Father recovers stolen vehicle with his kids inside using suspect’s abandoned stolen vehicle

A father chased down a stolen car that had his children inside using the suspect’s car on Wednesday night, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.

Deanah Gotchie of Burnsville said she was dropping off some items at a friend’s house on the 800 block of Russell Avenue North around 8:30 p.m. last night. Her husband, Derek, stepped out of the vehicle for a moment to close the back door.

Within seconds, a suspect had hopped into the family’s vehicle and drove off with their four young children still inside.

“I turn around, and I’m like, ‘What?'” Deanah Gotchie recalled. “I look out the door, and I see our tail lights leaving.”

Derek Gotchie saw the suspect’s abandoned van — which police say was stolen — was still running. He decided to jump in and chase the suspect.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I’m jumping in there, I’m going after my kids.”

The chase didn’t last long. Derek Gotchie caught up with the suspect a few blocks away near Penn and Plymouth avenues. He explained that the suspect pulled over to let a car by, and as soon as he turned back into the road, the father took his opportunity.

“I just hit the back of my truck and pushed him into this alleyway to pin him against this fence,” Derek Gotchie said.

It worked. After rear-ending the vehicle at a slow speed, the truck stopped, and the suspect got out and ran, leaving the kids behind. While no one was hurt, the rear bumper of the family’s truck was damaged.

This image provided by the Gotchie family shows the damage to their GMC Yukon’s rear bumper after Derek Gotchie rammed into the SUV while chasing a car thief. (Courtesy photo)

The Gotchies’ young son told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he asked the suspect to slow down during the pursuit.

Eventually, Deanah Gotchie got to the scene, and police told her what happened.

“I asked [the officer], ‘Did you find them?’ He was like, ‘Your husband did.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about my husband did?'” Deanah Gotchie said. “I got there, and I hear the story, I’m not surprised at all, I’m not surprised at all. I’m like, ‘Yup, that sounds like my husband.'”

The Minneapolis Police Department said it is still investigating the incident. No arrests have been made.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family to cover the costs of repairing their vehicle.

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Here’s the schedule for the championship games:

Minneapolis Mayor and police chief voice concerns about more than $1M in budget cuts for MPD

At city hall Wednesday, an action that has both Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Brian O’Hara concerned: the city council’s budget committee passed more than $1 million in cuts for MPD.

“We can’t be pulling an officer off the street to do work that should be done by a civilian,” Frey declared. “You don’t need officers doing desk jobs.”

The mayor and the chief say the cuts would affect civilian employees of the department: administrative positions like data analysts, technicians, payroll, and community outreach.

The chief’s biggest worry is at uniformed officers will be pulled off the street to fill those jobs.

“There is no cavalry to bail us out,” O’Hara says. “We need every gun and badge that’s able, to be on the street addressing the serious crime concerns that our residents are having.”

O’Hara says staffing levels for the department are the lowest in years, now at 564 officers.

But there’s another wrinkle.

The police department will soon face a court-enforceable consent decree, negotiated with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which will dictate and track any reforms that are made.

All of this is after a state investigation following the murder of George Floyd found a pattern of race discrimination by the city and the police department.

The consent decree and staffing levels were all part of the discussion of the budget committee.

They voted to divert the more than $1 million in MPD funding to safety auditor positions, a city attorney’s position, and to fund immigration services, among other things.

“My only concern in impact is exactly what the council member said, in terms of us being prepared in what’s coming ahead next year, that’s the main concern,” O’Hara told the committee.

But committee members say for a start, they’ve already allocated $2 million in a separate fund to deal with costs imposed by the decree.

“That obligation, that $2 million, isn’t coming out of your budget,” Council Member Aisha Chughtai reassured O’Hara. “It actually is coming out of a thing that exists in our city’s overall budget as a result of our financial policies.”

The cuts, passed Wednesday, trim about a half-percent off the nearly $195 million proposed police budget.

The department would have almost $10 million more to work with than last year.

The full council is to discuss the budget on Tuesday, and there will be a public hearing that starts around 6 p.m. at city hall.

The entire budget has to be approved by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the chief and the mayor still worry they won’t have enough people to do the job.

“Do we have concerns? Yes. Are we going to be able to work through this? Absolutely,” Frey says. “We’ll do everything we possibly can to have the right services to deliver.”

Rail strike to be averted: Biden to sign bill

President Joe Biden is signing a bill Friday to avert a freight rail strike that he said could have plunged the U.S. into recession.

The White House said that Biden would sign a measure passed Thursday by the Senate and Wednesday by the House that binds rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September.

Members in four of the 12 unions involved rejected the proposed contract, creating the risk of a strike beginning Dec. 9 that the government has likely staved off with the bill signing. A freight rail strike also would have a big potential impact on passenger rail, with Amtrak and many commuter railroads relying on tracks owned by the freight railroads.

The president has said that a strike would have sunk the U.S. economy, causing roughly 750,000 job losses as the work stoppage ruptured supply chains for basic goods, food and the chemicals needed to ensure clean drinking water.

Rising prices already have many Americans afraid of a coming downturn, but the U.S. job market has been steady. The government reported Friday that employers added 263,000 jobs in November as the unemployment rate held at 3.7%.

Though Biden is a staunch union ally, he said the rail order was necessary to prevent a strike.

The Biden administration helped broker deals between the railroads and union leaders in September, but four of the unions rejected the deals. Eight others approved five-year deals and all 12 are getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020.

But the absence of a meaningful increase in paid sick leave and other quality-of-life issues was a key concern for many union members whose votes were required for the settlement. The railroads say the unions have agreed in negotiations over the decades to forgo paid sick time in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits. Union members say railroads could afford the paid leave given their profit margins.

House Democrats narrowly adopted a measure to add seven days of paid sick leave to the tentative agreement, but that change fell eight votes shy of the 60-vote threshold needed for Senate passage.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Stocks fall after gains for worker wages fan inflation fears

NEW YORK (AP) — Worries about inflation are hitting Wall Street Friday after a report showed wages for U.S. workers are accelerating, which is good news for them but could feed into even higher inflation for the nation.

The S&P 500 was 1% lower in early trading, on track to wipe out most of what had been a healthy week of gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 281 points, or 0.8%, at 34,112, as of 9:42 a.m. Eastern time, while the Nasdaq composite was 1.2% lower.

Stocks had been on the upswing for more than a month on hopes that the worst of the nation’s high inflation may have passed already. That fed expectations for the Federal Reserve to ease up on its fusillade of big interest-rate hikes, which are supposed to undercut inflation by slowing the economy and dragging down on prices of stocks and other investments.

But Friday’s jobs report showed that wages for workers rose 5.1% last month from a year earlier. That’s an acceleration from October’s 4.9% gain and easily topped economists’ expectations for a slowdown.

Such jumps in pay are helpful to workers who are struggling to keep up with higher prices for daily necessities. But the Federal Reserve worries too-strong gains could cause inflation to become further entrenched in the economy. That’s because wages make up a big part of costs for companies in services industries, and they could end up raising their own prices further to cover higher wages for their employees.

Across the economy, employers also added 263,000 jobs last month. That was stronger hiring than economists’ forecasts for 200,000, while the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%.

“The most important number for the Fed is probably the wage number,” said Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist at Allspring Global Investments.

Many traders are still betting on the Fed to downshift the size of its rate hikes at its next meeting later this month, to half a percentage point from the three-quarters of a point it had shoved through for four straight meetings.

But Treasury yields still jumped immediately after the jobs report’s release. That indicates strengthened expectations for the Fed to stay resolute in hiking interest rates to get inflation under control.

The yield on the two-year Treasury jumped to 4.34% from 4.24% late Thursday. The 10-year yield, which helps set rates for mortgages and many other loans, rose to 3.56% from 3.51%.

“Another month with a strong jobs report and torrid wage gains is a reality check for where we stand in the inflation fight,” said Mike Loewengart, head of model portfolio construction at Morgan Stanley Global Investment Office.

The strong jobs data follows up on several mixed reports on the economy. The nation’s manufacturing activity shrank last month for the first time in 30 months, for example, while the housing industry is struggling under the weight of much higher mortgage rates.

That’s largely by design, because the Fed is raising interest rates as a way of slowing the economy just enough to starve inflation in the prices of things that households and businesses need to stay alive. But the rate hikes also risk causing a recession if they go too far. A jobs market that remains much stronger than expected could make an already dicey situation for the Fed even more complicated.

More economists are forecasting the U.S. economy to fall into a recession next year in large part because of higher interest rates.

“While the Fed won’t back away from” a hike of just half a percentage point “in December, they still have no clue what they’ll do in 2023,” said Allpsring’s Jacobsen.

——

AP Business Writers Elaine Kurtenbach and Matt Ott contributed.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Proposed mental health facility in West St. Paul draws support, criticism 

Dozens of people packed into a meeting room in West St. Paul on Thursday night to voice both support and opposition to a proposed mental health facility.

The 16-bed crisis and recovery center would provide short-term residential mental health treatment. Dakota County officials have proposed building the facility in the northeast parking lot of the Dakota County Northern Service Center.

The center would be operated by Guild, a St. Paul nonprofit mental health service provider. The company currently operates a group of homes in South St. Paul that would collapse into the new facility.

Julie Bluhm, the CEO of Guild, said the mental health services system in Minnesota is in desperate need of treatment options.

“Our system is so overwhelmed right now that all of these services take a very long time to access,” she said. “My staff have told me that they turn down almost 250 people who qualify for the services, but we just don’t have room.“

But not everyone is convinced those beds belong in West St. Paul. 

Mark Drake, who lives in the neighborhood near the proposed site, said many of his neighbors just recently learned about the project.

“We were initially not given any notice that the facility was to be built in the parking lot of the government center,” said Drake, who says his home is approximately 383 feet from the proposed crisis center.

Drake said in recent weeks, he’s raised concerns over the safety in the neighborhood and how that could change when the facility opens.

“This is a 24/7 drop-in facility,” Drake said. “We know there’s not security, we know that cameras are not going to be part of it.”

At Thursday’s meeting, residents questioned what process county and Guild officials use to screen clients and if that includes a check for active warrants or other significant criminal history.

Bluhm acknowledged the individuals they serve with severe mental health issues from a variety of backgrounds.

“The reality is that the people that are coming to our facility are there because they want to be there,” she said. “They’re not being placed there because they’ve committed a crime or because they’re not safe to be in that community.”

West St. Paul’s city council is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. Final approval would come from the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. 

Kaprizov’s 3-point game leads Wild to 5-2 win over Oilers

Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and two assists to extend his career-best point streak to 10 games, and Joel Eriksson Ek added a goal and assist, leading the Minnesota Wild to a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.

Kaprizov has a goal in four straight games after scoring his 14th of the season. He also has nine straight games with an assist, and 10 goals and 11 assists in his last 16 games.

Frederick Gaudreau, Sam Steel and Mats Zuccarello also scored for Minnesota, which has won four of five. Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl extended goal streaks for Edmonton, which had won three in a row.

Draisaitl opened the scoring in the first period with his 16th goal, scoring for the fourth straight game. McDavid scored a goal for the third straight game, tying Dallas’ Jason Robertson for the league lead with 19.

Jack Campbell stopped 25 shots for the Oilers.

Minnesota took two early penalties, a difficult task against Edmonton’s sixth-ranked power-play unit.

The Wild killed off the first, but Draisaitl scored from a wide angle on the second power play, shooting before Fleury could get across the crease on the cross-ice pass.

The power play was important for both teams. Three of the first four goals in the game were with the man advantage.

Edmonton finished 1 of 3 on the power-play. Minnesota, which entered the game with the league’s 13th-ranked power play, was 2 of 3.

Eriksson Ek scored with the man advantage just 1:51 into the second period, tying the game at 1. Kaprizov’s initial shot was wide and bounced off the end boards right to Eriksson Ek.

McDavid had the first even-strength goal of the game for an Oilers’ lead, but the Wild scored twice before the end of the period. Gaudreau’s go-ahead goal was his fourth of the season with 6:01 left in the second.

After the early penalties, Minnesota clamped down on Edmonton’s explosive offense. The Oilers had just 10 shots through two periods and were outshot 30-21 in the game.

UP NEXT

Oilers: Return home against Montreal on Saturday.

Wild: Host Anaheim on Saturday.

US hiring stayed strong in November despite Fed rate hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s employers kept hiring briskly in November despite high inflation and a slow-growing economy — a sign of resilience in the face of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes.

The economy added 263,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate stayed 3.7%, still near a 53-year low, the Labor Department said Friday. November’s job growth dipped only slightly from October’s 284,000 gain.

Last month’s hiring amounted to a substantial increase. All year, as inflation has surged and the Fed has imposed ever-higher borrowing rates, America’s labor market has defied skeptics, adding hundreds of thousands of jobs, month after month.

With not enough people available to fill jobs, businesses are having to offer higher pay to attract and keep workers. In November, average hourly pay jumped 5.1% compared with a year ago — a robust increase that is welcome news for workers but one that complicates the Fed’s efforts to curb inflation.

The strength of the hiring and pay gains raised immediate concerns that the Fed may now have to keep rates high even longer than many had assumed. The stock market reacted with alarm, with Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking more than 400 points as trading opened Friday.

“This will be a reminder to the Fed and to the markets that the job on inflation is not done,” said Blerina Uruci, chief U.S. economist at brokerage T. Rowe Price. “They really need wage pressures to be on a more sustained downward path. So that certainly calls for interest rates to remain higher for longer.”

The report painted a picture of a job market in which the supply of available workers is falling even though many companies are still desperate to hire to meet customer demand. The proportion of Americans who either have a job or are looking for one declined for a second straight month, to just under 60%.

This week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell stressed in a speech that jobs and wages were growing too fast for the central bank to quickly slow inflation. The Fed has jacked up its benchmark rate, from near zero in March to nearly 4%, to try to wrestle inflation back toward its 2% annual target.

More than half the job growth last month — 170,000 — came in two large industries: Education and health care, and a category made up mostly of restaurants, hotels, and entertainment firms. Both sectors are still replacing workers who were lost during the pandemic. Most other industries have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels of employment.

There were some signs of weakness in Friday’s figures: Retailers, transportation and warehousing companies all cut jobs. So did temporary staffing agencies. Temp employment, often seen as a leading indicator of hiring, has declined for three straight months.

Yet a category that includes technology workers actually added jobs, despite many recent high-profile layoff announcements from such tech companies as Amazon, Meta, Twitter and the real estate broker Redfin.

Some signs of modest cooling in the job market have emerged recently. They include a small decline in job postings and a drop in the number of people who are quitting jobs — trends that suggest some rising caution among workers.

Even so, steady hiring and rising paychecks in many industries have helped U.S. households drive the economy. In October, consumer spending rose at a healthy pace even after adjusting for inflation. Americans stepped up their purchases of cars, restaurant meals and other services.

After having contracted in the first six months of the year, the U.S. economy expanded at a brisk 2.9% annual rate last quarter. In addition to strength from consumer spending, a spike in exports helped boost growth.

Though steady hiring and rising wages have fueled their spending, Americans are also turning increasingly to credit cards to keep up with higher prices. Many are also digging into savings, a trend that cannot continue indefinitely.

Some signs of weakness have sparked concerns about a likely recession next year, in part because many fear that the Fed’s surging rate hikes will end up derailing the economy. Particularly in the technology, media and retail industries, a rising number of companies have made high-profile layoff announcements.

In addition to job cuts from tech behemoths like Amazon, Meta and Twitter, smaller companies — including DoorDash, the real estate firm Redfin and the retailers Best Buy and the Gap — have said they will lay off workers.

And in November, a measure of factory activity dropped to a level that suggested that the manufacturing sector is contracting for the first time since May 2020.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Metro Transit to cut some services Saturday, residents protest in response

People are protesting Metro Transit’s decision to cut some of its bus services.

The agency says the planned changes that will cut about 8% of bus services take effect on Saturday, and different transit advocacy groups protested the decision on Thursday night.

Metro Transit says the decision was made because of the ongoing driver shortage, but many believe it’s unacceptable.

“We are in a negative feedback loop right now and that’s really problematic,” said Sam Rockwell, Executive Director at Move Minnesota.

Sam Rockwell is the Executive Director of Move Minnesota, an agency that works for better transit across the state, and they led Thursday’s protest.

“The goal is to really get Metro Transit leadership’s attention,” Rockwell said.

Metro Transit will reduce bus service by about 8% across the board, but that’s on top of everything else they’ve gone through since the start of the pandemic.

“We’re essentially about 67% of service on the street compared to where we were in 2019 so it’s a big gap,” said Adam Harrington, Director of Service Development at Metro Transit.

Adam Harrington is the Director of Service Development with Metro Transit, and he says they’re short 74 full-time operators and could use another 300 more.

“We’re in a spot where we have to make some hard choices,” Harrington said.

Rockwell and others understand there’s a shortage, but encourage Metro Transit to be creative with city leaders with things like bus lanes and automatic green lights for buses.

“The number of drivers that we have is just one element that impacts service and so what we’re asking metro transit is to use all their tools in their toolbox to counteract the service cuts,” Rockwell said.

Despite these service cuts, Metro Transit is launching the new D Line on Saturday, replacing Route 5 between Mall of America and Brooklyn Center.

Transit advocates are stressing urgency.

“A lot of people depend on our transit system to get to everything,” Rockwell said.

While there’s no timetable for a return to normal service, Metro Transit is seeing an uptick in applicants for bus operators.

“We hope guardedly that we’ll be able to turn the corner here in the next year and start beginning to plan how we start bringing service back,” Harrington said.

Metro Transit is hosting a couple hiring events, including one on Saturday. For more information on becoming a bus operator visit here.

For more information on the service changes visit here.

Hennepin County sees 268% increase in families experiencing homelessness

Hennepin County is seeing a major spike in families facing homelessness.

According to the county’s most recent shelter report, 217 families were sleeping in shelters in mid-November, which marks a 268% increase from the same time last year.

“It is heartbreaking and it’s a crisis. I don’t like to throw that word around lightly, but it’s not okay right now,” said Rinal Ray, CEO of People Serving People, a family shelter in Minneapolis.

Data shows the level of need across the county is almost double the capacity of shelters, with overflow families being placed in hotels.

“Inflation means gas costs more, food costs more and that rent costs more, so families with very limited means are having a very hard time making those ends meet,” Ray said.

Pandemic-related programs, such as rental assistance and temporary eviction bans, have also ended.

“Almost to the day and minute those measures went away, we’ve seen this return to high levels of shelter use,” said David Hewitt, Hennepin County’s director of housing stability.

Hewitt said the county is working to scale up its response to meet the growing need.

“Our goal has to be that for all of these families in shelter, what is that long-term solution? And how do we help them move to it as quickly as possible?” Hewitt said.

The county plans to continue building on a Homeless to Housing program it started last winter, which provides intensive one-on-one help for people experiencing homelessness.

Hewitt said the program initially helped 464 people at high-risk of contracting COVID-19, including seniors, find a permanent place to live, with 97% of them still housed.

The county expanded the program and has now served an additional 345 people.

But data shows more families are in need of help every week in Hennepin County.

“Rents are too high and the number of affordable, sustainable units continue to be far too low. It’s a frightening landscape that we’re seeing families face in the Twin Cities at this point,” said Steve Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services.

Simpson Housing Services runs a shelter for single adults, which is currently located in the basement of a church in Minneapolis.

They are planning a large expansion at that site, which will include a new adult shelter space and 42 units of permanent supportive housing.

Simpson Housing Services also serves 255 families through its supportive housing program, which works with 300 landlords across the metro to place families into stable housing.

“Everything really starts with a safe place to lay your head at night. Everything in life is more challenging without that,” Horsfield said.

Simpson Housing Services is putting out the call for volunteers and donations, so they can expand programs to meet the growing need in Hennepin County.

You can also donate to the family shelter at People Serving People by clicking here.

Congress votes to avert rail strike amid dire warnings

WASHINGTON (AP) — Legislation to avert what could have been an economically ruinous freight rail strike won final approval in Congress on Thursday as lawmakers responded quickly to President Joe Biden’s call for federal intervention in a long-running labor dispute.

The Senate passed a bill to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by four of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike beginning Dec. 9.

The Senate vote was 80-15. It came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement. The measure now goes to Biden’s desk for his signature.

“Communities will maintain access to clean drinking water. Farmers and ranchers will continue to be able to bring food to market and feed their livestock. And hundreds of thousands of Americans in a number of industries will keep their jobs,” Biden said after the vote. “I will sign the bill into law as soon as Congress sends it to my desk.”

The Senate voted shortly after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized to Democratic senators at a Capitol meeting that rail companies would begin shutting down operations well before a potential strike would begin. The administration wanted the bill on Biden’s desk by the weekend.

Shortly before Thursday’s votes, Biden defended the contract that four of the unions had rejected, noting the wage increases it contains.

“I negotiated a contract no one else could negotiate,” Biden said at a news briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron. “What was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had.”

Critics say the contract that did not receive backing from enough union members lacked sufficient levels of paid sick leave for rail workers. Biden said he wants paid leave for “everybody” so that it wouldn’t have to be negotiated in employment contracts, but Republican lawmakers have blocked measures to require time off work for medical and family reasons. The president said Congress should impose the contract now to avoid a strike that he said could cause 750,000 job losses and a recession.

Railways say halting rail service would cause a devastating $2 billion-per-day hit to the economy. A freight rail strike also would have a big potential impact on passenger rail, with Amtrak and many commuter railroads relying on tracks owned by the freight railroads.

The rail companies and unions have been engaged in high-stakes negotiations. The Biden administration helped broker deals between the railroads and union leaders in September, but four of the unions rejected the deals. Eight others approved five-year deals and are getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020.

With a strike looming, Biden called on Congress to impose the tentative agreement reached in September. Congress has the authority to do so and has enacted legislation in the past to delay or prohibit railway and airline strikes. But most lawmakers would prefer the parties work out their differences on their own.

The Senate took a series of three votes. The first was on a measure by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, that would have sent both parties back to the negotiating table. But union groups opposed an extension, as did the Biden administration. The proposal was roundly rejected, with 25 senators in support and 70 opposed.

“An extension would simply allow the railroads to maintain their status quo operations while prolonging the workforce’s suffering,” leaders of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO said.

The second vote the Senate took would have followed the path the House narrowly adopted the day before, which was to add seven days of paid sick leave to the tentative agreement. But that measure fell eight votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed for passage.

The final vote was the measure binding the two parties to the September agreement. It passed with broad bipartisan support, as it had in the House. While lawmakers voiced consternation about having to weigh in, the economic stakes outweighed those concerns.

“A strike of that magnitude would have a painful impact on our economy and that is an unacceptable scenario as inflation continues to squeeze West Virginians and Americans heading into the holiday season,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Democrats have traditionally aligned themselves with the politically powerful labor unions that criticized Biden’s move to intervene and block a strike. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democratic colleagues it was “with great reluctance” that Congress needed to bypass the standard ratification process for union contracts.

She did, however, hold an additional vote that would have added the seven days of paid sick leave that union workers wanted. That gave Democratic lawmakers in both chambers the ability to show their support for paid sick leave for rail workers while also avoiding a crippling strike.

The call for paid sick leave was a major sticking point in the talks, along with other quality-of-life concerns. The railroads say the unions have agreed in negotiations over the decades to forgo paid sick time in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits.

The unions maintain that railroads can easily afford to add paid sick time when they are recording record profits. Several of the big railroads involved in these contract talks reported more than $1 billion profit in the third quarter.

The Association of American Railroads trade group praised the Senate vote to impose the compromise deal that includes the biggest raises in more than four decades. Still, CEO Ian Jefferies acknowledged that many workers remain unhappy with working conditions. “Without a doubt, there is more to be done to further address our employees’ work-life balance concerns, but it is clear this agreement maintains rail’s place among the best jobs in our nation,” Jefferies said.

Union groups were unhappy with the final result.

“The Senate just failed to pass seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers. We are grateful to the 52 Senators who voted YES and stood with rail workers,” tweeted the Transportation Trades Department labor coalition. “Shame on the 43 elected leaders who abandoned the working class. We will not forget it.”

___

Associated Press staff writer Josh Boak contributed to this report. Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

MNA members to begin strike Dec. 11; end dates vary throughout state

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Duluth areas, have voted to authorize a second strike.

Union leaders spoke about the results of the vote at the Union’s headquarters in St. Paul at 9 a.m. Thursday. There, officials said a strike is planned to start at 7 a.m. starting Dec. 11 and last through 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31.

That full news conference can be found in the video player below.

By law, the MNA is required to give hospitals a 10-day notice of a strike, which was done Thursday morning. Statements from area hospitals regarding the strike notice can be found lower in this article.

The strike affects nurses at M Health Fairview, Essentia Health, Health Partners, Allina Health, Children’s Minnesota, North Memorial and St. Luke’s. While MNA members voted Wednesday to authorize a strike, union leaders made the final decision.

Meanwhile, nurses at St. Luke’s in Duluth and at Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors also plan to strike starting Dec. 11, but no end date has been announced.

“We are in an unprecedented historical moment,” said Peter Rachleff, an emeritus professor of history at Macalester College. “First caused by the pandemic, secondly now in healthcare exacerbated by the early arrival of the flu and the RSV challenge in children. The healthcare system is under extroindary pressure.”

He explained the critical consequences of this potential strike could lead the parties to reach an agreement more quickly.

“In the world of labor relations and striking you want to have a possibility of it having an impact because that’s the way to push through an impasse and get to a new level of results,” said Rachleff.  “That’s when you want to negotiate a settlement, that’s when you want to get back to the bargaining table and reach an agreement.”

This planned strike comes just two and a half months after MNA members hit the picket line in mid-September.

“I think that the first strike that was really more of a demonstration or a protest was an attempt to get the public’s attention, to get the public thinking about staffing levels in hospitals, to think about the inequities in compensation compared to nurses, the need to improve compensation to recruit more nurses,” said Rachleff. “Whether this strike proves to be another demonstration, protest, get public opinion focus or whether it becomes a dug in battle really remains to be seen.”

Governor Tim Walz said, in part, on Thursday, “We’re engaged and have been with both of these entities and I think the promising thing I’m hopeful we’ll work this out, we’ve all in the healthcare space had to work incredibly closely together and we work literally between nurses and physicians and the researchers and the hospital CEOs on calls multiple times a week for basically two straight years.”

“I know now there’s a lot of tensions around healthcare in general and these providers that have been on the front lines are feeling that strain,” Walz added. “I’m still incredibly hopeful we can reach a deal here that provides the resources to the nurses they need and the finances that work for the hospitals.”

Allina Health and Twin Cities Hospitals Group issued a statement Thursday morning regarding a 10-day strike notice from the MNA, which can be found in full below:

We are deeply disappointed by Minnesota Nurse’s Association’s choice to issue a strike notice when our community is experiencing a triple threat of illnesses – influenza, RSV and COVID – and before they have exhausted all available options to reach agreement. Providing the necessary care for our community during this surge of seasonal illness, in addition to the many other health care needs of our patients, has put unprecedented stress on Minnesota’s health care system. To be clear, the union is deciding to further withdraw critical health care resources at a time when the community’s healthcare needs are high and at the risk of those who are depending on us for care.

MNA leadership continues to focus on disruption at the expense of spending meaningful time at the bargaining table. We have made some progress and believe we can reach agreement on the outstanding issues with focused negotiations.  Allina Health has repeatedly asked the union to join us in employing a neutral, independent mediator to help us resolve our remaining differences. The use of a mediator is a regular part of collective bargaining and a proven method of reaching agreement as has happened with our previous successful negotiations.

Allina Health remains committed to reaching an agreement that reflects the valuable contributions of our nurses and will negotiate with the union again on Dec. 2. While we are hopeful a deal can be reached, we want to assure the public that we have plans in place to continue caring for our community with as few disruptions to care as possible. 

We will work directly with patients on any necessary adjustments to ensure continuity of care and will provide regular updates to our patients and communities over the coming days. For more information, please visit allinahealth.org.”

Allina Health

“The Twin Cities Hospitals Group is shocked and deeply disappointed that the nurses’ union has once again chosen to issue 10-day strike notices throughout the metro and Duluth before exhausting all reasonable efforts to reach an agreement. Our negotiators have made progress in many areas, and while gaps remain, we are confident progress can continue to be made by remaining engaged at the table. It has barely been a week since the union finally agreed to bring expert mediators to assist the parties in reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Not one meeting with mediators has even occurred yet, but the union has elected to pursue a strike rather than settlement. It is clear that their recent statements in support of mediation were disingenuous. The nurses’ union has completely failed to give the mediation process time to work and instead has chosen to put the union’s agenda before the care of our patients.

Let us be clear: the union’s choice to issue 10-day strike notices is theirs and theirs alone. The nurses were not forced to do this and they chose to issue their 10-day strike notices in the midst of the triple threat of illnesses, RSV, COVID and influenza, that are already stressing our health care system. The nurses’ union 10-day strike notices are completely contrary to the best interests of our patients and the communities we serve.  Their announcement today is entirely inconsistent with their claim that they are acting to protect patients. Any claim to the contrary is false. We do not believe that our nurses support this radical action.

Over the coming 10 days, our negotiators will be available to negotiate in good faith and we will exhaust all means necessary to avoid a work stoppage. We expect the nurses’ union to do the same, including being fully engaged at all tables with a mediator.

We need to stress our hospitals will be open during this 10-day period although your care providers may need to reschedule non-critical care procedures. Our hospital leadership have robust contingency plans in place and will make adjustments as necessary to ensure continuity of care.

The focus of the hospitals remains on serving our patients and our community. To the public, we offer the following during this 10-day period:

– Patients with emergent health care issues should continue to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

– Patients with non-emergent health care needs should work with their health care provider regarding the scheduling of services.

– As services are being shifted, patients may experience longer wait times for services while care teams triage patients. We ask everyone for patience.

– We are mindful that this 10-day strike notice can be disruptive to the services we provide, but Minnesota’s more than 120 non-profit hospitals will continue to work together to care for our fellow Minnesotans.

– We will provide regular updates to the public. CLICK HERE for additional information.”

Twin Cities Hospitals Group

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to other area hospitals for comment on contract negotiations and will update this article as reaction becomes available. Children’s Minnesota will have a news conference Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. in response to the upcoming strike, and KSTP plans to livestream the event.

MNA officials say the decision is about their patients, and add since the last strike in September, which was three days long, conditions in hospitals have only gotten worse.

Nurse union leaders say one of their biggest concerns isn’t having adequate staffing in hospitals. They add nurses are being forced to take on what they call “un-safe assignments” and in some cases, are being disciplined for raising concerns.

In addition, the MNA tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS this vote to authorize a strike is about making sure patients are safe – and they say Minnesota hospitals can’t continue to operate the way they are. Nurses have described overwhelmed emergency departments as “disaster zones”, with patients sometimes waiting six to eight hours for beds, and it is becoming the norm to work 16-hour shifts. They add they’re willing to negotiate, but the one issue they won’t settle on is staffing.

Wages are also a part of the strike.

Allina Health provided the following salary information for nurses to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in September:

We looked at RN salaries at our metro hospitals. For example, a starting full-time nurse with a baccalaureate RN degree will earn $36.22/hr ($75,337/yr full-time). A nurse with 10 years of service will earn $51.36/hr ($106,828/yr full-time). The annual average salary across our metro hospitals is $46.48/hr ($96,675.88/yr full-time). It is important to note that there are step increases already built into our wage scales. A step increase is an increase in an employee’s rate of pay from one step of the scale to the next higher step based on years of service or hours worked.  In Allina Health’s MNA contracts, it is based on hours worked.  For instance, an employee on the “Start” step of the wage scale will move to the “After 1 Year” step when the employee has worked 2,080 hours.

Minnesota ranks among the highest for average RN pay nationally and the highest in the Midwest. At Allina Health we are proud of the highly competitive wage and total benefit package which includes incentives for overtime and holiday pay.

Allina Health

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Twin Cities Hospital Group regarding salary information for nurses and received the following statewide data:

“Nurses in Minnesota rank among the most highly compensated in the nation, currently third highest among all nurses in the nation. The average Minnesota nurse earns $80,960 annually and receives generous health care and pension benefits. On top of their annual wage increase, nurses receive step increases based on hours worked.

Twin Cities Hospital Group

In the metro area, Twin Cities Hospital Group says they have five contracts at four systems and are all within one or two cents of the salaries paid to nurses at Allina locations.

St. Luke’s Hospital issued the following statement on Wednesday regarding Thursday’s negotiation session:

“We look forward to our negotiating session tomorrow (Thursday). While MNA has agreed to allow a mediator to observe, we remain hopeful that MNA will allow the mediator to participate in the process. We believe having a mediator is the next best step toward reaching an agreement and avoiding a strike. We know our nurses want to be at the bedside doing what they do best: caring for patients.”

St. Luke’s Hospital

Allina Health had issued this statement Tuesday:

Throughout Allina Health’s negotiations with Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), our message has remained the same: an agreement can only be reached by being at the bargaining table together.

Our nurses are an integral part of our care teams, and we are grateful for their ongoing dedication and expertise. We have always valued their perspective and involvement in key operational decisions. We have worked to find alignment on a number of priority issues and are narrowing the gap on our wage proposals. MNA is now seeking a 22.5% wage increase over the three years of the contract and we have increased our wage proposal to 13.25% over three years. 

A strike or even the threat of a strike creates an unnecessary distraction for our employees and the communities we serve. With escalating illness and increased needs for care, our community is counting on all of us to provide the exceptional care they expect from Allina Health. We believe that a settlement is attainable and urge MNA to focus its energy on bringing these negotiations to conclusion rather than asking its members to consider another strike that our community can simply not afford. We are hopeful to continue to make meaningful progress at our next negotiation session this Friday, Dec. 2, as it is our desire to reach a fair contract settlement and return our sole focus to our shared mission: caring for our patients.

Allina Health

Check back for updates.

Brooklyn Park police announce 2 arrests made during investigation of 17-year-old’s death

Thursday, Brooklyn Park police provided an update regarding the investigation into a shooting that killed a 17-year-old in Brooklyn Park last month.

As previously reported, Brooklyn Park police were called about a possible shooting victim in a vehicle on Interstate 94 at 53rd Avenue North. Officers responded and found two 17-year-old boys suffering from gunshot wounds just before 8:40 p.m. on Nov. 18.

RELATED: 1 teen dead, 1 in custody after 2 teens shot at Brooklyn Park apartment complex

Police said the boys were taken to a hospital where one was treated for an injury not considered to be life-threatening. However, the other boy — later identified as Syoka Ehambi Siko — died. A third 17-year-old was also arrested in connection to the shooting.

During Thursday’s update, Brooklyn Park Police Chief Mark Bruley announced two 17-year-olds were arrested Wednesday for aiding and abetting murder. Officers also searched a home and found evidence that they had obtained the guns used during the shooting as ghost guns through the internet.

Another juvenile who police say was inside the vehicle isn’t in custody, and investigators are hoping to talk to that person.

According to Bruley, the occupants inside the vehicle had two guns, and that one of the passengers fired his gun from inside to outside of the vehicle. That exchange resulted in Siko’s death, and another person being injured.

Siko’s mother also spoke during Thursday’s news conference and asked that whoever may have information about the shooting to come forward and help police in order to get justice for her son.

Chief Bruley stated at the end of Thursday’s briefing that “gun violence has to stop – in Brooklyn Park, in this region, and certainly across the nation.” He also asked legislators to pay attention to instances like these.

Detectives are still working with the County Attorney’s Office to determine what formal charges may be filed.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Thursday’s full news conference can be viewed in the video player above.

High court to rule on Biden student loan cancellation plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether the Biden administration can broadly cancel student loans, keeping the program blocked for now but signaling a final answer by early summer.

That’s about two months before the newly extended pause on loan repayments is set to expire.

The administration had wanted a court order that would have allowed the program to take effect even as court challenges proceed. The justices didn’t do that, but agreed to the administration’s fallback, setting arguments for late February or early March over whether the program is legal.

President Joe Biden’s plan promises $10,000 in federal student debt forgiveness to those with incomes of less than $125,000, or households earning less than $250,000. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, are eligible for an additional $10,000 in relief.

The Congressional Budget Office has said the program will cost about $400 billion over the next three decades.

More than 26 million people already applied for the relief, with 16 million approved, but the Education Department stopped processing applications last month after a federal judge in Texas struck down the plan.

The administration said it was pleased the nation’s highest court had intervened, and Biden said on Twitter that the White House will keep fighting for the loan plan.

“Republican officials are throwing up roadblocks in order to prevent middle-class families from getting the student debt relief they need,” he said in a tweet.

The Texas case is one of two in which federal judges have forbidden the administration from implementing the loan cancellations.

In a separate lawsuit filed by six states, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis also put the plan on hold, and that case is before the Supreme Court.

The moratorium had been slated to expire Jan. 1, a date that Biden set before his debt cancellation plan stalled in the face of legal challenges from conservative opponents.

The new expiration date is 60 days after the legal issue has been settled, but no later than the end of August.

Conservative attorneys, Republican lawmakers and business-oriented groups have asserted that Biden overstepped his authority in taking such sweeping action without the assent of Congress. They called it an unfair government giveaway for relatively affluent people at the expense of taxpayers who didn’t pursue higher education.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, said in a statement following the high court order that the Biden plan “would saddle Americans who didn’t take out loans or already paid theirs off with even more economic woes.” Missouri is one of the six states that sued to block the plan, along with Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Carolina.

The administration has argued that the loan cancellations are legal under a 2003 law aimed at providing help to members of the military. The program is a response to “a devastating pandemic with student loan relief designed to protect vulnerable borrowers from delinquency and default,” the Justice Department said in court papers.

The law, the HEROES Act, allows the secretary of education to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs … as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”

In putting the program on hold, the 8th Circuit panel said there was little harm to borrowers because repayments have been suspended. Allowing the cancellations to proceed before a definitive court ruling would have had än “irreversible impact,” the appeals court said.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, issued a more sweeping ruling in the Texas case, finding that such a costly program required clear congressional authorization.

The justices also will confront an important procedural question, whether anyone who has sued faces any legal or financial harm.

The 8th Circuit judges, two Trump appointees and one judge selected by former President George W. Bush, determined there might be financial costs to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, and said that was enough.

In the Texas case, Pittman wrote that plaintiffs Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor could file their lawsuit, though neither faces financial harm. Brown is ineligible for debt relief because her loans are commercially held, and Taylor is eligible for just $10,000 and not the full $20,000 because he didn’t receive a Pell grant.

But Pittman said it was enough that the government did not take public comments on the program, meaning neither person had a chance to provide input on a program they would be at least partially excluded from.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Minneapolis police release latest Operation Endeavor update

Minneapolis police are providing an update as “Operation Endeavor” continues into its third month.

As previously reported, the plan is aimed at reducing crime within the city, and is being led by the city’s Office of Community Safety, and includes help from multiple other agencies, such as the city’s police department, the Hennepin County Attorney and Sheriff’s Offices, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the FBI, U.S. Marshal’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and others.

Within the first few weeks of the plan, the Minneapolis Police Department told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it made 50 arrests and seized 30 firearms, 520 fentanyl pills, 270 grams of heroin, 196 grams of cocaine and more than $39,000 in cash connected to crime.

RELATED: Mayor Frey, Commissioner Alexander give status update after 1st month of Operation Endeavor

According to the latest report from Oct. 25 to Nov. 21, the amount of ShotSpotter activations decreased by 47%, and the detection for fully automatic shots decreased by 55% compared to the same time period last year. In addition, carjackings declined by 67%.

In regard to drug-related confiscations, police said they took 76 guns during the latest 28-day period, more than 10,300 fentanyl pills and $22,500 in cash.

So far, this period has resulted in 53 people being charged, with another three cases being deferred, five others being declined and six still to be determined. Police add during the last 28 days, cases made through the operation had a charging rate of about 87%, which they say is above the charging rate for similar crimes throughout Hennepin County.

The latest report also shows teams of Violence Interrupters gave out more than 300 locks to community members for guns, as well as mediation sessions, which are used to de-escalate conflicts which could lead to violence.

Members of the Downtown Improvement District, also known as DID, were also credited with starting a pilot program in the skyways during daytime hours on Nov. 1. The group also bought hats, gloves and hand warmers to give to those needing the items. City leaders say the group also increased the number of pedestrian assists and building occupancy in the downtown area.

RELATED: Downtown Minneapolis sees changing landscape as businesses leave and others open

Although police say the operation has “helped build confidence in residents, employers and employees,” the question of “what happens after Operation Endeavor — we can’t go backwards” has now been raised.

“I think that the city needs this type of news as we continue to move forward into 2023,” Minneapolis Police Cmdr. Jason Case said.

Case has been a key part of operations, telling 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS consistency in their approach has led them to the positive results they were hoping for.

While patrols have changed their focus to different areas over the past couple of months, Case said using data and information from partner organizations has been instrumental to the campaign.

One area that continues to be a focus is downtown. Stationed squad cars and officers on foot have been a constant throughout downtown Minneapolis.

“You can really feel it on the street, just the sense of safety and calm [that] has been restored on Nicollet [and] Hennepin, some of the areas that we have been struggling with,” said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

As one of the local partners in Operation Endeavor, the Minneapolis Downtown Council started a pilot program in early November to make the skyway system safer. More of their ambassadors, along with more community outreach and security, will spend time in the skyway system during the busiest times of the day.

“I think that’s going to help continue this positive momentum that we’re seeing at the end of this year, into throughout 2023,” Cramer said.

Officials originally said they’d give Operation Endeavor until the end of the year, but MPD says after the two positive reports people can expect some type of similar patrol heading into the new year.

“Will it scale down? Will it maybe look a little bit different as we move forward? Sure,” Case said. “But the idea, the philosophy around Operation Endeavor is going absolutely nowhere. If anything, it’s going to be elevated.”

View the full public report below:

Charges: Wisconsin boy, 10, killed mom over VR headset

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A 10-year-old Milwaukee boy intentionally aimed a gun at his mother, then shot and killed her, because she would not buy him a virtual reality headset, prosecutors said.The boy initially told police that the Nov. 21 shooting was an accident, according to criminal charges obtained by the Journal Sentinel. But later he said he intentionally aimed at his mom before shooting her. The boy was charged as an adult last week with first-degree reckless homicide.Wisconsin law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes, though the boy’s attorneys can seek to move the case to juvenile court. The boy, who family members said has mental health issues, is being held in juvenile detention.“This is an absolute family tragedy,” said Angela Cunningham, one of the boy’s attorneys. “I don’t think anybody would deny or disagree with that … The adult system is absolutely ill-equipped to address the needs of a 10-year-old child.”The shooting occurred shortly before 7 a.m. on Nov. 21. According to the complaint, the boy initially told officers he got the gun from his mother’s bedroom and went to the basement where she was doing laundry. He said he was twirling the gun around his finger when it went off. The boy was allowed to stay with family, and an initial release from police says the shooting was caused by a child “playing” with a gun.A day later, concerned relatives called police.The boy’s aunt said that when she picked up the boy, he retrieved a set of house keys that contained a key to the gun’s lock box. When his aunt asked about the shooting, the boy said he pointed the gun at his mom, and that she told him to put it down.The boy’s aunt and sister said he never cried or showed remorse. They also said he logged into his mother’s Amazon account and ordered an Oculus Virtual Reality Headset the morning after she died. That same morning, he physically attacked his 7-year-old cousin.Relatives said the boy has a history of disturbing behavior. When he was 4, he swung the family’s puppy around by its tail, the complaint says. Six months ago, family told police, the boy filled a balloon with a flammable liquid and set it on fire, causing an explosion that burned furniture and the carpet. Relatives recalled that when asked about that, the boy said he hears five imaginary people talking to him.After learning these new details, Milwaukee police interviewed the boy again. This time, he told detectives he aimed the gun at his mom with two hands while in a shooting stance. He said he tried shooting a wall to “scare her” when she walked in front of him and he shot her, the complaint says.The boy told police he got the gun from the lock box that morning because his mother woke him up early — at 6 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. — and because she wouldn’t let him buy something on Amazon.Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Police warn of increase in robberies during meet-ups to buy, sell items

Police in the metro are warning about an increase in robberies involving in-person meet-ups for Facebook Marketplace and Craiglist purchases.

“It’s very sad. It’s sad that people are being targeted,” said Sgt. Mike Ernster, public information officer with St. Paul Police Department. “They go into a situation thinking they’re going to get a special gift for their family member and then end up not only without the gift, but without money, without a cell phone and going through the trauma of a robbery situation.”

The City of Minneapolis recently sent an email to residents, which said, in part:

“MPD has seen an increase in robberies associated with buying and selling items using social media such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. During an in-person meeting to complete the planned transaction, individuals have been robbed of the item being sold or the money being paid. In some cases, people have been shot.”

An in-person purchase turned deadly two weeks ago in Plymouth.

Investigators said 17 year old Yaseen Johnson met up with an online seller in a parking lot to purchase a pair of shoes and was shot in the head and chest.

Police are urging people to carefully consider where and how they schedule meet-ups with buyers and sellers online.

“Anytime anybody purchases anything online, there is a level of risk to it,” Ernster said. “People involved in these types of robberies are opportunistic and if they see an opportunity they can seize on, they’re going to take it.”

He recommends people meet at a police station or public area that is well lit.

“Bring another person, somebody to come with you, somebody you trust who that can be there to watch your back a little bit,” Ernster said.

He also warns to be wary of deals that seem ‘too good to be true.’

“Rather than a really good deal and being excited for the good deal, you should start to think about your personal safety and what this could mean,” Ernster said.

Police also recommend using a payment app instead of bringing money with you.

Many cities have their own ‘safe swap’ locations. Here is a list of some across the metro:

An inflation gauge tracked by the Fed slows to still-high 6%

WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure of inflation that is closely monitored by the Federal Reserve eased but remained at an elevated level in October, likely reinforcing the Fed’s intent to keep raising interest rates to cool the economy and slow the acceleration of prices.

Thursday’s report from the Commerce Department showed that prices rose 6% in October from a year earlier. That was the smallest increase since November 2021 and was down from a 6.3% year-over-year rise in September. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, so-called core inflation over the previous 12 months was 5%, less than the 5.2% in September.

On a month-to-month basis, prices rose 0.3% from September to October. For core prices, the increase was 0.2%.

The report also showed that consumers spent more in October, even after adjusting for inflation, a sign of their continued willingness to keep spending in the face of high prices. Spending increased 0.8% from September to October, or 0.5% after accounting for price increases. At the same time, after-tax income, adjusted for inflation, rose 0.4%.

Many Americans, though, are dipping into their savings to keep up with rising prices. The savings rate in October fell to 2.3%, the lowest level since 2005.

Responding to the worst inflation bout since the early 1980s, the Fed has raised its benchmark rate six times since March, and its past four hikes have each been by a hefty three-quarters of a point. The central bank is hoping to engineer the difficult task of bringing inflation down to its 2% annual target without causing a recession in the process.

In recent months, inflation has eased from the four-decade highs it reached earlier in the year. And most economists expect the Fed’s aggressive tightening to further slow prices.

“We expect to see a lot more good news on inflation over the coming months,” Paul Ashworth, chief North America economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.

On Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a speech that the central bank could slow its rate hikes to a half-point increase when it next meets in two weeks — a message that s ent cheers through the financial markets. Yet at the same time, Powell made clear that the policymakers intend to keep their key rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, at a high level for a prolonged period.

The Fed’s series of aggressive rate increases have made borrowing costs sharply more expensive across the economy. The housing market, in particular, has been hammered by a doubling of mortgage rates from a year ago: Sales of previously occupied homes have dropped for nine straight months. Many economists expect the United States to fall into a recession next year as the effects of those costlier loan rates take root.

Yet in the meantime, the overall economy is showing signs of surprising durability. On Wednesday, the government estimated that the economy grew at a solid 2.9% annual rate from July through September. The job market, the most important barometer of economic health, remains robust. Employers have added a healthy average of 407,000 jobs a month so far this year, and unemployment remains near a half-century low.

The Fed is believed to monitor the inflation gauge that was issued Thursday, called the personal consumption expenditures price index, even more closely than it does the government’s better-known consumer price index. The government has reported that the CPI rose 7.7% October from 12 months earlier, down from June’s 9.1% year-over-year increase, which had been the biggest such jump in four decades.

The PCE index tends to show a lower inflation level than CPI. In part, that is because rents, which have soared, carry double the weight in the CPI that they do in the PCE.

The PCE price index also seeks to account for changes in how people shop when inflation jumps. As a result, it can capture, for example, when consumers switch from pricey national brands to cheaper store brands.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

First hockey event launched to help veterans with post-traumatic stress

It was a meeting of hockey heroes at the Coon Rapids Ice Center.

“It’s not about how much you give, it’s how you give,” declared Jay Garstecki, the founder of ‘Operation Healing Heroes’ Foundation.

“It’s going to be fun, hopefully not too cold,” smiled Neil Broten, the former Minnesota North Stars player.

At a charity hockey game and free skate, U.S. military veterans, former NHL stars, and Blue Ox Junior League players, hit the ice for a good cause.  

“Oh, I think it’s awesome,” exclaimed Preston Cloutier, a junior league player from Massachusetts. “We’ve got guys from Sweden, one guy from Russia.”

Garstecki started the Illinois non-profit in 2015, taking veterans on fishing trips as a way to battle PTSD.

Moving to Minnesota—he wants to do the same thing for vets through hockey—starting with this event.

“We want to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress for our US military veterans and their families,” Garstecki explains. “We basically have done over a hundred veterans, we paid for treatment of post-traumatic stress in over one-hundred veterans just last year, so it’s real.”

Broten, with a storied hockey career that includes a gold medal from the 1980 Olympics, says the game he loves can make a difference for vets.

“For the military, all that they go through, sacrifice not only themselves, but their families,” he notes. “It kind of takes them away from whatever they’re feeling or whatever they went through, and they can play with some pretty good players and have fun out there, and just enjoy the night.”

Among those hitting the ice is U.S. Army veteran Dan Jarvis.

With more than two decades in the military—and his service dog, Maze, by his side—Jarvis explained how he does peer counseling for other veterans.

“I struggled with post-traumatic stress for quite a long time,” he said. “So events like this, where veterans can actually come together and start getting reconnected with the community, for me it’s a no-brainer.”

Each team playing was a mix of military veterans, NHL stars, and junior league players.

“It should be cool. It should be humbling, I guess,” noted Karl Grafelman, a player from Omaha, Nebraska. “But it will be fun to skate with them, hopefully talk to them a little bit.”

Garstecki says hundreds of people came to see the battle on ice.

He’s planning to make this an annual event at the ice center.

With time on the ice—there’s friendship and healing—for those who’ve given so much.

“They come back and sometimes they don’t have physical wounds,” Garstecki said. “But the mental wounds they have forever, for a lifetime. And if we can make tomorrow better than today, it’s what it’s all about.”

Minnesota lawmakers and task force seek answers on medical marijuana prices

Some state lawmakers and members of the Medical Marijuana Task Force intend to ask the two companies licensed by the state to sell medical marijuana products, Green Goods and Rise, to explain pricing for their upgraded list of products.

Lawmakers approved the use of marijuana flower in the state’s medical marijuana program with the goal of reducing the overall costs of products, which are now used by nearly 40,000 people registered in the program.  Flower became available to patients March 1.

But some patients told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the costs of the oil and topical creams they were using before March have remained the same. Stefanie Mulrooney told KSTP she spends about $300 a month on her vape oils and topical creams which, she said, is expensive and tough on her monthly budget.

“The vapes, capsules, topicals and everything else I use has stayed the same price pretty much since I started using them a few years ago,” said Mulrooney.

Patrick McClellan told KSTP he has multiple sclerosis and uses vape oils, too, and said their price has not changed since March 1 and would like both companies to explain their pricing to the public.

“I think we were lied to,” said McClellan.  “They need to be held accountable and they actually need to lower the prices like they said they would.”

Dr. Kyle Kingsley, with Green Goods, told a Minnesota House committee in March, 2020, that his company was confident introducing flower would reduce prices overall in the program.

“Adding regulated flower products to the program would provide an immediate benefit to patients,” said Kingsley. “We estimate that many patients will be able to access the same level of medicinal plant content for approximately one-half to one-third the cost because medical cannabis in flower form does not require the extensive processing that the oil products require.”

Sen. Mark Koran(R), North Branch, said he and other lawmakers who sit on the Medical Marijuana Task Force are looking forward to hearing from the companies and hearing how they explain their pricing right now.

“The goal was when we added the leaf was to drop the costs you know 30 to 50 percent and so to bring them forward to determine where that is,” said Koran.

Dr. Kingsley declined an interview requested, but issued a statement to KSTP which said, in part, “We anticipated a significant decrease in the average cost of medical cannabis for our patients with the addition of flower in March and this has come to pass. Since the addition of flower, our patients have spent an average of 30% less per visit.”

The Medical Marijuana Task Force is set to meet at the state capitol sometime next week.  A specific date and time has not yet been announced.

Federal judge dismisses challenge to Minnesota State Fair gun ban

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus challenging the firearms ban on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fair.

The lawsuit, filed last year, argued that the ban violates the Second Amendment.

The caucus requested that valid permit carriers be allowed to carry guns onto the fairgrounds and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office be stopped from enforcing the ban.

In response, the State Agricultural Society, which hosts the State Fair, said the gun ban is needed to ensure everyone’s safety and moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

The challenge came after a separate battle in state court last year where the Gun Owners Caucus sought a temporary injunction to allow people with permits to carry guns at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. A Ramsey County District Court judge denied that motion but said the group could still try to overturn the fair policy for future years.

In this latest challenge, U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim granted the Agricultural Society’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the Gun Owners Caucus failed to show the Agricultural Society violated their constitutional rights and didn’t establish how the rule banning guns on the fairgrounds was illegal.

This year’s fair runs from Aug. 25 through Sept. 5.