On June 1 I read the commentary in the Star Tribune titled "Boost of school civics strengthens democracy" and was prompted to respond to the points state Sen. Steve Cwodzinski presented. I deeply agree that a required civics class will boost understanding and potentially increase involvement in local and nationwide politics. I have attended Orono High School since freshman year and was required to take a civics class and pass a final, state-issued test in order to pass the class. While I was taking this class my understanding of politics was strengthened, which made my overall life more enjoyable. I began consuming the news with a deliberate purpose and understood the actions my local government leaders were taking and how the national government was run. Once I turned 18 I voted in the 2022 midterms on Nov. 8. Because I was forced to take the civics class, I felt educated on issues in the community and was an informed voter. This class also gave me the resources to further research issues in my community.
I have noticed that students in the Orono community are more involved with politics than in other communities, and I believe this is due to the civics class. I think the civics class requirement across Minnesota will benefit state politics and bleed into other areas of importance as well. Thanks for your time in reading this letter, and I appreciate the issues Cwodzinski presented in the Star Tribune.
Joshua Keilen, Orono
Missing this session: gridlock
It seems ironic that the party of "no" is upset that the Democrats got things done this year. Hey, I'm not happy with everything that got passed, but at least something got done! It beats the standard gridlock of kicking the can down the road with nothing being accomplished.
Perhaps the reason some of these bills had costs to them was because those areas had been starved of funding for years by Republican's "no new taxes" pledge. A one-time surplus cannot make up for years of neglect.
Many of us long for the days of bipartisanship when Democrats and Republicans worked together for the betterment of the state, but that doesn't seem to be possible anymore. Remember in 2008, after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, when Republicans punished six members who voted with the Democrats to support a transportation bill that increased taxes and benefited their districts? They were stripped of leadership positions and a couple were challenged for endorsement the next year, while others did not run for reelection. This kind of behavior hardly creates bipartisanship.
Or how about 2010 when the state Republican Party banished former leaders like former Gov. Arne Carlson, Sen. Dave Durenberger and former Gov. Al Quie because they didn't want old-fashioned moderates in the party anymore?
Sorry, we need these old-time moderates on both sides of the aisle. They are the folks actually capable of working with each other and getting the job done.
Rochelle Eastman, Savage
Gov. Tim Walz inherited a $17 billion surplus and a razor-thin House and Senate majority. Yet he still increased the following taxes: 1) gas tax, 2) delivery tax and 3) metro sales tax — by 1%. Minnesota already is in the top 10 for taxation in the country.
The governor did pass tax rebates, much smaller than promised, at $260 for single filers and $520 for married couples. However, you receive no rebate if you earned more than $75,000 in 2021. So, if a married couple is a nurse and plumber with a combined $151,000 income, they would get no rebate. This is basically a welfare plan — moving the tax revenue from those who paid in to those who paid almost nothing.
In addition, the next two-year budget increased to $72 billion, a huge 38% increase. Governor, when will we get 20% raises to keep up with this?
If I listen carefully, I can hear all those high earners with their moving trucks headed to Tennessee and Florida. Governor, when they are gone, who will be left to pay for all of your new programs?
Jim Ripple, Minneapolis
Amid successes, one big failure
I was disappointed to read about Gov. Tim Walz's veto of a bill to protect ride-share drivers who have been earning less and less as costs rise. His reasoning, as well as much of the media coverage of the veto, is full of Uber and Lyft talking points that obfuscate blame. These major corporations stomp around and throw a fit, much like the Mayo Clinic did, until politicians cave to their demands. Pay no attention to the fact that similar reforms in Washington and New York came and went without Uber dramatically pulling out their services, as they threatened to do here. Pay no attention to the fact that our governor allegedly held no meetings with ride-share drivers to hear their concerns. No, worry only about cost, a problem that these companies created themselves: They built up a monopoly on these services, then started bleeding their drivers dry while leaving them with no leverage as they are only "independent contractors." Now they use disabled Minnesotans as a pawn, threatening to either price them out of access or to withhold services from their communities entirely. These companies have already paid higher wages to their drivers in the past. But now they charge us riders the same, take a bigger cut for themselves, and leave less behind for the driver doing the actual work. So let's not act like the demands being made of them are unreasonable. Let's not act like we don't know who the villains are in this story.
In a legislative session otherwise full of legitimate governing, this stands out as a rare act of cowardice from the DFL. A year to study the problem might seem like nothing to Walz, but for people barely getting by it's a heartbreaking message that their livelihood is not the priority of our government.
Max Ritter, St. Paul
There's a country down there
Interesting to read the quote from the U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in "Deal to keep Colorado River from going dry" (May 23): "There are 40 million people, seven states, and 30 Tribal Nations who rely on the Colorado River Basin for basic services such as drinking water and electricity." In this instance we seem to have forgotten all about our neighbors south of us. The country of Mexico and its inhabitants would have likely preferred some mention. After all, the Colorado River no longer flows all the way to the ocean, leaving a rich estuary as described years ago in the early writings of a young naturalist named Aldo Leopold.
It's no small wonder we have people living south of this country looking for a better life when we seem satisfied to use up resources we share, like water flowing in the Colorado. We can do better.
Alan Briesemeister, Delano
Hear me out ...
I am proposing a new political party. The last two elections have given us a very old president and an even older one. Let's bring that to its logical conclusion: We need someone who's dead. Yes, the "Dead Man's Party." Think of the benefits: no scandals, no graft, no embarrassing faux pas and a built-in theme song of the same name. It also has the benefit of being able to choose from some very popular dead politicians and celebrities. I don't think there is any provision in the Constitution requiring a live candidate. Think about it.
John Hocker, Truman, Minn.