Rauterkus chosen to lead city council

Ralph Rauterkus is the new Red Wing City Council President. His colleagues elected him to the post Tuesday during the council’s annual organizational meeting.
He edged out Council member Dan Bender in a 4-3 vote, both council members having been nominated by a peer.
The council president directs meetings and assigns committee appointments. Rauterkus will take the gavel from Council member Mike Schultz, and will serve a two-year term. Schultz, still a sitting-council member, thanked the residents of Red Wing for the past two years.
Council member Lisa Bayley was elected vice president in a unanimous vote.
Rauterkus noted that much of the council’s recent attention has been on immediate budgetary issues and said he would like to see the council refocus some of its attention toward long-term planning.
Meanwhile, new Council members Peggy Rehder, Ward 4, and Marilyn Meinke, at-large, were sworn into office. Meinke promised to exercise patience as the council wrestles with tough issues. Rehder said since elected she’s tried to learn as much as possible about city operations.
And she quipped, “So far this has been really fun.”
Out-going council member Carol Duff warned Meinke and Rehder now that they’re on city council they should be prepared next time they go out to buy a loaf of bread of a carton of milk.
“I could not grocery shop without two or three people grabbing me by the arm, telling me about this or that,” Duff said.

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Write-ins for School Board ranged from the boilerplate to the bizarre

In a perennial expression of activism and creativity, Red Wing School District voters scrawled in their ideas for School Board candidates – ranging from a former district principal to a pig known to peruse Pioneer Road.

The top three apparent vote getters for Red Wing School Board through write-in ballots were African American Literacy Project of Red Wing advocacy coordinator Lavergne Dickerson (four votes), Mike Hanson (four votes) and current School Board member Stephen O’Keefe (two votes).

And then there were the others. A total of 77 write-in names were entered.

Here’s a smattering of some notable names:

– Larry

– Moe

– Harry (an unusual departure from the more common inclusion of Curly or Shemp to the above-listed slate)

– Mickey Mouse

– Joe Fricke (the Democratic candidate for Senate District 28)

– Andrew the Pig (presumably the oinker belonging to Dan and Lynn Simonson)

– Jim Morrison

– James Pohl (former Red Wing High School principal)

Also included on the write-in tally were tallies for Goodhue County sheriff, Goodhue County attorney and Soil and Water District 1. Fred Flintstone garnered one vote for county attorney, while Smokey the Bear and Yosemite Sam received a vote apiece for the Soil and Water post.

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Bear, combine accidents rare, but not unheard-of

Today’s story of a 320-pound black bear that was run over and killed by a farmer’s combine was “especially unusual,” in the words of Minnesota DNR conservation officer Tyler Quandt.

But given that bears have been known to dig dens and hibernate in cornfields, just how rare are these bear/combine encounters? A quick Google search for “bear, combine” yielded three accounts — all from our neighbors in Wisconsin.

Darrel Breuer poses with the 320-pound bear that was hit by a combine harvesting corn on Saturday. Breuer was riding with driver Tom Wightman at the time of the incident. Submitted photo

The first account, from October of 2006, tells of a bear that was trapped by a combine that had rolled over its 5-foot-deep den near Osceola, Wis.  Unable to extricate the 216-pound bear from its den, a local hunter shot and killed the animal under the direction of a local Wisconsin DNR officer, according to rumor research site snopes.com.

Several days later, another bear was crushed by a combine in nearby Osseo, Wis, according to an account published in Bear Hunting Magazine. Farmer Randy Schaefer reported driving into a small hole while harvesting corn, only to find an injured bear inside upon driving out. The bear was later shot and killed by a DNR officer.

In late 2008, a Dunn County, Wis. farmer reported running over a massive, 700-pound bear with a combine. Wisconsin DNR investigators later found that the bear was already dead prior to the incident, allegedly poached by a neighbor outside of bear hunting season.

These are the only cases found so far. So have at it, readers. Have you heard or read about similar incidents involving bears and combines?

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Newspaper banked on Marty Kelly victory

Kenyon Leader readers may have been puzzled when they opened Wednesday’s edition to learn Marty Kelly was the projected winner in the Goodhue County Sheriff’s race.

The problem: Kelly lost.

The announcement – listed in a top-of-the-page photo lineup of “projected winners” in the paper’s “Results at-a-glance” package – topped a front-page story with the headline “Goodhue County elects new sheriff.”

While that headline was accurate – Sheriff Dean Albers’ retirement announcement led to no other conclusion – the sub-headline reads “Kelly set to defeat McNurlin.”

McNurlin, the sheriff’s chief deputy, won the election with 9,918 votes to Kelly’s 8,740.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about the story is its first sentence, which reads, “Unofficial returns Tuesday evening had Marty Kelly leading Scott McNurlin.” The rest of the story provides no other election night-related information, instead recapping the candidates’ campaign messages. (Such filler information is not uncommon in newspapers, especially during election nights where space must be filled and new information may be limited.)

While the sub-head no doubt was true in Kenyon, where Kelly crushed McNurlin 521 to 192, the claim was an eyebrow-archer for other observers who kept close tabs on the countywide sheriff’s race Tuesday evening and into early Wednesday. The race never appeared to be a runaway for McNurlin, but frequent checks to the Secretary of State’s website never showed him trailing in Goodhue County.

McNurlin, reached Thursday, said the paper’s revelation seemed “just strange.”

“I don’t know what to make of it,” he said. “It certainly is interesting, to say the least.”

A slightly different version of the story was posted at 12:53 a.m. Wednesday under the headline “McNurlin bags sheriff race.” Still raised in the updated story is the untold tale of the supposed come-from-behind victory.

The first sentence reads: “Scott McNurlin beat early odds to pull ahead of Marty Kelly in the Goodhue County Sheriff race.”

Kenyon Leader Publisher/Editor Kristy Jacobson said Thursday she had to consult with her company’s officials before commenting on the story. No word back from her yet.

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Automatic recount not mandated in Ward 4 race

There was some question Tuesday night whether an automatic recount would kick in for the very tight Red Wing City Council Ward 4 race.

In that race Peggy Rehder nudged out Dan Johnson by a mere 15 votes.

An automatic recount is not necessary, however, said Red Wing City Clerk Kathy Johnson.

Johnson was kind enough to point Eagle Eye to Minnesota statute 204C.35.

According to the statute, a recount is necessary if the margin of victory is “less than one-half of one percent of the total number of votes counted for that nomination.”

That wasn’t the case in this race.

Given the total number of votes cast — 1,062 — the race would have to have been decided by five votes or less for an automatic recount to kick in.

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Institute for Justice asks Supreme Court to hear case

The group of landlords and tenants challenging Red Wing’s rental inspection program are asking the state’s high court to hear their objections to the legally embattled law.

The law firm representing them, the Institute for Justice, made it official Thursday when it submitted an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

An Institute for Justice Attorney had previously told the R-E it intended to petition the Supreme Court, after the Minnesota Court of Appeals denied its appeal in September.

The Supreme Court has 60 days to decide whether it will hear the case. Of the cases that seek appeal, few ever reach the Supreme Court.

While Institute of Justice attorney Jason Adkins has said the case stands a good chance of being heard, Red Wing’s attorney John Baker has said just the opposite.

The Institute for Justice argues Red Wing’s rental inspection program violates residents’ privacy rights.

City officials contend the inspections are needed to ensure rental properties are safe.

The sides have battled in court over the inspection program since 2006.

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Voter listed address as ‘In a tent on Barn’s Bluff’

Overnight camping is not allowed at Red Wing’s Barn Bluff, but that law was apparently not enough to keep a registered voter from claiming to bed down there.

City Council candidate Peggy Rehder stumbled upon the unusual claim Wednesday while assembling household mailing labels for her Ward 4 campaign.

The address reads: IN A TENT ON BARN’S BLUFF, MN.

“I absolutely could not believe it,” Rehder said of the listing, provided by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.

“I wonder which precinct that is,” Rehder said with a laugh.

So just how does such an unconventional address turn up on a registered voters’ list? Red Wing City Clerk Kathy Johnson gave Eagle Eye a little insight via the Secretary of State’s office.

Minnesota law allows the homeless to register to vote without having to list a permanent address.

“Residence is considered to be the place where you sleep, so if you sleep in a shelter, at a friend’s residence, or under a bridge, this is your residence,” the Secretary of State’s website states in a section outlining how the homeless can vote.

Johnson said she recalled the incident of the Barn Bluff addressee. In either the 2006 or 2008 election – Johnson wasn’t sure which – a voter at the National Guard armory claimed homelessness and had a person who vouched for the Barn Bluff residence.

“It was a rare case, at least for Red Wing,” Johnson said.

Red Wing police Capt. Darold Glander confirmed overnight camping on the bluff is illegal, adding that police were searching just this week for a suspected reportedly tenting out on Barn Bluff. Complaints of people using the bluff as an overnight camping destination, however, are quite rare, he said.

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Planning Commission punts on chicken law

Chicken lovers prepare to be disappointed.

During its meeting Tuesday the Red Wing Advisory Planning Commission was asked to consider whether residents should be allowed to raise chickens — hens but not roosters — in their backyards.

The commission took a pass.

While some commissioners were quite skeptical of the notion, others said it might not be such a bad idea. But most agreed crafting a proper ordinance would be more trouble than it would be worth.

“I see a lot of regulations to make this even somewhat agreeable to the whole neighborhood,” Commissioner Heidi Jones said.

Most commissioners said crafting a good ordinance would eat up a lot of city planners’ time, and most also agreed regulations would be tough to enforce.

“It would be difficult to enforce something in people’s backyards,” Red Wing Assistant Planner Steve Kohn said. “Some people will keep a clean coop, but others I can guarantee you, will not.”

Chickens are currently considered farm animals under Red Wing law and as such aren’t allowed as pets in residential areas.

Red Wing resident Shannon Tarr asked City Council earlier this year to revise the city’s law to allow chickens and geese pets. Tarr has been cited several times by police for having chickens in her backyard.

In addition to Tarr, there have been two other residents who’ve recently been cited for raising chickens in town, according to Kohn.

Of late, however, Tarr has been the only outspoken proponent of raising chickens in town.

“I think we need a little more groundswell from chicken growers,” Planning commissioner Scott Vaughn said, before planning officials consider revising the law.

The commission took no official action Tuesday, but it did take an informal vote. Commissioners Vaughn, Jones, Dave Lewis, and Chair Scott Safe voted to leave the issue alone.

“I’d like to tell the city council, ‘don’t go there,’” Safe said.

Commissioners Scot Johnson and Roseanne Grosso said they would be willing to consider allowing chickens in residential neighborhoods. Commissioner Jeff McDowell had to leave the meeting before the vote.

The chicken debate is not over, however.

Red Wing’s Sustainability Commission will take a look at the issue in the coming weeks. The matter will go before the city council in either November or December, Kohn said.

In a presentation to the commission, Kohn said raising chickens in one’s backyard is a growing trend across the nation and in Minnesota. Several nearby cities including Rosemount, Rochester, Minneapolis and St. Paul allow resident to raise chickens in residential areas.

Kohn said chickens are most commonly raised for egg production and not for slaughter. He said the practice appeals to people who favor local food production.

Tarr, however, says the chicks she raises help in the therapy of her young son who suffers from a severe case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Kohn also said allowing pet chickens in residential areas has lead to quarrels amongst neighbors. Neighbors have complained of loud noises and foul smells coming from the chickens, he said.

“Obviously this is a subject that doesn’t have a simple answer,” Kohn said.

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Bikers draw authorities’ attention

When a group of bikers rumbled into Red Wing Saturday afternoon, the welcoming committee was waiting.

According to observers, upward of 20 law enforcement vehicles were present just after 12 p.m. outside Auto Connection, where the bikers were rounded up and patted down.

Red Wing police Chief Tim Sletten said the group – which he said involved members of “an identifiable motorcycle gang” – was pulled over for “multiple driving violations.” He did not say which motorcycle gang was involved, or what the alleged driving offenses were.

The stop was an operation conducted by the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force, he said. Sletten did not have any reports from the incident available Monday afternoon, but said it didn’t appear any arrests were made.

Officers were spotted approaching the group with weapons drawn. Sletten downplayed multiple reports of a sniper perched in a hill alongside the dealership. However, he said it was possible operation commanders may have placed an agent in the hill “to keep an eye on that big of a group.”

To call that hillside officer a sniper, however, is “a pretty big leap,” Sletten said.

The Minnesota State Patrol reportedly asked Auto Connections officials for permission to conduct the stop there for safety reasons.

Here’s a photo snapped during the stop (click on it for full-size version):

Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies conduct a traffic stop Saturday in Red Wing after several motorcyclists were pulled over.

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Official: Enforcement rare in cases like ‘Wangster Wednesday’

The latest story on the so-called “Wangster Wednesday” saga reported that possible penalties for disobedience of the agreement were not discussed.

Word from the feds is that enforcement of penalties is a rare occurrence. But note an interesting inclusion in the below e-mail response  that, in the rare case of  enforcement, penalties can include withholding of federal funds.

Here’ s a U.S. Department of Education spokesman’s e-mail response to a Republican Eagle inquiry seeking more information on penalties for non-compliance:

If violations are found,  we work with the district to help it come into compliance with the civil rights laws.  But in nearly all cases, we’re able to negotiate resolution agreements short of having to move to enforcement.  However, in the rare instance when we cannot reach an agreement, then the laws provide for enforcement options.  Those can include either seeking a court order to compel compliance or terminating funds.  However, we would stress that in virtually all cases, we’re able to work with schools – short of enforcement – to assure that they meet their obligations under the civil rights laws to protect against discrimination.

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