The racial covenants bill (“Law lets homeowners renounce racist deed clause,” June 12) praised in the June 14 editorial (“Rejecting racism”) is absolutely worthless in the battle against racial discrimination in housing. One might feel morally elevated by recording a statement opposing the covenants, but those covenants were outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court and legislation 60 or 70 years ago. Minority families in the present day are excluded not by covenants but by the fruits of systemic discrimination: unaffordability, lack of transportation, zoning and all-too-common hostility, for starters. Running another sword through the corpse of 1920s bigotry does not do a whit to address today’s indifference to racial inequality.
Admittedly, it is difficult for an individual to combat the discrimination embedded in our institutions, but it takes a lot more than signing a slip of paper. Better to join hands and donate the $46 recording fee to advocacy groups or candidates dedicated to racial and ethnic justice. Actually volunteering one’s time and talents would do even more.
Robert Beutel, St. Paul
Don’t restrict access to City Hall
As someone who campaigned hard for the election of Andrea Jenkins to the Minneapolis City Council, I’m disappointed that she’s spending political capital clamping down on public access to City Hall in the name of improving security (“More security urged at Mpls. City Hall,” June 9).
I’m even more disappointed in the Star Tribune, my longtime and former employer, for its Editorial Board’s support for making public access more difficult (“Bolster security at Mpls. City Hall,” June 14).
I concede that as a transgender activist, Jenkins may sometimes feel like she has a target on her back. But there are other remedies than making access to our seat of government more cumbersome.
Jenkins cites the recent rush by a group of protesters to the dais during the council meeting as initially threatening but fails to indicate how that was so. Such an overexuberant assertion of free speech is best handled by a council president wielding a firm gavel. Some past leaders, such as Barbara Johnson, put firm limits on disruptions at public meetings, often with an officer standing by. There are procedures in place to deal with a genuine emergency.
The contrast was striking between the orderly conduct of public business at such tightly run meetings and those such as the school and park boards, where hecklers frequently disrupted proceedings because leadership seemed to have lost its gavel.
Yes, there are places where the kinds of security controls that Jenkins favors make sense. No one wants an airplane taken over by an unbalanced person, and yes, county government, which has a large caseload of mentally ill citizens, is largely conducted behind secured doors.
But the City Council is a policy-setting body dealing with such low-blood-pressure topics as hauling garbage and shoveling sidewalks. The individual offices of its members are already behind secured doors.
As a Jenkins appointee to a city committee, I would resent having to go through security checks a dozen times or more annually as I attend its meetings, wondering whether the screeners would regard the tiny Swiss army device on my key chain as a tool, as the Twins and I consider it, or a weapon, like Minnesota United and the TSA.
Jenkins should have known the potential risks for a public official when she ran for the office, having worked for years as a council aide. She should adapt her mind-set to that reality rather than expect the institution to adapt to her.
Steve Brandt, Minneapolis
The writer is a former Star Tribune reporter.
A sarcastic suggestion to close churches is actually the solution
A recent letter writer inadvertently hit precisely on the solution for decades of predatory behavior and rank hypocrisy by the Catholic Church when critiquing Jennifer Haselberger’s take on the situation: “I’m surprised [Haselberger] didn’t suggest closing all the churches — that ought to do it” (“Catholic Church can save souls while preventing abuse of minors,” June 15).
Bingo! The Catholic Church should have been run out of any country that values its children more than its pet delusions long ago. Unfortunately, the world remains in waiting for the first nation to step forward and act rationally to protect its innocents.
Gene Case, Andover
Something’s up with PolyMet permit
The recent announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General is opening an investigation confirms suspicion that something doesn’t sound right with the process used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in issuing a permit to PolyMet (“EPA to probe its PolyMet go-ahead,” June 15). Clearly the professional staff at EPA was concerned and prepared a detailed analysis. Acting Associate Administrator (and political appointee) Joseph Brazauskas’ contention that it is common practice for complex permitting decisions to be handled verbally rather than in writing is indeed bizarre. Since when is a phone conversation a more effective means of conveying technical information than comments in writing? It could be, on the other hand, an effective means of creating “alternative facts,” and a convenient way to obscure the record of a decision.
There is no question that mining sites in Northern Minnesota will leak effluents. Why? Because this is a climate where precipitation exceeds evapotranspiration. As a result, excess water and any contaminants it carries will leave the site either as surface runoff or groundwater seepage.
Thank you, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, for pushing EPA for a full accounting. Gov. Tim Walz should hold the MPCA to the same standard.
John Goodfellow, Marine on St. Croix
We need carbon in soil, not the air, and sustainable farming can do that
The recent Washington Post article in the Star Tribune describing a new plan to remove carbon from the atmosphere and capture it in soil is extremely important for agriculture resilience to climate extremes (“New plan to remove carbon from the atmosphere: Bury it,” June 16).
Conventional intensive-tillage agriculture, while producing profitable yields, has not done a good job of protecting the environment from soil degradation. The process releases carbon from the soil back into the atmosphere, making it less fertile and accelerating climate change. As a result of this tilling, the carbon in the soil has been depleted and needs to be refilled to maintain sustainable agricultural production and associated ecosystem services.
An increasing number of pioneering soil health and conservation agriculture farmers in Minnesota are applying the principles to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and increase soil carbon input. These pioneer farmers are mentoring other farmers and communicating with consumers about the quality and quantity of food produced using conservation and soil health principles.
Some of these pioneers are experiencing 40% to 50% decrease in input costs — and that says nothing about the reduced social and environmental costs associated with soil erosion, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate extremes. Truly, a win-win-win: for agricultural sustainability, for our food security and for environmental quality. Let’s support incentives for developing farming techniques that fight climate extremes by increasing carbon stored in the soil.
Don Reicosky, Morris, Minn.
The writer is a former soil scientist.
We welcome letters and commentaries from readers. Submit one here.