Readers Write: Southwest mild rail, police, racial disparities, Minnesota politics

There is a television program titled “Mysteries of the Abandoned.” It is a show about (usually) colossal construction projects that have outlived their original purpose or were so badly flawed they were abandoned. It is time to truly consider that the Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) project join the roster of projects featured on this program. The Star Tribune, other publications and TV news have all reported in recent weeks that the Metropolitan Council does not know when SWLRT will be operational nor how much it will ultimately cost.

Is that a reason to abandon it when so much money has been invested in it so far? Yes! Would you burn a $1 bill if it would save you multiple? This would be the ratio to consider here, except add nine zeros behind each number. SWLRT using fixed rail transit was the right mode for this route — when it was conceived. It was not the right mode to choose when final plans were approved; rapid bus is much more efficient with flexible routing. But, abandon the investment? Yes. Mothballing the project now would save millions or more in construction costs. Add to that the incredible subsidies that Hennepin County taxpayers would avoid because, pre-COVID, the Metropolitan Council website indicated that light rail transit operational costs are not covered by the fare box. Those operational costs will continue to climb while SWLRT ridership is minimal. Often referred to as the state’s largest public works project, SWLRT has remarkably flown under the radar while overseen by the unelected Metropolitan Council. Maybe the recently announced potential for a legislative audit will bring the scrutiny SWLRT deserves.

Burn a billion to save a few more? It’s just common sense.

Rick Greenfield, Minnetonka


While entertaining difficult conversations, I encourage a positive revision regarding how police officers are viewed. In most cases they’ve been unfairly vilified and amends should be made. There ought to be a campaign to show support for those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect society.

Most people accept media narratives of “bad police” without understanding what they deal with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, sensationalistic media coverage often exacerbates problems by fanning flames of indignation without corresponding examination of situational facts and circumstances.

Many in Minneapolis are anxious to boost police forces again and restore a protective presence. Trendy, inaccurate ideological frameworks about policing have generated abysmal officer morale and rising crime rates. What people in all communities want is reliable security. This doesn’t come from untrained neighborhood groups, reducing police numbers or magical thinking. It comes from cooperative, respectful, quality engagement. If any balk at this concept, they should promote equity and engaged connection by enrolling in the department. Become part of the solution through active participation.

No one wants bad police practices. Most officers genuinely mean well and merit recognition for their service. They don’t deserve vilification because of trends, profit, racial or political agendas. If one lacks a strong immune system, the body will be plagued by disease. This applies to nurturing, or undermining, the health of a police force, too. Narratives of wrongdoing are not true simply because they are popular. While being sensitive to the rightful need to eliminate bad cops and aberrant police practices, consider promoting a positive “99% are good cops and on your side” perception. It’ll do a world of good.

The Rev. Alan L. Pritz, Minneapolis


Alleviating Minnesota’s racial disparities in education, employment and wealth should be a top priority for state and local governments. With that noble goal in mind, the Minnesota House made 83 policy recommendations intended to “dismantle racism” (“Equity advocates contend state leaders’ work fell short,” Aug. 16). But is racism really the primary root of our state’s current disparities? Or do they arise at least in part from factors that are far less sinister and easier to address and solve?

One of the most damaging racial disparities in Minnesota is the high school graduation gap. A quick look at graduation rates reveals that such gaps are vastly worse in Minneapolis than in the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Does this suggest then the teachers and administrators in Minneapolis Public Schools are far more “racist” than those in Eagan or other District 196 communities? It seems unlikely that progressive Minneapolis, which has sent Ilhan Omar to Congress by landslide margins, is more racist than suburbs inhabited in substantial part by culturally isolated white folks.

So maybe the Legislature and other policymakers should be looking at factors beyond the immeasurable concept of “racism” when examining differences between racial groups in Minnesota. For example, what percentage of Minnesotans of color are recent immigrants from developing countries? How many Minnesotans of color are new English speakers? What are the racial disparities between Minnesotans of similar age, language proficiency and time of residency in the state? It’s very hard to implement effective policies to conquer racial disparities without an honest assessment of their roots. Objective analysis, rather than ideology, should set the agenda on this crucial matter.

Jerry Anderson, Eagan


According to Reuters, here’s what Biden’s secretary of state recently announced: “The U.S. State Department has invited [United Nations] experts who investigate racism and minority issues to conduct an official visit to the United States.” The focus is to be on systemic racism in law enforcement.

The investigation will be conducted by experts appointed by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council. Membership on the council at present includes 47 countries including the following: China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Russian Federation, Cuba, Somalia and Bangladesh. Do any of these countries have a separate agenda involving an investigation of the U.S.? Are there any conflicts of interest? Are these countries all pillars of civil liberties?

Need I explain further the absurdity of those countries sitting in judgment of civil rights practices in the United States? This seems to be a world-class example of naive virtue-signaling by the Biden administration. What could go wrong?

Steve Bakke, Edina


OK, kids. It’s rock-paper-scissors time in Minnesota politics! So here’s the question: What beats what?

Seriously, which party wins in a rock-paper-scissors game when you have the Minneapolis DFL Party chair seemingly extolling the virtues of looting retail outlets and burning down the Third Precinct going up against a female University of St. Thomas chapter chair of the Minnesota College Republicans who is arrested in connection with federal sex trafficking charges? Is the latter contest affected by having a former state GOP party chair who has ties to a major donor who’s actually been charged on federal sex trafficking charges? Just to add to the confusion, when a sitting DFL legislator from St. Paul publicly endorses burning down the city of Hugo, is he a rock, paper or scissors? Does it matter if the legislator in question might actually live in Wisconsin and falsely claimed he was targeted on a routine traffic stop by St. Paul’s finest because he’s Black?

Admittedly, these are confusing times. Clearly, we need a referee and a panel of rock-paper-scissors judges who can give us a definitive answer to the question of who wins statewide in such a contest. Furthermore, should we have an arm-wrestling contest to break a tie? By the way, who’s on first, anyway?

M.L. Kluznik, Mendota Heights

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