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The so-called "duplex bill" in the Legislature that would encourage increased housing density in Minnesota cities ("Bill looks to supersede residential zoning regulations across the state," Feb. 21) would do much more than help people find an affordable place to live. It would also help protect wildlife, farms and the beauty of the Minnesota landscape.

In fact, making our urban spaces more efficient could save nearly 7,000 acres of Minnesota farmland, as well as over 4,000 acres of forests, every single year. This is according to a research report titled "Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future," which I led with a national nonprofit organization called American Farmland Trust.

Why? It's simple math. If we build new houses on half-acre lots, housing 100 families takes 50 acres. If we instead build a mix of duplexes, fourplexes, apartment buildings and houses on smaller lots, those same families could happily share 10 acres, saving the remaining 40 for nature and food production. Even better, we can add homes to existing urban areas and spare our state's wetlands, forests and farmland.

To people accustomed to a suburban lifestyle, this change might sound unlivable, or even downright un-American. It's not. My family lives on about 1/6 of an acre. We have a deck, a yard, and more garden than we can handle most of the time. We live next door to a fourplex, across the street from a triplex and there are two apartment buildings on our block. It all adds up to a vibrant, safe and neighborly place for our son to grow up.

If more Minnesota cities were built this way, we could preserve more of our state's natural wonders — something you can get behind whether you're a farmer, a hunter or a nature lover. The duplex bill in the Legislature would help.

Mitch Hunter, St. Paul

The writer is a senior research fellow with American Farmland Trust and an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Minnesota.


I'm not paid to patrol downtown

In regards to Sam Turner's commentary on Feb. 23, "Having workers present would help with public safety — and perceptions thereof," on requiring workers to return to office buildings in order to make downtown Minneapolis safer, I don't think that is my responsibility as an employee. If I can fulfill my job responsibilities working from home, I should not have to spend my hard-earned money nor time away from my personal life in order to walk around downtown to make it safe. Nor should I have to go into the office to support parking garages or restaurants or other businesses in downtown Minneapolis.

COVID has changed so much of our lives, but even more changes are coming with AI. I care about the safety and vitality of our downtown areas, but we need to be creative about the future and not return to the way things were. That ship has sailed, and more sailing is on the way.

Maggie O'Groske, St. Paul


This will get complicated

With the recent Alabama court ruling that embryos are people, I have some questions:

Will parents be able to claim embryos as dependents?

Will embryos count toward a child care credit?

Will parents be able to buy life insurance on embryos?

Will embryos be counted during the next census?

I am sure there are many more questions that will be raised. I am curious on what the answers will be!

Jim Smola, Apple Valley


Painful as it is, say no

Reading the article "Bill would require infertility coverage" in the Feb. 18 paper, it's natural to feel sympathy for the couples who can't conceive children of their own. We feel for their personal trials. We would be heartless not to. But I hope that legislators in Minnesota will consider more than an emotional appeal when deliberating on a bill that would require health plans to provide coverage for infertility treatments. I hope they consider what is best for all.

Consider the major challenges facing many Minnesotans: increasing costs of health care and health insurance, overpopulation of our cities, loss of wilderness to sprawl, homeless and immigrant populations looking for work, AI causing downsizing and anthropogenic climate change. How will bringing another child into the world help? How will paying thousands of dollars for treatments that may or may not help a couple conceive a child help? Why should the government encourage an action that inevitably will lead to more social costs? The government should be finding ways to encourage couples to have fewer kids (like incentives for men to get vasectomies). But, in the end, if these couples want the infertility treatments, they can pay for the expensive procedures on their own; children are after all a priceless blessing. But don't put it on the backs of others. If anything, provide these families with incentives to adopt children.

Mark Robinson, St. Paul


We don't jettison the law like that

A writer in Friday's paper (Readers Write, Feb. 23) states that "laws are not effective controls of human behavior." He evidently believes that because criminals do not obey gun-control laws, we should not have any such laws. The right wing has contorted the Second Amendment to normalize and support criminal behavior.

But think about the broader implications of what the letter writer is suggesting: Because criminals break laws, laws are ineffective and we shouldn't have them. Why stop at gun laws? Every law on the books has been broken. Do we just get rid of them all? The writer is bowing down to criminals and allowing them to dictate how society is run.

I don't think America should work this way. I hope most Americans believe in the rule of law and have faith in our system of justice, however imperfect it may be. Keep the faith — while working for improvement.

Jim Almendinger, Stillwater


Man! There is no shortage of support for first responders to domestic abuse incidents. Imagine if victims of domestic abuse received that much support. A woman killed by her partner may get a mention by the media, and then she's forgotten. Ain't right.

Garth Gideon, St. Joseph, Minn.


Save yourself the sunburn

Regarding the many recent opinion pieces on toplessness ("Toplessness laws: Still around, still unjust, and getting complicated," Opinion Exchange, Feb. 17, and reader responses): Men and women, none of you are as attractive as you like to think. Keep your clothes on!

Mark Gortze, Plymouth