Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 31

A ray of light for shuttered music venues

With Save Our Stages bill, Klobuchar hopes to fill a gap in coronavirus relief.

“The day the music died.” “Rock ’n’ roll will never die.”

Conflicting thoughts if ever there were — at least if taken literally. And now into the mix comes this: “I don’t want to lose music in America.”

The first quote comes from a Don McLean song about the deaths of Buddy Holly and other young rockers in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1959. The second is a line in a Neil Young song, though Young is hardly the only person ever to have said it.

The third comes from Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

Before we elaborate, here’s a fourth quote, from a notable turner of phrases who probably fails, nonetheless, to register in the modern mind — the 19th-century Englishman Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who wrote: “Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.”

That we believe. Music never dies. But it can fall on hard times. And during the coronavirus pandemic, live music has fallen as hard or harder than many endeavors, simply because of its reliance on a shared experience.

Which is why Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in collaboration with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, has co-authored the Save Our Stages bill. It would provide Small Business Administration grants to independent music venues that expect to be closed through the rest of 2020 and may not reopen without help. Cost if approved: $10 billion. Largesse: Up to $12 million per venue. Funding source: An appropriation from the U.S. Treasury.

Three thoughts:

First, the attention to this issue is quintessentially Klobucharian. In addition to working across the aisle, the senator aims to address a national problem that yet has keen relevance to Minnesota. “You can’t have creative music and allow new artists and people like Prince — before he was a superstar in our state — without venues where they can perform,” she told Rolling Stone, alluding to places like First Avenue, the Minneapolis nightclub to which the late artist is inextricably linked. First Avenue’s owner, Dayna Frank, is president of the National Independent Venues Association, which was formed this year to address the financial damage of the pandemic.

Second, there’s a real benefit to be had from this legislation. Klobuchar — though perhaps less so since her presidential run — has been tagged as the “senator of small things.” She’s never thought she is, and indeed, bolstering an industry that feeds the dual hungers of entertainment and expression is no triviality. As Klobuchar notes, the legislation wouldn’t just help venues in big cities but also in places like Mankato or Fargo-Moorhead, and thus far the need isn’t being met by other relief efforts.

And third: Someday, someway, we’ll pay for this. Since the emergence of the coronavirus, economic relief measures have helped to grow the national debt by 14%, to $26.5 trillion. At low interest rates, the new debt is inexpensive to service, but it’s worth contemplating the perils of the arrangement.

But that’s a dour note, isn’t it? So let’s return to the quotes that kicked off this editorial. McLean’s song “American Pie” was not just about a plane crash but about the loss of innocence. Young’s song “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” is about passion tinged by the irony of impermanence.

Both messages are eternal.

As is this: Sometimes it takes cash to cover contingencies.


St. Cloud Times, July 31

COVID-19 kudos: Walz gives districts control to plan new school year

Lacking a magic wand that would cure COVID-19 or at least ease Minnesotans’ frustrations stemming from it, Gov. Tim Walz is nevertheless putting forth a reasonable plan to get the 2020-2021 school year started.

Its three biggest selling points:

— First, each district makes it own plan.

— Second, those plans are to be built on data.

— And third, the plan stresses flexibility.

The safety of students and staff, along with providing an equitable education and allowing individual choice, underpin each of those selling points.

That said, the plan will undoubtedly raise questions as districts work to apply it to their own real-world settings.

Flexible frameworks

As the first-term DFL governor astutely notes in introducing a 21-page overview of the plan, “throughout the school year, we will need to be flexible and adapt with the fluid nature of this pandemic.”

Fluidity is why Walz and state educational leaders earlier this summer mandated that schools plan for three back-to-school scenarios: in-person classes, distance learning and hybrid scenarios.

The governor’s detailed plan released Thursday explains the many factors and standards school districts must use in determining which of the three models to use. Each of those models comes with dozens of requirements and recommendations for districts to apply.

The plan’s highest-profile element is its Safe Learning Model Parameters, which uses county-level COVID-19 testing data to determine the number of cases per 10,000 people over 14 days to determine which model districts must apply:

— Counties with up to nine positive cases per 10,000 people in the past 14 days may use in-person learning for all students.

— Counties with 10-19 cases per 10,000 people use in-person learning for elementary students and hybrid learning for secondary students.

— Counties with 20-29 cases per 10,000 people use hybrid learning for all students.

— Counties with 30-49 cases per 10,000 people use hybrid learning for elementary students and distance learning for secondary students.

— Counties with 50 or more cases per 10,000 people must use distance learning for all students.

Two important caveats: Regardless of the model used, all districts must provide an equitable distance-learning option to all families. And the model applied can change as conditions change in county.

Also worth mentioning is the importance of counties continuing to perform widespread testing to help ensure the data driving these decisions is comprehensive, current and credible.

Tip of the iceberg

Of course, selecting the learning model is just the tip the iceberg known as COVID-19.

The state’s health department also is providing districts a separate 18-page guide for addressing the three learning models. This guide dives deeper into issues such as face coverings, social distancing, cleaning, hygiene, busing and more.

Face coverings are required for in-person and hybrid models. “All students, staff, and other people present in school buildings and district offices or riding on school transportation vehicles are required to wear a face covering.”

Still, there are some significant differences. For example, the 6-foot requirement for social distancing is a goal, but it is not required for in-person learning. It is required for hybrid learning, when it must be applied on buses, too.

The in-person and hybrid models require each school to appoint a COVID-19 program coordinator whose role is to “communicate concerns, challenges, and lessons learned related to COVID-19 preventive activities as needed with staff, students/families, school and district leadership, and local health officials.”

Also addressed are requirements and recommendations on cleaning. “Establish a schedule for routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces and shared equipment throughout the school day. Increase the frequency of disinfection during high-activity periods.”

Those are just a few of a dozen issues the 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools. And even though Walz’s plan does offer substantial details, it does not help districts answer questions such as to how to achieve social distancing in crowded schools, address busing capacity issues or detail who will do those increased cleanings.

Those are the kinds of challenges each district is spending the next several weeks trying to solve. Under the governor’s timeline, they have until Aug. 24, at which point implementation is to begin.

Most districts start classes the day after Labor Day.

Clearly, district administrators and educators have a lot to do this month. On the bright side, they are in control of determining the safest and best way to start their school year.


The Free Press of Mankato, Aug. 2

Policing: POST board must lead reform efforts

Why it matters: The Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training board must lead the way in a statewide effort to reform police training and impose accountability.

The Minnesota police training and licensure board has a mixed history of success and relevance since its founding in 1977. It is time it takes a more significant role in statewide police training practices and, more important, disciplining officer misconduct.

Some in the public sector see the POST board as an arm of police unions, protecting rogue officers from licensure suspensions. Indeed, a 2017 Star Tribune investigation found hundreds of officers had been convicted of crimes over two decades without losing their license.

The POST board reacted to the investigation by changing its criminal standards for when an officer’s license would be revoked.

The board is again under the spotlight with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In bipartisan police reform legislation passed recently, the Legislature tasked the POST board with improving accountability standards statewide, improving training, discouraging “warrior” training, setting a model for use of force, creating an officer misconduct database and improving its own accountability with more citizens on its board.

Those are big charges, but ones POST Interim Executive Director Erik Misselt calls a “watershed” moment for the licensing authority.

We hope the POST board takes that attitude seriously.

The legislation also created a new citizen committee, called Ensuring Police Excellence and Improving Community Relations Advisory Council, that will recommend reforms to the POST board. That may be the most significant change to POST board attitudes and operations.

The POST board, as the major licensing authority, has a lot of power when it comes to policing the police. As police serve the public, the POST board, which approves who becomes a police officer, should also serve the public.

Significant change is needed. Legislative leaders and community activists say they will be monitoring the progress of the POST board in implementing the legislated reforms.

We urge the POST board to move quickly and decisively to reform Minnesota policing where it can truly be in the interests of public safety for all, no matter race, creed or background.