We are at an inflection point in our country and state where our citizens have lost trust in leaders, institutions and many believe our justice system is broken. While elected officials debate and enact reforms that could take years, one significant issue that provides transparency and builds trust could be settled right now. The Minnesota Supreme Court could change the rule allowing cameras in Minnesota courtrooms.
The recent trial for Derek Chauvin was the first in Minnesota history to allow cameras in the courtroom. As a result, Minnesota and the world were able to witness for themselves everything from jury selection to witness testimony to the verdict and, finally, the sentence. Now as we lead up to another high-profile trial for former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, it's unclear whether citizens will be given that same transparent access to our justice system.
Why is this? Current court rules only allow cameras in the courtroom if the parties consent. That rarely happens. In the case of Derek Chauvin, the judge overruled attorney objections, determining cameras in the courtroom served the public interest. Those concerned about cameras in the courtroom for the Chauvin case questioned if witnesses would be hesitant to testify. We saw they were not. Others questioned if attorneys would play for the cameras; that also did not happen.
Proper rules of engagement can alleviate other concerns raised over cameras in the courtroom. For example, cameras could be prohibited from recording juveniles and adult victims of violent crime.
In those situations, we could simply have the audio of the testimony, as happened with juveniles in the Chauvin trial.
In Minnesota, control of court rules is the exclusive province of the Minnesota Supreme Court and, in particular, the chief justice. It is time for public to call on the Minnesota Supreme Court to change the rules to allow cameras in the courtroom, not just as the exception, but as the rule.
Joe Tamburino, Minneapolis
The writer is an attorney.
Department dysfunction, more than multiple bosses, concerns me
The letter from my old friend and colleague Greg Hestness ("Yes 4 Minneapolis won't help," July 21) expressing his opposition to the Yes 4 Minneapolis charter amendment was disingenuous. Hestness deplores the idea of having the Minneapolis Police Department report to both the mayor and the City Council, as most departments currently do, citing anonymous complaints from these other departments regarding the inefficiency of having multiple bosses. I don't doubt that there are such complaints; years ago I had a job where I had to report to multiple bosses, and it was annoying.
But the thing is, the MPD is unique (or nearly so) among city departments in two important ways: 1) The MPD reports solely to the mayor, not the council; and 2) the MPD is our most dysfunctional department.
Is No. 1 at least partially responsible for No. 2?
Snow and garbage removal, street maintenance and other essential city services are occasionally subject to criticism, but they are not responsible for the collapse of our city's reputation. Surely, the sum of the liability payments resulting from mistakes from all the other city departments combined can't possibly match what the MPD generates, year after year. And do these other departments have a crippling percentage of their workforce not currently showing up for work? I know, police work is tough, but I'll bet other city employees experience a little stress and criticism on occasion.
Hestness cites his 40 years protecting the city, and everyone familiar with his work knows that he was one of the "good" cops, always pushing for gradual reform. But Hestness' efforts to reform the MPD, like those of our current mayor, were too little, too late. The Minneapolis City Council was not responsible for the death of George Floyd, nor the rioting that followed.
John Trepp, Minneapolis
Forget those. How about governing?
Elections, compared to the hard business of governing that protects the people's rights and health and wealth and welfare, are a waste of time and money ("City needs annual elections, and a GOP," Opinion Exchange, July 21). Asking for more elections is just as inane as asking for more leap years.
Perhaps the reason "the Republican Party in Minneapolis is dead" is that very reason: The GOP is more interested in grandstanding, celebrity campaigning, lying and making unscientific and false statements rather than engaging in the hard work of prying the power and money from wealthy corporations and individuals who have experienced unprecedented gains, and applying those resources to our failing infrastructure, environment, education systems and the vast number of essential workers who have been neglected.
John Lyle Crivits, St. Paul
Waste not, emit not
Cut your grocery bills by 10 to 30%? Yes. Sign me up. About 30% or more of the food that we buy is wasted ("St. Paulites take up food waste challenge," July 20). It's just like you went to the store and came out with three bags of groceries, dropped one in the parking lot and didn't bother to pick it up. Food that is wasted not only wastes the carbon used to grow it and transport it. When it ends up in the landfill, it also produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is many times more potent than carbon.
The city of St. Paul has created a way to save you money and work on climate change at the same time. I signed up for their "Food Too Good to Waste" challenge. Focusing on wasted food helps you see patterns in what you buy, what you forget to use and also learn new ways to use leftover food. It is a fun competition that can change our habits and prevent food from going into the landfill.
Feel helpless in the face of climate change? This is a simple way to make a big impact and save money, too. Join the St. Paul food waste challenge and share it with your friends and neighbors. You will receive a kit containing all you need to get started. Each week we will get new ideas and you may win a prize, too.
Heather Miller, St. Paul
The writer is food waste team co-leader at MN350.
Yikes, we're in charge
Regarding D. Roger Pederson's commentary on baby boomer presidents ("Our run of baby boomers, in retrospect," Opinion Exchange, July 19): Kurt Vonnegut wrote, "True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country."OK, Vonnegut was of the Greatest Generation, but as a boomer, I say his recognition is still appropriate.So it goes.
Tom Obert, Alexandria
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