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As stated in the Nov. 15 Star Tribune editorial, "Justice system is failing state's youths," we are failing the young people in our state who are getting into violent crime as well as their parents when we can't provide the treatment needed for troubled teens. Boys Totem Town and the Hennepin County Home School closed without adequate alternative plans prepared to handle troubled teens, leaving the teens, their parents and our schools with no satisfactory alternatives for treatment. What were we thinking?

I recently wrote my re-elected state legislators, governor and county commissioner asking what plans were being made or legislation proposed to develop the facilities and treatment plans needed to provide help. So far, I've received no answers.

Actually, I'm not sure which agencies and authorities are the starting points for determining what our state should do. So I ask: Who is working on this matter, and what are they doing?

Lois Willand, Minneapolis


We can all agree that the juvenile justice system in Minnesota does not answer the needs of young offenders, as detailed in the recent editorial "Justice system is failing state's youths." Their needs did not arise overnight, however. They were apparent earlier in life in the form of behavior problems and alienation in high school with many dropping out of school before finishing.

Their needs were apparent in elementary and middle school with below-grade-level performance and detentions. The needs even showed up at school entry to kindergarten when many students presented with limited vocabularies and an inability to regulate their emotions. Some were unaccustomed to listening to a teacher or adapting their behavior to a group setting.

In fact, a majority of today's youths involved in the legal system began to lose ground much earlier in their lives, during the first three or four years. Brain research shows that infants are primed to respond to interactions with consistent and caring adults starting at birth and important brain pathways and connections are formed every day. Talking, reading and playing all encourage babies and toddlers to form trusting relationships with adults, whether parents or child care workers.

Public funds that enable parents to stay home to bond with a new baby and to pay for effective child care when they return to work are investments in the future of our youngest children. The payoff comes early when they can start kindergarten ready to learn without makeup help. The payback continues when they achieve in school and function easily in the school setting, leading to a high school diploma and future options.

Later in life, the investment pays off with a lower incidence of substance abuse, violent behavior and incarceration. Health benefits also occur in prevention of hypertension, diabetes, depression and suicide.

There is no doubt that our juvenile offenders need secure, effective treatment and rehabilitation.

The question remains, however, about our continued failure to fund crucial investment in our youngest citizens and their families so that fewer will need this kind of help in future years.

This letter was submitted by Mary Meland, Dale Dobrin, Ada Alden and Roger Sheldon. All are members of Doctors for Early Childhood.


DNR is doing just fine

A recent article and letter to the editor called into question the management practices of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Division of Forestry, claiming that current management practices are not ecologically sound ("Timber turbulence," Oct. 23, and "Our state lands are suffering," Readers Write, Nov. 6).

While forest management can be complex, and conflicting management priorities are often hotly debated, the notion that the DNR is mismanaging the state's abundant forest resource flies in the face of fact.

In 2003, then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty directed the DNR to seek independent third-party certification of its management of forest lands held in trust by the state for benefit of its citizens. The impetus of this directive was the growing desire by forest product companies to assure the public, and their customers, that the products they were selling came from forests that were sustainably managed.

Forest certification systems measure each land managers' adherence with a daunting array of ecological, economic and social criteria that assess the impact and effects of their management practices.

After much discussion, DNR leadership made the decision to seek dual certification; that is to set as high a bar as available, by seeking certification under both of the certifying bodies then in existence. Those two bodies are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI).

After an exhaustive two-year application and field-auditing process, funded and supported by the state legislature, the DNR was awarded certificates by both systems in 2005.

In order to maintain these certificates, annual surveillance reviews and regular recertification audits must be conducted by accredited auditors. Currently the DNR is the largest FSC certificate holder in the country, with nearly 5 million acres enrolled.

You can look it up.

Tom Baumann, Isanti, Minn.

The writer is a retired DNR forest management supervisor.


Shame, no. Innovation, yes.

There is merit to the point in the Nov. 15 online-only opinion piece "Don't shame U.S. oil companies for making money." We don't want to put U.S. companies at a disadvantage. But there are two points the article does not consider.

  1. Oil companies in the U.S. and around the world are fleecing consumers by limiting supply. True, global markets set the price, but there are so few suppliers, it's basically a monopolistic confederation, and consumers have essentially only one piper we can pay.
  2. There are external costs to oil and other fossil fuels that the market does not account for. Carbon pollution leads to more deaths and displacement. And America can't be truly independent if we are still beholden to the whims of Saudi Arabia or Venezuela opening their spigots a bit wider.

We know it's bad for us, so when do we start taxing fossil fuels like we do tobacco? There are smart ways to do this. Oil-rich Canada is already doing it. We need to start small and grow the tax predictably. Create a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) to protect American businesses. Give the money back to citizens and let us inspire some innovations.

Andy Willette, St. Louis Park


More gems to be found

I read with great interest the article "Sacred Second Acts" (Nov. 8) about abandoned churches that "morph" into other uses. As an architectural historian with a particular interest in the preservation of historic houses of worship, I always welcome the efforts of people who recognize the important role these buildings have played in their communities, and how they represent the diversity of people who settled here.

But not all houses of worship are churches. One of the most beautifully preserved examples of a reuse of a religious building can be found in Virginia, Minn. — a little red brick synagogue erected in 1910 by the city's small Jewish community that remained in use for almost a century. The only synagogue in Minnesota on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was beautifully and professionally restored through the fundraising efforts of a group of volunteers who then gave the building to the not-for-profit Northern Lights Musical Festival, headquartered in Gilbert, Minn., which uses the venue for a variety of musical programs and other cultural events. Renamed B'nai Abraham Cultural Center and Museum, the building also houses a permanent display documenting the history of Jewish Iron Rangers and rotating exhibits.

I would urge your readers to make an effort to visit this beautifully restored building the next time they travel Up North.

Marilyn J. Chiat, Minnetonka