Readers Write: State flags, rent, transit, fuel prices, guns, health care

Second Amendment


Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.

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There is almost nothing that I admire about the state of Mississippi. However, the people there hit a major home run with their new state flag. They went from one that was boring, uninspired and stuck in a racist past to a flag that is beautiful and distinctive. One glance at that flag and you know it’s Mississippi.

I love the idea of redesigning our state flag, too; perhaps even the state seal. Ours is all that Mississippi’s was. I know we can do better. In the meantime, there is one, small change we can make to mitigate the ugliness — one change in each person. On the farmer, have his left hand raised in a wave to the Native American. And on the Native American, have his right hand raised in a wave to the farmer. Show some friendliness. So few people ever look at our flag — maybe someone could just sneak in these changes and see if anyone notices.

David Rosene, Brooklyn Park

RENT, TRANSIT

A June 30 article in the Star Tribune described the new task force under Mayor Melvin Carter that will be suggesting tweaks to St. Paul’s newly established rent control ordinance. While the article discussed the strict new policy, it failed to discuss the exemptions and appeal opportunities that are given to the landlords.

Just this week was the start of the first appeal process for a building on Raymond Avenue. But where is the appeal process for the tenants? It doesn’t exist. A report by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs published in 2021 describes the disproportionate effects of high rent prices for renters in the bottom quartile and BIPOC renters in Minnesota. These groups have seen their rents rise increasingly faster than their incomes at a jarring rate. Unless there are low-income and BIPOC renters in the appointed task force, these groups will not see the justice they deserve in St. Paul.

Erin Crouch, Mendota Heights

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An June 29 article (“City Council, mayor butt heads on redo of Hennepin Avenue”) described issues surrounding the Minneapolis City Council’s decision on Mayor Jacob Frey’s veto of a provision for 24-hour busing in the Hennepin Avenue reconstruction project. Unfortunately, the veto was upheld by the City Council at its most recent meeting on June 30.

This decision ignores the needs of the working-class residents of the city, including BIPOC and immigrant communities that rely on public transportation for work. These communities need access to reliable services at all hours of the day regardless of their work schedules. As the pandemic lessens and gas prices rise, more people are going to need public transportation, especially the essential workers that are the foundation of our economy. Going forward it is vital that the city, especially the mayor’s office, prioritize access to adequate public transportation and economic opportunities for the Minneapolis residents who need it the most.

Olivia Dains, Lauderdale

FUEL PRICES

Interesting letter July 1 detailing how high fuel prices are affecting seniors on fixed incomes. I feel the writer’s pain. However, I would have titled the letter differently. Instead of “How Putin’s war is affecting me,” a title of, “How Biden’s presidency is affecting me” would have been more accurate.

Biden stated during his campaign “we are going to get rid of fossil fuels.” His actions post-election, including canceling the Keystone pipeline, restricting imports, blocking leases, increasing regulations, and a pattern of constant negative rhetoric on the topic of fossil fuels, have all had a direct impact on fuel prices in the U.S.

Remember, fuel prices began increasing significantly long before Russia invaded Ukraine. In addition, Biden’s weak foreign policy made it easy for Putin to boldly invade Ukraine with little fear of consequences. Has the war in Ukraine affected fuel prices? Yes, but to blame this all on Putin while giving Biden a free pass is disingenuous.

Chad Hagen, Cook, Minn.

COST/BENEFIT EQUATION

During the 2019 legislative session, state Rep. Frank Hornstein invited a German engineer to make a couple of presentations to House committees on transportation, environment and climate. During his talk to the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee, the engineer made a comment about decisions legislators make regarding public funding, government regulations and development: “The price of any project should cover the costs,” he said.

It’s not just that the services and projects we endorse should meet budget projections, but that indirect costs should be covered as well. The price that taxpayers, investors and owners pay for expanding development, for example, should cover the costs of mitigating environmental impact on water use, carbon emissions, extractive industries, loss of natural environments, the effect of highways and paved surfaces on freshwater quality.

What if that equation were applied to the manufacture and sale of firearms? What if the price of handguns, automatic weapons and ammunition included all the costs of firearm use? What if a monetary assessment of gun violence, irresponsible ownership and tragic accident were added to the price charged for firearms and ammunition? All owners would then share the cost of those who abuse of the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment — as significant as they are.

As the cost of gun ownership increased to cover the losses related to violence and tragedy, I’d expect responsible gun owners to be less indulgent of those who use guns illegally, for manufacturers and retailers to be less aggressive in promoting the image and manliness of owning lethal weapons of appealing design, and that the NRA would wisely reverse its expensive current policies and return to its origins of gun safety, education and responsible ownership.

The policy would, along with enforcement of current law, not infringe on Second Amendment rights while letting the market — and owners themselves — judge the impact, responsibilities and the costs of their constitutional liberties.

State Rep. Steve Sandell, DFL-Woodbury

CAUSE AND EFFECT

As the entire world has gone through the COVID-19 pandemic, the American population has recognized health care staffing shortages that are only increasing. The number of quality, reliable and compassionate care workers is at an all-time low and in desperate need of attention.

The Minnesota Hospital Association remains opposed to staffing formulas or ratios. This is creating an extreme crisis in hospitals, nursing homes, group homes and across health care facilities. The problem is being left in the hands of the facilities themselves, and they are not making changes, forcing floor staff to work in unsafe conditions.

The price of health care is also the highest it’s ever been for patients, but the same cannot be said for the quality of patient care. Health care employees are the busiest they’ve ever been, which is creating a frequently unsafe environment for patients. Overworked employees are burning out and even leaving the health care field.

We cannot survive without a strong health care system. There was news last week that Bridges MN, a disability service provider serving more than 500 adults statewide, has been threatened with license removal by the state after reports of sexual abuse and the neglect of clients in unsanitary conditions, which correlates with severe staff shortages.

It’s time for our health care system to become a trustworthy, stable and professional field again. Patients are putting their lives into unreliable hands. Who else will we turn to?

Victoria Walczynski, Kettle River, Minn.



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