Minnesota Now for August 17, 2022

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

A few weeks from the first day of school for many Minnesota districts, school leaders are still looking for staff. We'll find out who is missing and how they're filling those seats.

We’ll find out about how a new interactive theatre performance explores the kind of losses we don't often acknowledge.

Paul Huttner has weather news.

Plans are — again — shaping up for an historic golf course important to many in the Twin Cities’ Black community.

And John O'Sullivan talks about his quick video tours of Twin Cities hot spots on TikTok. Maybe he'll show you something new!

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: It's Minnesota Now. I'm Cathy Wurzer. We're a few weeks away from the first day of school for many Minnesota districts, but school leaders are still looking for staff. We'll find out who's missing and how they're filling those seats. Plus, a new interactive theater performance explores the kind of losses we don't often acknowledge. We'll find out more.


Paul Huttner is here with weather news. Plans are shaping up for a historic golf course, important to many in the Twin Cities Black community. We'll get the latest. Want to discover someplace new in the Twin Cities? We'll talk with John O'Sullivan who does quick video tours of Twin Cities hot spots on TikTok. Maybe he'll show you something new. All that, plus the Song of the Day and the Minnesota Music Minute. It's coming up right after the news.

LAKSHMI SINGH: Live from NPR News in Washington, I'm Lakshmi Singh. Former Vice President Mike Pence is warning fellow Republicans that criticism of the US Attorney General's fair game, but threats against the FBI's rank and file is not. During a speech this morning, Pence reacted to heightened security risks FBI agents and other law enforcement face following the court authorized search of former President Donald Trump's Florida estate last week.

As NPR's Windsor Johnston reports, Pence also seems to be leaving the door open to testifying before the House Select Committee investigating the pro-Trump insurrection at the US Capitol last year.

WINDSOR JOHNSTON: Speaking at an event in New Hampshire, Pence said he would have to weight any invitation to appear before the committee against the unprecedented nature of a vice president testifying on Capitol Hill.

MIKE PENCE: If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it. But you've heard me mention the Constitution a few times this morning. On the Constitution, we have three co-equal branches of government. And any invitation to be directed to me, I would have to reflect on that.

WINDSOR JOHNSTON: Pence was overseeing the electoral college count certification when a mob of Trump supporters began storming the Capitol building. He called January 6 a tragic day in the nation's history, adding that he was angered to see the Capitol ransacked. Windsor Johnston, NPR News, Washington.

LAKSHMI SINGH: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is appearing before a special grand jury in Atlanta investigating whether Trump and allies broke any laws when they attempted to get the 2020 presidential election results overturned in Georgia. Fulton County prosecutors informed Trump's former personal lawyer this week that he was a target in a criminal investigation.

With water levels on Germany's Rhine River hitting record lows, economists say the dry spell could have devastating consequences for Europe's largest economy. Here's NPR's Rob Schmitz.

ROB SCHMITZ: In order to wean itself off of Russian gas, Germany is planning to use coal-fired power plants as a backup. But coal barges are carrying around a fifth of what they typically carry due to the low water levels on the Rhine. Economist Guido Baldi of the German Institute for Economic Research says if problems continue with the transport of coal along the river, Germany will likely see electricity shortages beginning as early as September.

LAKSHMI SINGH: Rob Schmitz reporting. Retail sales were flat last month as consumers in the US adjust to changing prices. NPR's Scott Horsley reports on the latest sales data from the Commerce Department.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Overall spending at stores and restaurants showed little change last month, but US consumers are shifting where they spend. People shelled out less money at gas stations, for example, as fuel prices fell, and more money at furniture, electronics, and home improvement stores. Spending at supermarkets rose slightly last month, but not enough to keep pace with rising prices, suggesting people are leaving the store with less food in their carts.

Spending at restaurants was also up by less than the rate of inflation. Stock in Target stores was down today after the discounter reported a big drop in quarterly earnings. Like other retailers, Target's been struggling to adjust to fast-changing consumer demand, and slashing prices to get rid of unwanted inventory. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

CREW: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations. Other contributors include DuckDuckGo, committed to making privacy online simple. Used by tens of millions, they offer internet privacy with one download. DuckDuckGo, privacy simplified. At DuckDuckGo.com.

CATHY WURZER: Around Minnesota right now, skies are mostly sunny. It's a pretty nice day with highs in the upper-70s to the mid-80s. There's a chance for rain later today. At noon in Duluth, it's sunny and 68. It's 73 in Wynonna. And outside Buckley's Bar and Grill in Wells, Minnesota, it's 75.

I'm Cathy Wurzer with the Minnesota news headlines. St. Paul Police are investigating the shooting deaths of two adults after a child called 911 for help. When police arrived at the home last night on the 2000 block of California Avenue, they found two dead adults. Police haven't said whether the adults were related. They did say they're not looking for any other suspects.

As you heard, Target's stock is down today as its growth continues to slow. The Minneapolis-based retailer reported today that same store sales rose just 1.3% in its second quarter compared to nearly 9% last year. Tim Nelson explains.

TIM NELSON: The modest gains were not a surprise as target executives had warned of a slowdown last quarter and told investors they'd be cutting prices, and likely profits, to clear excess inventory in their stores and warehouses. Comparable sales were up 2.6% for the quarter that ended in July. That number was nearly 9% last year.

Net income plunged for the company, which said it was battling higher shipping and staffing costs among other expenses. Profits fell from $1.8 billion for the second quarter last year to $183 million in the most recent quarter-- a drop of nearly 90%. The company said it is still seeing strong sales of food and beverage items, household essentials, and beauty products, and still expects low to mid-single-digit percentage point growth this year. I'm Tim Nelson.

CATHY WURZER: The Minneapolis school board is beginning the process to rename the city's Patrick Henry High School. The North Minneapolis school was named after the 18th century patriot who owned slaves. The move to rename the school was started in 2007 by some students and staff.

And the Minneapolis school board also heard last night that with the start of the new school year just three weeks away, the district is short 280 staff. But Minneapolis is not alone. Schools all over Minnesota are feeling the crunch of too many positions that are still open. John Magas is the superintendent of Duluth public schools. He's here to talk about staffing in the district. Welcome, superintendent. How are you?

JOHN MAGAS: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.

CATHY WURZER: Good. Thanks for being here. Say, just how short-staffed are you in Duluth?

JOHN MAGAS: Well, we are short-staffed basically between 50 and 60 positions right now. We're short about 18 teaching positions, and we still have a couple of weeks to go for the hiring. But then we're short about 40 non-certified staff.

And that would include things like bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, clerical, and other positions. So we're in a better spot than we were last year, but I think that there's still a definite need, just like in many other parts across the state and country.

CATHY WURZER: What positions are the hardest to fill?

JOHN MAGAS: I think it varies. I think sometimes the high need special education paraprofessionals, just because it sometimes can be a very intensive position with intensive needs. It can be quite rewarding, but it can also be quite challenging. So sometimes those are hard to find.

Previously, our bus driver positions were hard to find. But right now, I'd say bus drivers, custodians, and food service are our highest need areas.

CATHY WURZER: How out of the ordinary is this staffing shortage? And what are you hearing from other superintendents?

JOHN MAGAS: We're hearing across the state-- I'm involved in the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, as well as our regional superintendents meetings and MASA-- and we're hearing across the state, it's a huge issue. Right now, unemployment in Minnesota is at, like, 1.8%, which is at an all-time low. And so I think that, combined with some of the challenges that we've seen from the pandemic with sometimes additional pressures on schools and additional needs there-- unemployment and the change in the job market, those are all things that have affected the labor shortage.

CATHY WURZER: Some district leaders have said that the talent pool is smaller than they've ever seen it before. Is that right?

JOHN MAGAS: Very much so. I think that there are still very good people out there. But private industry is paying more for a lot of their workers. And so as wages go up in other areas, we would love to be able to raise our wages proportionately. But because of our fixed budgeting, we run into problems there.

And I think part of the problem is that I think it would be great if the state could loosen some of the funding and provide some additional relief for schools-- maybe come back in special session and work on some of the spreading of that $9 billion in budget surplus to our schools so that we could be ready to meet the needs of our students and families.

CATHY WURZER: This sounds like this needs a short-term fix and a long-term fix. What's the short-term fix?

JOHN MAGAS: Well, I'd say short-term fix is that we're really doing some things to recruit and retain in different ways. We're meeting with university students face to face, talking to them about our positions, talking to them about working in the district while they're going to school. We're also recruiting younger individuals, students who are finishing high school, as well as retirees who are interested in coming back.

I think, too, we're really trying to appeal to people's civic mindedness-- that this is really as much about helping our schools and helping our students. It's not just a job. I think sometimes people might think, well, I'm not really wanting to be a substitute teacher.

But if they know that they've got some free time on their hands and they care about schools, getting them involved in those positions has been helpful. We're also doing some things looking at our pay scales, making sure that we have better orientation and support for new employees, looking at starting affinity groups with different employee groups, and also just trying to make sure that we ensure that we have a great working environment, thinking about things like exit interviews, but also not just exit interviews-- kind of the concept of stay interviews.

Talking to people and saying, what would it take to have you stay here? So those are all different things that we're trying to make sure that we're dealing with the short-term.

CATHY WURZER: The long-term, as you mentioned, sounds like it's more state money to pay better wages.

JOHN MAGAS: I think that's a significant impact. I think if we look at just the job market and what it takes to get high quality employees, it's hard to compete with various fast food jobs paying $17, $18 an hour, and sometimes our paraprofessional positions pay less than that, and we've just raised our bus driver positions.

But it still makes it hard to compete with some of those positions. We do have great benefit packages. And I think that's a huge draw. But as some of our younger employees say sometimes, you can't eat your benefits. We might have great benefits and it might be a good overall package, but when it comes to putting food on the table for a family, it's important for us to think about those different options.

But I do think that fully funding education through the state, particularly right now when we have such a significant, significant budget surplus with $9 billion on the table, it would make sense for the state to go back into special session and allocate some of those funds for the desperate needs that our schools are facing.

CATHY WURZER: So that may not happen. So you're looking at a fall that you may fall short when it comes to staffing. Are you worried about existing staff burning out because they would be overworked?

JOHN MAGAS: Yeah. I think that that's a definite concern. When we talk about making sure it's a great work environment, if you're asking everybody to step up again and again and cover people's classes when we're short substitutes or things like that, or when we're asking people to work extra hours, that can create some additional stressors on the system. So it's important for us to make sure that we're being thoughtful about that. It is a concern, though.

CATHY WURZER: Didn't you in the spring, I thought I remember hearing that you stepped in to be a substitute teacher when staffing was tight. You think you're going to do that again?

JOHN MAGAS: Yeah. Actually, it was in January and February, and several times as well throughout the course of the semester-- I worked as a special education paraprofessional. I worked as a teacher. I did different supervisory work. But really, it was our whole team-- our whole team of administrators and other support people really, really stepped up.

I just wanted to make sure that I was modeling from the top as far as if it was an expectation that we're all stepping in, all means all. And I wanted to make sure I stepped in as well. But it was really a team effort of all of our administrators, all of our teachers, and many others.

CATHY WURZER: What did you learn from the experience?

JOHN MAGAS: I think it's always a good reminder of who we serve-- that we're here for our students. And I think any time you can spend more time with students as an educator, especially once you get into administration where you're working more with adults, it's important for us to really think about things from the voice of the customer and the lens of the customer.

And our customers are our students. So I think spending time with our students and seeing things through their eyes, as well as looking at things through the eyes of our staff who are closest to the work at hand, that was really insightful for me.

CATHY WURZER: So before you go, I know that school's going to start in Duluth September the 6th, I believe, just a few weeks away. You're going to make your staffing goals?

JOHN MAGAS: I feel completely confident that we're going to have the staff we need to start the year strong. I think that it's important that we continue to keep our sense of urgency on this, because starting with everybody pitching in doing more than we would normally expect is a hard place to start. And I think making sure that we continue to value education and value putting our money where our mouth is as a state, I think it's important for us to consider those funding streams and consider how we can do this. But I feel completely confident that we're going to start a great school year here in Duluth.

CATHY WURZER: All right. Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas, thank you so much.

JOHN MAGAS: Thank you.



PAUL SPRING: Oh, I could follow every move and brush stroke that you make.

CATHY WURZER: This is our Minnesota Music Minute. This is Axis of Your Glance by Paul Spring. He's a contemporary folk musician based in St. Cloud he's at PaulSpring.bandCap.com.


PAUL SPRING: Searching for an answer in the paint. You can dance in a room of self-portraits spun from a broken mirror, dance in a room of self-portraits.

CATHY WURZER: It's Minnesota Now here on MPR News. I'm Cathy Wurzer. This weekend, there is one of a kind theater performance happening on an island in the Mississippi River. And this doesn't just involve actors, it involves the audience in a big way.

In fact, the line between actor and audience is totally gone. Here to tell us more is Leah Cooper. She's the Co-Artistic Director of Wonderlust Productions. Leah, welcome to Minnesota Now.

LEAH COOPER: Thank you. It's really great to be here.

CATHY WURZER: I'm glad you had time to join us. All right, you're going to be on an island in the Mississippi river. Let's talk about the location.

LEAH COOPER: Well, it's Raspberry Island, which I think a lot of people have seen but don't even realize they've seen. It is right next to downtown St. Paul. It's under the Wabasha Bridge. And it's this little oval of land with a walking path all the way around it, and a bandshell right in the middle of it, and these beautiful steps at the far end that descend right into the Mississippi River.

It's got bridges and trestles going overhead, it's got downtown on one side and the West Side Flats on the other. It's sort of in the middle of everything, and yet I think people miss it.

CATHY WURZER: You could have chosen any other location, Leah, but you chose this one. Why?

LEAH COOPER: Well, this project has been a long, long time in the making. And this island, the first time I saw it, it just really spoke to me. I think this piece is half theater, half ritual. And for all rituals, one of the first things we do is we sort of step out of the everyday.

And an island is a perfect place to do that. It's right there in the middle of every day, and yet it's outside of it.

CATHY WURZER: I like that. Let's talk about the ritual part of this. What's important to you about ritual?

LEAH COOPER: Well, at Wonderlust, we do theater a little different than conventional theater. We don't start with a script. We start with a community of people whose stories we think are really interesting, but largely unknown, or misunderstood, or entirely silenced.

And all of our shows are about 1/3 professional actors and 2/3 members of the community that the play is about and who it was made with. And we've been doing that work for about 10 years. And one of the things we just kept observing was how much theater artists use ritual to create a safe space for creativity, to create a safe container for sharing really big stories about complex things.

And then the other thing we noticed was that when you make plays in collaboration with communities whose stories have been silenced, it turns out you're also working with people who have experienced a lot of loss. And we started observing this thing that we later discovered was named by a local psychologist named Dr. Pauline Boss. It's called ambiguous loss.

It's all these losses that are profound, but they're different than bereavement. We walk around carrying them, but nobody really names them. So they get frozen inside of us. We don't get a chance to grieve them. So these two, frankly, obsessions of mine came together into this project, which is, can we come together to create collective ritual for naming and grieving ambiguous loss?

CATHY WURZER: There's always something personal behind everything that artists do. So I'm sensing that there must be a story of yours. You must have a story of ambiguous loss, I'm betting.

LEAH COOPER: That's a really good guess. Well, it's a funny thing-- I think artists often make something that they think is about everything else, and then they get deep, deep, deep into it before they go, oh, this is about me.


LEAH COOPER: And then it's a self-conscious moment, frankly, because we don't realize we're doing it. But yeah, we first read about ambiguous loss when we were making a play about adoption and foster care. And ambiguous loss comes up a lot in the adoption community, for both adoptees and birth parents.

And I am an adoptee myself. I'm a transracial adoptee. And I was told that I was adopted, I was told that I was multiracial, but I wasn't even told what my ethnicity was, much less where I came from and who I was connected to. So that is for sure an ambiguous loss.

And that's why I think her book really resonated for me. And it's probably why I've been drawn to this work all along of working with people whose stories are misunderstood and silenced. I happen to have a long list of ambiguous losses, actually, including a family that experienced a great deal of mental illness, and disability, and dementia, including a lot of abandonment, and neglect, and a lot of just general chaos.

In some ways, I feel like I lost a childhood, you know? And so, yes, I think ambiguous loss speaks to me really, really personally. Every artist involved in this, though, it turns out also very personal.

CATHY WURZER: Aha. And I'm sure the audience when they explore the theme too will also find that they are living with ambiguous loss. The event is called Lost and Found-- Lost and Found. So tell me a little bit about how this will kind of manifest there on Raspberry Island in the Mississippi River.

LEAH COOPER: Well, one piece that might look a little more like you expect theater to look is that we have for storytellers, performers, who have created a piece about their own experience with loss and with transformation. And they are scattered about the island. And then the other piece of this is that we have four guides-- theater artists who are going to guide the audience around the island, visiting each of these performers.

But between each performer, they're also going to do some interactive experiences that are about recognizing our own loss, and considering it, and thinking about ways that we can transform the experience. And I think a really important thing to know is that people can really just follow along and watch, or they can participate a little or a lot.

It's very open to whatever amount of participation people feel comfortable with. It's also really open to what kind of meaning they want to assign to it.

CATHY WURZER: This is all a lovely full circle that you're working with.

LEAH COOPER: Yeah. There's no religion or dogma in what we're presenting. It's much more of a journey. We create a journey with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and a sense of resolve, and some kind of small catharsis or large catharsis along the way. And as theater artists, we're sort of experts at letting an audience bring their own imagination and their own experience to something.

And so that's really how this is a ritual. It's a journey where you can assign meaning and cast a wish around your own sense of loss.

CATHY WURZER: So because you're dealing with loss and grief, I guess you could say it's a wish for a happy ending. Is that what you're hoping actually manifests for some folks who participate?

LEAH COOPER: Absolutely. I think it's tricky-- American culture really is a pretty high emphasis on a happy ending, and on happiness in general. And sometimes, that can gloss over or even sort of force us to think that grief is not a welcome emotion or a useful emotion.

We get a lot of pressure to just move on, get over it, be strong, be brave, be happy, don't worry, right? All of that. And I think in this last 2 and 1/2 years, we've been really forced to slow down. And it really just wasn't possible to move on.

And I think part of what this piece is meant to do is to say, hang on. Before we rush forward and pretend the last 2 and 1/2 years didn't happen, let's take some time to look at what we learned from our grief. It's not to say that loss is a good thing or has a silver lining, but that the way that we survive loss is by asking ourselves, what can we learn from it? How can we transform it into something? How do we release what's not true anymore so that we can imagine what is possible, right? And so I would say it's a little bit happy ending. But more so, it's about finding understanding, and finding peace, and finding new possibilities.

CATHY WURZER: This is pretty personal for many people, right? What you're doing is personal, done in a group of strangers. And I wonder how people will react. It should be fascinating.

LEAH COOPER: We're also wondering. It's definitely an experiment. It is far more interactive than what we have done historically. All of our plays are made in collaboration with communities. So we do spend a lot of time guiding people into an experience where they are, perhaps, being more creative than they get to be in their everyday life, perhaps being a little more expressive than they feel safe to do in other places.

So we think we're bringing a lot of skill and thoughtfulness around creating a fun, and playful, and safe space. I know it sounds weird to say that we could be fun and playful about grief, but, frankly, grief is a really natural experience, even though modern society sort of wants to suppress it. And so is playfulness.

And we think that's kind of a doorway. And we hope that that's how they'll feel safe among strangers to just tiptoe into this-- and that what they'll really do is take home some ideas and practices that they might incorporate into their own life.

CATHY WURZER: Should be fascinating. Leah, I wish you all the best. Thank you so much.

LEAH COOPER: Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it.

CATHY WURZER: Leah Cooper is the Co-Artistic Director of Wonderlust Productions. Their production called Lost and Found opens this weekend, August 19, runs through September the 4th. You can find more information and tickets at WLproductions.org.

CREW: Programming is supported by the McKnight Foundation, advancing a more just, creative, and abundant future, where people and planet thrive. Online and McKnight.org.

CATHY WURZER: It is a lovely afternoon. It's turned out to be quite nice. A little rain at the Duluth Harbor, 66 degrees-- it's the one place with some rain. Sunny skies in International Falls, where it's 77 degrees. 79 under sunshine in St. Cloud. It's sunny in Red Wing, where it's also 79 degrees. 75 in Austin and Albert Lea.

It's 78 in the Twin Cities. Yes, there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms today, mainly in northern Minnesota. Highs upper-70s, mid-80s, chance of rain tonight. And then tomorrow, we start with a pattern of more showers and thunderstorms. Todd Melby is here with a look at more news. Todd.

TODD MELBY: Thanks, Cathy. Liz Cheney may run for president. The US House member from Wyoming lost a primary election yesterday to an opponent supported by former President Donald Trump. Cheney is Trump's fiercest Republican critic in congress. She told supporters she'll do whatever it takes to ensure Trump, quote, "is never again anywhere near the Oval Office."

Rudy Giuliani is facing a special grand jury today in Atlanta after being ordered by a judge to appear before a panel investigating possible illegal attempts to influence the 2020 presidential election. The former New York Mayor and Attorney for then-President Donald Trump entered the Fulton County, Georgia courthouse swarmed by news cameras. He told reporters he couldn't talk about his testimony.

Reporters who have fled the Russian occupied city of Kherson say that conditions in the Black Sea port just north of the Crimean Peninsula have become increasingly grim. The Southern city was the first to fall to a Russian invasion, but Kherson remains at the heart of the conflict and Ukraine's efforts to save its vital access to the sea.

Residents described a heavy-handed effort by Moscow to establish permanent control in the city and region by pressuring residents to take Russian citizenship, effectively banning use of the Ukrainian currency, and installing pro-Kremlin authorities.

Syria has denied it is holding US journalists Austin Tice or other Americans. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said today that Damascus, quote, "denies it had kidnapped or is holding any American citizen in its territories." Last week, President Joe Biden accused the Syrian government of holding Tice.

There's news on the state of the US economy today. The Commerce Department reports that the pace of sales at US retailers was unchanged in July. Persistently high inflation and rising interest rates forced many households to spend more cautiously. This is MPR News.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you, Todd. 12:28 here on Minnesota Now. I'm Cathy Wurzer. Remember when it was stinking hot back in June and July? Not so much here in August. Joining us right now with what's happening in our weather world is MPR's Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner. Hey, Paul. Welcome back.

PAUL HUTTNER: Hey, Cathy. Thank you. What a lovely day.

CATHY WURZER: It is lovely. Here I was thinking it was going to rain, and then we were going to be stuck with-- when I say stuck with, we do need the rain, but I thought we were going to be underneath umbrellas here for the next few days. But today actually turned out pretty nice.

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah, there are a few showers as you mentioned a couple of minutes ago right now, mainly from around Grantsburg and Siren, Wisconsin, up toward Hayward, Spooner. They're drifting Southeast. But I don't think those will clip the Twin Cities today. But our rain chances will increase especially tomorrow.

We're going to see still scattered but more numerous showers and thunderstorms around central and southern Minnesota. And even on Friday, many areas could pick up a half an inch to an inch of rain by the time it wraps up early Saturday. Sunday looks like the beautiful day this weekend-- mostly sunny with a high around 80.

CATHY WURZER: Say, I noticed something-- northern Minnesota has gotten some significant rains this year. And there was an interesting story in the Star Tribune about how climate change is affecting precipitation trends up north and what that means for some lakes on the range-- some of these mining lakes are close to overflowing.

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah. And you know what? I think Rainy Lake and the flooding up there this spring is a signal for Minnesota, because climate is changing our precipitation patterns in Minnesota. Here's the big picture if you think of it this way-- Minnesota is trending wetter overall with climate change. We're warmer, there's more water vapor in the air, and that increases precipitation in general.

Statewide, if you look at numbers from the Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group, Minnesota is about 3 degrees warmer and 3 and 1/2 inches of rainfall wetter each year since 1895. And most of that trend has accelerated in the past few decades. The top 10 warmest and wettest years all have occurred since 1998.

We're also getting those heavier rain events, those extreme rainfalls-- 3 inches-plus-- that are increasing. And winter precipitation is up 15% in Duluth, for example, in just the last 30-year normal update. So that's happened in just the last 10 to 30 years. And here's the irony, Cathy-- a lot of that is more snow up north.

Because even though winters are warmer, it's still cold enough for snow. And that extra water vapor cranks out those deeper snow packs. So when you get a situation like we had this spring up north, and this happened on the North Shore too, as I know you're familiar-- deeper snowpack, rapid spring warm-up, and then you put heavier spring and summer rainfall on top of that, you can get these flash flood surge events that are really beyond what was planned for or modeled for when some of these lakes were developed in the past 50 years.

And it's just common sense to say, we're going to have extreme precipitation and runoff events that can overwhelm these mining lakes and really other lakes in northern Minnesota. So that's why the concern is there for potentially catastrophic events as our climate continues to shift into high gear with this rainfall and snowfall.

CATHY WURZER: And some of those mine pit lakes are pretty deep. So to think about that is astounding, really.

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah, it's remarkable.

CATHY WURZER: I am curious-- let's move on and talk about the crop report, because we have had recent rains. Then, I'm hoping that's helped the crops.

PAUL HUTTNER: It has, according to the report this week. These come out on Monday and they assess rainfall and conditions across the state. And the line that caught my eye-- row crops looking better after recent rains, from this week's Minnesota crop report.

There were a couple swaths of 2 to 4 inches of rain in the last week-- one from the southwest Twin Cities. I had a little over 2 inches here at the weather lab in the southwest metro. And then go west on Highway 212 all the way out through Olivia toward Granite Falls, 2 to 4 inches. Another area, southern Minnesota along I-90, 2 to 4 inches-plus. And then there were lots of areas that got an inch or so.

So those areas that had been real dry got some very critical, much needed rainfall at this time of year. And looking ahead, the models with this system this week saying widespread maybe half an inch to 1-inch rains, maybe locally 2 inches up north. So yes, it's been dry this summer in many places, but the crops are getting by in most areas-- over 60% of corn and soybeans are in good to excellent condition.

CATHY WURZER: Which is good news. Well, Sven Sungard and I were talking about the Northern Lights this morning on Morning Edition. And I, of course, admitted I have spent years chasing Northern Lights. I have never seen them in Minnesota. What the heck? So it looks like we have a chance tonight. Is that right?

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah, we do. And you're right-- Northern Lights are hard to forecast and hard to predict. But NOAA's space weather center, which, by the way, I would love to work there someday-- that sounds like a really cool place.


PAUL HUTTNER: They track these bursts, solar storms, these coronal mass ejections from the sun as they head toward Earth. And they called this one, actually, a cannibal CME. That means two of these things, and one of them catches up to the other one and kind of devours it but turns it into a bigger storm, potentially.

And the best chance is tonight overnight. Now, we're going to have clouds in central and northern Minnesota. But southern Minnesota partly cloudy, so I think we'll see some breaks. So any time tonight, it could happen. We could see Northern Lights, and they're saying this could be as far south as Iowa, potentially.

But you're right. It's hard to see, especially if you're near city lights. So if you can get into a dark place in the country, that's the best way to see them, Cathy. I haven't seen them in a long time.

I remember a time in the late-'80s, early-'90s when they were just vivid on a winter night. It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen.

CATHY WURZER: And you saw them in Minnesota?

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah, I did. It was actually from some of our old friends at WCCO. There was a house party where we were playing some music and we all went outside and just stood there. It was phenomenal.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. What a great memory. All right, Paul Huttner, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

PAUL HUTTNER: Thanks, Cathy. Have a great day.

CATHY WURZER: You too. Paul Huttner, of course, our Chief Meteorologist here at MPR News. You can listen to Paul and Tom Crann later this afternoon on All Things Considered. Also, check out The Updraft Blog mprnews.org for fresh weather information. And Paul Huttner does the Climate Cast-- some excellent news and science around climate change. Check that out wherever you get your podcasts.


Time for a little music, just a few minutes to shake off whatever's been bugging you this morning. Marie Rock is a favorite of mine. She's the morning show host at KOJB, The Eagle, broadcasting from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe reservation. She is a big fan of classic rock.

And every week, Marie picks a theme and each day plays a favorite song on that theme. She calls it Songs to Sing in the Car.

MARIE ROCK: Hey, Cathy, from all the way up here in northern Minnesota and beautiful Cast Lake. It is time to sing in the car because you're a rock star when you get behind the wheel. Our theme this week is All Alone, and our sing in the car tune today comes from Gilbert O'Sullivan and Alone Again Naturally.



GILBERT O'SULLIVAN: Alone again, naturally.

MARIE ROCK: That was Gilbert O'Sullivan and Alone Again Naturally, your sing in the car tune. That's going to wrap it up. We'll do it again real soon.

CATHY WURZER: Yep, we will. Thank you, Marie. Marie Rock is the Morning Show Host at KOJB The Eagle.

CREW: Programming supported by Sala Architects, committed to creating thoughtfully crafted and intimately connected design solutions for a wide range of architectural projects. More at salaarc.com. Sala Architects, simple, natural, timeless.

CATHY WURZER: 12:40 here on Minnesota Now from MPR News. I'm Cathy Wurzer. The proposed redesign of Hiawatha Golf Course is testing communities in Minneapolis. The course, with historic ties to the Black community, was built out of a marsh. And some say it should be made smaller to cope with flooding problems.

But there's a fight to save it. There are efforts to put the course on the National Register of Historic Places to protect it. At 5:00 tonight, the Minneapolis Park Board will hold a public meeting about the golf course. Melissa Olson has more.

MELISSA OLSON: The Hiawatha Golf Course is an 18-hole golf course in south Minneapolis. Every so often, heavy rain floods the lower, marshier parts of the course. In response to major flooding in 2014, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board began a process intended to redesign the golf course in a way that would address flooding and a whole host of issues connected to the pollution of Lake Hiawatha next to the golf course.

After five years of gathering input, the park board put out the Hiawatha Master Plan. The plan calls for the golf course to be reduced from 18 holes to nine.

DARWIN DEAN: Well, if you don't have 18 holes of golf, then, obviously, tournament play is terminated. A lot of championship golf that has been played here in the past and in the future will simply just go away.

MELISSA OLSON: Darwin Dean is President of the Bronze Foundation, which hosts a 75-year-old tournament and the junior bronze for youth golfers. Golfers like Dean point to the course's historic and honorific importance to Black communities throughout the Twin Cities. Since 2018, the Minneapolis Park Board has tried to advance the Hiawatha Master Plan. It's been shelved and revived several times to allow for time to consider an alternative plan that would preserve 18 holes.

SUBJECT: I teach a class called art and ecology-- dig pretty deep into environmental justice.

MELISSA OLSON: Artist Sean Connaughty leads Friends of Lake Hiawatha and opposes keeping the golf course at 18 holes. When the Park Board began its redesign process, Connaughty seized the opportunity to demonstrate how the current stormwater system for south Minneapolis dumps trash into the lake. Four to five times a week, Connaughty walks along the shore of Lake Hiawatha sometimes with volunteers to help him clean up.

SUBJECT: So we weigh every trash bag that we collect. A full bag has to weigh 20 pounds before it gets counted. And we are currently, this will be bag number 520. That brings us over 10,000.

MELISSA OLSON: And that's just this year. Connaughty says he's heard the concerns of the golf community at Hiawatha, particularly those of Black golfers. He believes the current plan with the smaller course has a lot of compromise built into it.

SUBJECT: Elevates the golf course above the 10-year floodplain so that it can be sustainable. It honors the history of Black golfers, equalizes the lake with the land, restores wetland function to the watershed, treats the stormwater pollution, filters out the trash.

MELISSA OLSON: On a sunny, breezy Thursday morning, golfers of all ages gather to support youth golfers at the Junior Bronze Tournament. David Goodloe and his wife, Frances, are at the tournament to support their grandchildren playing in the Junior Bronze. David introduced his children to the sport at an early age.

SUBJECT 2: But I love playing with my kids, because we really have some quality time together. Other than golf, we're just talking about what is going on in your life.

MELISSA OLSON: David Goodloe founded PEPAA, or Personal Enrichment Programs for African-Americans, which eventually became part of the Fairway Foundation. The organization promotes youth golf. Goodloe's son Eric coaches youth golfers. Eric remembers playing his first Junior Bronze Tournament at age 10 at the Hiawatha Golf Course.

SUBJECT 3: So I just remember a lot of people of color, Black folks, at a golf course in numbers that I've never seen at one time in one situation. And again, it was more of I don't want to say a party, per se, but more of almost like a family reunion.

MELISSA OLSON: Hiawatha is the historic golf home of pro Solomon Hughes, Sr., who started playing there and at other Twin Cities courses in the 1940s. His son, Solomon Hughes, Jr., a photographer, was working at the Junior Bronze Tournament. His father was the first to successfully challenge segregation at Hiawatha's clubhouse.

SOLOMON HUGHES, JR.: He felt that this rule of not allowing Blacks to be in the clubhouse but they could play on the course was just totally unfair and discriminatory. So he and a couple of other people demanded that they change the rule. And in 1952, that happened.

MELISSA OLSON: The clubhouse that once denied entry to Hughes, Sr. was named in his honor last spring by the Minneapolis Park Board.

SOLOMON HUGHES, JR.: He taught Joe Louis how to play golf. And my dad asked Joe Louis, is it easy to win a fight? And he said, it's easy to knock out a guy in one round. But he says, try to go the distance-- try to go 15 rounds. That's what makes a championship.

MELISSA OLSON: Hughes, Jr. says he and his family want the course to remain 18 holes. Joining the fray around the Hiawatha Master Plan are members of the Dakota community who reside in Minneapolis. Nicole Cavender lives near the lake in the Standish neighborhood. She says her family's connection to the land that is now Minneapolis is why she's chosen to ally herself with neighborhood environmental groups.

SUBJECT 4: The core of what I want to see happen is cleaning of the water, and the land, and protection for the animals that live there, and having it happen as soon as possible.

MELISSA OLSON: Cavender says she prefers there to be no golf course at all, but supports the current plan to reduce Hiawatha to nine holes. Everyone connected to the redesign process seems to agree that something needs to be done about the flooding. Golfer Eric Goodloe, a former park commissioner in St. Paul, says he recognizes the challenges faced by the Minneapolis Park Board in its decision.

SUBJECT 3: Water is always going to win. Probably more my belief is that naturally that space, or at least half of it, is just always going to have water issues.

MELISSA OLSON: Goodloe would like to make sure that any plan preserves the nine holes of golf that youth can access. Minneapolis Park Commissioner Steffanie Musich has supported the Hiawatha Master Plan since its inception. She says an alternative plan offered by the Bronze Foundation may need to clear steps required by state and federal governments.

STEFFANIE MUSICH: I think it really underscores the need for an acknowledgment, and understanding, and grounding and the fact that this is in a floodplain, that any modifications to this require the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers, and that we cannot diminish the flood capacity of this location in any way, shape, or form.

MELISSA OLSON: In order to preserve 18 holes of golf at Hiawatha, the Bronze Foundation has said it will seek to have the Hiawatha Golf Course placed on the National Register of Historic Places. For MPR News, I'm Melissa Olson, Minneapolis.

CATHY WURZER: To learn more about the proposed plans for the Hiawatha Golf Course in south Minneapolis, you can go to Minneapolisparks.org. Again, there's a meeting of the park board tonight where they will discuss plans for the golf course.

Say, earlier in the show, I mentioned another Minneapolis story that's got people talking. The Minneapolis school board is starting the process to rename Patrick Henry High School. The school's named for the 18th century patriot who owned slaves. And I misspoke earlier-- the effort to rename the school was started by some students and staff back in 2017. The school board decision means a new name will be selected.


If you're on TikTok, there is a good chance John O'Sullivan has come across your For You page. John, who is on the social media platform as 1-minute Tours, has 17,000 followers. He posts what he calls bit-sized daily video tours of Minnesota and the Midwest, strolling along bridges, biking along a bike trail, or crouching next to a cave.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Admittedly, I am not in the most beautiful part of St. Paul right now, with a rail yard right behind me over there, this kind of skunky looking pond. But this gate is blocking the entrance to a very significant site for thousands of years, which the Dakota called Wiccan Teepee.

People who have grown up here might know this as Carver's Cave as well, which was named after the white explorer who came through in 1776 and threw a stone as hard as he could, and he couldn't see where it went it was so dark. But he heard the splash of the water. It's since been estimated there are three caverns inside this cave.

And they've had to brick it over, because it used to be a place where people came to drink and party. But also, there was kind of guerrilla folk festival, all sorts of cool things that happened in there. We've since come to understand, in communicating with our Dakota brothers and sisters, this is a place for spirituality. And so while it isn't a place for us to go party, and drink, and play music, my god, it would be an amazing place if we could open this up for the Dakota people and explore this bit of Minnesota's history a bit more.

CATHY WURZER: There's a reason he's good at doing this. He's the Founder of Depot Adventures, a walking tour company he started in Australia, and just brought back to his home state in Minnesota. Hey, John, welcome to Minnesota Now.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Hi. Cathy Wurzer, MPR. I'm so excited to be on here. I'm a big fan.

CATHY WURZER: Well, thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for being here. Say, I'm curious about how you started as a tour guide. How did you get into this business?

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: That was a product of timing. I finished university in 2008, which was strategically not a wise time to finish university. So I finished in the middle of a global financial crisis and figured that I would go overseas and wait out the bad economy for about a year or so.

And then I spent 12 years overseas, having just returned home in November. And so I was abroad for a long time, found a profession of being a tour guide, I've given tours in 30-plus countries in the world. And it's become my profession accidentally.

CATHY WURZER: I'm going to assume that you've always loved to travel.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Yeah. Yeah. I've always been a pretty adventurous and enthusiastic person. And so I've never really been comfortable just in one place for too long. However, I am now in a stage of life now in my 30s with a family where I need to settle down and have some more roots in a place. And so for me, being in my home state, giving walking tours, and doing videos on TikTok is my way of scratching that itch of adventurousness.

CATHY WURZER: I believe you grew up in Mankato and went to St. John's?

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: That's right.

CATHY WURZER: OK, so tell me about where do you find your bits of your tours, the bits of history that you put together to collate into these great tours?

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Well, the whole project started for me as just very transactional trying to do marketing for my walking tours. I thought this TikTok thing, it seems to be a thing that I should pay attention to. I give three-hour or 180-minute tours. And so already, I have 180 one-minute tours I can publish on short form video.

And so it started out with me just literally doing recordings of me on tour talking about what I already knew. Now that I've been doing it for, oh gosh, it's been over a year now, I have come to find a way to work the content curation into my life. And so if I happen to be, for example, traveling out to the East Coast of America, as I was just a couple of weeks ago, I find links to Minnesota the entire way and reverse engineer it.

So I don't think, here's a video I want to record. Let's go there. I say, well, I'm going to go to Appalachia. How does this tie in to Minnesota? And then I just do lots of googling to find where there's an interesting link to Minnesota.

CATHY WURZER: I got to say, it sounds like a blast.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: It's super fun. I just found out that with the Appalachia one, that St. Paul would have been in Massachusetts had it not been for a proclamation in the late-1700s. Because when the early American colonies were set, many of them did not have Western borders. And so the Western border just extended out and out and out.

So our Twin Cities would be in Massachusetts if not for a decision that was made to actually apply a Western border. And so that's just super interesting stuff that I don't think most of us would know without having a very specific need to post daily TikToks.

CATHY WURZER: I must say, I did not know that. I can imagine that doing this kind of work would make you see things in a whole new light. Right? Open your eyes to different things.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: I think maybe it's my upbringing, maybe this is just a personal thing, but I kind of think I undersold my home state growing up here, especially in south central Minnesota, lots of just flat farmland, not a lot to see-- everywhere that wasn't here seemed more interesting. And so I left. And I spent a long time away from here.

And I took it for granted that 45 minutes from where I grew up is works of art in the form of petroglyphs from 12,000 years ago. There's so much to appreciate about this state that we live in that I am so grateful for having the opportunity to discover now in my 30s.

CATHY WURZER: What do you think-- why do you think TikTok is so popular? Why do you think people gravitate to your videos?

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: It is a super compelling app. It's wildly addictive in a kind of uncomfortable way, the amount of time that it can suck away. But one of the things that it does is when you open the app, it's not like another thing like YouTube or Facebook where you tell it what you want to see-- I want to go look at this friend or watch this video.

It just puts a video in one of your face that it thinks you're going to like. And that's what makes it so interesting is that there is no need for you to tell it anything. It just reads into the videos that you watch more of, and then puts more of those videos in front of your face.

And so in my case, all of my videos are about the Twin Cities or about Minnesota generally. And so if you're from Minnesota, you're going to watch it. And then the TikTok algorithm will then tell you that, oh, here's more videos of this guy. And so that's kind of the strategy.

That's how it's exploded. And I think that in an era where search engine optimization, and marketing, and email spam, and all the rest has taken over our lives, TikTok is a really authentic platform. You open it up and you see people talking from their bedroom or talking while they're out on a hike or with their dog-- and it feels a bit rougher.

It feels rough around the edges in a way that doesn't feel too sleek. And I think that's why it's connecting. I think that's why my videos are connecting as well.

CATHY WURZER: You're literally just giving us here you are, boom, this is where I am, and you just give a little bit of history. And it feels very personal. Very personal.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Thanks. I have a shooting style that I've written down, actually. And so one of my goals for the video is I wanted it to feel like you were actually on my walking tours, because I continue to give walking tours now. And really, I'd like for people to book them, ultimately.

And so what I do is if I make a mistake, I leave it in. I do it all one unbroken take. And I always do it on location. So I'm always in a place that's why I in the clip you played before, the audio is a little bit rough, because I want it to feel a little bit like it's just a guy holding a phone in front of his face, because that's what it is.

CATHY WURZER: Say, before you go, give me one hidden gem in the Twin Cities.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Ooh. Ooh. Oh, I hesitate to do this because I love it so much and it's going to blow up. But there is a cocktail bar that is just around the corner from the Hewing Hotel in the North Loop of Minneapolis. And it's called the Cobble Social House.

And it is unmarked. So a lot of people go around the corner to the Monte Carlo, which is a famous restaurant there. But you walk down this cobble-lined street. There is no sign for the bar. There's no name for it. You just look for a neon eye looking at you. And you go in and have some of the best cocktail bartenders in the world over there-- the kind of people who will make a drink just for you when you tell them what your flavor preferences are.

CATHY WURZER: And we should say that not only do you deal with history, you just deal with interesting things in the Twin Cities.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, absolutely. That also bit of information came from the fact that I have a tour called Booze Makes History Better. And so I professionally go to four bars and drink with customers. It's a pretty good life.

CATHY WURZER: That's not bad at all. I like that. I should think about that. John, I wish you all the best. It was fun talking to you. Thank you so much.

Now, for folks, you got to go on TikTok, right? But do you have another website that people--

JOHN O'SULLIVAN: Oh, yeah, I'm on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, all as 1-minute Tours. So you just look for that. But if you want to come on a tour with me specifically, my company is called Depot Adventures-- like a bus depot. So they can go to Depotadventures.com. And I do tours seven days a week in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

CATHY WURZER: All right. Thank you for stopping by.


CATHY WURZER: Have a great day. John O'Sullivan has been with us. He is the founder of Depot Adventures. As you heard, you can find him 1-minute Tours on TikTok and all the other social media platforms that you are on.

Appreciate having him in-studio, and I appreciate you listening to Minnesota Now here at MPR News. By the way, if you happen to have a story idea for us, if you think we should talk to somebody specifically or go to a place, a let us know. We have an email, Minnesotanow@mpr.org. Drop us a line. We appreciate hearing from you.

And thank you so much for listening. Stick around. There's much more to come here on MPR News. Support for Minnesota now comes from True Stone Financial. A full service credit union working to improve the financial well-being of its neighbors since 1939. Serving individuals and businesses at 23 locations and online at truestone.org. Equal housing opportunity insured by NCUA.

In the metro area at this hour, it's mostly sunny and 78 degrees. It's MPR News 91.1 KNOW Minneapolis St. Paul. Now, they are talking about a 30% chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms yet today in the Twin Cities. We should hit a high of 80. Scattered showers and storms tonight, chance for rain 50%.

Tomorrow, 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms. If you think you want to go ahead and maybe throw down some grass seed, perhaps, I think this afternoon would be a good time to do that, because the rest of the way in, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, and Saturday, good chance for showers and thunderstorms. It's 1:00.

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