after sex, it can delay or prevent ovulation within that same menstrual period. So it is not an abortion pill, it acts to delay the release of the egg. And so she went into her local pharmacy and the pharmacist there told her that it was against his beliefs to dispense, and that she couldn't get it there.
KATHY WURZER: Did he offer to send her to another pharmacy?
JOHN REINAN: That is going to be an issue in the case because the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy requires, excuse me, pharmacists to do what they can in their power to help people fill a prescription if they are not going to fill it. He may perhaps not have been as aggressive as he might have been in helping her find other options. I think that's something the jury is going to have to decide.
But he told her, "Well, there's a CVS and you could go there." And he said, "I could send the prescription up to Brainerd to the Walgreens." At that point, the woman whose name is Andrea Anderson became angry and she's basically felt like, I don't want to deal with you anymore. And she said, you know, "I'm going to do something about this." Literally that was her quote. And she then stopped trying to get it at the MacGregor Thrifty White.
KATHY WURZER: Can pharmacist, John, in Minnesota deny emergency contraception or any medication because of their religious beliefs?
JOHN REINAN: They can according to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. This is something that the board issued policy in 1999, and they say that they still are following that 23-year-old policy. If a pharmacist does not want to dispense a medication because of the pharmacist's beliefs, the pharmacist is required by Pharmacy Board regulations to assist the person in getting that prescription filled.
Another point that the jury may have to decide in this case, the Pharmacy Board requires pharmacists and pharmacies to have those policies in place ahead of time so that they're not just winging it when someone comes in and this situation arises. And that may also be a question that the jury will have to decide in this case. Is whether that pharmacy actually did have a plan in place or whether they were just sort of playing it by the seat of their pants.
KATHY WURZER: As I was reading the article you wrote this morning about the case, has the pharmacist done this before?
JOHN REINAN: Yeah. The pharmacist testified in a deposition that he had three times previously not filled a prescription for a form of contraception. Once when he was working at a pharmacy in Grand Marais and then two other times when he was working in MacGregor. So yes, he had declined to fill prescriptions before.
KATHY WURZER: And he's been in the business for quite some time.
JOHN REINAN: About 40 years. Yeah. He got his pharmacy license in the early 1980s.
KATHY WURZER: So the woman in this case decides to sue under the state human rights law. Is that correct?
JOHN REINAN: That's correct. And that's another interesting-- without getting too much into the legalese, I think it's something that a layperson can grasp. So there have been cases on the federal level. People might remember a few years ago the Hobby Lobby case. And that was when the US Supreme Court ruled that an employer does not have to provide contraception at no cost through their health plan if they object. And Hobby Lobby was run, the company is run by religious people, and they didn't want to provide contraception under their insurance plan.
The Supreme Court ruled that it was a freedom of religion issue and that this was OK to deny. But this is purely a state case. Minnesota has a Human Rights Act that prevents discrimination of various kinds, including sex discrimination. And sex is defined to also include issues relating to pregnancy and childbirth. So the pharmacist in this case cannot claim his federal constitutional right to freedom of religion because he's being sued under a state law that guarantees women the right to not be discriminated against in pregnancy and childbirth.
KATHY WURZER: So in this post Roe world, a lot of people are watching this case.
JOHN REINAN: I would think so. The people at Gender Justice, it's a Saint Paul advocacy group, and they are giving the legal representation to Andrea Anderson in this case. And they told me that they'd done research and they're not aware of another state case like this that has actually come to trial. So this-- they say, "well, maybe there's one that we didn't come across." But they feel like it's probably the first, if not the first, certainly one of the first in the nation that's actually come to trial, and there's going to be a decision probably within the next two or three days.
KATHY WURZER: That seems fast, John.
JOHN REINAN: Well, it's a civil trial not a criminal trial. And there are only going to be a few witnesses on each side. So basically what you're going to have is the woman, the plaintiff, who's suing who was denied contraception. She's going to testify. The pharmacist will testify. They're going to have an expert witness come in and testify about the science involved. And then the other side, the Thrifty White Pharmacy, which is being sued, they have a few witnesses. But it's really-- there are probably only going to be eight or 10 witnesses in this case. So I imagine it's going to move pretty rapidly.
KATHY WURZER: And I know you'll be covering it. John, thanks for the update. I appreciate it.
JOHN REINAN: You're welcome. And I'm going to have to look into your [? Findian ?] stuff because my mom was Finnish.
KATHY WURZER: Really? OK.
JOHN REINAN: Yes.
KATHY WURZER: Hey, you got to listen later on in the program. It's a good piece from our friend Dan Crocker. Thank you, John.
JOHN REINAN: You're welcome. Bye now.
KATHY WURZER: John Reinan is a reporter at The star Tribune.
[MUSIC - CLOUD CULT, "ONE WAY OUT OF A HOLE"]
Islands in our minds, Uh-huh, They say I can't find my way till I know who I am. Well, I'm a buffalo trapped in human skin exploding a million directions while trying to hold it all inside. What's the destination Which way do I go
KATHY WURZER: It's our Minnesota Music Minute. This is a new one from the brand-- from the band Cloud Cult. It's called One Way Out of a Hole. The play at Canterbury Park in Shakopee August 16th. If you've ever seen them live, they're fantastic. They always have put on quite a show. They compete-- they complete a live painting during the set, which is kind of cool to watch.
[MUSIC - CLOUD CULT, "ONE WAY OUT OF A HOLE"]
15 years ago, today, an unbelievable thing happened. I bet you remember where you were on this very date. The 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River during the evening rush hour. The collapse was completely unexpected. 13 people died. Several people were rescued from the river, including Lindsay Walz. Lindsay was in her car on her way home from work. Her story of survival is remarkable. I recently met Lindsay at the 35W Remembrance Garden near the bridge to talk about how she's made it through.
Gosh, it's been 15 years. Do you remember what you were doing in the hours before everything happened?
LINDSAY WALZ: Yeah. I worked at a group home with adolescents, and I was the independent living skills coordinator. And so that particular day, Wednesdays, we always had an ILS group. And it was actually a really good group. Everyone was in a good mood. I left a little bit later than I usually do, and then started my drive home.
KATHY WURZER: And you were on the bridge?
LINDSAY WALZ: Yeah.
KATHY WURZER: You remember what you were thinking or feeling in those moments?
LINDSAY WALZ: Yeah. Like traffic came to a stop. I was going southbound and traffic was stop and go, starting about the Quarry. And that alone was weird. Not a typical day at all. And so I almost got off at the University exit right before the bridge. Decided against it for various reasons. Got to the middle of the bridge when it actually collapsed. I heard a big clank, is what I call it, which I think was probably a beam snapping. And it was pretty much immediate that my car started to freefall into the river.
KATHY WURZER: I just can't even imagine what you were thinking and feeling.
LINDSAY WALZ: Lots of swear words.
And then MY only rational thought was like was driving on concrete, so I'm going to land on the concrete. And I just assumed that my body would be done as soon as it landed. And I didn't really conceptualize falling into the river and then what that would have in store for me.
KATHY WURZER: I don't remember, were you conscious at that point?
LINDSAY WALZ: Yeah. So I stayed conscious the whole time. My car immediately filled with water. And so I had to find my way out through murky water. And everything was closed up. All the windows were still intact that I had felt. And it really was some kind of miracle I guess that something gave way at some point in my search for a way out. I kind of stopped looking for a way out and started to just move into accepting that this was it and this was where I would die. And then I started to float and floated kind of beyond the confines of my car.
I have a mermaid on my arm because that's-- they're magical and that's the best that I can come up with for how I got out of my car that day, was magic. And so I swam to the surface. Hoped I was still alive. At that point, I didn't really know. I was like, maybe I'm dead and I'm just having some after life experience. And luckily, when I got to the surface, one of the construction workers who had fallen with the bridge as well, he saw me and encouraged me over to the concrete and pulled me out of the water.
KATHY WURZER: And you were severely hurt.
LINDSAY WALZ: Yes. So I had a broken back. The swim, everything that I did afterwards was pure adrenaline. I didn't feel anything. And then as I started to sit on the bridge waiting for help, my back started to really get painful. And so that kept me in the hospital for five days and then my PTSD was definitely my biggest injury. The most invisible but the most significant for me.
KATHY WURZER: And to that, I'd like to apologize to you to actually bring up some of these memories, because I know that's painful.
LINDSAY WALZ: So on the subject of memories and stuff, I think it can be painful, but it's always with me. So it's not like bringing it up changes that fact. And for me, one of the things that I've noticed, especially in the last five-ish years, is that there's occasions where I go, maybe I don't have PTSD anymore. And then something happens. The universe reminds me [LAUGHS] reminds me invariably that I do.
And that can be just like sitting at a cafe and the movement of like stage that's like a little rocky or whatever, like my body goes into high alert. And just different things like that come up day to day that I have to attend to. Yeah.
KATHY WURZER: How do you do that?
LINDSAY WALZ: How do I do that? That's a really good question. A lot of the time it's about reminding myself that I am safe. Like that time that I was sitting on this little rickety stage at a cafe, I thought for the first moment that it was an earthquake. That the ground was shaking. And I was like, Oh my gosh, there's an earthquake happening. Nobody else was responding or reacting. So I was about to grab my stuff and get out of the building and then I realized that the person next to me was nodding their head.
And so that simple just like my new movement of the body and that person shook the ground enough for my hypervigilance to go into high alert. And so I had to like, OK, that's not an actual threat, I'm not in danger. And then like calm my body back down and just remind myself again and again that I was OK.
And sometimes it's required like strategies that are a little kooky. Like when I drive over bridges, sometimes I still put my finger on the window so that if it falls, I'll be able to get out. Like I've just got my game plan. [LAUGHS] So it's really about that, day to day. Is like, is this a real threat, is this something that I have to pay attention to and keep myself safe, or is this just life and my body is freaking out right now and I have to calm it down?
KATHY WURZER: Well, You've had to kind of learn how to live life as a survivor?
LINDSAY WALZ: Yeah. I mean, just a couple of months after, I remember saying things like, Oh I'm going to be good. I'm fine, I wan-- and I was just a shell of a human being at that time. Like I wasn't feeling anything, I wasn't feeling joy, I wasn't feeling sadness. I was just existing. Breathing, eating, but not much else.
And I didn't really unpack and grieve and really feel the emotional impact until five years after the collapse. And I really believe that it was when my body was able to. That my body could finally do that. And process it in a way that wasn't so like enormous.
KATHY WURZER: How does it feel to be here right now today?
LINDSAY WALZ: It's OK. I really wanted there to be a memorial. As a person who didn't lose a loved one, I don't have a place to go in the same way somebody might have a gravesite or another memorial for their loved one. I didn't have a place. And so having this here is just a nice place for me to feel like connected and to feel like I can grieve in that way. In this like ambiguous loss kind of stuff.
KATHY WURZER: You obviously, as a survivor, have a second lease on life, right? What have you done with that?
LINDSAY WALZ: Second lease on life is right. I really did think I should have died that day. And so it really felt like I had to do the most [LAUGHS] with my life. And part of that is survivor's guilt. I've had to deal with a whole heck of a lot of survivor's guilt. Like feeling like I had to prove that I was worthy of still being here. But I had this dream of opening a youth center, and I really wanted to do that.
And that day when I was sitting on the concrete waiting for help, I thought about that place and I thought about making that happen. And I did five years later. On the 5th anniversary of the collapse, I launched that organization which was called Courageous Hearts. It didn't survive the pandemic, so I've had to grieve that. But it was really an important place for me to create space for conversation about the hard things of life, and use creativity to do that. It was a really special place.
And I also just do trainings and bring people into conversation about trauma. I think that my experience is unique in that it's public and it's concrete. Like literally concrete and figuratively concrete. And it's easy for people to access the understanding of, Oh Wow, that would be really traumatic. And I try to use it to help others see within themselves the spaces where they've maybe had pain and hurt and trauma.
KATHY WURZER: So we are looking at a 15 year anniversary today. I can't believe it's been 15 years. I'm sure you can't either in a sense. What do you want people to remember on this day?
LINDSAY WALZ: I think the thing that's always been really important to me about telling my story or just sharing, is making sure the story remains human, that it's a human story. For so many years afterwards, it became a brick and mortar story. It became about building bridges or making sure infrastructure is in place. And yes, 100% really important. And I just hope people take-- I know a lot of people who drive over and still say a prayer for people who were impacted that day. And I think just remaining a presence among people and in their hearts is just the only thing I could really ask for.
KATHY WURZER: That was my conversation with Lindsey Walz. Lindsey was on the 35W bridge in Minneapolis when it fell 15 years ago, today. She and I talked 15 years ago as she was recovering from her injuries. We met at the 35W bridge Remembrance Garden in Downtown Minneapolis.
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KATHY WURZER: Coming up after the news, I'll talk to a couple of Hennepin County Attorney candidates. Say if you're looking for a house, there's a cute one for $195,000 in South Minneapolis. Three bedrooms, two baths, leaded glass, lovely built ins, original hardwood flooring. It's from 1915. It's at 34th and 41st Street.
There's a catch. It's right next to a huge grain elevator. The story in the Racket is a good look at Minneapolis history. The real estate agent says she had one person say the house is nice and it would be nice to play racquetball against that big grain elevator. And she said, yeah, for sure, from the kitchen, from the upstairs, from the deck. It's that big. Check out the story in the Racket. Racket MN.
Coming up on 12:26, Jeff Jones is standing by with a look at regional news. Jeff,
JEFF JONES: Hey there, Kathy. Speaking of grain, the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain has set out from the Port of Odessa. The departure of the ship laden with corn follows a deal that's expected to finally allow large stores of Ukrainian crops to reach foreign markets and ease a growing hunger crisis. Ukraine is one of the world's key bread baskets.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held talks with Singapore's leaders at the start of her Asian tour, as questions swirl over a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with China. Taiwanese media are reporting that Pelosi will stop there tomorrow, but Taiwan's foreign ministry said it has no comment on those reports.
Two sources have told the Associated Press that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games today for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. That follows accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by two dozen women in Texas. Watson recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual harassment and assault.
Some roads in and out of Death Valley National Park have been closed after flash flooding. Several roads were inundated with mud and debris over the weekend. The floods also hit Western Nevada and Northern Arizona pretty hard. National Weather Service reported that more than an inch of rain fell in 15 minutes yesterday near Kingman Arizona, which is close to the state line with California.
That storm came as the White House is making more than $1,000,000,000 available to states to address flooding and extreme heat exacerbated by climate change. Viice President Kamala Harris is announcing the grant programs today at an event in Miami with the head of FEMA and other officials. The competitive grants will help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate related disasters.
Kathy, it's August now. Vikings preseason games start in less than two weeks. The team continues their training camp today in Eagan. The Lynx beat the La Sparks yesterday 84 to 77, and the Twins start a three game series against the Detroit Tigers tonight at Target Field. The Twins have lost six of their last 10 games. This is NPR News.
KATHY WURZER: And it's a beautiful start to August, August the first here on this Monday, with sunshine temperatures today in the 70s and 80s. Well, this fall, for the first time in almost 25 years, there will be a new Hennepin County Attorney. Longtime County Attorney Mike Freeman is retiring. There are seven people vying in the August 9th primary to replace Freeman, with the top two vote getters moving on to the November election.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office oversees adult and juvenile criminal prosecution in the state's most populous county as well as child protection and child support cases. It's one of the most important positions of its kind in the state. So over the next few days, we're going to talk to each of the seven candidates for that office. Today, we'll meet two candidates. Martha Holton Dimick and Paul Ostrow.
Martha Holt Dimick is a former Hennepin County judge who lives in North Minneapolis. She's worked in the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. She was the first community prosecutor assigned to North Minneapolis when she worked for the County attorney back in 1999. Martha Holt Dimick's on the line. Welcome to Minnesota Now.
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: Thank you. Thank you. It's great to be here. And thank you for inviting me to participate.
KATHY WURZER: I'm glad you're here.
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: So exciting.
KATHY WURZER: Say earlier this year, I'm sure you heard the story. Police chiefs in the Western suburbs gave County Attorney Freeman a list of 32 cases. They said his office declined to prosecute or charges were dismissed or plea bargained, and the chiefs said they believe there's a lack of accountability in the system, especially in the way the county attorney's office operates. Do you agree with those police chiefs? And if you're Hennepin County Attorney, how will the office change?
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: Well, I've talked to a number of the police chiefs out in the suburbs, and I have the understanding that there's been a lack of communication between the office, Mike Freeman and that group of officers. And that really concerns me. I think there was a regular meeting scheduled once a month. And I think that Mike Freeman kind of dropped out of those meetings. And I think it's critical that we meet with them on a regular basis, and especially if there is an uptick in crime in certain areas that we have to address.
I want to work and I have collaborated with law enforcement in the past, and that was one of the efforts that I made when I was the community prosecutor during the Murderapolis days. And that led to, along with a ton of community support, that led to a radical drop in our crime rate to the extent that we got a national award. And it was the MPP that got that award, and primarily because of the reduction in juvenile crime. So that was an effort that was very successful then. And I think that is so critical that we work with them. I have to have the police.
KATHY WURZER: And the chiefs, of course, were also quite concerned at the time about the carjackings that were going on. I mean, there was that spasm of carjackings in the county. And Minneapolis Police data showed 75% of those arrested were repeat offenders. Now, as a former judge, what's missing, especially in the juvenile justice system that results in high numbers of repeat offenders?
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: I think what's missing is the County Home School was closed. And they didn't have a plan when the home school was closed. We have to have a custodial environment for these kids for these children when they're arrested, and we have to have services available while they're in custody. And that specifically speaks to the trauma that they're dealing with, maybe mental health issues and chemical dependency issues.
But there has to be an intermediary center for them to be. And we don't have that right now. So I am totally willing to collaborate with the state and with the county commissioners to immediately get in a care place ready for these kids to be placed. People don't want to hear that we want to place them in a custodial environment, but that's so critical right now because we've got to use our resources to address the issues that they're struggling with. And we've got to turn that around.
KATHY WURZER: Would you support expunging records for some of the lower level offenses some of these kids get themselves involved in? Would you include marijuana possession convictions in that?
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: Absolutely. I worked-- Oh, I should say I spoke recently with the person who was in charge with expungements at the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, the prosecutor who's in charge. And we are trying to make it easier for low level offenders to get their records expunged, because we know how it affects education, job and housing.
And we're trying to make it easier so that they don't have to appear in front of a judge. That there might be a petition that they can put forth. And that we would sign that petition and make the world a lot easier for them to obtain an expungement on those types of offenses. But absolutely, I totally support that.
KATHY WURZER: At a recent forum, you said you would prioritize not letting bad police officers get their jobs back and that bad behavior needs to be reported. But you have to contend with the Police Union and with arbitration rules. How can the county attorney deal with bad cops?
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: I think we have to notify the department immediately when we notice bad behavior, violation of people's criminal-- at least their civil rights and their civil liberties. And we have to follow up on those reports. And I've done that as a judge. I did submit a body cam video to Police Chief Arredondo because in that video, the way that these officers treated this young Black man was just atrocious to me.
And then during the officer's testimony in court, it was the exact opposite. He kind of pretended or at least reported that he treated this person very carefully. And then I saw the body cam video and it was outrageous. I was just totally appalled by that. I sent it over to Chief Arredondo with a note, what are we going to do here? What's the follow up? And I also said, why don't you use this video during your training sessions of what not to do.
And as far as arbitrations, I really think that panels-- there's got to be some kind of modification or maybe it needs to be discontinued. Because once a police officer loses his job, he shouldn't be able to go to the arbitration panel and get it back. That's just a slap in the face to all of us. Especially the people who have been suffering from some of the issues that we've been dealing with with the police department.
And then I think with the union, they got rid of [INAUDIBLE]. That's key. And I think that the new head of the union, I met her. I don't recall her name. I met her recently and I really got a good feel for her. I want to sit down with her and collaborate with her, and find out exactly what things can be done, what kind of recommendations can I make? But the final deal is up to them and hopefully the new police chief.
KATHY WURZER: The County Attorney's Office has come under heavy criticism for how it handled officer involved civilian shootings. Mike Freeman moved away from using grand juries in those sorts of cases. How would you handle them as county attorney?
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: He moved away from grand juries because the public and the outcry was that they're secretive. It's not transparent enough. And I believe that that's true. And so-- and I've discussed that and I'm going to keep those cases. I think I should make a decision with regards to whether these officers are charged.
We are smart enough and know the law well enough, and we'll wait until we have all the information and the evidence before us before we contemplate that. But before I say definitively that that's the way we're going to go, I want to look at it on a case by case basis.
KATHY WURZER: This is not going to be an easy job. You know that. You're bound to take pointed criticism from all sides. Why do you want to have this job?
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: Well, I'll tell you. Ever since George Floyd's murder, I live in North Minneapolis. I've lived in North Minneapolis for almost 20 years. And we've had 90 homicide-- more than 90 homicides in North Minneapolis alone. And several of the victims were children. One was a baby. That I found just totally outrageous. I thought I could do more for my community off the bench.
I served on the bench for almost 10 years. And I want to be in a position where I can rebuild the trust and restore the effectiveness of that office. I can't do that sitting on the bench. I can do that in the County Attorney's Office as a new county attorney. And that's where I'm directing all of my attention.
My priorities are public safety. Public safety is not a political slogan for me as a community prosecutor and as a serious crimes judge. It was my profession. And as someone who lives in North Minneapolis and has seen the effect of the increase in violence in my community, it's my life. So that is why I am doing this.
I've taken criticism before, Kathy. I'm not afraid of criticism. And if you don't think as judges, we don't get pounded every day and criticized every day, then people just don't understand what we do. And as a former county attorney, Hennepin County Attorney, I dealt with that all the time. I think I can handle this. I know I can handle this. And I know I'm going to surround myself with very, very smart people, and I know I'm going to have a very strong support system, both within the County Attorney's Office and in my community.
KATHY WURZER: All right, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much.
MARTHA HOLTON DIMICK: All right. You're welcome.
KATHY WURZER: Martha Holton Dimick is a candidate for Hennepin County Attorney. Early voting in this race is happening right now. Last day to vote is August the 8th. If you live in Hennepin County, you can find your polling place on the Secretary of State's website.
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KATHY WURZER: So I mentioned all this week I'm interviewing candidates running to be the new Hennepin County Attorney. The Hennepin County Attorney has a lot of power. That office oversees criminal prosecutions. They also have a hand in protecting elders from fraud in cases that involve child protection. Mike Freeman has been in that job for 24 years. He is not seeking re-election.
There are seven people running to take his place. I just spoke with candidate Martha Holton Dimick. Now, another candidate joins me. Paul Ostrow is a former Minneapolis City Council member, and he was president of that body. He's currently an assistant county attorney in Anoka County, and he lives in Northeast Minneapolis. Welcome to the program.
PAUL OSTROW: Kathy, it's really a pleasure to be on. Thank you so much.
KATHY WURZER: Thanks for being here. You've heard some politicians tout themselves as being tough on crime. What does that phrase mean to you as you set a policy agenda if you were to become Hennepin County Attorney?
PAUL OSTROW: Well, thank you, Cathy. Let me first of all say I'm the only candidate running for this position as a non-partisan. And this is a non-partisan position by law. And the reason I emphasize that in responding to your question is that, because we're running a non-partisan campaign, we don't have the support of any particular political faction or political party.
So this campaign has really needed to be a campaign of ideas. And I would encourage people to go to our website at ostrowforhennepin.com. We have a specific 10 point plan on violent crime. So if you want to know my views on what it means to be quote unquote, "tough on crime," that will tell you that. And it includes most importantly ending catch and release. We have far too many repeat offenders, those on probation and parole who are released without bail or conditions.
It means getting a handle on this horrible fentanyl endemic and carjacking. It means holding people accountable. But it also means, Kathy, and this is not a choice, and it's not a balance. We can do both and we can do both well. It means that we think about issues of racial equity. It means that we look at how we limit the collateral consequences for people that come into contact with the law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
So I am not a fan of slogans. I'm not a fan of tough on crime. One of my things is a group I've been involved in called No Labels. I think these simplistic type of slogans probably have done us more harm than good.
KATHY WURZER: So let's go back to what you mentioned about repeat offenders. And when there was that big jump in carjackings in Hennepin County, Minneapolis police said 75% of the suspects arrested were repeat offenders. And as you know, investigators say, they say they see the same names being arrested, folks that have been in our criminal justice system for quite a while. So as county attorney, how do you stop what appears to many to be a revolving door for offenders?
PAUL OSTROW: Well, that's a great point. I practice in Anoka County and we do things differently there to be quite candid with you. I will tell you that I've spoken to police chiefs in Hennepin County, and they will tell you that literally people that steal automobiles in Hennepin County ask what county they are in and they're relieved when they find out they're in Hennepin County. Because of the fact that they're not even seeing a judge. They're just being released.
We made a huge mistake several years ago, Kathy, when we closed the ranch in Minnetonka. Saint Paul did a similar, Ramsey County did a similar thing. We need a place for pre-adjudication detention that is safe for the more violent offenders, the juvenile offenders. Way too many of those juvenile carjackers are being released back home. Their parents don't want that. It's not even safe for the kids and it's certainly not safe for the community.
KATHY WURZER: You mentioned the ranch, and we're talking about the Hennepin County Home School and Totem Town in Saint Paul. So what do you do to help these troubled kids?
PAUL OSTROW: Well, on that point, I would take a lead with the County Board, who I think made a big mistake on this, and let's have a state of the art facility here. One that certainly addresses trauma, one that addresses addiction, but one that both keeps the public safe and detains the more violent juveniles and gets them the support and treatment that they need. That's the first thing that I would do.
I think we need much more oversight with some of the diversion programs in Hennepin County. Way too many of the juveniles we're losing track of them. I think the county attorney's office has to take a much more active role in that. And as you know, as a budget chair and council president, that's the kind of thing I did in terms of looking at programs, are they effective, are they not effective. I think the county attorney's office needs to play a bigger role in making sure that some of these supervision programs are doing what they set out to do.
KATHY WURZER: Some of these younger offenders get into the system, as you know, for lower level offenses. Marijuana possession convictions come to mind. Do you support expunging records for some of these lower level offenses?
PAUL OSTROW: I absolutely do. I was a strong supporter of the Clean Slate Act. I thought the legislature was really unfortunate. Both Democrats and Republicans failed. Frankly Democrats failed by voting against the Carjacking bill and against a common sense Fentanyl bill. But Republicans failed by blocking the Clean Slate legislation which had broad support across the business community.
Right now it is required that you bring a formal motion to get an expungement. And frankly, that's just foolish. How many people know that? How many people are we missing? We need to have automatic expungement for certain offenses. We do not live in a mass incarceration state. What we do live in is a state that likes to make people felons. And that's got to change. Because that is not in the interest of public safety to make people with low level offenses felons for the rest of their life.
It makes it hard for them to work, harder for them to go to school, harder for them to find housing. So I'm all for holding serious offenders accountable, but very much for finding ways to address these low level offenses and allowing people to get those off their records.
KATHY WURZER: Hennepin County Attorney's Office, as you know, has come under heavy criticism over the years for how it's handled officer involved civilian shootings. Mike Freeman moved away from using grand juries in these cases. How would you handle them as county attorney?
PAUL OSTROW: Well, I do think we need to look at major reform to the grand jury process. I have some significant concerns with what's happened in some of the police prosecutions I will say. I think that it was frankly a travesty that Kim Potter was-- that her charges were increased in response to a protest. That's not the way the criminal justice system is supposed to work. I think law enforcement is concerned about that.
But the grand jury process is not trusted because it is not public. So I think we need to look really hard at how we can make that process transparent and accountable. I will say also that I'm the one candidate in this campaign that's actually, in a constructive way, addressed the problems with the Minneapolis Police Department. 90% of the sustained violations in Minneapolis are currently being hidden from the public in a manner that I do believe is unlawful. And I've been involved in litigation for that reason.
This is unique to the MPD. It does a disservice to all of the good officers. I can tell you that the good officers don't like the bad officers. And they are being victimized themselves, or at least their reputation is being harmed by the failure to properly discipline those among them who need to be disciplined. So I will have a very strong view of the openness and transparency. And that's going to be an important part of how I handle police cases.
KATHY WURZER: Just to be really clear here, it sounds like you would still rely perhaps on the grand jury system when looking at officer involved killings? Because obviously, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office has moved to deciding cases themselves or we can refer cases to other county attorneys to decide or work with the Attorney General's Office.
PAUL OSTROW: I think there are going to be some cases like a Derek Chauvin where frankly that was so clear that it made sense that that was something that the County Attorney's Office could charge. I think there are a number of other circumstances where if it is transparent. I want to be really clear about this. And if the evidence is properly presented, and all of the evidence is presented, that there will be some circumstances in which calling a grand jury on these cases will be necessary and appropriate. But not all. I think some of those will be cases that can go straight to a complaint.
KATHY WURZER: You've used the word transparency here a couple of times. You've said that your intention is to have the most transparent and accountable County Attorney's Office in the history of Hennepin County. So what are the means to getting to that goal?
PAUL OSTROW: Well, there are several. One is that we will have a state of the art dashboard that will tell people what we are charging and what we are not charging. If we decline a case, that will be a public record that will be immediately accessible to people. We will keep records that relate to racial disparities, and be very public about that.
We will keep records about what bail we are requesting and what bail is in fact granted by the court. The public has a right to know that. They need to hold us accountable. They certainly need to question judges when they do-- when they do disagree. So I also have talked about having public meetings even in the community. Biannual public hearings where people can raise their concerns in a public way. I am not at all a fan of closed door meetings to discuss and find solutions to very public problems. So we will have those difficult conversations, and they will be in public.
KATHY WURZER: Before you go, I'm curious as to why you would want the job of Hennepin County Attorney.
PAUL OSTROW: That is a fair and a great question. And the simple answer is that my parents taught me that you do as much good in this world for as long as you can do it. And I do think my talents and experience meet this moment. I think there's incredible solutions we can come up with, and that work excites me. I know it's a tough job. But I am very excited about the things we can get done.
KATHY WURZER: All right. Paul Ostrow, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
PAUL OSTROW: Thank you, Kathy. It's always a pleasure to be with you.
KATHY WURZER: Paul Ostrow is a candidate for Hennepin County Attorney. Earlier in the show, we talked with Martha Holton Dimick. Tomorrow we'll chat with two more candidates, Mary Moriarty and Tad Jude. Early voting in this race is happening right now. Primary election day is August 9th. If you live in Hennepin County, you can find your polling place on the Secretary of State's website.
Across the country, there are millions of people who identify as both Native American and White. Many are people who have only recently embraced the native side of their heritage. But in northern Minnesota, the opposite is often the case. There are lots of Native American people who have, in recent years, reconnected with their Scandinavian ancestry in sometimes surprising ways. Dan Kraker report is part of our ongoing North Star Journey series.
DAN KRAKER: Melissa Walls grew up in International Falls. The daughter of an Ojibwe or Anishinaabe mom and a Swedish American dad. But she was raised largely as part of her mom's big extended family.
MELISSA WALLS: So I knew very well that I was Anishinaabe Ojibwe growing up.
DAN KRAKER: She studied American Indian mental health in grad school and bonded with other Native American students. Now she's a researcher for Johns Hopkins University based in Duluth, where she's immersed herself in Ojibwe culture.
MELISSA WALLS: I was a jingle dancer as a little girl. And now I dance again to go to ceremony and to get to work with like amazing elders across the region.
DAN KRAKER: But she knew little of her dad's side of the family. Then one day about five years ago, her dad's sister found an ad in the paper.
MELISSA WALLS: For a TV show called [INAUDIBLE] in Sweden. And she sent me, in the snail mail, a little clip of this little ad. And she said, "they're casting for a reality show in Sweden. You should apply and learn something about this side of the family."
DAN KRAKER: So she did.
MELISSA WALLS: And all of a sudden, I'm being flown to Sweden to be on a reality show to find out about my Swedish family. It was bizarre.
MELISSA WALLS: OK. Here we go. Hey you guys.
[MUSIC - NICOLE SABOURNÉ, "WIN THIS LIFE"]
Oh, we could be here without worries Oh, how
DAN KRAKER: Walls says the experience changed her life.
MELISSA WALLS: I got to meet a Swedish family member, I got to learn about where my family came from, I got to visit and touch the house that my ancestors lived in in the 1700s, and it was deeply, deeply emotional.
DAN KRAKER: Walls is one of about 4 million people who identified as Native American and White in the last census. Nearly triple the number from 2010. Some of that dramatic growth is due to New Census Bureau methodology. But Carolyn Liebler, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota who studies Native American and mixed race identity, says it also reflects a willingness of more people to embrace their native ancestry after years of government policy that tried to erase it.
CAROLYN LIEBLER: Generations later, there's still native people, but they're feeling less of that pain. It's more generational pain and not personal pain. And so people are willing to come back to it. It's more socially accepted now to be native.
DAN KRAKER: For Melissa Walls, she never had an issue accepting that she's Anishinaabe. But the reality TV show helped her reconcile something she wasn't even sure was reconcilable.
MELISSA WALLS: Which is embodying both the colonized and the colonizer. Walking through the world with light skin, but feeling like I'm an Anishinaabe person. How could I be both? Can I be both? What does that mean? Why did my ancestors leave? Did they come here and do harm?
DAN KRAKER: Walls says she doesn't have the answers to all those questions, but she's still evolving. But she says she feels more at peace about who she is.
MELISSA WALLS: I think before the trip to Sweden, I don't know if I would use the word shame, but I would use the word not proud of being anything other than Anishinaabe. It was almost like a stain. Like Oh, I can't also be that and be proud of it and be Anishinaabe because of all of the harm that has happened because of colonization. Like how could I embrace that, how could I be OK with that?
DAN KRAKER: There's still tension there, she says. But she's also discovered surprising parallels between her Anishinaabe and Swedish sides. Like how connected her Swedish ancestors were to the land and how they lived communally similar to her Ojibwe family. This summer Walls returned to Sweden. She met more relatives who presented her with a traditional midsummer folk dress. Right away, she was startled with how similar it felt to putting on powwow regalia.
MELISSA WALLS: Then something that gave me the shivers happened.
DAN KRAKER: When they were dressing her, they told her to tuck her handkerchief behind a heart shape on the folk dress that covered her chest.
MELISSA WALLS: And I said, well, why? And they said, "well, we always lead with the heart." And those three words, lead with the heart, you will hear Anishinaabe people saying that. Those are teachings, we lead with the heart, do it the heart way. Tears popped into my eye. I thought, what is happening here?
DAN KRAKER: She was stunned to hear the same teachings she learned from Anishinaabe people in Minnesota repeated by her ancestors in Sweden. Arne Vainio has discovered similar parallels while reconnecting with his Finnish side. Take the sauna. He says like the Ojibwe sweat lodge, they're spiritual, just in a less structured way.
ARNE VAINIO: It is a time to reflect on life and life changes. I always feel like I'm with my father when I'm in there, and with my grandfather.
DAN KRAKER: Vainio is a well-known physician on the Fond Du Lac reservation. He grew up in the woods North of the Iron Range, the son of a Finnish father and an Ojibwe mother. He says over the years, he's saved the lives of several people who hated him for the color of his skin. Before going to medical school, he worked as a paramedic on the range where he recalls responding to a man having a heart attack.
ARNE VAINIO: As soon as he got in ambulance with me, he said, no effing Indian is going to touch me. and I started an IV on him and I talked with him. And by the time we got to the hospital which was maybe half an hour, he wouldn't let go of my hand. And he wanted me to come into the ER with him.
DAN KRAKER: Vainio says the reawakening of his Finnish side began in 2008 at a Finn fest celebration in Duluth, where he and others spoke about what it meant to be FIndian or Finnishanaabe. Lyz Jaakola was there too. She's a musician and teacher at Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College. She says growing up on the reservation, she sometimes felt like she wasn't accepted by white or native people.
LYZ JAAKOLA: Feeling like an outsider. And feeling like an other wherever I was.
DAN KRAKER: Jaakola wrote about that experience in her song, red and white blues.
[MUSIC - LYZ JAAKOLA, "RED & WHITE BLUES"]
Took a bus to town to try to go to school, father was too brown, got treated like a fool. On the rez bus home and I was just too white, I was cracking jokes trying to stay out of fights, Yes I got a teacher and man I got a clue woo-hoo I got those red and white blues.
DAN KRAKER: But as she got older, she began to see her background as a source of strength. She looks for commonalities among people and also celebrates differences.
LYZ JAAKOLA: I think people who are aware of their multicultural background, it's almost natural to do that. I think that that's-- I don't want to say like a product of being a mixed person, but it is a strength.
DAN KRAKER: Jaakola says she's learned to embrace the totality of who she is in a way that builds on the strengths of both cultures. Arnie Vainio says it's what's inside of you that's important. Inside of him, he says is both Ojibwe and Finnish culture. And he wouldn't have it any other way. Dan Kraker NPR News, Duluth.
[MUSIC - LYZ JAAKOLA, "RED & WHITE BLUES"]
Whoo-hoo I got those red and white blues.
KATHY WURZER: This story was made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendments Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. You can find more stories from our North Star Journey Series at mprnews.org.
[MUSIC - LYZ JAAKOLA, "RED & WHITE BLUES"]
Woo-hoo, I got those red and white blues.
KATHY WURZER: If you're in the South Metro and you're getting poor air quality alerts, the air today is fine. The air sensor is not. The Apple Valley air sensor is malfunctioning according to authorities. They say everything is fine. They're just trying to figure out what the problem is all about.
Thanks for listening to the program. It was a busy one today. We, of course, have more for you tomorrow on Minnesota Now from MPR News. Hope you have a good day. This is NPR News, 91.1. KNOW, Minneapolis, Saint Paul. Support for Minnesota now comes from True Stolen Financial Credit Union, dedicated to giving back to the community since 1939. Full service banking is available at 23 locations and online at truestone.org. True Stone is an equal housing opportunity lender insured by NCUA.
Gosh, there was a lot on the show today. Thanks to John Reinan by the way of the Star Tribune for that update on the civil trial pitting a McGregor Minnesota pharmacist against a patient. The pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for the woman for emergency contraception. The woman sued under the state Human Rights Act. We talked to him about that. We also met with 35W bridge collapse survivor Lindsey Walz. She was fantastic. I can't believe it's been 15 years since that bridge collapsed. 15 years today. 79 degrees right now on our way to a hotter day of 82 in the Twin Cities. Tomorrow, sunny, hot and humid.
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