I strongly disagree with Jessica Shaten's opinion in "Party endorsement policies fuel convention chaos" (Opinion Exchange, May 19). She ignores the function of political parties: to provide a means for ordinary like-minded people to band together to mount candidates and voice their political concerns without the advantage of great wealth. Without party endorsement, many of our finest elected officials might never have been elected — Hubert Humphrey, Don Fraser, Amy Klobuchar, Paul Wellstone, etc.
Party endorsement is the only means of holding elected officials responsible in heavily partisan districts, and opposition from within Lyndon B. Johnson's party was what stopped the Vietnam War.
Shaten also ignores the importance of those who participate in precinct caucuses and choose convention delegates. Participation is wide open to any citizen who identifies with a political party. If very few participate, it is the failure of the party and the press to educate and/or publicize the process.
Party dominance has usually been earned by serving the constituency in accord with its values, and this is enhanced by an open and honest process and a reliance on people rather than money.
Ruth Cain, Minneapolis
The writer was associate chair of the Minnesota DFL, 1972-78.
As a Minneapolis resident and member of the Minnesota DFL, I'd like to commend Shaten for her excellent and incisive commentary warning us of the exclusionary and undemocratic dangers of the current Minneapolis DFL endorsement process. As stated in her commentary, winning coveted DFL endorsements in the DFL conventions frequently ensures wins for candidates in the general election.
One of the main reasons we changed to an instant-runoff, or ranked-choice, voting system for local elections was to broaden the field of potential candidates for each local office and eliminate the need for a primary election or endorsement convention process.
Minnesota DFL, if you are listening, let us please take away the power wielded by party insiders and well-funded issues activists in the cliquish and insular DFL endorsement conventions. Let's end the selection of our future civic leaders by small groups of inside power-brokers, often in the late-night hours, months before the actual election. Please end city- and county-level winner-take-all partisan endorsements now. Let's return the power to pick our local leaders to the voters — on Election Day.
James Ronnei, Minneapolis
The Shaten commentary well captures the current state of our state's political realities, both in Minneapolis and in Minnesota overall.
She says: "In all DFL-dominated jurisdictions, securing 'DFL endorsement' essentially means securing the seat." And, "In real elections, all registered voters can participate. In Minneapolis DFL conventions, a maximum of 400 can participate. The 10th Ward in Minneapolis is home to more than 20,000 registered voters; the endorsing convention was limited to 2% of them. In essence, a very small fraction of the jurisdiction's voters determines who gets the seat."
The city of Minneapolis' likely irreversible socioeconomic trends are canaries in Minnesota's political coal mine. And given the DFL's statewide political dominance, Minnesota taxpayers' choices have become: tolerate or relocate.
Gene Delaune, New Brighton
Ken Martin is the most competent DFL chair in my lifetime. As a rural DFLer I appreciate his unwavering support despite our recent losses. In 2022 he and Team DFL engineered an incredible victory against strong headwinds.
Regarding the 10th Ward incident: I am encouraging my friend Ken to remain calm and leave the overreacting to us who specialize in it ("DFL takes a stand after melee," May 19). The existing rules already allow for a consequence for "physical assault."We want new Americans to join our party. A lifetime ban would be counterproductive. Because our meetings are open, a banned member could show up and cause mayhem without consequence. As LBJ stated, it's better to have them in the tent peeing out than outside peeing in.
It is time to remember the theme of the original progressive movement, the Non-Partisan League. "We stick, we win."
C.T. Marhula, Bemidji, Minn.
MPLS. PARK BOARD
Rally behind the Greenway
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is considering canceling plans to consider regional trail status for the Midtown Greenway because it is concerned that regional trail status will leave the Park Board responsible for undefined future expenses ("Is there will for the Greenway?" May 17). This is unfortunate, shortsighted and a disservice to the people who could benefit by having the Greenway included in the regional trail system. Included among those who would benefit are the residents of the Phillips community of Minneapolis. Having concerns about cost is good, but Park Board concerns are based only on conjecture at this point. The purpose of the master planning process and the corresponding draft inter-agency operations agreement is "to clarify MPRB's role in ownership and operations of the trail." (That's from their own project website.) If the Park Board kills the creation of a master plan, there won't even be a master plan and draft inter-agency operations agreement to review. On the other hand, creating a master plan does not commit the Park Board to any further funding of the Greenway.
Making a regional trail out of the Greenway, a six-mile bikeway that traverses south Minneapolis from Bde Maka Ska to the Mississippi River, would bring additional funding, higher safety standards and membership in the metro area's network of park and trail connections. It also could make travel to St. Paul much easier for commuters and recreational users.
The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF), an independent, nonfederal panel of public health and prevention experts, has examined interventions that improve greenway infrastructures and found that improving greenway infrastructure with one or more additional interventions increases the number of people who engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The CPSTF also found that the median annual economic benefit was $994,000 and that the economic benefits exceed the costs. A full report is available at thecommunityguide.org.
The community needs to rally behind the Minneapolis Park Board and a regional master plan to assure that the Park Board has sufficient resources now, and in the future, to not only maintain the Midtown Greenway as a regional trail but to work with other communities and agencies to extend the Greenway across the Mississippi River and into downtown St. Paul.
Thomas Erling Kottke, St. Paul
The writer is a member of the Community Preventive Services Task Force.
Our state is in crisis
Minnesota is in a mental health crisis. People in need of immediate care have to face extended wait periods to receive help. Young people's mental health is suffering greatly. Additionally, BIPOC individuals are disproportionately affected by a lack of mental health care as there are very few mental health professionals who are people of color. When people are unable to access mental health care, the consequences are detrimental. Oftentimes, people are left sicker, homeless or incarcerated. Though the state has made great progress in recent years, and great successes continue, fundamental change must be made to increase access to mental health care in Minnesota.
The lack of funding makes it impossible for there to be adequate and accessible care in Minnesota. According to data analyzed by the Star Tribune, commercial insurers pay about $12,000 less for mental health treatment than for patients with physical health issues such as needing hip or knee replacements. There needs to be an active initiative to address the shortage of professionals in hospitals. Insurers must face more state regulations so that they are providing equal care.
There are an abundance of studies clearly showing the dire state of mental health access in Minnesota, and plenty of data to show what needs to be done. Now, there needs to be direct action and support from legislators to implement the change that needs to occur to save the state.
Sofia Perlman, Minneapolis