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.

City fights solar system approved by state

By   /  July 29, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

Watchdog photo

Chip Purcell, who built his family’s dream home in woods and fields just outside the city, got quite the shock when he heard about a new neighbor — a 70-acre solar farm.

“While building, we heard about it, but we didn’t have any time to act against it, like we would have wanted to,” Purcell said about the six-megawatt solar farm planned next door. “We’re not a big fan of it at all.”

The farm joins 20 other Aurora Solar systems around the state recently approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

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Home-care workers find getting out harder than getting in union

By   /  July 20, 2015  /  Budget and Spending, Legislature, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

Submitted photo

Renee Katz has one question for the Service Employees International Union: What about “no” don’t you understand?

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Give me the vapors: E-cigarette advocates fight regulators in Minnesota

By   /  July 16, 2015  /  Economy, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

Smokeless Smoking photo

Minnesota cities and counties are making the living anything but easy for e-cigarette shop owners and customers. A wave of recently enacted ordinances has prompted the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota to warn members not to let their guard down this summer.

“While the calendar is a bit lighter, you can see why WE CANNOT EVER go on ‘vacation’ from Advocacy (not even over the Summer months),” states IVRM”s latest e-newsletter distributed to 68 member vaping businesses statewide.

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Third strike may mark end for Minnesota wind energy project

By   /  July 14, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

DOE photo

Time, as well as the patience of state regulators, appears to have run out on a 17-turbine wind-energy project in the works since 2006. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, on July 6, recommended revoking the project site permit.

Developers of the 31.5 megawatt facility, once estimated to cost $63 million, had gotten a pair of two-year extensions to get the proposed Comfrey Wind Energy farm off the ground.

But the owners of the long-stalled project claim it’s a sign a regulatory system that helped foster Minnesota’s wind-energy developers now works against them.

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Coming due: Minnesota home-care worker union stumbles early

By   /  July 9, 2015  /  Budget and Spending, Legislature, Minnesota, News, State Budgets, State Government, Uncategorized  /  No Comments

Watchdog photo

Mary Ann Howitson got quite the surprise when, as a new member of the Service Employees International Union, she’ll have to shell out an extra $550 a year.

Howitson is a Twin Cities personal care assistant. Her name, unbeknownst to Howitson, showed up on the list of workers set to have union dues deducted from their paychecks in July.

Howitson’s sticker shock at losing the equivalent of about 1 1/2 paychecks to a union she eventually voted against typifies the rocky rollout of the initial two-year SEIU contract.

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Legislators pressure Minnesota board to license out-of-state teachers

By   /  July 7, 2015  /  Accountability, Education, Legislature, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

Submitted Photo

It’s been 10 years since Kirstin Rogers moved to Minnesota in hopes of continuing her 12-year teaching career, but state regulations forced her out of the classroom.

Now, new legislation requires the Minnesota Board of Teaching to overhaul the arbitrary licensing process that too often keeps qualified, out-of-state educators like Rogers out of the schoolroom.

“I asked them, explain to me how I could have this many credits and not be qualified to teach? And their response was, ‘It doesn’t work like that in Minnesota.’ I was angry,” said Rogers, who earned a master’s degree and held endorsements from Utah to teach history, English, geography and reading.

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