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Franken quits, Yanez jury acquits; Percy the cat splits? MN news 2017

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University of Minnesota Duluth students watch Franken's resignation speech
University of Minnesota Duluth students watch U.S. Sen. Al Franken's resignation speech Dec. 7, 2017, at the Kirby Student Center.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News file

When it rains, it pours — and this year, there was a deluge of news in the state of Minnesota.

2017 saw the resignations of at least three Minnesota lawmakers over sexual misconduct, while Minnesota Public Radio severed ties with its biggest star over alleged "inappropriate behavior."

There was also the controversial verdict in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the former St. Anthony police officer charged in the shooting death of Philando Castile, and a showdown in court between Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature.

And, of course, who could forget Percy the cat. He's the "lost" feline who hid under his owner's semi for 400 miles. Percy was MPR News' most popular and shared story of the year, far surpassing news of the resignation of U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Cats really do rule the internet.

Here's a look back at some of the top headlines from the past year.

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December


John Ireland Blvd. is filled with demonstrators.
Thousands of demonstrators march down John Ireland Boulevard toward the State Capitol during the Women's March in St. Paul on Jan. 21, 2017.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

A Vikings game is anything but routine on the first day of the new year, when two pipeline protesters unfurl a banner from the rafters in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The sign includes the bank's logo and the message "DIVEST" AND "#NODAPL."

Over in St. Paul a few days later, the state Capitol finally reopens to the public after a multi-year, $310 million renovation.

That same day, Jan. 3, the University of Minnesota announces it's firing head football coach Tracy Claeys. The firing follows months of turmoil in the program over allegations of sexual assault by members of the team and the responses to those allegations by Claeys and university leaders.

On Jan. 4, downtown Minneapolis learns it is losing a landmark. Macy's announces that it intends to close and sell its store on Nicollet Mall, one of the four that the chain described as its "legacy" stores.

President Trump is sworn into office on Jan. 20. The next day, marches take place all around the world — including in Minnesota — in support of women's rights and to protest the new president.

On Jan. 23, Kelly Barnhill's "The Girl Who Drank the Moon" wins the John Newberry Medal, one of the most prestigious prizes in children's literature.

Later that night, Gov. Mark Dayton collapses during his State of the State address. The next day, he tells reporters he has prostate cancer, but also says the fainting spell was not related to his diagnosis.

On Jan. 25, just a few days into the new Trump Administration, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul offer a defiant response to Trump's executive order against so-called sanctuary cities. Under the order, cities with policies against reporting undocumented immigrants to federal authorities could risk losing federal funding. Both cities could fall into that category.

Rest in peace: Mary Tyler Moore, star of the beloved Minneapolis-set "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," dies at the age of 80.


 Devil's Kettle waterfall
A photo of the Devil's Kettle at Judge C. R. Magney State Park in Minnesota, taken August 25, 2012.
Amy Meredith | Creative Commons via Flickr 2012

On Feb. 1, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson joins a lawsuit alleging Trump's travel ban is unconstitutional and should not be enforced. Two days later, a U.S. judge temporarily blocks the order.

About two weeks later on Feb. 16, two executives on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority resign amid criticism of the agency's use of suites for family and friends at U.S. Bank Stadium. Ted Mondale and Michele Kelm-Helgen had been in the crosshairs for weeks following reports that agency friends and family members were enjoying Vikings games, concerts and other perks in the authority's suites.

On Feb. 22, MPR News details the dangerous journey some refugees in Minnesota are making in order to reach Canada. Immigration attorneys say Trump's election has triggered panic among many who had been hoping for asylum in the U.S. but now see Canada as their only chance.

A few days later on Feb. 25, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is defeated in his campaign to run the Democratic National Committee, losing to former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The former Obama cabinet official appoints Ellison the party's deputy chair.

In a history-making event, St. Paul's Sunisa Lee is named to the junior national gymnastics team; she's believed to be the first Hmong-American to make the national gymnastics squad. Her goal is the 2020 Olympics.

Closing out the month, the mystery of the Devil's Kettle waterfall solved.

Rest in peace: Bill Cooper, the ex-CEO of TCF Bank and former head of the Minnesota Republican Party, dies at the age of 73. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Minnesota Orchestra conductor laureate, dies at the age of 93.


A likely tornado near Princeton, Minn., downed trees and power lines
A likely tornado near Princeton, Minn., downed trees and power lines and ripped off part of a roof March 6, 2017.
Courtesy of KARE

Sunday liquor sales finally get the OK, when the House sends a final bill to Gov. Mark Dayton. He signs the bill days later on March 7, paving the way for sales to begin in July. But Surdyk's, the longtime liquor and cheese store in northeast Minneapolis, decides to start early on March 12. Owner Jim Surdyk is later fined and his license is suspended for jumping the gun.

Minnesota breaks a record March 6, when two tornadoes touch down in southern and central Minnesota. They're the earliest on record in the state; the previous earliest was March 18, 1968.

On the health front, Fairview and HealthEast announce that they're combining on March 8. The systems say merging will allow them to benefit from greater efficiencies that come with size. Public documents indicate HealthEast has been struggling financially.

Meanwhile, Percy the cat wins over the internet with his lost and found tail, er, tale. Truck driver Paul Robertson "loses" his cat and co-pilot Percy while recovering from food poisoning at a truck stop. After looking all day, he has to move on. But 400 miles later at a delivery, a certain cat comes crawling out from under his truck.

On March 28, MPR News reports on an audit of the Rochester Art Center's 2014-15 finances, the most recent available, which reveals that the center is in dire financial straits. Contributions, corporate sponsorships and memberships are declining and the center's cash balance has fallen significantly, creating "substantial doubt" about the operation's ability to continue, according to the audit.


Janee Harteau and Betsy Hodges
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau and Mayor Betsy Hodges speak with reporters to discuss the findings of an internal investigation by the department into the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark.
Peter Cox | MPR News 2016

During a long and heated debate April 3 about whether to ratchet up penalties for disruptive protests, Minnesota's top House Democrat rises to admonish colleagues from both parties for checking out on the proceedings to play cards in a private room off the House floor.

"I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room but I think this is an important debate," says Melissa Hortman. She says she found it particularly disrespectful that the card game was happening while a pair of minority women in her caucus were delivering personal speeches about the potency of the right to protest. Republicans criticize Hortman's comments, with at least one asking for her resignation.

The GOP later files a protest letter, followed by a response protest letter from Hortman. Both are put in the House journal but carry no other weight.

On April 13, the Minnesota Department of Health confirms it's investigating three measles cases. All three patients are toddlers from Hennepin County and had not been vaccinated. By the end of the month, the outbreak spreads to 29 kids and Stearns County.

Over in St. Paul, about 10,000 people march from the Cathedral to the Capitol as part of the March for Science Minnesota. Organizers portray the march as political but not partisan, promoting the understanding of science as well as defending it from various attacks.

On April 26, Allen Scarsella, the Bloomington man convicted of shooting and wounding five men at a protest over the 2015 police killing of Jamar Clark, is sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Later that night, there's a dustup between Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau and Mayor Betsy Hodges over staffing changes at the 4th Precinct in north Minneapolis. Earlier that day, Harteau had said she was appointing former police officers' union head Lt. John Delmonico as leader of the precinct; that station was the site of an 18-day demonstration following the Clark shooting. But shortly before 9 p.m., Hodges releases a statement saying she's rescinding Delmonico's promotion.

"At this moment in the life of north Minneapolis, we need another kind of leadership for the next phase of the work that we are doing to build trust and transform relationships between police and community," Hodges says in her statement.


"Scaffold" sculpture in the the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
"Scaffold" a sculpture by Sam Durant referencing the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato among other executions, sits in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on May 31, 2017.
Evan Frost | MPR News

In Northfield, classes are canceled May 1 at St. Olaf College because of a boycott by students protesting alleged racist incidents on campus. Hundreds pack an administration building. On May 10, the college says a racist note that was reportedly left on a student's car in April was a hoax, meant to draw attention to campus climate concerns. The college says it continues to investigate other racist incidents.

On May 3, the long-running effort to rename Lake Calhoun clears its first hurdle when the Minneapolis Park Board votes to recommend restoring the lake's traditional Dakota name Bde Maka Ska. Supporters of the change say it's offensive to name anything after former Vice President John C. Calhoun, an ardent supporter of slavery who was also an architect of the Indian Removal Act.

Happening May 8, President Trump nominates Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On May 26, an inmate hijacks a transport van full of prisoners and escapes from the state correctional facility in Lino Lakes. Five of the nine are captured in the Mounds View area, while three are found in the van in north Minneapolis. The last prisoner is captured around 4:30 p.m. in Minneapolis after being spotted in a park.

On May 27, Walker Art Center executive director Olga Viso and artist Sam Durant say they agree the controversial "Scaffold" sculpture should be dismantled. The sculpture referenced gallows used in seven hangings throughout American history, including the execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minn., in 1862.

That drew a sharp rebuke from the Dakota community, with leaders saying the work was disrespectful and that they were never consulted about it before its installation. Two days later, the Walker says it's delaying the reopening of the sculpture garden, which had just undergone a two-year, $33 million makeover.

At the Capitol, Gov. Dayton agrees to legislation funding Minnesota state agencies over the next two years. Dayton says that by signing the bill, he's protecting funding for the Department of Revenue.

Earlier, he chastised Republican lawmakers for adding what he called a "poison pill" provision to a bill that would have eliminated all department funding if it were killed, a move Dayton described as a "reprehensible sneak attack." In response, the governor defunds the Legislature, triggering a showdown that eventually heads to court. Republican leaders say Dayton's line-item veto of money to fund the Legislature violates constitutional separation of power rules.


Marchers walk down University Ave. and block the Green Line light rail.
Marchers walk down University Ave. and block the Green Line light rail in St. Paul on June 16, 2017.
Courtney Perry for MPR News file

Big fish news kicks off the month of June: an angler fishing a private gravel pit within the Minnesota River floodplain near Redwood Falls catches a massive bighead carp measuring nearly 4 feet and weighing 62 pounds. It's the largest invasive carp captured in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

On June 5, Dayton joins a group of governors committing their states to upholding the Paris climate deal's emissions cuts despite Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the pact.

In Minneapolis, the school board votes to rename Alexander Ramsey Middle School to Justice Page Middle School. Students involved in the effort said they didn't want to promote the legacy of Ramsey, a territorial governor who negotiated treaties with the Dakota. He called for Native people to be driven from the state during the U.S.-Dakota war. The school's new namesake is Alan Page, the former Minnesota Viking who went on to become the first African-American justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

In northern Minnesota, a rare tick-triggered meat allergy continues to spread. The alpha-gal allergy is triggered by a bite from a lone star tick that's found largely in the southeastern U.S., confounding researchers and doctors here.

On June 16, jurors find St. Anthony officer Yanez not guilty on all counts tied to Yanez's shooting and killing of Philando Castile during a traffic stop. The verdict sparks demonstrations in the Twin Cities, with marchers shutting down the Green Line light rail line along with Interstate 94 in St. Paul. Toward the end of the month, Castile's mother reaches a nearly $3 million settlement with the city of St. Anthony.

The verdict also leads to a new conflict involving the Twin Cities Pride festival. Organizers decide to break with tradition and not allow a uniformed presence at the start of the parade because of the controversy surrounding the acquittal. Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, the city's first openly gay chief, is among those critical of the decision. A few days later, festival leaders change course and say they will allow police officers to participate in the parade.

On June 26, the New York Times reports that Minnesota environmental chemist Deborah Swackhamer says she was contacted by a top Environmental Protection Agency staffer who asked her to hedge her testimony about scientists being dropped from scientific review committees. Democrats ask the EPA's inspector general to investigate the claims.

On June 30, the Minneapolis City Council votes nearly unanimously to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.


Mourners left dolls, books, flowers and photographs.
Mourners leave dolls, books, flowers and photographs in memorial of Justine Ruszczyk near the entrance to the alley where she was shot and killed by police officer Mohamed Noor in south Minneapolis on July 17, 2017.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

The first weekend of the month ushers in a new era — Sunday liquor sales are now legal.

On July 6, Swanson and officials from 17 other states and the District of Columbia sue Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Education Department over student loan rules, saying federal officials broke the law by delaying rules meant to protect federal student loan borrowers.

Over at the St. Anthony police force, Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who was acquitted in the Castile shooting, leaves the department under a separation agreement.

A mental health hotline that's served Minnesotans for nearly 50 years is svaed — at least temporarily — thanks to an eleventh-hour infusion of money.

Late on the night of July 15, Justine Ruszczyk is shot and killed by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor after calling 911 to report that she thought a woman was being attacked outside her home.

A preliminary BCA review finds that officer Matthew Harrity and Noor drove through an alley near Washburn and Xerxes avenues with all their car's lights off.

Harrity said he was "startled" by a sound coming from near their squad car, the BCA said. Right after, Ruszczyk — who went by the name Justine Damond in her professional life — reportedly came near the squad's driver's side window. Noor fired a shot from the squad's passenger seat, through the open driver's side window.

Neither officer had their body cameras activated, and the squad camera was also off. The shooting morphs into an international incident, and Chief Harteau resigns on July 21.

The state's Public Safety Department and its Driver and Vehicle Services office upgrade their computer systems for licensing and vehicle registration. Spoiler alert: There are problems.

Dayton is dealt a setback after after a Ramsey County judge declares the governor's line-item vetoes of funding for the House and Senate violated the separation of powers clause of the state Constitution and are "null and void." Dayton says he'll appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

On July 20, MPR News publishes an investigation in which seven people say they were subjected to unwelcome sexual advances from former Rochester Civic Theatre executive director Gregory Stavrou. He left the theater in the spring after nearly a decade as its executive director, citing health reasons.

Closing out the month, Minneapolis joins other cities across the country in posting climate change data that the EPA has removed from its website. The posted material is a snapshot of the EPA site before the information was removed. The city says climate change is real, and that Minneapolis is making sure that people can access the data.

Rest in peace: Former Stillwater resident Sam Shepard, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated actor and celebrated author, dies at the age of 73.


Explosion at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis
An explosion rocks Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis Aug. 2, 2017.
Caroline Yang for MPR News file

On Aug. 2, two staffers are killed after a natural gas explosion and partial building collapse at Minnehaha Academy's upper campus in Minneapolis. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board says that just before the explosion, a maintenance worker heard and smelled gas being released.

He went to the source of the gas, in the basement of the building on the school's upper campus. As he left the basement, he used his hand-held radio to tell everyone to evacuate. The report also says that at the time of the explosion, two workers were installing new piping as part of a project to relocate gas meters from the basement to the outside of the building.

On Aug. 5, an early morning explosion damages the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. The FBI says a preliminary investigation indicates the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device. Dayton calls the explosion an "act of terror."

In Albert Lea, there's anger and anxiety after Mayo Clinic says it will stop delivering babies and accepting inpatient and intensive-care admissions at its hospital there. Over the next few years, those services will move a half hour away to the Mayo facility in Austin.

Mayo says it needs to move the services to stop the two hospitals from hemorrhaging money.

On the travel front, Twin Cities-based Sun Country decides to pivot to a no-frills, discount carrier more like Spirit or Allegiant.

3M CEO Inge Thulin becomes the latest business leader to quit Trump's Manufacturing Advisory Council. Several prominent CEOs have been resigning from the panel in the wake of the president's response to a violent weekend white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Shortly after Thulin announced he was quitting, Trump disbands the panel.

On Aug. 25, health officials finally declare the measles outbreak is over. The tally: 79 people sickened. It was the largest measles outbreak in Minnesota since 1990 when 460 became ill and three people died.

Happening Aug. 30, a Ramsey County judge issues a stinging rebuke to the DNR over its management of White Bear Lake. The east metro lake dropped to a record low in 2013, prompting a lawsuit by citizens' groups.


Minnesota Vikings players lock arms during the national anthem
Minnesota Vikings players lock arms during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 24, 2017, in Minneapolis.
Jim Mone | AP file

HBO says it won't pick up "Mogadishu, Minnesota," a proposed series about Somali immigrants. The proposed series directed by a Somali-Canadian rapper had filmed a pilot episode in 2016 in Minneapolis. Opponents refused to allow filming in some areas; they feared the show would present a negative image and focus on the recruitment of young Somalis to join terrorist groups.

An update to the controversial "Scaffold" sculpture: a Dakota community representative says that the wood from the piece will be buried at an undisclosed location rather than burned. Tribal elders decided the original plan to destroy the work in a ceremonial fire at Fort Snelling was inappropriate.

Happening Sept 5, the DNR announces that a fishing record has been broken. St. Anthony's Mark Mosby caught a 52.5-inch flathead catfish in August. It had a girth of 32 inches. In other words, the fish is roughly the size of a 9-year-old boy.

Police also share an amazing tale of bravery and escape when they reveal a teenager who had been missing since Aug. 8 fled her captors, swam through a lake and was found running in a field in Grant County. Three men are arrested with charges pending.

Minnesota joins the sweepstakes for a new Amazon HQ when Gov. Dayton orders his economic development agency to ready a bid. The company says the new headquarters will deliver as many as 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment for the location it selects.

On Sept. 8, Wayzata officer William Mathews, 47, is struck and killed by a vehicle while clearing debris from U.S. Highway 12. Hundreds pay their respects when he is laid to rest the next week. Driver Beth Ilene Freeman is charged with criminal vehicular homicide, alleging she was driving under the influence and distracted by her phone cellphone when she hit the officer.

The state Commerce Department deals a setback to a proposed oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, declaring the environmental and socioeconomic risks of letting Enbridge Energy replace its aging Line 3 pipeline across Minnesota outweigh its "limited benefits."

In transit news, the Metropolitan Council rejects all four bids to build the 14.5-mile Southwest light rail between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, saying the bids were too high. The agency's chair also says there were "responsiveness issues."

In St. Paul, prosecutors decline to file charges against City Council Member Dai Thao. The mayoral candidate had come under suspicion after bribery allegations were leveled against him in the spring.

Up in northern Minnesota, the DNR opens Lake Vermilion-Soudan Under Mine State Park, the first new state park in 25 years.

Minnesotans learn Sept. 19 that the state is at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for Minnesota's health care program for the working poor as it pursues a waiver aimed at lowering premiums for people buying insurance through the state exchange.

The controversy over kneeling during the national anthem hits a fever pitch after Trump suggests the NFL should fire or suspend players who don't stand. Last year, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. Over the course of the season, other players joined his protest by kneeling, sitting or raising their fists during the anthem.

On Sept. 24, the Vikings lock arms together in a show of solidarity during the anthem at U.S. Bank Stadium. Hours later, Minnesota Lynx players do the same as their WNBA championship game gets underway at Williams Arena.

On Sept. 25, Target says it will raise its minimum wage to $11 an hour by October and boost it again to $15 hourly by 2020. The new wage is higher than the minimum wage in Minnesota, which is $9.50 for large employers, and 47 other states.

In sports news, the Twins pull off a remarkable feat by going from worst to wild card. A season after winning just 59 games, Minnesota becomes the first team to lose at least 100 and then make the postseason the following year.

Rest in peace: Woodcut artist Charles Beck dies at the age of 94. Dennis Banks, a key figure in the American-Indian rights movement that started in Minneapolis in the late 1960s, dies at the age of 80.


Lynx players hoist their WNBA Championship trophy above their heads.
Minnesota Lynx players hoist their WNBA Championship trophy above their heads after Game 5 of the WNBA Finals against the Los Angeles Sparks on Oct. 4, 2017 in Minneapolis.
Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via AP file

From a 32nd-story perch in a Las Vegas hotel room, a gunman opens fire at a crowd attending a music festival on Oct. 1. Fifty-eight people die and more than 500 are wounded. Among those killed in the Vegas shootings is Steve Berger, a father of three and financial consultant from Shorewood, Minn. At least one other Minnesotan, Philip Aurich, is hospitalized with critical injuries.

On Oct. 2, the U.S. Supreme Court leaves intact Minnesota's program for confining sex offenders deemed a continuing risk to the public. It ends a legal battle that had put the system under a constitutional cloud for years.

Reopening Oct. 4 is the lone road through Jay Cooke State Park. More than 10 inches of rain fell in the summer of 2012, damaging Highway 210 so badly that officials thought it would never reopen.

Roar 4 four! The Lynx beat the LA Sparks in Game 5 to capture their fourth WNBA championship in seven years. The Lynx are now tied with the Houston Comets for the most titles in league history.

A Macalester grad wins over "Jeopardy!" — and America — with his goofy antics and quirky style on the TV game show. But it's not meant to last — Austin Rogers' reign ends after a 12-game streak.

Up on the North Shore, some not-so-superior news: Lake Superior is no longer the clearest of the Great Lakes.

In the metro area, Super Bowl planning is in full swing. There will be plenty of parties and concerts but one thing that won't happen is a record-breaking ice palace on the Capitol lawn. Organizers were unable to raise the $5 million needed for the project.

A major twist develops in the Lowry Grove mobile home park saga: A sign appears at the site of the now-closed park that reads "Reopening soon." Residents had rallied to save the park, slated for redevelopment, and even filed a lawsuit to no avail.

Minneapolis police Lt. John Delmonico sues the city of Minneapolis and Mayor Betsy Hodges for defamation over text messages exchanged between the mayor and the police chief. The lawsuit stems from comments Hodges made in messages with then-Chief Janee Harteau after the chief announced in April that she was appointing Delmonico to head the 4th Precinct in north Minneapolis. Hodges rescinded the promotion.

On Oct. 14, a truck bomb explodes in Somalia killing hundreds and wounding even more. Among those killed is Bloomington's Ahmed Eyow.

In travel news, JetBlue announces it will soon start serving the Twin Cities market, flying between Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport beginning in May. Minneapolis-St. Paul had been the largest domestic market not served by the airline.

Giant moving bog alert in northern Minnesota! It's the size of a professional baseball field and is destroying docks while bouncing around North Long Lake near Brainerd.

A new controversy erupts in the final stretch of the St. Paul mayoral race when the city's police union hits candidate Melvin Carter over guns stolen in a burglary. The situation escalates after a mailer goes out implying the stolen guns were tied to a rise in gun crime in the city. Mayor Chris Coleman and mayoral candidate Pat Harris call for the Police Federation board's resignation.

On Oct. 27, police union president Dave Titus takes "full responsibility" for the "ill-advised political attack" on Carter but turns aside calls to step down.

In St. Cloud, two high school swimmers garner statewide attention for challenging traditions in a sport many Muslim girls have shied away from. Suhan Mohamed and Nimo Gohe make news as the first Muslim girls to compete on the Apollo High School swim team, and among the first to swim competitively in Minnesota.

Season two of the Netflix hit "Stranger Things" debuts Oct. 27 and eagle-eyed viewers are quick to spot that one of the main characters is sporting a 1980s Science Museum of Minnesota hoodie. Recognizing a good thing, the museum quickly announces it's bringing the hoodies back.

Rest in peace: WCCO Radio legend Roger Erickson dies at 89.


Garrison Keillor's final 'Prairie Home Companion'
Garrison Keillor delivers the news from Lake Wobegon one last time during his final show as host of "A Prairie Home Companion" on stage at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles July 1, 2016.
Nate Ryan | MPR 2016

The month starts with news that special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury is investigating former Minnesota Republican congressman Vin Weber and another top Democratic lobbyist for their involvement in an influence campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests tied to Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair.

A tuberculosis outbreak spreads in Minnesota to become the largest of its kind in the nation. Six of the 17 infected have died.

Voters head to the polls as Election Day arrives in Minnesota. Two of the biggest races are in Minneapolis and St. Paul, where both mayoral seats are on the ballot. Officials had cautioned that because of ranked-choice voting, it could take days before final results are known. But a winner is quickly declared in the St. Paul race: Melvin Carter, who will become the city's first African-American mayor.

Minneapolis' winner emerges the following day when Jacob Frey is elected mayor, defeating incumbent Betsy Hodges. Minneapolis voters make history as well by electing Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, two out transgender candidates, to the City Council. It marks the first such victories for transgender people in a major American council race.

Minnesota's Capitol becomes the latest statehouse to be rocked by sexual harassment allegations, when MinnPost publishes an extensive story in which multiple women accuse state Sen. Dan Schoen of harassment. Leaders from both political parties — as well as Gov. Dayton — call on him to step down. Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, denies any wrongdoing and gives no indication he'll resign.

On Nov. 9, a lobbyist and state legislator allege Rep. Tony Cornish has made remarks to them and sent texts that amount to improper sexual misconduct. The House speaker says Cornish, R-Vernon Center, will be suspended from his committee chairman role. A report by MPR News published Nov. 17 details how Cornish blurred the boundaries between legislative and sexual pursuits.

On Nov. 21, a lawyer for Schoen says the lawmaker will resign. Later that day, Cornish says he'll resign as well.

On Nov. 14, the Walker Art Center's executive director announces she is stepping down at the end of the year. Olga Viso was at the center of a national controversy earlier in the year over the sculpture "Scaffold."

Nov. 16 marks the grand opening of Crescent Cove in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota's first independent hospice for children and young adults with life-threatening conditions. The founder says there are only two others like it in the nation.

Two big political stories break that day as well.

The Minnesota Supreme Court weighs in on the Dayton vs. Legislature fight, ruling that the governor acted within his power when he vetoed the operating budgets of the state House and Senate. But the court declines to rule if Dayton was acting in a coercive way when he tried to use his defunding of the Legislature as leverage to get GOP leaders back to the budget bargaining table.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken becomes the first member of Congress caught up in the recent wave of allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior, when a Los Angeles radio host accuses Franken of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour. Franken apologizes while maintaining that he remembered the rehearsal differently. By the end of the month, five more women allege misconduct by Franken.

On Nov. 28, Hennepin County commissioners vote to remove John C. Calhoun's name from a Minneapolis lake, moving the official change a step forward. The DNR and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names also must approve the change to Bde Maka Ska.

On the morning of Nov. 29, Minnesota Public Radio and its parent organization American Public Media Group announce they've cut all business ties with Garrison Keillor as they investigate a report of "inappropriate behavior" by Keillor involving someone who worked with him.

The allegations relate to Keillor's conduct while he was responsible for the production of "A Prairie Home Companion."

On Nov. 30, Dayton names attorney Sophia Vuelo to the Ramsey County District Court bench, making her the state's first judge of Hmong descent and only the second in the country with that history.

And before the month is over, a second Minnesota cat becomes a viral sensation.

All Max the cat wants to do is hang out in a Macalester College library in St. Paul. But he's not allowed inside.

Rest in peace: Former Minnesota attorney general and one-time DFL gubernatorial contender Warren Spannaus dies at the age of 86.


Al Franken
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., center, walks to his car as he leaves the U.S. Capitol after speaking on the Senate floor Dec. 7, 2017.
Jacquelyn Martin | AP file

Some sinking news right off the bat, when a water main break in Oakdale causes a giant sinkhole under Interstate 694. The freeway is closed for a week.

On Dec. 5, state officials release an economic forecast showing a deficit at the end of the current two-year budget cycle. It also shows a projected negative balance for the 2020-21 biennium. The outlook is clouded by pending tax changes coming out of Washington.

That same day, the Department of Public Safety announces that people can now text 911 on their mobile phones instead of calling.

Sen. Franken faces a new allegation of sexual misconduct Dec. 6, which Franken denies, but that appears to be the last straw for his colleagues. In quick succession, at least 28 Democratic senators and the Democratic National Committee chair call on Franken to resign. That afternoon, a Democratic official who has spoken to Franken and key aides say Franken will resign. The senator announces he's stepping down in a speech from the Senate floor the following day.

Gov. Dayton chooses Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace Franken. She confirms that she will run for the seat as well in next year's election.

Minnesota's succession plan calls for the state Senate president to become lieutenant governor, so as Smith moves to the U.S. Senate, state Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, will move into Smith's position. She says she's ready to fulfill her constitutional obligation to assume the office — but she doesn't plan to give up her Senate seat. Like the budget fight before, this standoff seems bound for court.

Another big news day Dec. 14.

First, Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines said Thursday it's agreed to sell itself to Apollo Global Management, a New York City investment group.

Then, the sudden notice that McNally Smith College of Music is shutting down due to a lack of funds. In an email to staff, the board chair also says the college does not have enough money to make payroll, but that the school's owners have stated they are "committed to making good on the wages owed."

Dec. 19 brought news that Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger will step down following a Minneapolis Star Tribune series that exposed widespread elder abuse in nursing care facilities that for years was systematically ignored.

And that brings us to here. 2017 isn't over yet, and if the year is any indication of what to expect, some big news will break over the next few days. Stay tuned.