ABC Newspapers Local News from The Anoka County Union, Blaine Spring Lake Park Life and The Coon Rapids Herald Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:37:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Blaine council gives first approvals for new senior home Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:37:36 +0000 Another senior residential developer is looking to build in Blaine.

The Blaine City Council at its Oct. 16 meeting approved two separate motions, for rezoning and a conditional use permit, on 6-0 votes. Council Member Wes Hovland was absent.

JEA Senior Living, of Vancouver, Washington, needed the property rezoned on the east side of Ulysses Street, just north of 117th Avenue from Planned Business District to Development Flex so that it can construct a one-level, 66-bed memory care facility that would be called Blaine Alzheimer’s Special Care Center.

A JEA Senior Living representative at the Oct. 2 council meeting’s first reading of the zoning change said the facility would be approximately 31,000 square feet and have 40 full-time employees. In the middle of the building will be a large courtyard that the residents will use.

Building materials will include brick, stucco and glass.

“I certainly wish them the best. It’s a terrific building. I wish we didn’t have the need, but we’ve got it,” Mayor Tom Ryan said.

Eric Hagen is at

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Letters to the Editor for Oct. 24, 2014 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:21:40 +0000 Senator supports Newton, Witt

To the Editor:

Two years ago I came out of retirement and ran for election to the Minnesota Senate in District 37. I did that because the partisan gridlock in St. Paul was harming our state, and we need good government that would act positively for everyone. I knew that shutting down our state government and simply blocking everything helped no one. Voters agreed and chose me to represent them.

Jerry Newton was on that same page, and voters in House District 37A chose him also.

During the last two years, the Legislature balanced our state budget responsibly, paid back money that had been borrowed from our schools, and established a budget reserve account. Working families that rely on a minimum wage received a needed raise for the first time in nearly a decade. Improved funding was provided for our school nutrition programs, and full day kindergarten classes are now up and running. Our tax system was improved and now is more fair for working families. Our wonderful state of Minnesota has a stronger economy than ever.

We can’t go back to the way it was with partisan gridlock and shutdown. We need to keep up the progress we made in the last two years. I hope that voters in District 37A will agree with me and re-elect Jerry Newton.

In District 37B, Susan Witt is running for the Minnesota House. Like Jerry Newton and me, she wants to – she pledges to – represent all the people of her district, not just those who agree with her on every issue, actively support her campaign or belong to some political party.

We can’t take our democracy for granted. I hope that on Nov. 4 voters will re-elect Jerry Newton in 37A and Choose Susan Witt in 37B.

Alice Johnson
Minnesota State Senate District 37

King qualified to serve Blaine

To the Editor:

Jason King has been my neighbor for the past five years. During this time my family and his have spent numerous occasions together. He has always been involved in our community, through coaching baseball and soccer, or serving on Blaine’s Planning Commission. His interests lie in the positive growth of our city and in keeping our community a safe place to raise our children. Jason is honest, hard-working and extremely qualified to serve our community as a Blaine City Councilman.

While discussing his reasons for wanting to run, he outlined his almost 20 years of experience with contract negotiation, budget forecasting, company profit and loss management, and conflict resolution. Jason is not a career politician and is only running because he wants Blaine to remain a great place for our families.

Our city will benefit from his business experience and vision for our future. Anyone who speaks with him will see he is the right candidate for our community.

Angela Bass

Uglem deserves unwavering support

To the Editor:

Infrastructure bonding and public safety are indeed legitimate functions of our state government and worthy of funding and investment. During this last legislative session – a bonding year – State Rep. Mark Uglem (R – Coon Rapids, Champlin) worked in a bipartisan fashion to obtain money for two high-priority highway projects for the northern suburbs.

Uglem supported and voted for the transportation bonding bill that will complete Highway 610 to Interstate 94 along the northern tier of suburbs. Mark has championed this project since his days a Champlin council member and mayor in conjunction with the North Metro Mayors Association.

The expansion itself is part of the $100 million Corridors of Commerce plan that has so far resulted in increased economic development in Brooklyn Park. To that same degree, it can be expected to bring business development and job growth to more north suburban communities. Mark Uglem has also committed to supporting and reintroducing the expansion of a third lane of Highway 10 to extend from Hanson Boulevard in Coon Rapids to Seventh Street in Anoka. This initiative was debated in the last session but was not funded.

The above cited initiatives benefit all the constituents of SD36 and beyond and Mark Uglem deserves our unwavering support.

John Davis
Coon Rapids

Adjust priorities, elect Sund

To the Editor:

I have heard about the quality of support for our economy by the incumbent in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District. Those who would disagree with that say the tax breaks he voted to give the ultra wealthy have made the share paid by the rest of us a bit heavier. And the income gap has been getting wider between that top one percent and the rest of us for a long time now. It’s a topic which has been of concern to economists, the Pope and all those who are concerned about the ability of lower-income people to put food on the table for their children. Yet proposals to increase the minimum wage have not met with his approval. The incumbent would, however, like to privatize social security and subject Medicare to the limits of vouchers.

Sharon Sund is running for Congress in the 3rd District, with different priorities. A scientist and entrepreneur, Sund is concerned about the value of work for women (the incumbent opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act which provides equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender), and about tax credits for low income people (the incumbent believes they have high rates of fraud and they don’t), and the unwillingness of Congress to meet their goal of paying 40 percent of the costs of Special Education. School districts still have class sizes of 40-plus students as a result.

For Sund, the choice is clear: either we value the people who make up most of our society – women, families and children – or we settle for the status quo, where the top one percent get tremendous raises each year, and the bottom 80 percent loses a little of its earning power each year. It is time to adjust our priorities; it’s time to elect Sharon Sund to Congress!

Tom Dwyer
Coon Rapids

Whelan’s conviction stands out

To the Editor:

As many of us know by now Jim Abeler’s seat for the Legislature is open this year due to his prior run for U.S. Senate. This means the citizens of Anoka and Ramsey will have a new representative for the first time in 16 years!

When I surveyed who was running I was impressed to see a respectful, learned young woman who majored in political science and history at the University of Minnesota. I saw that she then went further to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Policy no less from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. And then she supplemented that education with practical working experience as a legislative assistant for a state senator. Wow! Talk about great preparation for public service! Just who is this person? She is long time Anoka resident Abigail Whelan.

While this preparation for public office has tremendous value it is Whelan’s conviction to do the right thing that stands out for me. She values:

-the life of the unborn

-keeping control of our schools in local school board’s hands (rather than with national bureaucrats)

-preserving our second amendment rights (she received the highest ranking from the NRA that a non-incumbent can receive)

-helping to facilitate job growth by encouraging private industry development

-making the alleviation of Highway 10 traffic and accidents a top priority.

Whelan, a millennial (a person born between 1980 and 2001), has even reached out to other millennials on her website ( (#millenialtakeback) to involve the younger generation in caring for our great state and community.

Abigail Whelan has the credentials and values which would make her a strong Representative for Anoka/Ramsey (District 35A) in the Legislature. I urge you to vote for Abigail Whelan on Nov. 4.

Joe Field

Susan Witt is the real deal

To the Editor:

I believe in authentic democracy. Real democracy means that every citizen will be represented in our government, no matter who wins an election or which party is in power. Government of the people, by the people and for the people should be for every citizen – not just the well-connected, people who are lucky or those who win in November.

I will vote for Susan Witt for the Minnesota House of Representatives, because she is the real deal. She is a skilled listener and has a great heart. Her long personal history of volunteer community involvement speaks for itself. She is smart and works hard. I know this because I know her.

Susan Witt has promised to try her best to represent all the residents of Blaine if voters choose her on Nov. 4. I believe her because I know her. She is the real deal. I urge all my neighbors to join with me in voting for Susan Witt for the Minnesota House.

Christeen Gotsch

Debbie Johnson is highly qualified

To the Editor:

Debbie Johnson is a highly qualified candidate for Anoka County Commissioner in District 5. Her experience as a state senator will serve the citizens of Anoka County well in these challenging times. Given the inter-relationships between state and county governments, Anoka County will benefit from her extensive working knowledge of state government and bring that ability to the county level.

Anoka County needs to continue its proven track record of fiscal responsibility. A vote for Debbie Johnson on Nov. 4 will be a solid step in the right direction.

James Hafner
Coon Rapids

Educate yourself and vote

To the Editor:

Nov. 4 is Election Day. Everyone is well aware of that. You can’t turn on the radio or the TV nor open your email without hearing a bombardment of ads – ads both for and against everything and everyone. But, make no mistake about it, your vote does matter. Everyone is asking, no, begging, for money to put more ads on TV, radio or the internet. But seriously: Do ads matter? It’s a good question.

Why should you care and why should you vote? That is a philosophical discussion that can fill books but comes down to this: Who is to decide what type of state and country you live in? That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. As Paul Wellstone said, “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives, lessening human suffering, advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in the world.”

Your ballot will have candidates from multiple parties in many races from federal to local such as school board and city council. I would urge you to do your due diligence. Go to and find out where you can vote (either early in person or on Election Day) and download your sample ballot on that website.

Spend some time learning about those running for office. Figure out who deserves your vote and make sure you give it to them. And don’t forget: your ballot has two sides. Many judges are running for office, too. Educate yourself on them and turn your ballot over and vote for those judges who share your values.

Another Paul Wellstone quote that makes a serious point in these days of big money: “The people of this country, not special interest big money, should be the source of all political power.” Be a citizen. Educate yourself and vote.

Sen. John Hoffman
Coon Rapids, Champlin and Brooklyn Park

Perovich, DFL will move state forward

To the Editor:

To someone such as myself, moving here from outside Minnesota, what the DFL majorities in both houses of the state legislature and the DFL governor have been able to achieve since 2012 has been very impressive.

Some of the DFL accomplishments: All-day kindergarten; the Women’s Economic Security Act, which includes expanded family leave, gender pay equity for state contractors, and expanded protections against workplace discrimination; a higher minimum wage; big boosts in education funding, including for early childhood education, which paid back all of the $2.8 million “borrowed” from the budget earlier by the GOP; tuition freezes at the public universities; and increased environmental oversight.

The DFL also honestly balanced the budget, raising taxes on the wealthiest two percent and closing corporate loopholes to make investments in middle-class priorities: education, job creation, and property tax relief. Minnesota’s balanced budget and growing economy have led to a $1.2 billion surplus.

We need to continue the progress that Minnesota has made under DFL leadership, and a vote for Peter Perovich in District 35A is crucial to making sure that we do not move backwards as a state.

Kim William Jones

Judge Miles demonstrates compassion

To the Editor:

Merriam-Webster defines ‘compassion’ as: “…sympathetic consciousness of other’s distress, together with a desire to alleviate it.”

Since first being elected as a District Court Judge in the Tenth Judicial District in 1997, Judge Susan Miles has presided, primarily in Washington County, over many matters of great importance.

One can simply not argue that the matters that come before the court impacting the “best interests” of children require and deserve the attention of a judge who is sympathetic to their circumstances. This ideal is best defined as a judge who is consciously aware of the distress children and families experience in our communities due to issues of domestic violence, physical/sexual abuse, chemical health issues, mental health concerns, and profound poverty. Nothing can be of greater importance than the safety and well-being of each and every child in our communities.

Over the course of these past 17 years, Judge Miles has presided over an estimated 4,000 children who have been found to be Children In Need Of Protection or Services. Judge Miles has demonstrated compassion through her commitment to the well-being of each and every child who has appeared before her. Judge Miles holds herself to the highest of standards and expects those appointed by the court on behalf of these vulnerable children to maintain those same standards.

Please follow my lead and vote for incumbent Judge Susan R. Miles on Nov. 4.

Jean Kubitschek

Support for Buchholz

To the Editor:

We would like to encourage you to cast your vote for Wayne Buchholz for Ramsey City Council at Large on Tuesday, Nov. 4. We have gotten to know Wayne over the last couple of years, and we appreciate his passion and heart for the city of Ramsey. Wayne has attended Ramsey City Council meetings over the last few years to educate himself on the workings of the city, and he has alerted us at times when we needed to take action against the direction the current council has wanted to head. Example: the franchise fee (which is really a regressive tax on us.)

Wayne Buchholz is a hard worker. He has tirelessly campaigned throughout the city to get to know the residents. He has also worked hard for other candidates that share his values.

After Wayne’s service to our country as a Marine, and his career as a manager in the transportation industry, he is now retired. He would like to spend his retirement years working to improve the city of Ramsey without increasing our taxes. We need a different voice on the Ramsey City Council. Wayne Buchholz will be our voice and bring common sense back to the Ramsey City Council.

Steve and DeeDee Larson

A simple solution on Radisson Road

To the Editor:

I have been reading with amusement and amazement the tortuous process of deciding what to do with the intersection of 116th Avenue and Radisson Road.

After reading the column concerning the city council decision in the Oct. 17 issue, my amazement took a quantum leap. In spite of the mayor’s recounting of an all too frequent occurrence at this intersection, the council continues to tiptoe around the conflicting ideas of the affected residents.

If safety is the primary concern, and it should be, there is one simple solution. Construct a median in Radisson Road that would make left turns impossible. Problem solved.

James Mason

Response to continuing DFL ‘trash talk’

To the Editor:

To my wonderment, it took Rodney Kuehn (Oct. 17, Republicans not credible alternative) three months to gin up a convoluted and misleading rebuttal of my letter (July 18, Response to DFL “Trash Talk”).

My July 18 discussion pointed out that the published letter (July 11, Support for DFL candidates) by local DFL Chair and former AFSCME union officer Wesley Volkenant had twisted GOP statements in an attempt to infer that Republican ideals and candidates would take away your Constitutional rights and freedoms.

Rodney’s Oct. 17 squib, and countless other UnionHearld letter bashings of conservatives, continues along the same lines, blaming Republicans for permitting bullying and blocking rights of gays, blacks and women. Pure trash!

Nothing can be further from the truth – Republicans are in the forefront of protecting the natural, civil and Constitutional rights of all individuals, but not the abuse of those rights.

Encourage responsibilities and protect individual rights and privileges for a lifetime – you betcha!

Show a valid ID to buy booze, a gun or sporting license and to sign a voter register – you betcha!

We can be proud that Minnesota House candidates Abigail Whelan (Anoka and Ramsey-35A) and incumbent Peggy Scott (Andover and north Coon Rapids-35B) favor creating a more friendly small business environment; keeping education in the hands of local parents, teachers and community; securing funding for upgrading local highways for commuter and business transport; and returning fiscal responsibility to Minnesota.

Mike J. Jensen

Pilon is problematic and negative for Nowthen

To the Editor:

Jeff Pilon is running for Mayor in Nowthen. Unfortunately he has a wrong view for Nowthen.

He wants to make Nowthen look like Ramsey, East Bethel, Andover, Oak Grove and St. Francis.

Nowthen is not above 4,400 residents, and most of those residents are small farmers and small businesses.

Pilon wants to make Nowthen look like Ramsey (pop. 23,800), Andover (more than 30,000), East Bethel (11,262), Oak Grove (8,100) and St. Francis(7,000).

Nowthen is a farming community, it is a country community, but Pilon wants to make it into a big city, run a huge road through it, and bill every business in this city to keep us out of debt. There are so many more ways to bring money into this city besides taxes.

Jeff Pilon is not what Nowthen needs for a leader. There are other good mayors for Nowthen, Jeff Pilon is not one of them, believe me, I worked with him.

Laurie Olmon
former Nowthen Councilwoman

Support for Susan Witt

To the Editor:

As I just turned 18 on Oct. 14 I have the privilege to vote for the first time and I am proud to be able to give my vote to Susan Witt.

Since she has been an educator for so long, she truly understands what our schools need. As a student, I acknowledge that teachers know what’s best for us students. And in a community like ours, where there is an astonishingly large amount of young families raising children, having a teacher like Mrs. Witt as our representative would just make sense.

Furthermore, through her consistent volunteer work at her church and throughout her community, she has proven that she has the values, the leadership ability, and the dedication required to be a representative.

Jordan R.W. Parshall

Voters will be well served by Uglem

To the Editor:

I am Duane Quam, and I have served this past term with Rep. Mark Uglem. He is a great addition to the debate and work in St. Paul; providing insightful ideas and illuminating perspectives, delivered with his friendly smile and warn demeanor. We have all gained from his diverse real life experiences, sharp mind, and caring heart. You and the rest of Minnesota would be well served by returning Mark as your representative.

While I have less knowledge of Mr. Fietek, I have reviewed his web and campaign information. Having done so, I have concerns. Minnesota and the nation have suffered too much from electing an ill-prepared, self described “volunteer community activist.” I strongly advise the citizens of House District 36A to chose a proven public servant and leader, by returning Rep. Mark Uglem as your representative to the Minnesota House.

Rep. Duane Quam HD25A
Byron, Minnesota

Witt will work hard

To the Editor:

We have known Susan Witt for many years in our mutual volunteer involvement in our Blaine community. She is a dependable, hard worker, especially on behalf of children and working families. With Susan Witt, what you see is what you really get.

We are convinced that she will do her honest level best to represent our whole community faithfully if we elect her to the Minnesota House.

On Nov. 4, we will vote for Susan Witt.

Richard and Linda Johnson

Contrast in qualifications for House 37A

To the Editor:

In the race for the House of Representatives seat in District 37A, there could not be two candidates with more contrasting qualifications. The incumbent, Jerry Newton, has a long history of public service, including a military career where he served and excelled at the highest levels. He has also served the citizens of the area on the Anoka-Hennepin School Board as well as the Coon Rapids City Council for many years.

On the other hand his challenger, Mandy Benz, lists only her service on the Coon Rapids Safety Commission as her level of participation to her community. However, when we look at her attendance record on that commission, we find that she participated in less than half of the meetings during her tenure.

As a City Councilmember, I, and the rest of the Council, rely heavily on the advice from our advisory commissions. They are truly our eyes and ears to the community. Ms. Benz’s unsatisfactory attendance record indicates to me her commitment to the trust of the Council, yet that is the only thing she can point to to demonstrate her record of public service.

Voters would have to ask themselves if this is an indication of the level of commitment she would bring to St. Paul.

Bruce Sanders
Coon Rapids

For public’s sake, ECM must renounce endorsement of Emmer

To the Editor:

When ECM gave Tom Emmer the “nod” in its publication-wide endorsement, it came with “caveats.” The endorsement could easily have been interpreted as a signal that he skates on thin ice, as ECM appeared to condition it on one critical premise made “for the public’s sake”: Emmer must agree to debate John Denney (I) and Joe Perske (D). Emmer contradicted ECM’s wishes on Oct. 13 when he dodged a transportation forum in Denney’s hometown, Forest Lake. Since then, Emmer developed a pattern of leaving 6th District voters behind.

Emmer dodged another debate on Oct. 17 when St. Cloud State University cancelled the debate it slated for the end of this month, reasoning that “it took too long to hear back from all candidates.” Notably, Denney accepted SCSU’s invitation on September 10 and Perske accepted shortly after. On September 28, SCSU reported that Emmer never replied to their invite. It is not surprising that Emmer dodged this debate, as Denney is a SCSU alum, who recently unveiled a new plan to resolve the student loan debt crisis.

On Oct. 20, when Denney and Perske arrived at the Big Lake Chamber of Commerce forum, again, Emmer was nowhere to be found. Event organizers frustratingly reported that Emmer failed to respond to several invitations.

In dodging these debates, Emmer has withheld from voters the opportunity “to size up the candidates.” Some may argue that the voters’ proper recourse would be to simply not vote for him. However, ECM holds the keys to a much more appropriate remedy. That is, for the public’s sake, ECM must immediately renounce the Emmer endorsement.

John Matthew Schwietz, Esq.
Legal Counsel, John Denney for Congress

Who is really running the city of Ramsey?

To the Editor:

As a resident of Ramsey I am interested in finding out more about our elected officials. Contacting City Hall I acquired the campaign finance reports for our mayor and city council members. The information stated that two main players in Ramsey politics donated thousands of dollars to the campaigns of our mayor and city council members. Both have given funds to campaigns by ways of individual donations and a Political Action Committee (Citizens for Responsible Government). This isn’t unusual for large campaigns, but for small city campaigns it’s another story.

Why are these people donating large amounts of money to the campaigns of Mayor Strommen and Council Members Riley, Kuzma, Johns and LeTourneau? You be the judge.

Over the past few years the City of Ramsey has sold some prime land located in the COR. One of the main benefactors of those land sales has been one of the big donors to the five campaigns mentioned above. This individual owns the company, PSD, LLC that acquired most of the property in those sales. Though the land deal has fallen through due to additional demands by PSD, LLC it seems as though the city council may still capitulate.

Whether legitimate or not, we need to be concerned that a few wealthy individuals can control what happens in our city. This warning comes as these same large donors have recently donated to the campaigns of Williams and Shryock for city council. Council member Johns’ current campaign finance report has yet to report any 2014 donations. But she did receive donations in 2013 from both major donors mentioned above. If these three win their seats in November it will give those two large donors influence over all seven city council seats.

We need to do what is best for the city of Ramsey and we need to investigate all our elected officials before we vote. Everyone has access to this information through city hall and can verify the facts and see if these are the people we want for our city council.

Marcus Simonson

Perske will fight for all people

To the Editor:

On Nov. 4 I will be casting my vote for Joe Perske for Congress.

Joe is unspoiled by special interests.

He will fight for education, women, children, veterans and all the people of Minnesota.

He is experienced in government as mayor of Sartell. He has spent years as an educator.

Joe will not hesitate to cross party lines to get things done. He has no interest in being remembered as a member of a “do nothing Congress.”

Let’s get behind Joe and elect him to a Congress that’s right for the people.

Sue Tapio

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Allison Haney (Shull) Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:11:44 +0000 Allison Haney (Shull), age 80, of Minneapolis, MN, died Sept. 30, 2014.
She is survived by her sons Steven (Monica) Haney and Warren Haney, both of Minneapolis, MN; her daughter Janine (Jeffrey) Russell-Hodes of South Bend, IN; four grandchildren Rachel, CJ, Dori and Josh and two brothers Gerald (Joan) Shull of White Bear Lake, MN and Carlton (Judy) Shull of Branson, MO.
Interment will be at the Maple Grove Cemetery, Frederic, WI. Memorials may be sent in memory of Allison to St. Lukes United Methodist Church, Frederic, WI or
Werness Brothers Bloomington Chapel

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Halloween Capital kicks off its iconic celebration Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:30:20 +0000 Opening weekend of the Halloween Capital of the World’s spooktacular celebration started in spectacular fashion with the second-annual Anoka Halloween Amazing Race and finished in flames with the Fired Up for Fun Bonfire at River Plaza.

A long line of Anoka Halloween Ambassador candidates sit behind entries in this year’s pumpkin carving contest during the Light Up the Night Parade. Photo by Olivia Koester

A long line of Anoka Halloween Ambassador candidates sit behind entries in this year’s pumpkin carving contest during the Light Up the Night Parade. Photo by Olivia Koester

The weekend also included last Friday evening’s Orange Tie Ball, a pumpkin carving contest for the kids at Akin Riverside Park, the first-ever Dog Costume Contest at Pucci Pet Studio, the Light Up the Night parade down Main Street, and Sunday’s medallion hunts in the Rum River Nature Area and the Anoka Past Royalty Luncheon.

In the Anoka Halloween Amazing Race, Amanda Vincent and Claire Blakemore won the race and took home the $250 cash prize for the competition that had 16 teams of two pitted against each other in 15 mentally and physically challenging tasks staged at 12 different venues in and around downtown Anoka.

Later last Saturday, after 35 floats rolled down Main Street in front of thousands of spectators during the Light Up the Night parade, Tony Fly (pop-culture and entertainment contributor to the Fox 9 Morning News) broadcast the Fired Up for Fun Bonfire as people dressed in costume and danced the night away in the spotlight glowing from four bonfires lit at River Plaza.

An all-time record number of people attended the Orange Tie Ball last Friday night – 396 in all.

And last Sunday, medallion hunters searched the Rum River Nature Area in two groups: one for children and families (noon to 2 p.m.); another for hunters of all ages (2:30-4:30 p.m.). Each medallion hunt winner received a $400 prize.

Also Sunday, the Anoka Past Royalty Luncheon was served. Pam Albinson, Miss Anoka 1961 and 1962 Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes, attended as honored guest. The former Miss Anoka spoke about the history of the Miss Anoka/Anoka Ambassador program to an audience that included 20 other past royalty, the current Anoka Royal Ambassadors, and this year’s 52 candidates for the Ambassador Program.

Albinson encouraged the ambassador candidates to always give their best to the world because “you don’t know whose life you are changing.”

The Big Parade of Little People promenades down Main Street at 1:15 p.m. today (Friday) and the 2014 Anoka Halloween events reach a spooktacular climax tomorrow (Saturday).

The Spooktacular Carnival (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) is staged inside the Anoka Armory and sponsored by the Anoka Women of Today.

Starting gun for the Gray Ghost 5K Run and 1 Mile Fitness Walk goes off at 12:50 p.m. (same-day registration starts at 10 a.m.). Starting line for the race of costumed characters is Franklin Elementary School, just west of the Rum River on Main Street.

The 94th Anoka Halloween Grand Day Parade promenades down Main Street beginning at 1 p.m. But just before the parade begins, look to the skies and watch vintage military aircraft make a grand appearance as the North American Flight Team known as T-6 Thunder flies in formation and wows the crowd below.

Later tomorrow, the Anoka Royal Ambassador Coronation takes place at 6 p.m. in the Anoka High School auditorium.

New this year, the Halloween Capital of the World stages a Monster Mash, 8 p.m. to midnight on Halloween night (Friday, Oct. 31) at the Anoka American Legion Post 102, 400 West Main Street. The adult costume and dance contest is open to people age 21 and older. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

For other details, dates and times of all Anoka Halloween events, visit

The Carlson family, of Andover, paid homage to Minnesota-born Charles Schultz, creator of the popular Peanuts comic strip, by dressing up Maggie, 4, as Snoopy and Malory, 3, as his companion Woodstock. Tate Carlson, 11, will be Charlie Brown for Halloween. Jennifer Carlson and her daughter Audrey, 14, brought in their beagles to the first annual Pucci Dog Costume Contest Oct. 18. Photo by Eric Hagen Daisy, a 2-year-old yellow labrador, did not try to make a break for it. She was very patient as 10-year-old Samantha Jenson and her brother Eric, 9, of Anoka, guided her through the Pucci Pet Career Studios for a first-time dog costume contest for the Anoka Halloween festival. Photo by Eric Hagen Mina Oelrich, 10, of St. Paul, dressed up her 8-year-old Boston terrier, Stella, as a genie and wished for winning the inaugural Pucci Dog Costume Contest during the first weekend of the Anoka Halloween celebration. Photo by Eric Hagen Rex and Liz Louis, of Anoka, donned their English yellow labrador, Hudy, 10, and English black labrador, Oscar, 6, with two tiny stuffed pumpkins for the Oct. 18 Pucci Dog Costume Contest. Photo by Eric Hagen Pucci Pet Career Studios owner Mary Moore got into the spirit of this new Anoka Halloween dog costume contest activity by dressing her Chinese crested powder puff, Penelope, as a witch. Photo by Eric Hagen Kylee Allison, 3, of Blaine, carves away during the pumpkin carving contest the afternoon of Oct. 18 at Akin Riverside Park in Anoka. Her older sister, Karly, 11, was by her side working on her own pumpkin, both being assisted by their mother Katy. Photo by Eric Hagen Sitting along the Rum River at Akin Riverside Park in Anoka was a great spot on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Oct. 18, for the Anoka Halloween Pumpkin Carving contest. Pictured are 12-year-old Bloomington residents Jenna Peterson, Kelsey Johnson, Tara Gibbs, Abby Swan and Katie Ubben. Photo by Eric Hagen Chrissy Vokaty, of Anoka, watches her niece, Etta George, 4, of Apple Valley, and her children, Elizabeth, 3, Alan, 9, and Sierra, 10, carve pumpkins at Akin Riverside Park. Not pictured but seated nearby is the children’s grandmother and Chrissy’s mother, Mary George. Photo by Eric Hagen Jaxson Shackle, 7, of Elk River, proudly shows off his pumpkin carving creation. Photo by Eric Hagen There were many impressive pumpkin carving creations at the Anoka Halloween Pumpkin Carving Contest that lasted an hour Saturday afternoon, Oct. 18, at Akin Riverside Park. Photo by Eric Hagen (Starting lower left, going clockwise) New Brighton Junior Ambassadors Ava Haugen, 6, Princess Kailey Lekson, 17, Queen Amber Barrett, 19, and RoseMarie Day, 6, and Ashley Griffin, 8, carve a pumpkin at the Anoka Halloween Pumpkin Carving Contest Oct. 18 at Akin Riverside Park. Photo by Eric Hagen Attempting to accomplish a task necessary to complete the Anoka Halloween Amazing Race, Katlyn Nussbaum inspects the Anoka Grain and Feed price board and calculates the cost to buy feed for the cows, food for the dog, cod liver oil for the health of the family and salt to preserve the harvest. Photo by Sue Austreng Tracy Fuller fires an apple from a water balloon sling shot, aiming to hit a wooden model of Frankenstein and two spooky friends standing on the shores of the Rum River. The task was one of 15 included in the Anoka Halloween Amazing Race course. Photo by Sue Austreng Jenny Bohler-Penney and her Anoka Halloween Amazing Race teammate Jessie Becker speed-carve a jack-o-lantern at a venue set up behind Franklin Elementary School. Photo by Sue Austreng Anoka Halloween Amazing Racer Ross Chambers slices through a pumpkin, carving according to design in order to complete the task staged behind Franklin Elementary School for the Oct. 18 race. Photo by Sue Austreng Anoka Halloween “VIPs” get set to ride in the Light Up the Night Parade Oct. 18. Photo by Olivia Koester Anoka Halloween 2014 Grand Marshal Dennis Carlson, who retired as Anoka-Hennepin’s superintendent in June, gives a wave at the Light Up the Night Parade. Photo by Olivia Koester A long line of Anoka Halloween Ambassador candidates sit behind entries in this year’s pumpkin carving contest during the Light Up the Night Parade. Photo by Olivia Koester The Anoka Twisters Dance Team kicks it up on Main Street during the Light Up the Night Parade. Photo by Olivia Koester A float sponsored by the City of St. Francis and St. Francis Area Chamber of Commerce features kids and adults striking chilling poses. Photo by Olivia Koester Light Up the Night Parade judges deliberate after the parade’s conclusion Oct. 18. Photo by Olivia Koester Bonfires lit up River Plaza Oct. 18. Photo by Olivia Koester Noel Flavion, of Anoka, poses with sons Hunter, left, and Gavin in front of the Anoka Halloween bonfires Oct. 18. Photo by Olivia Koester During the Oct. 19 Anoka Past Royalty Luncheon, Pam Albinson, Miss Anoka 1961, urged the 2014 Anoka Ambassador candidates to always give their best to the world. Submitted photo

Sue Austreng is at

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Last-second goal gives Anoka state quarters win Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:26:09 +0000 Anoka is a dangerous soccer team that doesn’t know any better.

Ask No. 3 seeded Minnetonka how dangerous unseeded Anoka is after losing 2-1 in the Class AA state quarterfinals Tuesday evening in Osseo.

Anoka coach Pete Hayes built on a blue-collar style to upset Minnetonka 2-1 in the Class AA state quarterfinals Tuesday night. Photo by Bill Jones

Anoka coach Pete Hayes built on a blue-collar style to upset Minnetonka 2-1 in the Class AA state quarterfinals Tuesday night. Photo by Bill Jones

Not only did the Tornadoes score a rather large upset but the 2007 state champions scored twice inside the final four minutes of the game.

Previously undefeated Minnetonka looked the part of state semifinalist after breaking a scoreless opening half with a goal shortly after halftime on a redirected save was blasted in the Anoka goal by Adam Reiskytl in the 42nd minute.

“‘Tonka has some forwards that are just unreal so we were happy to keep it 0-0 in the first half but we changed how we marked in the second half and they didn’t like that,” Hayes said.

Anoka has seven sophomores listed on the state roster and nearly all of the team came through at some point including Donnie Guimont’s long throw-in that was headed home by classmate Blake Doyea under the cross bar in the 77th minute.

With five seconds left, senior Felipe Genchi sliced a corner kick into the penalty box off Michael Talbot where Josh Dobler headed the ball past Skippers goalkeeper Max Melin with one second left on the clock.

Anoka schemed to use all-state honorable mention selection Blake Neumann to mark Mr. Soccer finalist Suad Suljic across the field.

Hayes used the tactic to success in a state tournament game in the early 2000s against a Danny Storlein-led Bloomington Jefferson team.

“We marked Jefferson all over the field and I thought we’d try it again and we got lucky tonight,” Hayes said.

It seemed to work along with the team defense to limit the chances to score on sophomore goalkeeper Jake Peterson.

Anoka was out shot 14-6 with Peterson collecting 10 saves.

Hayes used sophomore Tomas Martinez as sweeper less than a month after joining the team.

“The sophomores have a lot to do with this victory and great for them. They think they can beat the world now,” Hayes said.

With three unbeaten teams left in Class AA, Hayes believes momentum is in Anoka’s favor, despite the odds.

Anoka faces fellow Northwest Suburban Conference foe Maple Grove in the semifinal at 9 a.m. Tuesday at St. Cloud State. The 85-yard wide field is 15 yards wider than the Osseo field and the artificial turf should favor the Crimson.

Hayes likes the blue-collar demeanor of his team that works hard and doesn’t give up, especially now with the season on the line. “We’ve got to play our way to be successful and that means not giving up space for those other teams to work with,” he said.

Jason Olson is at

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Youth First has new director, staffing changes in store Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:01:04 +0000 Youth First Community of Promise is undergoing a massive shift behind the scenes, all in its quest to provide better neighborhood centers in Andover, Anoka and Ramsey where teenagers go to meet new friends and get the help they need.

Amanda Sappa is the new executive director of Youth First Community of Promise.

Amanda Sappa is the new executive director of Youth First Community of Promise. Photo by Eric Hagen

Heidi Geiss was thrust into the role of executive director when Traci Warnberg-Lemm left about eight years ago. Geiss’ background and comfort zone is in social services, not in budget development and fundraising.

Enter Amanda Sappa, 35, a Richfield native. Her seven years of experience with the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities emphasized budget development, staff management, community outreach with local businesses and schools and fundraising for after-school and summer programs for young children and teenagers.

Sappa was recently hired as Youth First’s new executive director and has been networking with community leaders and Youth First’s advocates along with working on hiring more staff.

“My job in coming in here is to make (Heidi’s) job easier,” Sappa said.

Under the new structure, Sappa will handle business administration. Geiss would have the most interaction with the middle school and high school kids of the two of them. Both would be the full-time staff for Youth First.

Youth First Board of Directors chairperson Michelle Anderson said Geiss would be a “youth advocate” and rotate between the three sites in Andover, Anoka and Ramsey “to help students in crisis obtain the resources they need” whether it be housing, clothing, food, medical or dental assistance or counseling.

Anderson said Youth First would also hire part-time site coordinators and volunteer assistants that could offer homework help or just be there to socialize and play games with the students who stop by.

Even with the additional staff, Anderson said the budget should be similar to the old model that had Geiss working full-time and former site coordinator Kelly Thorsten working about 30 hours a week.

Sappa anticipates a site coordinator under the new model would work 15 to 20 hours. The first could be hired in the next few weeks. Sappa is not requiring a social services degree, but said they will have to have some background in working with middle school and high school kids. The number of site coordinators and whether Youth First can expand its programming hours at each location will ultimately depend on the budget and fundraising efforts Sappa will lead.

A grant commitment from community organization TPC ROSE will allow Youth First to plan for this transition, according to Geiss. TPC Rose held an Aug. 19 golf tournament and will announce the amount it will donate to Youth First Dec. 16, according to TPC ROSE board member Jill Brown.

Felipe Garcia went to the Ramsey youth center from the age of 11 until he graduated from Anoka High School in 2011. Heidi Geiss formed a close bond with Garcia and many of the students that she helped navigate through tough times. Geiss is no longer Youth First’s executive director but will continue to work full-time for the non-profit as its youth advocate.

Felipe Garcia went to the Ramsey youth center from the age of 11 until he graduated from Anoka High School in 2011. Heidi Geiss formed a close bond with Garcia and many of the students that she helped navigate through tough times. Geiss is no longer Youth First’s executive director but will continue to work full-time for the non-profit as its youth advocate. Photo by Eric Hagen

Sappa has a strong passion for non-profits, particular those that help kids in the community. She said the grassroots work in helping to build a much smaller non-profit than the YMCA is why she was attracted to apply for the job. She was one of 22 applicants and five people interviewed, according to Anderson.

“The ‘Y’ is a big organization. The work is hands-on, but it’s harder to see your impact,” Sappa said. “Being here and seeing the kids every day and knowing the work I’m doing will directly impact them is what drew me in.”

Anderson said Sappa’s perspective on what needs to be done to be more successful in fundraising has already become evident to her on numerous occasions, but one example was when Sappa shared the date of next year’s Taste of Community fundraiser at this year’s Oct. 9 event at Green Haven Golf Course.

“What stood out about Amanda was her drive, ideas, experience and passion for serving youth,” Anderson said.

Sappa said one of her first goals is to streamline the fundraising process, so that Youth First has a better knowledge of what revenue it expects to come in each month. Seeking bigger dollar grants will also be key. Geiss said it was hard for her to apply for large grants because Youth First did not have the staffing to execute expanded programming, but the new model will allow them to do much more.

Felipe Garcia, of Ramsey, started going to the Ramsey youth center when he was in middle school. He said just being around people who cared about you and asked about your day meant a lot to him. He graduated from Anoka High School in 2011 and is going to school at Anoka-Ramsey Community College to earn a degree in personal training.

Ramsey Council Member Jason Tossey, a former Youth First board member, is pleased to see Geiss will continue to have a role that she excels in, but that she would not be stretched as thin by having all the administrative duties.

Tossey recalls driving home the day before Christmas Eve from his grandmother’s house and stopping by the Ramsey youth center and seeing Geiss having an early Christmas party with the kids.

“Even though we come from different places and cultures, we’re able to have a sense of family,” Geiss said.

For more information about Youth First Community of Promise, visit or call 763-421-8530.

Eric Hagen is at

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Anoka High School seeks to honor graduates at Veterans Day assembly Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:00:04 +0000 The annual Veterans Day assembly has become an honored tradition at Anoka High School. Students from this school have fought in every U.S. conflict since its first graduating class in 1881.

Veterans will be honored at a Nov. 11 service at the Anoka High School.

Veterans will be honored at a Nov. 11 service at the Anoka High School.File photo

This year, Anoka High School is seeking to honor graduates currently serving in the armed forces with a video presentation featuring 15-second clips of Anoka grads serving around the world.

If you have an Anoka High School graduate currently serving in any branch of the military, contact Eloise Hastings, youth service coordinator at Anoka High School, at 763-506-6213 or send an email to for instructions on submitting a video.

The 2014 Veterans Day Assembly will be held at 7:40-8:15 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, at Anoka High School with a reception for veterans from 8:30-9:15 a.m. in the cafeteria.

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Column: Mostly good news about Minnesota students and Advanced Placement Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:51:58 +0000 Congratulations to Minnesota educators, students and families, based on a new report from the College Board, which publishes the Advanced Placement exam.

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

A study released Oct. 7 shows that growing numbers of Minnesota students are taking and passing at least one AP exam, among the more than 30 that are offered. While the percentage of students passing the AP exam has room for improvement, it’s good news that more high school students are challenging themselves by taking college-level courses.

AP is one of several ways that Minnesota high school students can earn college credit. Research commissioned by the test’s publisher shows that students taking AP courses help themselves in at least three ways:

–Saving themselves and their families college costs.

–Increasing the likelihood that they will be well-prepared for college.

–Increasing their chances not only of entering but also graduating from a four-year college or university.

The new report identified one area of concern: It would be better if more students did well on the final exam. It’s graded on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest; 3 is considered a passing grade by many colleges. Sixty-five percent of exams taken by Minnesota public school students were scored at a 3 or higher.  That means that about two-thirds of these exams earned what would be acceptable for credit at many colleges and universities, and one-third did not. Nationally, according to Kate Levin of the College Board Communications Office, about 57 percent of exams taken by public school students earned a 3 or higher.

Minnesota’s report has mostly good news. The number of Minnesota public school 11th- and 12th-graders taking at least one AP exam more than doubled from 2004 to 2014, from 8.5 percent to 18.1 percent of students in those grades. MDE reports that more than 36,000 Minnesota students took an AP exam in May 2014. MDE also noted that since 2010, AP test taking by American Indian students increased by 32 percent, Asian student participation increased by 57 percent, black student participation grew 61 percent, and Hispanic student test taking grew by 98 percent.

A slightly smaller percentage of Minnesota students took an AP examination compared to the nation as a whole. The College Board reports that nationally, 21.9 percent of 11th- and 12th-grade students took at least one AP exam in May 2014. That compares with 18.1 percent of Minnesota 11th- and 12th-graders.

That should not concern us, because Minnesota youngsters have among the nation’s broadest array of opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school. Several of them involve taking courses taught by teachers in their high school, such as AP, International Baccalaureate, College in the Schools or Project Lead the Way. The Postsecondary Enrollment Options program allows students to take free courses on college campuses.

Some researchers have criticized the AP program as focusing too much on the final test, leading to courses that don’t go into enough depth. Perhaps partially in response, a report (online at by the College Board found numerous benefits for students who did well on the test. It would be good to have independent researchers studying the relationship between doing well on AP exams and college graduation.

National statistics for 2014 are available here: Minnesota-specific information is here:

In a press release, Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius wrote, in part: “This is one more piece of good news for our kids, teachers and families that Minnesota is on the right path and making progress. More and more, our students are getting a head start on their postsecondary education.” I agree.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at

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Cardinal seniors keep it rolling into state tennis tourney Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:40:49 +0000 Heidi Hannula and Amanda Rehm are the latest Coon Rapids tennis players to reach the state tennis tournament.

The pair are the sixth singles or doubles team to represent the Cardinals at the state tennis tournament over the last eight seasons.

The Section 7AA champion doubles team downed the Spring Lake Park duo of Kati Thunborg and Mackensay Kelly 6-3, 7-5 in the title match.

Hannula and Rehm were seeded No. 2 coming into sections but Thunborg and Kelly upset Champlin Park’s top-seed Kelley and Sjostrom in the quarterfinals 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.

The Cardinals doubles team won each of its four matches in straight sets and Hannula said they kept their focus on the next point instead of thinking about a return to state.gtennis cr dbls champs

“We wanted to stay in the moment,” Hannula said. Shefocused on playing out each point to overcome the nerves she experienced during the section tournament last season. “I was a lot more excited this year.”

Hannula teamed with Emily Bauer but the duo lost both matches at state last year.

To alleviate the pressure, coach Scott Storrick had the girls focus on rushing to the net to force their opponent to make a quick decision and possibly a mistake.

“We get to the net because we’re quick and if we get lobbed we chase it down,” Hannula said.

The doubles partners didn’t know what direction their season would take given Hannula, a three-sport athlete and senior tennis captain, dealt with a knee injury and shin splits all season. Rehm spent part of her summer away from the tennis court on a trip to Germany. So making it to the state tournament is a tremendous success.

They only played together a couple times during the season, instead Hannula was a top singles contributor while Rehm played at various places in the doubles lineup. So the decision to team them up came from Storrick. They drew Benilde-St. Margaret’s juniors Paige McLeod and Taylor McLeod for the opening round Oct. 23.

Thunborg and Kelly also qualified for state and faced Duluth East’s Annagrace Norr and Brynne Hauer in the opener.

Jason Olson is at

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Tornadoes are ready for the next challenge Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:37:15 +0000 Monday afternoon Anoka girls soccer coach Amber Woeltge gave deals on how a drill was supposed to work two days before their state Class AA state quarterfinal game against No. 3 seed Eden Prairie.

The Tornadoes were coming off a section final win, in which they contained Blaine’s Ms. Soccer Finalist Britney Monteon in a 1-0 upset of the top-seeded Bengals. Ms. Soccer Award winner, April Brockin, a standout performer for Eden Prairie awaited Anoka.

Anoka's Gabby Horsch, right, has been a consistent contributor to the backline all season. Photo by Bill Jones

Anoka’s Gabby Horsch, right, has been a consistent contributor to the backline all season. Photo by Bill Jones

Facing top-caliber opponents in back-to-back games at this point of the season is something Woeltge feels confident about. “We were able to shutdown (Monteon) so I feel we’re capable of doing the same thing,” Woeltge said. “The biggest boost for this team was knocking off the No. 1 seed team and that says a lot for our program.”

As for the transition from grass to artificial turf, the Tornadoes coach feels the quicker pace on the turf will help them deal with the widest field they’ve had a chance to play on.

After a strong start to the season, injuries and illness hit the roster hard. Sophomore central midfielder Sydney Randall recently returned to the lineup for the first time since Sept. 13 and sophomore Megan Beckman dealt with a back injury for most of the season, limiting her playing time with older sister Kaitlyn Beckman, who was missing from Monday’s practice due to an illness.

The two played together only a couple times last season but really looked forward to this season.

Both said the experience has been fun but hoped to keep that going for a few more games. The two have hooked up a handful of times, especially later in the season once Megan returned to the lineup.

“We’ve had a lot of sisters or siblings come through in the past, but not too many who have played together,” said Woeltge, who is one of four siblings.

Junior goalkeeper Chantell Palermo has come up huge throughout the season and even more so in sections, not only preserving the shutout against Blaine but containing Coon Rapids in the semifinal by turning away point-blank shots or holding on to loose balls around the goal mouth.

She posted a season-high 20 saves against Centennial but Woeltge admitted Palermo’s steady leadership from the back almost goes unnoticed. “Sometimes I forget about her,” Woeltge said in a positive sense that the coach doesn’t need to focus as much of her time and energy on goal keeping.

Fullbacks Gabby Horsch and Laura Alexander have provided a strong backbone across the back and seniors Taylor Ness and Jade Battles stepped up their games.

Jason Olson is at

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