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Having just moved back to Minnesota last June after flunking retirement in Arizona, I was delighted to read Lee Schafer’s Feb. 3 column, “Best spot to retire might not be warm.” I found after living eight years full time in Arizona that the term “quality of life” that is so frequently tossed about to describe Minnesota isn’t just a cliché, and it was great to read my personal observations regarding health care and public education validated. Pity the poor girl working at a fast-food place in Arizona who was unable to give me change when the amount due popped up on the register because she couldn’t figure out which bills and coins made up $5.61. I may be paying slightly higher taxes in Minnesota, but every dollar is worth it.

Lorna Anderson, Edina

JOBS AND OPPORTUNITY

Success can be symbiotic, if we only put our minds to the task

I have just finished reading “An initiative for the impatient” (Opinion Exchange, Feb. 3) about the partnership between Summit Academy OIC and Atomic Data aimed at filling tech jobs while breaking social barriers. What a fabulous article!

Many thanks to Louis King, CEO of Summit Academy OIC, and Jim Wolford, CEO of Atomic Data, for giving the community (and beyond!) a terrific example of what can be done to address the multifaceted needs of individuals and of businesses. Theirs is a great example of what can happen when people with brains, influence and imagination figure out how what they and others need and have to offer can be connected in a mutually beneficial way to the uplifting and success of all.

Beth Rademacher, Minneapolis

MINNESOTA STATE SYSTEM

If everything is on the table, consider a ‘base closings’ approach

Thanks to Devinder Malhotra and Mike Vekich for their bold stance that “everything is on the table” in trying to unsnarl the conundrum of financing higher education in Minnesota. (“A new course for Minnesota State,” editorial, Feb. 4.) While we would like to keep higher education easily available for everyone across this great state, it has reached the point of robbing from Peter (upkeep) to pay Paul (tuition subsidies, etc.), or shorting both.

But closing a campus has aroused the ire of locals and faculty attached to any campus so designated. May I propose instead a “base closings” approach? Decades ago, the U.S. managed to close several military bases by getting Congress to opt in to the process in advance: They all agreed to support the recommendations of a neutral body appointed to recommend base closings, according to a given set of goals. The communities ultimately affected were not happy, but what could their representatives in Congress do, since they had already agreed to support the result?

We learned to our frustration and sorrow in the 1990s that closing a campus can arouse those same unhappy campers, i.e., locals and faculty. Let’s adopt a base-closings approach for our vaunted Minnesota State, for the sake of present and future students. It’s one way to achieve an educated workforce, and that means keeping tuition viable and programs and facilities current. We can have it all, but maybe not just exactly where we want it.

Mary McLeod, St. Paul

THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM

Further thoughts in independents’ influence and on public service

I definitely identify with Assistant Commentator Editor David Banks and his observations on Feb. 3 (“A view of Howard Schultz from a tiny political subset”). Like Banks, I’m “halfway down the socially liberal axis” and somewhere “in the middle on fiscal affairs.” My biggest problem on the liberal axis is that I consider “reproductive rights” and similar expressions as euphemisms. The Democratic concern for the underdog ends at unborn humans. I do favor testing the cost-benefit of enhanced equity. Pay for the equity by eliminating the recent Republican tax cuts and investing the revenue into the common good. That’s one version of trying to raise all boats. In the meanwhile, our ballooning national debt is a drain on all of us.

I agree with Banks that the key for political independents is to push hard enough for their perspectives to be absorbed by the major parties. Many of our governmental efforts — like eliminating slavery, regulating capitalism, women’s suffrage, legislating rights for unions and programmatically assisting vulnerable people — started as groundswell efforts that the major parties eventually realized they could not ignore at the cost of becoming irrelevant.

In the meanwhile, I’ll dare challenge a quotation from John Adams that Banks included. Adams advised his son, “make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence.” But that’s exactly what many of the people most hurt by the recent shutdown do. And one concern that became very evident during the shutdown is how dependent the rest of us are ourselves on those people. In addition, although public school teachers were not left unpaid (since they are not federal employees), we also need them to strengthen the society we all depend on. The efforts by some legislators in other states to hamstring teachers’ unions is both deplorable and ultimately counterproductive.

Jim Bartos, Brooklyn Park

• • •

To my fellow Democrats who are upset with Howard Schultz’s prospective presidential candidacy, I have a challenge for you: Go democratic and reform voting by passing ranked-choice voting (RCV) in the federal sphere while the iron is hot.

It’s conceivable that many of the centrists, greens, or “legal marijuanaists” would have a Democrat as another choice. Maybe an endorsed candidate could run on a “my experience” platform instead of a “how radical do I need to go” platform. Perhaps a contest in which the candidate could lose real support by only attacking another candidate could occur. This would calm my anxieties a great deal, though assertive intensity could increase.

But what about Republicans? If RCV would save the Democrats in 2020, are they against it? I recall a 2016 voter telling me: “I couldn’t vote for Hillary; I’m a Republican; I voted Trump.” Could we see something like that again in our civic future?

I believe that it is possible that citizens of many stripes could agree that RCV would foster a more representative government.

Look, when is there a good time for democratic reform? Maybe never. Or, maybe when there is evidence of our democracy becoming dysfunctional at many levels, every day, and all around us. At a time like Now!

Charles Teerlinck, Roseville

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

Why alcohol use is no comparison

There is an important distinction between having a glass of wine and smoking a “joint” of marijuana. The intent and result of limiting alcohol to one glass is not to achieve a state of drunkenness. The goal and result of smoking a “joint” is to get high.

Martha Wade, Bloomington

THE WEATHER, ETC.

A message to TV personalities

This is your grandmother speaking! For heaven’s sake, don’t you know enough to wear long sleeves now in this cold winter weather? And why do you wear black, gray and white now when we are enjoying color TV? We remember years of black and white television — it got boring. Now when we are doing more sitting and have time to watch your news broadcasts, please wear some bright, colorful, seasonal clothes. And even you men could wear colorful sport shirts or sweaters instead of your stodgy, old-fashioned suits and ties.

We really don’t care that you are working under hot, bright lights — that is your occupational hazard. It’s your grandparents and the public that you should try to please!

Joanne Labernik, Minnetonka