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Minn. roundup: Statewide DFL environmental caucus endorses Otto; New Minneapolis mayor takes oath of office

Statewide DFL environmental caucus endorses Otto for governor

ST. PAUL—The Minnesota DFL Environmental Caucus said Tuesday that they have endorsed State Auditor Rebecca Otto in the crowded race for the 2018 DFL gubernatorial endorsement.

The caucus is made up of about 400 members from across the state who are trying to promote an environmental protection agenda among the state's Democrats.

The caucus, which has been around about four years, made headlines in 2016 during the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention when it succeeded in advancing an anti-copper mining item in the party platform. That item was later removed after pro-mining Iron Range residents and DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan intervened. An intra-party committee on the issue failed to resolve the dispute, which continues to deeply divide DFLers.

"Rebecca Otto is a powerful voice for the environment and for a better Minnesota economy," said Veda Kanitz, chairwoman of the DFL Environmental Caucus. "We wholeheartedly endorse her candidacy for governor of Minnesota."

Otto in September announced her plan to impose a carbon fee, or tax, on emitters of the greenhouse gas that scientists say is causing climate change — the first candidate for governor to address the issue. She said she'd use the money raised to promote clean energy and help people pay potentially higher energy bills when cheaper coal was eliminated.

Otto is running in a crowded field for the DFL nomination to replace Gov. Mark Dayton, who has said he will not seek a third term in 2018. Other DFLers running include U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato, state Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Rochester state Rep. Tina Liebling and former House Speaker Paul Thissen of Minneapolis. Party officials will endorse a candidate at their convention in Rochester in June, but an August primary is likely. A dozen Republicans also are said to be considering a run for governor.

New Minneapolis mayor takes oath of office

MINNEAPOLIS—Jacob Frey was sworn in as mayor of Minneapolis on Tuesday along with five new city council members and eight returning members.

"Minneapolis, I am honored to be your mayor," Frey tweeted later in the day.

In addition to Frey, new council members Steve Fletcher, Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremiah Ellison, Andrea Jenkins and Jeremy Schroeder were sworn in for the first time.

There will be a public inaugural ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Minneapolis City Hall. Frey and the city council members will take their oaths of office again. Frey also will deliver his inaugural address.

Following the ceremony, the mayor and council members will meet to elect leadership, establish the council's standing policy committees, and adopt a calendar of regular meetings among other items.

Man arrested for attempted murder after fire in home near Bemidji

BEMIDJI, Minn.—A 20-year-old Bemidji man was arrested Monday night after allegedly setting fire to a home near Bemidji.

According to a news release from the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, deputies and the Bemidji Fire Department responded to a fire at the 700 block of Sunset Way at about 10:22 p.m., and found flames and heavy smoke coming from the lower level of the home.

All of the home's occupants escaped, the release said. While on the scene, deputies noticed one of the occupants acting "odd and erratic," and confronted him before taking him into custody "for his safety."

Damian Smith was arrested after law enforcement interviewed witnesses, and is currently being held in the Beltrami County Jail on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson and obstruction of the legal process.

The fire remains under investigation.

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