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In response to "Landfills full; alternatives few" (front page, Jan. 26): Burying or burning trash are not the only two pathways out of our waste problem. While an immediate solution is clearly needed to manage the garbage we're producing now, we must also turn our attention to the real problem. Instead of digging ourselves into a deeper hole that commits us to burying or burning valuable resources, it is time for leadership to seize the moment and take us down a new path toward zero waste.

A high percentage of what we incinerate or put in landfills is recyclable or compostable. If captured, those materials would support our local economy, create sustainable jobs and curb climate change. We need policies like U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's Zero Waste Act that would provide grants for investments in composting, electronic waste reuse and recycling, reuse systems and recycling market development. We also need policies that ensure corporate producers are paying their fair share. Let's be real: While we all enjoy that bag of chips, we want the product, not the bag, and it's time corporations take responsibility instead of forcing us to pick up the bill for the waste they make.

Investments in landfills or incinerators are a dead end. In a time where jobs, the economy and our climate are suffering and exacerbating the racial inequities created by our existing take-make-waste system, let's take a moment to step back and reimagine what a just and healthy future could look like, and put our energy and money into creating it!

Priscilla Villa-Watt, St. Paul


Overlooked tool: Our forests

Thanks to Ellen Anderson for her clear depiction of Minnesota's lagging efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions ("State's climate report card shows we're failing," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 25). Anderson is a tough but fair grader, assigning very low grades to the agricultural, transportation and residential sectors. Only electricity generation got a decent grade, earning a B. It's a dismal picture, and we've got to do better in all of these sectors.

But one additional sector where we might temporarily grant ourselves an "incomplete" is in the management of our state's forests. Forests cover about one-third of our state's land and they suck in carbon dioxide like atmospheric vacuum cleaners.

Without much attention from policymakers, forests have reduced the total greenhouse gases by millions of metric tons. A recent report by the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota demonstrated how key forest-related policies could significantly increase that total. (See "Report finds state's forests, land key to greenhouse gas reduction," Jan. 19.) The report identifies four strategies to increase carbon storage in our forests: reforestation of marginal lands, the creation of riparian forest buffers, avoiding forest conversion and improving forest management through practices like extended rotation, increased stocking, thinning and multi-age management. Happily, a recent report from the multi-stakeholder Minnesota Forest Resources Council, "Climate Change and Minnesota's Forests," had a similar list of recommendations.

The governor has created a subcabinet on climate change, which includes a natural and working lands action team, headed up by the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture. This group is responsible for developing policies to increase forest carbon sequestration and storage. How they perform will help determine what kind of grade the state receives when the next greenhouse gas inventory comes out in two years.

Brett Smith, Minneapolis


Competency is, indeed, the point

In an online Opinion article, a Los Angeles Times writer (Robin Abcarian) tries to make the point that socialism is not such a bad thing — that Americans like it, after all, and that at least some aspects of socialism are responsible for many (all!) of the great virtues of American society ("When will Republicans learn that demonizing liberals as 'socialists' doesn't work?" Jan. 28). Of course, I paraphrase, barely. But early on, the writer says this: "It's hard to sell the idea that we need less government. In a pandemic — must it even be said? — competent government is essential." If you have heard the term "red herring" to describe an argument but were wondering what it means, look no further.

No Republican would argue with the idea that "competent government is essential." Indeed, that is the very central component of Republican philosophy. It's liberalism's confusing the concept of competency as the opposite of "less" that is the basic and essential problem with contemporary liberal thought. Indeed, Republicans would (and do) say very loudly these days, "How about a little competency from government in dealing with the pandemic, eh, governor?" Insert your favorite government program for "pandemic," and you will have made the same point. More does not mean better, and it certainly does not mean competent. And when the program is riddled with inefficiency, graft, bureaucratic bungling and politics, well, more means much worse.

Stephen Grittman, Buffalo, Minn.
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For the many of us who have had an interest in government for several decades, we hope that the Republican Party can rebuild itself. It needs more favorable characteristics: integrity, empathy, higher-quality candidates and effective policies. It needs dignity and professionalism. Its candidates need to be above reproach and have the inclination to work productively with credible officials of other persuasions so that things can be done. Bickering is unproductive.

The Republican Party today is like a scraggling tree that needs pruning. In politics as well as business, a lot can be accomplished by subtraction. The demonizing of certain groups, foul language, abhorrent personal behavior and simplistic tweets should all go. Instead, let us get back to some of the enlightened practices of earlier times with policy initiatives nurtured by informed citizen inputs and thoughtful analysis.

Almost all of us like the two-party system. Let's see if we can restore it.

Fred Zimmerman, Minnetonka


Save restaurants with a tip credit

With so many great restaurants already out of business and the accompanying jobs lost, it is not too late for the Minneapolis City Council to throw a lifeline to our remaining restaurants to help them survive and provide a way to rescue their servers' careers.

Establishing the tip credit (which the council rejected several years ago) to be able to count tips as income in meeting the minimum wage is more critical than ever. Such remaining icons as Spoon and Stable, Demi, Martina and others have likely had no other common-sense alternative for meeting payroll than with a 20% or so surcharge, to be distributed between both servers and kitchen staff.

Servers who made $50,000-100,000 per year with their tips will be lucky to make $25,000-40,000 with the surcharge and no tips. Having to pay servers the currently mandated $11.25/$13.25 per hour in addition to their tips wipes out the entire profitability of most fine-dining restaurants. In moving out of this period of takeout and delivery without the tip credit, can the noble server profession ever come back?

Remaining high-end restaurants that have defined our wonderful food culture now have few choices left: offering tasting menus to control food costs, charging higher prices to pass on increasing labor and food costs or operating with fewer servers and chefs serving food directly from the kitchen. It didn't have to be this way.

Bob Macdonald, Minneapolis

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