Daily Digest: From Somalia to Minneapolis to Washington

Good morning, and look, it’s Thursday already. While we wait for the release of the redacted Mueller report later this morning,  let’s take a look at the Digest.

1. A look at Omar’s roots. In the span of a few short years, Ilhan Omar has gone from a behind-the-scenes activist in Minneapolis politics to a figure known around the world, loved or loathed for what she represents to people.  Omar was just 8 years old when civil war broke out in Somalia. “I remember hiding under the bed with one of my aunts and one of my sisters and sort of everything getting quiet inside the home,” Omar recalled. “And then militia men who were outside of our windows started talking about ways that they could make their way in.” Fortunately, Omar said, her aunt recognized the men’s voices and realized they were her classmates. She negotiated with them to leave the family alone. Eventually the voices faded away, and by morning they were gone. But so was the Somalia of Omar’s youth, which she remembers as “glorious” before the war. She said she was the youngest of seven children in a prominent, affluent family. Omar lived in a blended compound with her grandfather and other relatives, many of them educators and officials in government. Her education was a top priority for the family: she went to school during the day, and when she returned home, her relatives would act as her “third” and “fourth” teachers, Omar said. In the afternoons, the family would eat lunch together, debate politics and listen to music and the news hour on Radio Mogadishu. (MPR News)

2. Copper-nickel mining opponents push lawsuit to block Twin Metals project. Just days after President Donald Trump visited Minnesota, underscoring his support for copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, local opponents have ramped up their court battle to block mineral leases approved by his administration. A coalition of local businesses, environmental advocates and outdoor recreation groups on Wednesday filed a motion for summary judgment in their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior and Twin Metals Minnesota. They’re asking a federal judge to rule without a trial that the Trump administration last year wrongly reinstated two mineral leases for Twin Metals Minnesota to build a copper mine on Birch Lake near Ely. It’s the latest shot in the state’s prolonged battle over copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota, a prospect that has raised hopes for the region’s economy while triggering alarms about grave environmental risks. (Star Tribune)

3. Klobuchar to appear on Fox News town hall. Sen. Amy Klobuchar agreed on Wednesday to become the second Democratic presidential candidate to hold a town hall meeting on Fox News Channel, and others are soon to follow. Sen. Bernie Sanders was the first to venture onto Fox this week. His Monday town hall reached 2.55 million viewers, the biggest audience of any such event in the 2020 campaign cycle, despite not being aired in the prime time hours when most people are available. One of Fox News’ most loyal viewers, President Donald Trump, indicated on Twitter that he wasn’t happy seeing Sanders on his screen. Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign confirmed that it is in talks with Fox about a town hall. Jenn Fiore, an aide to Julian Castro, said that campaign is in the process of scheduling one. Sen. Cory Booker also said he’s considering one. The Democrats have had to weigh possibly angering a liberal base that holds Fox News in contempt versus reaching a large audience, many of whom wouldn’t be likely to see them in action elsewhere. (AP)

4. Lawmaker, others object to IRRR hire. Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset, is raising concerns about the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation’s recent hiring of Joe Radinovich, the unsuccessful 2018 DFL candidate for the U.S. House in Minnesota’s Eighth District. Radinovich was hired in early March to a highly-paid, permanent position that IRRR officials appear to have created specifically for him. While political appointments are not unusual in state government, and are typically temporary, the kind of job created for Radinovich, known as a “permanent classified” position, is supposed to be nonpolitical and is subject to state hiring guidelines designed to ensure a fair and competitive process in which state workers are hired on merit rather than politics. Yet an investigation by the Timberjay found substantial evidence that the IRRR’s process, in this instance, fell short of that goal, and that top agency officials sought from the beginning to offer Radinovich a plum new position, with a salary of $100,000 per year in addition to the state’s handsome benefits package. In so doing, the agency sought exemption to sharply limit the posting of the position and appeared to pass over a female candidate for the position with far more relevant experience and education than Radinovich brings to the job. Radinovich’s hiring comes on the heels of the appointment of Jason Metsa as the agency’s deputy commissioner, which is considered a political appointment and was not subject to the typical state hiring process. Metsa is an Iron Range DFLer who ran unsuccessfully for his party’s nomination for the Eighth District seat. (The Timberjay)

5. Some raise concerns about cutting back on Green Line hours. As Metro Transit approaches a decision on whether to cancel 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. weekday service on the Green Line light-rail corridor, social service advocates are asking for a timeout. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Council hosted a meeting of its equity-advisory committee, which reviews the work of the regional planning agency for issues of fairness to low-income areas and communities of color. Several committee members said they thought the proposed cuts to the overnight light-rail service were a crackdown on the homeless who ride the downtown St. Paul-to-downtown Minneapolis train overnight. Minutes from Tuesday’s committee meeting were not immediately available from the Met Council, but the discussion was described at length in an online update from the Alliance, a regional equity organization. The Alliance also provided a recording of the discussion. Met Council officials have said while that assaults, sanitation and an overall “party train” atmosphere are serious concerns, their primary goal is to free more time for overnight maintenance such as track grinding and snow removal. Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra told the committee that the “decision has almost been made” and that the agency is “feeling strongly about this,” according to the Alliance. (Pioneer Press)

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