Tom Steward covers government waste, spending and policy issues in his home state of Minnesota. Also a documentary filmmaker and in-depth broadcast journalist, Tom's work has appeared on NPR, Animal Planet, WCCO-TV, WGBH-TV, PBS, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, KSTP-TV, CBC, among other outlets. Highlights include the fall of the Berlin Wall, a Peabody Award, the first footage in the wild of the endangered Sumatran tiger and rhino and countless individuals who shared their stories, big and small. Steward served as a communications strategist in the U.S. Senate before returning to reporting on issues and people often overlooked by other media.

No license? No problem! MN tries alternative teachers

By   /  January 28, 2015  /  Accountability, Education, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

University of MN Image

As incubator of the nation’s first charter schools in 1991, Minnesota earned a reputation as an educational innovator. Twenty years later, however, the state still consistently reports one of the biggest achievement and graduation rate gaps for minority students in the nation.

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State clamps down on seed sharing by local gardeners

By   /  January 27, 2015  /  Government Regulation, Minnesota, Politics & Elections, State Government  /  No Comments

Photo courtesy of the Institute for a Sustainable Future

It’s the latest in the “you-are-what-you-eat” fad, sprouting in a growing zone near you. An estimated 300 so-called seed libraries, often located in actual public libraries, allow gardeners to check out seeds grown by other members and check in seeds from their own harvests in an effort to cultivate local varieties.

“No fine or penalty will result from not returning seeds (although we hope that you do!),” states the Duluth Public Library website.

The trendy alternative seed centers, however, face a threat as potentially dire as a dose of Roundup. Minnesota agriculture officials clamped down on the Duluth Public Library’s seed exchange last fall for violating state law.

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Regulators delay pipeline to prosperity for impoverished northern Minnesota

By   /  January 19, 2015  /  Economy, Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Minnesota  /  No Comments

AP file photo

It has all the hallmarks of the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, except it’s in Minnesota and the national media doesn’t seem to care.

The proposed Sandpiper pipeline for newly found shale oil flows with promises of thousands of construction jobs and millions in tax revenue. But Sandpiper is up against vocal environmental opposition and regulators slow-walking the approval process.

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Lawmakers fly under radar on out-of-state trips

By   /  January 15, 2015  /  Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

Facebook Photo

They may be elected to focus on Minnesota issues, but some state senators and representatives get around more like members of Congress.

It’s legal, though under the radar, with no reporting requirement or government clearinghouse for constituents to check the cost, purpose and sponsors of informational trips for elected officials.

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Critics want more sunshine on huge solar power project

By   /  January 12, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Local Government, Minnesota, News, Transparency  /  No Comments

SOLAR PROJECT TAKES HEAT: Neighbors of a proposed $100 million utility-scale solar farm say a new state solar mandate leaves them out of the permitting process.

It’s a venture that depends on lots of sunshine, but rural southwestern Minnesota residents remain largely in the dark about the biggest solar power project in the state, quietly being platted for hundreds of acres of crop land surrounding them.

“Our overall concern is and has been the lack of knowledge within our neighborhood,” said Janelle Geurts, an opponent who fears solar panels could be erected within 100 feet of her house. “We had heard from a number of people that this project was to be kept quiet. Our concern is protecting our farm land.”

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It’s last call for some Minnesota muni bars, liquor stores

By   /  January 8, 2015  /  community, Economy, Government Regulation, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

Pam's Corner Convenience photo

Minnesotans in 2013 spent more than ever on booze at local government-owned bars and liquor stores. But in Howard Lake, the taps have run dry.

After collecting about $400,000 in losses over the past decade, the Howard Lake City Council voted in October to shutter the on-sale outlet responsible for most of the red ink. The day after Christmas, city officials announced the last call for alcohol at the town’s 80-year-old bar.

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