Jul 28, 2021

Axios Twin Cities

Good morning! It's Wednesday.

  • 🥵 We hate to be a broken record, but it's going to be stinking hot today — 97 with possible thunderstorms.

Situational Awareness: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says vaccinated people should mask up in public if they live in areas with high levels of viral spread.

  • Fourteen Minnesota counties, including Scott County here in the metro, fall into that category, per the Star Tribune.

Today's newsletter is 961 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Who should get "hero pay"?

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The debate over how to divvy up $250 million in bonus "hero pay" for the pandemic's frontline workers picks up today, as Minnesota's nine-member working group holds its first hearing on distributing the funds.

Why it matters: Essential workers put themselves at risk to provide medical care, education, food and other essentials to the rest of us as the pandemic raged.

  • Many missed work — and pay — because of illness and quarantines.

The catch: Yes, $250 million is a big chunk of change. But the universe of frontline workers is also large — hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans showed up to work at hospitals, grocery stores, meatpacking plants and schools throughout the pandemic.

  • The more workers you include in the bonus pool, the smaller the bonuses become.

Between the lines: The language establishing the working group, which passed as part of the state budget, doesn't specify who, besides long-term care workers, should be eligible for a bonus.

  • Instead, it says the appointees should consider workers faced with "increased financial burden and increased risk of virus exposure due to the nature of their work."

What they're saying: Even before the first meeting, lawmakers appointed to the panel signaled differing approaches.

  • GOP Rep. Anne Neu Brindley told us her priority is helping those who "really were dealing with COVID day in and day out," including long-term care staff and personal care assistants.
  • "I want to make sure that this doesn't get so watered down that it's not meaningful," she said of the bonus size.
  • DFL Rep. Cedrick Frazier said $250 million "just isn't enough." He'll advocate for more funding to cover more workers, an idea likely to face resistance in the divided Legislature. "We've called them heroes. We have to actually treat them like that."

What to watch: Expect heavy advocacy from influential unions representing some of the potentially eligible workers.

What's next: The panel faces a Sept. 6 deadline. If they can't come up with a proposal that wins support from the seven appointees, they can advance up to three ideas.

  • A plan is expected to head to the full Legislature for a vote, likely in a September special session.

Full story.

2. Homicide spike goes beyond city borders
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Data: Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The crime spike in Minneapolis and St. Paul has been well-documented, but homicides in the rest of Minnesota have also jumped dramatically.

Driving the news: The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released its annual crime statistics for 2020, reporting an all-time record of 185 homicides.

  • Homicides reported by Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments increased from 69 in 2019 to 114 in 2020, a rise of 65%.
  • Homicides in the rest of the state — removing Minneapolis and St. Paul's totals — also increased, from 48 in 2019 to 71 in 2020. That's a jump of 48%.

Some of the suburbs and cities with the biggest homicide increases between 2019 and 2020 include:

  • Maple Grove: From two to seven
  • Apple Valley: From zero to three
  • Austin: From zero to four
  • Rochester: From one to five

Between the lines: The trend is also a national one, according to FBI data.

  • Small U.S. cities with 10,000 residents or fewer saw a 30% increase in homicides over the first nine months of 2020, according to the Washington Post.

Overall violent crime in Minnesota rose 16.6% in 2020, which is more than the 3% increase nationwide, according to preliminary FBI numbers for the U.S.

Full story.

3. Pic du jour: Suni and Grace on the podium

Jordan Chiles, Simone Biles, Grace McCallum, and Sunisa Lee (left to right) pose after receiving their silver medals. at a victory ceremony. Photo: Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images

Grace McCallum and Sunisa Lee, both of Minnesota, stepped up to help the U.S. team win a silver medal in Tokyo after Simone Biles departed the Olympics women's gymnastics final yesterday.

  • 📺 Watch Suni Lee's family watch her historic performance via KARE11.
4. Catch up quick: Unvaxxed Vikings coach's new job

Rick Dennison won't get a vaccine, but he also won't be around players. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

🚨 The State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension declined Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's request that it reinvestigate the 2013 Minneapolis police killing of Terrance Franklin, citing a lack of new evidence and jurisdiction. (Star Tribune)

🏈 Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison, who has refused to get a vaccine, has been given a new role as senior offensive advisor. The position will have no direct dealings with coaches and players. (Pioneer Press)

🌽 The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office will provide security for the Minnesota State Fair; the budget is nearly twice as much as in 2019, and it includes adding metal detectors and more officers. (KARE 11)

☎️ "I just can't stress enough how important it is that you do your job," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told Minnesota Pollution Control Agency commissioner Laura Bishop in a voicemail message, regarding issuing permits for the controversial Line 3 oil pipeline project. Less than a year later, the Senate ousted her from the role. (MinnPost)

5. Red Bull's newest event: Urban Portage

The downtown Minneapolis riverfront will be the site of Red Bull's new Urban Portage competition. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The folks who brought us the thrilling Crashed Ice in St. Paul and the quirky Flugtag on Harriet Island have a new event up their sleeves: Urban Portage.

Details: Red Bull and the Loppet Foundation are putting on an extreme paddle and portage race that starts at Father Hennepin Bluff Park and ends at BF Nelson Park, just north of downtown Minneapolis.

  • The course will include approximately 18-19 miles of paddling and 7-8 miles of portaging (carrying canoes, mainly around dams).

Join the fun: Saturday, Aug. 28 starting at 8:30am, with a post-race party at BF Nelson.

6. Detroit-style pizza for the people

Wrecktangle's "Community" pizza. Photo: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Audrey tried Wrecktangle Pizza in North Loop last week, which is a Minnesotan's take on Detroit-style, thick-crust pies.

What she ordered: The "Community," a red-sauce pizza topped with whipped honey goat cheese, arugula and balsamic pomegranate molasses.

  • All proceeds from the sales of the pie are donated to a local food share initiative.

Audrey's take: She rates it a 7.5/10. Good, but a little too much dough and not enough toppings.

  • The 8-by-10-inch pizza cost $22 after tax. And while that price might've otherwise sent Audrey running, she's happy it's going to a good cause.

Thanks for reading. Stay cool out there, friends.