I served on the Metropolitan Council for 18 years, being appointed by Govs. Al Quie, Arne Carlson and Tim Pawlenty. The council collaborated with the staff to save millions of dollars in capitalized and operating costs at the wastewater treatment facilities.
We supported the development of light rail with direction by Gov. Carlson and the building of the Northstar commuter rail line to Big Lake. The counties were in agreement and were willing to tax their constituents to pay for that system.
I doubted the business model of the light rail. I found the Northstar better because of projections that it has not been able to live up to. The Northstar is an absolute disaster, paying for 10 percent of its operating costs and none of its capital costs. Light rail pays about 30 percent of its operating costs from user fees. The rest of its funding comes from taxpayers.
Be mindful of the fact that public accounting does not provide for accruals or depreciation. Equipment that is replaced is capitalized so that the federal government will pay 50 percent to 90 percent of capitalized costs. That will last until it decides to stop paying these costs, and we will be left holding the bag.
Retirement costs are also underfunded, even though actuaries understate the mortality projections.
So we are pressed to support the system we have, even though we underrecognized its costs, yet want to double down, building an expanded system in less-desirable corridors, on expensive real estate to serve a public willing to pay the price.
“Diffusional” is a term that comes to mind.
Roger Scherer, Plymouth
RAMSEY COUNTY BOARD
Members doth protest too much regarding decisions on their pay
I was surprised to see some Ramsey County commissioners’ comments before voting to increase their salary to $92,423 in 2018, or a 15.5 percent increase since 2008 (“On the defensive, Ramsey board raises its own pay,” June 14). They were incorrect and simplistic at best.
Commissioner Rafael Ortega wrongly asserted that Ramsey County is the only county that acts on its salary before an election. He forgot that Minnesota law requires the Hennepin County Board to vote on its salary before an election.
Rather than engaging in a policy discussion, Commissioner Jim McDonough decided to mention the folks — who have no credibility, if they even exist — who believe commissioners should work for free. There was no mention that the average Ramsey County employee earns $69,308 and a comparable 2.6 percent salary increase for this “average” employee is $521 less in real dollars than the extra amount each commissioner will receive in 2018.
More disappointing were the missed opportunities to show leadership and transparency. Every year when the Ramsey County Board votes on its salary, we hear the same old blame directed to our County Charter and how it “makes” them vote. I have suggested the board appoint a nonbinding advisory group of county employees and citizens to provide independent counsel before the salary ordinance is enacted. This process would be more transparent than the board perfunctorily increasing its salary year after year by the same percentage received by county employees. In Hennepin County, each commissioner must affirmatively opt in to receive a salary increase. For unknown reasons, Ramsey County does not provide its commissioners with the same opportunity to decline a salary increase.
There is no denying that Ramsey County commissioners do important work overseeing a $660 million annual budget. But, these commissioners — three of whom have served more than 20 years — have become complacent and not the forward-thinking public servants we deserve and demand.
Peter Hendricks, St. Paul
The writer served on the Ramsey County Charter Commission from 2007 to 2014.
City’s a finalist. Now it needs a suitably worldly landmark
It is exciting news that Minneapolis is a “finalist to host 2023 World’s Fair” (June 14). As the article notes, winning the bid will require the city to construct “a signature landmark” akin to the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle, both of which were erected in connection with a World’s Fair and have come to symbolize the cities of Paris and Seattle, respectively.
I have two proposals for a Minneapolis tower: Because a World’s Fair monument should be tall and majestic, what better than a 600-foot, artistically stylized artificial white pine tree with a viewing area at the top and restaurants in the trunk. A 600-foot Paul Bunyan is too cartoony and less environmentally sensitive (erection of the statue could be accompanied by the planting of 600 white pines in northern Minnesota).
Alternatively, because the theme of the Minneapolis proposal is health and medicine, perhaps a 600-foot caduceus (the winged staff entwined with serpents symbolizing medicine.) Certainly the Mayo Clinic and Medtronic could contribute to construction of a statue highlighting the state’s excellence in medicine.
Let’s come up with an idea that will be even more popular than the St. Louis Arch and put Minneapolis on the map. Thanks to Mark Ritchie for his hard work on this project. He can call me for more ideas.
V. John Ella, Minneapolis
Our group helps to fight it
As a board member of Civil Society of St. Paul, a group dedicated to stop sex trafficking, I was pleased to read “Plan tackles Super Bowl trafficking” (June 14). I was disappointed not to find any mention of Civil Society’s plans to limit such trafficking during the Super Bowl.
Civil Society is a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization providing culturally and linguistically specific legal and case-management services to victims of human trafficking, sexual assault and abuse. Led by attorney Linda Miller and working closely with law enforcement, Civil Society has a significant program in connection with the Super Bowl. Their offices are in the 1st National Bank Building and can be reached at 651-291-8810.
Rolf E. Westgard, St. Paul
‘SPITFIRE OF LEXINGTON’
Sexism, ageism in approval?
I was a little surprised to read the article about Betty Dockham (“The Spitfire of Lexington,” Variety, June 13). I do not know Dockham, but from the article, it appears she is ornery, raised heck in City Council meetings and “Cain” in her neighborhood, landing in jail apparently several times as the “only option under the law.”
At what point does a person’s bad behavior turn from “bad” to “cute”? What if the article’s subject was a 25-year-old man? Would the article have even been written?
If we’re lucky, we will all get old. Getting older does not mean getting “cute,” nor does it excuse bad behavior. Often we are shocked when a terrible crime is committed by an older person — this is because we expect that they should know better due to their years of experiencing life.
Ageism creeps up on us in many ways. Glorifying bad behavior by older people is a prime example. Think of yourself: At what age will you turn from a competent adult into a “cute” old lady or man? Stop ageism now!
Carolynn Kimmes, Edina