I was happy to read Jon Tevlin’s April 30 column about bike lanes. I have been perplexed by their proliferation in my south Minneapolis neighborhoods.
I think biking is an important step we can take in lessening our dependence on fossil fuels. For three decades, I commuted by bike to my job at Abbott Northwestern, though not in winter. Those were years when there were no bike lanes. For safety, and in avoidance of inhaling exhaust fumes, I mostly used side streets. Now, in my late 60s, I am a fair weather biker at best, and I still use side streets.
I have heard that up toward 16 percent of our populace commutes by bike. It’s hard for me to believe that number when I travel down Park, Portland or Blaisdell avenues in bumper-to-bumper traffic, seeing one to two bikes at best. At the recent precinct caucus, my City Council person promised me a link to the “Bike Master Plan,” which I have yet to see. I can’t imagine what that plan will look like, and how it will choke even more car traffic.
I think it would be wise to pause and look at the entire city’s transportation plan before proceeding further with bike lanes. From a clean-air perspective, cars idling on our streets waiting at traffic lights harm our air quality. We live here.
I ask for some common sense as we move forward. Citizen input would be a good thing. We don’t need to prove how groovy we are by reaching for designation as the No. 1 bike-friendly city in the nation. We are already groovy.
Dick Rueter, Minneapolis
Worse things than autism, and better things than measles
I applaud Dr. Michael Osterholm for his years of tireless work increasing vaccination rates and educating the public about the danger of the anti-vaccine movement. While I agree with most of his May 4 commentary (“Unfounded fears about vaccine put kids’ lives at risk”), I take issue with one sentence. He stated that “[e]very parent’s nightmare is receiving a diagnosis that their child has autism, regardless of severity.” My son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder last August, and I can think of many worse things. With proper treatment, we anticipate that he will be a thriving member of the community. Because of the baseless fears stoked by the anti-vaccine movement, an important part of increasing immunization rates will be reducing the stigma surrounding autism.
State Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley
The writer is chief author of HF96, legislation pertaining to immunizations.
• • •
I have very personal reasons for being shocked by the comment of one parent who attended Mark Blaxill’s discussion of infant vaccination (“Speaker challenges vaccinations,” May 1: “Measles can be dangerous, but the illness only lasts a short time.” To take the danger of measles so lightly goes against my experience of it.
I got sick in 1946, when I was 8. That was 17 years before a vaccine existed. I remember lying in my parents’ bed with a raging fever and the doctors bending over me. Then I fell into a coma. Now, as a father myself, I can well imagine the terror of my folks as they waited for the medicine to work — and their sudden relief when I woke up two days later.
I had contracted spinal meningitis, a well-known complication of measles, and my life had been saved by a new, powerful antibiotic: penicillin. (This “miracle drug” was intended primarily to combat infection in our wounded soldiers, but after the war it was made available for everyone.)
I am, of course, deeply indebted to the creators of penicillin and to a well-informed family doctor. What I’ve learned more recently about the false claims of “vaccine deniers” (see, for example, the thorough critique by Dr. John Snyder, “Cashing In On Fear,” July 30, 2009, at sciencebasedmedicine.org — http://bit.ly/2pi5EiE) has only increased my respect for scientists and the scientific method. The fact that the scourge of measles has been almost totally eliminated in the U.S. should continue to inspire trust in the regimen of vaccination approved by almost every pediatric specialist.
Joel Baer, St. Paul
Is that Republican agenda working for you, fellow citizens?
Call me a slow learner. It was finally after reading about another rollback of current policy by the Legislature that I figured it out. The notion has been rolling around in my head for an embarrassingly long time without the words to define it, but now I have the words. Those in power at the Legislature this year are not promoting a Minnesota agenda. It’s a Republican agenda. Good for the state? Who cares? Good for Republicans? Pass it any way you can.
I’m furious at the attempts to roll back environmental rules, reduce clean air and water protections, remove voter-protection policies, refuse to protect internet privacy — the list could go on and on. I wasn’t born in Minnesota, but I have lived here since 1966. I value the quality of life that Minnesotans — old and new — value and are proud of. I love our lakes, clean air (I came from California, where in 1966 you really could see the air you had to breathe at the end of the block), our clean election system and campaign-finance rules, and our desire to care for the least among us. I love a lot of other things as well. But I don’t love the Republican agenda. Going back to the days of robber barons and “Father Knows Best” doesn’t work for me. I want progress, advancement, a rising tide lifting all boats. Nope. The Republican agenda doesn’t work for me, and it doesn’t work for Minnesota.
Judy Finger, Apple Valley
Not a binary choice
Funding higher education is much more nuanced than a simple trade-off of adequate public investment or tuition increases. Instead, it should be viewed as a three-way choice that affects quality, access and affordability.
It is essential we protect access for low- and middle-income students by adequately funding need-based aid. Every student should have the opportunity to complete their education without taking on staggering debt or sabotaging their education by working too many hours.
Sufficient state funding must also be provided to empower Minnesota State Trustees and University of Minnesota Regents to maintain quality while keeping tuition in check. Over recent years, public dollars were used to halt tuition increases, potentially compromising the ability to maintain quality, but this method of state investment is not sustainable. While some economic pressure on public institutions could be viewed as a path to increased efficiencies, higher-education leaders may find modest tuition increases are necessary in the future to maintain high quality. The key is to provide enough state funding to support a sustainable path forward, one that keeps affordability, access and quality in balance.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s higher-education funding package protects this balance. With a budget surplus and relative economic stability, I encourage the Legislature to support his plan.
Larry Pogemiller, St. Paul
The writer is commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.