I have a question for the Legislative Task Force on Child Protection: How many task forces is it going to take to make the necessary changes to protect the most vulnerable children in the care of our Minnesota counties? ("Hoping to better protect kids," Dec. 5.) We have been reading for years about children who have repeatedly been put back into unacceptable family situations only to lose their lives. "Our entire human services system throughout Minnesota is committed to child safety. It is also committed to keeping families together wherever feasible," Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said. Perhaps we should have a task force study what "whenever feasible" means?
Every single report highlights the Family Assessment tool as a culprit. Another common thread in these reports is that county child welfare departments had no comment. What more needs to be discussed before we move to save at least the majority of these children? Common sense should tell you that, like the majority of states in the U.S., a statewide department to handle these cases would provide more consistent services rather than our current county-based system.
Either way, these services are expensive. As taxpayers we should demand more. We should demand we have a stellar child protection system just as we have a beautiful park system and wonderful biking trails throughout the state. As the task force again considers changes to the system, please protect the children. Give us a system we can be proud of. Put these investigative reporters out of work! I'm sure they'll figure out some other way to stay busy.
Julie E. Theiringer, Golden Valley
LOWRY HILL COUGAR
Tracking and waiting ended badly
The fate of the now-deceased cougar ("Cougar spotted in city hit on I-394," Dec. 7) is a tragic lesson in how what might look like humane, animal-rights-centered approaches from a distance are oftentimes the exact opposite upon closer examination. If the cougar would've been carefully apprehended immediately on notice of it, and then relocated to its natural environment far away from the city, this magnificent creature would still be alive. Instead, leaders took a hands-off approach to capturing the big cat, saying they would only attempt to do so if the animal threatened or attacked someone. Not only did this approach put the citizenry unnecessarily at risk, it ended up setting the stage for the cougar to be killed while crossing the interstate in the early hours of Dec. 6. Simply put, if the creature would have been captured and relocated right away, it would still be alive today and for many days to come. But because our leaders were too wary of intervening — lest they be called oppressive or worse by the left-leaning activist set — they inadvertently ended up doing pretty much everything in their power to set the stage for the cougar to be killed.
If this is what taking a humane, animal-rights approach looks like, then it's time we ask whether it's the wild creatures we are really looking out for, or whether it's our own existential guilt as 21st-century Americans that we're trying to mollify through such misguided tactics.
Leif Bergerud, Minneapolis
The Lowry Hill cougar has met an untimely death, and the Department of Natural Resources has shown us how to waste taxpayers' money. According to the story, the DNR has "plans to take it to the agency's Wildlife Research office in Grand Rapids to determine an official cause of death." Breaking news — the cougar, tagged in Nebraska, met an untimely death after being hit by a Hummer and died instantaneously. Why do we need to spend taxpayer money to ship the carcass to Grand Rapids to reach the same conclusion? If we need to know what the cougar has been eating or how much it weighed, certainly the DNR must have resources or connections in the metro area, like the University of Minnesota animal hospital, the Minnesota Zoo or numerous veterinarians who would be willing to provide the same information at little or no cost.
Dale Longfellow, St. Louis Park
Dean Phillips isn't so harsh
I write to challenge a recent letter writer's assertions about President Joe Biden set forth in the letter "Phillips' capital idea," published Dec. 6. The writer makes the uninformed assumption that Rep. Dean Phillips is running against Biden because Phillips is the only one with the courage to admit that the emperor has no clothes and that Biden is unfit to serve, presumably due to being "cognitively challenged."
I know Phillips personally, and have always perceived him as honest and thoughtful. Consequently, I was very anxious to learn whether he actually believes Biden is unfit for the office. Phillips himself answered this question in an interview on "Pod Save America" posted Nov. 30. He said that he has seen nothing indicating Biden is cognitively challenged or unfit to serve. Rather, Phillips believes the narrative that Biden is unfit is fixed in the minds of a large swath of the public, and will not be altered. (This itself is a huge indictment of the media, but that's a discussion for another day.) Phillips believes Biden can't win because he is perceived as unfit, but Phillips doesn't claim that Biden in fact is unfit. This is a very important distinction, and assertions like the writer's cannot go unchallenged if we are to avoid a Donald Trump dictatorship starting in 2025. Given that Biden's primary opponent actually believes Biden is competent to do the job, I don't know why we would change horses as this late date.
Mary Foarde, Minneapolis
Set up a closure process
This is a follow-up to the Dec. 2 letter titled "Hard choices ahead" about Minneapolis Public Schools. I was the superintendent of South St. Paul schools for 18 years during a time of declining enrollment. Enrollment dropped over 40% in 10 years, and we closed half the schools.
For Minneapolis schools, time is of the essence because school boards have kicked this can down the road for over 30 years. The school board should consider the model used by Congress to close military bases, decisions that have huge political and economic ramifications. In May 1988 Congress created a Commission on Base Realignment and Closures and has used this process several times in succeeding years. The charge to the commission was to make recommendations for closure of multiple sites. Congress has also been required to adopt the recommendations in their entirety or reject all recommended closures. Congress could not cherry pick which bases to close.
The school board should select a commission of respected individuals who bring expertise in education, finance, facilities, real estate, community, geography and history. The desired outcome should be to quit putting money into underused buildings and redirect money into high-quality programs for students. At every step of the process, how a decision will impact student success must be asked. Then the school board must have the courage to abide by the commission's decisions in full or not at all, as Congress has done.
Dave Metzen, Mendota Heights
The writer was superintendent of South St. Paul public schools from 1982-2000.
I am reading about the finalist interview with newly chosen Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams. She says in the first 100 days she would focus on listening to the board, students, parents and community members. When do the teachers and staff of the MPS system become part of the solution to the school problems? They seem to be the last people to be consulted and probably the ones with the best solutions.
Kathryn Burow, Minneapolis