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Does the Constitution protect political contributions as a form of speech? Should constitutional rights extend beyond individuals to entities like corporations or unions? A 2010 Supreme Court ruling concluded "yes" to both questions, but residents of St. Croix County will have a chance to weigh in with their ballots in April.
St. Croix County supervisors appointed Chris Matter to fill a vacant seat on the county board last week. Matter will replace former Supervisor Agnes Ring to represent District 2, which covers parts of St. Joseph and Somerset. Ring stepped down from the position in September after announcing her new position with Family Resource Center of St. Croix Valley, which she said could cause potential conflicts of interest.
St. Croix County land and homeowners will see a slight decrease in property taxes next year if a budget proposal the county's administration committee recently approved gains county supervisor approval. The 2018 budget committee members approved Oct. 18 includes a .09 percent tax levy rate decrease in the county portion of property taxes. That decrease would drive down the county portion of property taxes from $896.73 to $895.96 on a home worth about $242,000, the county's median value.
A former St. Paul assistant principal accused of embezzling nearly $200,000 from a rural Baldwin church will spend two years in prison and faces seven years of probation. Kara Amundson-LaVenture faced six felony theft charges in 2015 after members of the New Centerville United Methodist church discovered about $190,000 had been misappropriated during the nine years Amundson-LaVenture served as the church treasurer.
Properties in the towns of Stanton and Richmond totaling about six acres will shift districts to the city of New Richmond following unanimous votes by the St. Croix County County Administration Committee Sept. 20. The Stanton property, a parcel just under one acre that contains a business and a private home between Noble Road and Highway 64, will shift from Ward 1 in Supervisor District 2 to Ward 2 in Supervisor District 12. County Supervisor Roger Larson, whose district previously encompassed the property, will hand the parcel off to Supervisor Daniel Hanson.
Two new supervisors took theirs seats on the St. Croix County Board following the vote a quorum board cast Aug. 1. Scottie Ard and Tammy Moothedan will serve the remaining 2016-2018 terms that opened earlier this year after two board members resigned. Ard gained a 12-5 vote against fellow contender Ryan Sherley and assumed the seat for District 13, a portion of St. Croix County that covers part of New Richmond. Supervisors appointed Moothedan to represent District 7, which covers parts of Hudson, in a 11-5 vote against Brian Wells.
A St. Croix County resolution condemning legislation that would allow a former Bible camp along the county's namesake river to be converted into a wedding and events center is headed to Wisconsin lawmakers. County supervisors voted 14-2 in favor of the resolution at the Aug. 1 county board meeting, with Supervisors Bob Long and Tom Coulter lodging the only 'no' votes.
A Brooklyn Park man will serve eight years in prison for his role in trafficking two women for commercial sex at a Woodbury hotel. A Washington County judge convicted Tyree Erik Jones, 23, of aiding and abetting the sex trafficking of an individual July 14. Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of the felony crime earlier this month.
A New Richmond man accused of kidnapping two women at gunpoint will serve three years in prison for kidnapping two women at gunpoint in Afton last summer. A Washington County district judge convicted James Lauck, 37, of second-degree assault with a firearm June 12— one of five felonies Lauck faced, including kidnapping with a firearm, two counts of terroristic threats with a firearm and an additional second-degree assault charge. Police arrested Lauck last August while responding to a possible hostage situation at an Afton home last August.
The St. Croix County Board seat for District 7 seat remains vacant after county supervisors voted against appointing Sarah Yacoub to the position at the June 6 meeting. Yacoub was the sole applicant following Tammy Moothedan's withdrawal. Supervisors' votes tied 7-7, with three abstentions votes counted against Yacoub's appointment.