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As Steve Cramer ends his time leading the Minneapolis Downtown Council, I would like to join others in Minneapolis — and Minnesota — in thanking him for his steady hand on the wheel during the tumultuous days of COVID and unrest following George Floyd's death. After serving on the Minneapolis City Council (and running for mayor), Cramer joined the council as CEO in 2013. Never one to attract attention to himself, he has been an advocate for downtown projects such as Commons Park and the renovation of Peavey Plaza while keeping focus on basic safety and a sense of hospitality. If there were a way to "saint" civic leaders, Steve Cramer should be a Minneapolis saint.

Thank you, Steve.

Linda Mack, Minneapolis

The writer is a former Star Tribune architecture columnist.


Show support for loons another way

For those wondering about a loon on the state flag, perhaps consider that very likely more local and out-of-state people see license plates than the state flag. The loon license plate supports the non-game wildlife fund and helps protect critical habitat. I'm happy to pay a bit extra for my license plate to show that I love our loons.

Merlynne Goff, Edina


A state flag is a symbol, not a sweater you buy and wear because you like the style. No one needs to love or even like the flag. But everyone, in time, should see the symbol and think of what it represents: the state we love (or maybe just like). Design-wise, do we all love the U.S. stars and stripes? Probably not, but patriots live and die for the nation symbolized in that flag.

We can all debate the style of Minnesota's new flag options, as well as the value of a public design contest to create that symbol. When we decide to accept the new flag as a symbol of the state we love, we'll fly it proudly. And we'll probably make sweaters out of it.

Glenn Hansen, Stillwater


All of the state flag designs I have seen are an improvement over the current one, with their simpler designs. I see nothing inappropriate with including a snowflake, but for the love of Paul Bunyan and Betty Crocker, do not give it eight points. Our neighbors here in the North Central region will think we have never seen one if it has anything other than six points.

James Joseph Brandes, Robbinsdale


It's coming, and fast

I appreciate the optimism expressed by Minnesota's new paid leave director Greg Norfleet in the Nov. 22 story "Paid leave chief faces first hurdle." The paid leave program does not take effect until January 2026. The Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) requirements passed by Legislature this summer, however, take effect in less than a month, on Jan. 1, 2024. Employers around the state are scrambling to draft compliant policies before New Year's Eve. Employers who were not aware of the new requirement should act now to be ready for Jan. 1.

These two types of paid time off are in addition to each other, not cumulative. Both of these laws apply, or will apply, to all employers in the state, even if they have only one employee. Smaller companies especially are going to feel the cumulative effect of these laws. For reference, the federal law known as the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, only applies to companies with at least 50 employees and only provides for unpaid leave.

Minnesota employees will be able to accrue up to 80 hours (two weeks) of ESST. Paid family leave, under certain circumstances, will be available for up to 20 weeks in a year. If you add in two weeks of vacation and five paid holidays, employees in Minnesota could be paid for up to 25 weeks, close to half a year, while not working. I question whether this will be sustainable for smaller employees, not just in cost and administrative burden but absenteeism.

Paid sick leave was not required anywhere in the country until the beginning of this century. Efforts to address this are laudable, and all employees deserve time off to care for themselves or others. But I fear the Minnesota Legislature maybe pivoted too far, and we may need to make a course correction.

V. John Ella, Robbinsdale

The writer is an employment law attorney.


Don't humor these complaints

I disagree with Friday's Star Tribune editorial ("A new way to weigh book complaints"). The Editorial Board supporting a process that will give a voice to those who wish to censor a public library's book inventory is fairness run amok. Example: "[C]itizens who object to certain books in public libraries should be able to express their views and be heard by library officials."

Really? And what kind of books might be reviewed as the public library honors the freedom of expression of the complainant? I suspect the issue would have to do with human sexuality. And, of course, we all know that some people feel that it's their civic duty to pass moral judgments on other people's sexual expressions. Apparently the Star Tribune supports such activity.

Censorship is censorship — whether shrouded in some desire to give a fair voice to the censors or not.

When the issue is public safety, this notion of hearing all sides of the argument might be appropriate. (For example, should a public library have a book on its shelves that give detailed instructions in bomb-making? Probably not. What about a book that deals with how to start up a business in sex trafficking? Probably not.)

Aside from this exercise in freedom of speech, there's another issue of much lower priority. It's economic. I suspect that dedicated librarians can think of better ways to spend money (and time) on reviews that serve no other purpose than to give those who would suppress free speech their day in court. And I, as a taxpayer, trust our public librarians to use my money well.

Richard Masur, Minneapolis


My two cents on the editorial "A new way to weigh book complaints": I believe the two books in the spotlight ("It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health," and "Gender Queer: A Memoir") are valuable to the reading public seeking quality information and education in a private setting.

Great River Regional Library is a public library, very different from a school library catering to a "hostage" population. While some people have very narrow views on the topic of sex, that does not mean information should not be made available. Perhaps the two books should be labeled as mandatory reading for all parents. (I'm serious.)

From what I read, the Great River Regional board and others involved in selecting and defending all books are intelligent, educated, trustworthy and perfectly capable of putting worthwhile titles on the shelves.

In these divisive times across the nation, I am reminded of the message circulating on social media: "The Constitution does not need to be rewritten, it needs to be reread." I support the board's decision to review and update the library system's policies and practices. But understand, I am fiercely against caving in to removing any titles that are protected by the First Amendment.

I can only state that too little information is dangerous, and our democracy can only survive if all citizens are well-read, educated, independent thinkers and truly respect the rights of all citizens.

Wanda Jacobsen, St. Joseph, Minn.