Photo: Google

What we have here is a public safety problem, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled.

A Minnesota law requiring collector cars to be “screened” from public view has survived a challenge from a Cleveland Avenue, St. Paul man who buried two of them under tarps.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today that neither the tarps nor the fence that John Krenik built to screen the cars from an unhappy neighbor, satisfied the language of the state law, which says:

Pioneer, classic, collector vehicles, collector military vehicles, or street rods, licensed or unlicensed, operable or inoperable, may be stored in compliance with local government zoning and ordinances on their owners’ property, provided that the vehicles and any outdoor storage areas they may require are maintained in such a manner that they do not constitute a health or environmental hazard and are screened from ordinary public view by means of a fence, shrubbery, rapidly growing trees or other appropriate means. The appropriate local agency or authority may inform an owner of the owner’s failure to comply with these requirements, and may order the vehicles removed from the outdoor storage area if the owner fails to comply with these requirements within 20 days after the warning

Someone complained about Krenik’s two cars at his home on Cleveland Avenue so, after a warning from a city inspector, Krenik built a fence to “screen” the vehicles.

But, the roof of the car was still visible from next door, so City Council ruled him in violation.

Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, saying if people can tell there’s a car there, it’s not screened.

“The city argues that the vehicles’ presence must be hidden from ordinary public view, or in other words, that Krenik’s efforts are insufficient because a person could tell that cars are located under the tarps and behind the fence,” Judge Rene Worke wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel. “Krenik argues that the vehicles must be screened so that a person cannot see the condition of the vehicles and, thus, cannot tell whether the vehicles are “junk” cars. Both interpretations are reasonable; thus, the statute is ambiguous.”

But Judge Worke concluded that the condition of vehicles in a driveway doesn’t matter, one of the few times the beauty of a Model T was invoked in a decision from the Court of Appeals.

Moreover, Krenik’s claim that the legislature enacted section 168.10, subdivision 1e, solely for aesthetic purposes is unpersuasive in light of the scope of the statute. Krenik argues that in enacting the statute, the sole “mischief to be remedied” is hiding the appearance of an unsightly collector vehicle. See Minn. Stat. § 645.16(3). Such an interpretation, however, is unreasonable because the statute also encompasses vehicles that do not create an “eyesore,” such as a well-maintained Ford Model T registered as a pioneer vehicle.

The law is as much about public safety as aesthetics, she concluded. Having the cars out in the open could lead to vandalism. And she noted that because junk yards must be screened from highways because they could distract drivers, the two cars could also pose a distraction.

Heidi Russell

There’s a racist in Tenino, Wash., pop. 1,709. That would be a fitting headline if not for the fact there are a lot more people spreading their love of neighbors and community.

While a family was on vacation, the racist painted their house and truck with epithets.

When the town saw it, they got to work before the family came home, the Lewis County Chronicle reports.

They scrubbed the truck…

Heidi Russell

… clean.

Heidi Russell

They replaced the hate on the house…

 Tcyfl Tenino Beavers Youth Football & Cheer Facebook page

… with a new coat of paint.

Heidi Russell

When the family got home, they found a lawn full of friends.

For all the love Americans rightly show the Constitution, the right to an attorney is a poor step child.

Politicians regularly try to starve the public defender program, and few people care; if you aren’t guilty of something, why are you in court?

If there are heroes who walk among us, the attorneys who insist that the law treat everyone fairly surely are angels.

Take Denis Hynes, profiled in the St. Cloud Times for his 22 years of service as public defender in Stearns County.

“I think that our Constitutional rights are important and if you don’t protect them for the bad guys, who’s going to know that when you’re on trial — or anybody else — that you’re not the bad guy?” Hynes tells the paper. “You don’t have the rights if you don’t protect them.”

“You don’t have to like people to represent them,” he said. “My job isn’t to win, to get them off. It’s to make sure their rights are protected.”

Why is that a concept that garners so little respect?

He’s had almost 7,000 cases since the turn of the century, he says. That works out to more than 100 cases he’s handling at any one time.

It’s not just the system and the population that disrespects public defenders. Quite often, so do their clients. Just ask a PD how many times they’ve heard, “I want a real lawyer.”

“You’re the dog that’s there to kick,” Hynes said. “They’re in trouble and they want us to fix it.”

Only about 11 percent of lawyers graduating from Harvard Law School go into public interest law, where the starting salary is about $45,000, Harvard Magazine says, a fraction of what the corporate world pays.

“The issue of funding public defense is very simple to solve,” Pete Davis, editor of the Harvard Law Review Record, says of the obligation of law schools to advocate for public interest lawyers. “There is already a Legal Services Corporation, there’s already a source of funding for public defenders, but they don’t have enough money, and because they don’t have enough money, the legal system is skewed. The deans of the top five law schools could all go to Congress and say, ‘We cannot keep producing lawyers for a legal system that isn’t working,’ and call on lawmakers to adequately fund public defense.”

A day in the life of a Minnesota public defender (NewsCut)

If there was a nuclear core of my childhood, it was probably the Woolworth’s store on Main Street in my hometown, which sat next to a W.T. Grant, which was across the street from an S.S. Kresge.

My home milltown had a vibrant downtown and if you were a kid with a couple of pennies, which you might have lifted from your mother’s purse and still won’t say out loud, you headed for Woolworth’s.
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