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A Minneapolis City Council member wrote a commentary that painted an idyllic picture of ballot initiatives, which allow voters to "bring their ideas to the ballot" ("Ballot initiatives can make for a stronger democracy," Opinion Exchange, March 4). As a Minnesota resident who spends part of his year in California, where ballot initiatives flourish like weeds in your garden, I will say there is another side to the story. The "lobbyists and business interests" that the writer rails against in our present system are sometimes the very entities that sponsor these ballot initiatives. These initiatives are often poorly written and confusing and sometimes don't tell the whole story.

As an election approaches and you ponder whom to vote for on a three-page ballot, often you just don't have the time or energy to explore the true meaning and merit of what can be a multitude of ballot initiatives. So, you may not vote intelligently — or vote at all. And, this is not to mention the advertising that you have to endure as some of the entities that sponsor these ballot initiatives stage aggressive ad campaigns as the election approaches.

Yes, it would be good if people could get their ideas on the ballot in a more reliable way than through the system we have today, and I know that some other cities have already adopted this measure. But voters should be aware that ballot initiatives come with a dark side, too.

Richard Engebretson, Wayzata


Tougher rules are long overdue

Reading "Uber, Lyft drivers hoping City Council picks up cause" (March 3), it's clear that Uber and Lyft must be reined in.

For more than a decade, the two ride-share giants have eluded regulation, utilizing aggressive political tactics and significant spending on lobbyists and anti-regulation advertising. Those efforts included opening their pocketbooks to defeat Proposition 22 in California back in 2020, spending more than $200 million to defeat the proposal that would have granted app-based drivers some sorely needed protections.

As the article describes, Uber and Lyft initially paid a much higher portion of the fare to the drivers, but over time, in an effort to please shareholders and increase profits, they took advantage of the fact that millions of unemployed or underemployed folks in America desperately need money.

Surveys of ride-share drivers indicate that many of these "contractors" are immigrants. These billion-dollar Silicon Valley darlings cannot be allowed to exploit these hardworking folks any longer.

Predictably, Uber and Lyft have responded to recent protests and proposed laws by threatening to leave the Twin Cities. Minnesota lawmakers should call their bluff, betting that these companies won't simply abandon the country's 16th-largest metropolitan area.

Every industry faces regulation — it's a cost of doing business in a society that values things like safety and fairness. App-based service providers should not be an exception. Uber and Lyft must learn how to operate sustainably while paying their drivers a living wage.

Minnesota's Legislature should pass another minimum compensation bill protecting hardworking drivers on Uber and Lyft. And this time, Gov. Tim Walz should sign it into law.

Brian Raber Wagenaar, Edina


Re-evaluate, please

While reading the article "Blue Line cost could exceed Southwest's" (Feb. 29), it struck me that the Metropolitan Council's push to extend rail service may be on the wrong side of history. Who outside the Met Council really supports and will use this expensive new infrastructure?

This represents the last vestiges of a trend started in the 19th century and represents transportation policy originating in the '70s. The two lines together represent a $6 billion investment which in turn will generate untold millions of dollars in chronic system subsidies. I am a big supporter of the sustainability movement. I don't see any way that light rail fits into that agenda.

This same amount of money, together with the inevitable subsidies that will be required, could certainly be put to better use. Affordable housing alone, if blessed with this sort of capital outlay and perennial subsidies, would be revolutionized in the Twin Cities. The many thousands of people benefiting from that would be a great boost to the Twin Cities for many decades to come. It would be amazing.

Nobody will be amazed about the Southwest and Blue lines unless they are able to support their operations with passenger revenue. No one believes that will happen. If there is no way for the Met Council to change course, then I suggest these new rail lines be designed for easy conversion to bike paths in the future. The Midtown Greenway would be a good reference model.

N. Edward Briesemeister, Delano


Thoughts on how to spend it

Readers no doubt had a wide variety of reactions when they read "Projected surplus grows to $3.7 billion" (March 1). Some might expect another rebate or extra funding for their pet projects, some might complain about high taxes, etc. This reader's opinion is that it is past time we take care of our neighbors who are hungry and unhoused. We know it's complicated, but adequate funding can help bring together the necessary resources, case workers, builders, advocates, etc. It's simply the right thing to do. Or, do you prefer to see tent encampments continue to pop up around town, maybe near your neighborhood, school or business?

Bob Worrall, Roseville


We learned last week that the Minnesota budget is expected to end with a surplus of $3.7 billion. While I understand the need to put some of it away to address future structural problems with the budget, our children and adults with mental illnesses and their families simply cannot wait any longer for Minnesota to build its mental health system. Too many people are languishing in our jails and emergency rooms. Too many people are struggling on long waiting lists to access needed care. There have been countless studies and recommendations — we know what to do, we just need invest in solutions.

Sue Abderholden, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of NAMI Minnesota.


Transparent, vigorous, successful

As a proud alum, it was a privilege and pleasure for me to serve on the University of Minnesota Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC). From our first meeting Oct. 17 through the Board of Regents meeting Feb. 26 to select the new president, the entire process could not have been more transparent, respectful, thorough and diligent.

In this era of toxic rhetoric, lack of respect for differing opinions and little tolerance for compromise, this search was the polar opposite and on full display to all constituencies. The process included PSAC listening sessions at all five campuses, online comments posted to the presidential search website and livestream viewing of all public meetings.

Special kudos to the three finalist candidates who participated in a completely public format including three days of campus visits and a final rigorous interview with the Board of Regents.

Minnesotans should be proud of how our flagship university performed its duty to select a new president and proud of our president-elect, Dr. Rebecca Cunningham.

Tom Olson, Orono