This week looms large for Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure as the Legislature’s Transportation Conference Committee seeks to find common ground to address our annual funding gap for roads, bridges and transit. As a transportation civil engineer, I worked alongside other engineers for many years providing accurate data so that politicians were aware of funding shortages and the consequences of not taking action. I am proud that a very talented group of civil engineers from the American Society of Civil Engineers Minnesota prepared the 2018 Minnesota Infrastructure Report Card, our state’s first report card, which played such an important role in the preparation of the current transportation funding legislation developed by Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota House legislators. Their proposed legislation addresses the needs put forth in the report card and, if enacted, would significantly raise the D+ grade for roads as well as for transit (C-) and bridges (C).

I urge support for a significant gas tax increase and for the other funding proposals to address our transportation funding gap. These will serve Minnesota well for years to come.

We cannot afford to wait any longer. We can do better than a D+.

Randy Geerdes, Plymouth

CLIMATE CHANGE

Species extinction warning is ‘overwhelming,’ but we can help

The U.N. report on declining biodiversity (“1 million species face threat of extinction,” front page, May 7) makes clear the implications of human choices on the natural world. We’ve also been warned for decades that human impacts are changing the climate patterns. Overwhelming, right? What can we do beyond recycling and refusing drinking straws?

We can join organizations working to address these concerns, reduce our personal consumption, buy locally and insist that political candidates factor sustainability in their policies.

Also, we can change our taste in lawns. Personal taste can be altered, and the classic lawn of green velvet should go out of style in the interest of the environment. Biodiverse lawns need to be mowed less often, allow more rainwater to be absorbed and provide for pollinators. I’m grateful for neighbors who accept this perspective.

Janet Mitchell, Northfield

TESTOSTERONE RULING

‘Natural advantages’ and fair play

The ruling that South African runner Caster Semenya’s dangerously powerful body must be chemically handicapped in fairness to her competitors doesn’t go far enough in protecting all of us from people who are better at things than we are (“Testosterone ruling hits hard,” May 2). Every single Olympic athlete is fitter, stronger and more determined than I am. Most are healthier, many are taller and a good many are probably cuter. Some of them probably lack my sweet tooth and ever-growing queue of Netflix series. All of these qualities provide intolerable natural advantages, impermissible in the name of fair play.

Limiting Semenya’s natural physical abilities until the runners-up and also-rans can compete with her is only the beginning of fairness; a truly level playing field requires bringing them all down to the level of us never-runs.

Alexander Hindin, St. Louis Park

SENTENCING COMMISSION

A needed voice in the justice system

Kudos to Gov. Tim Walz for appointing much-needed new voices to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission (“She brings an ex-con’s view to state prison panel,” front page, May 7). As Minnesotans, we like to pat ourselves on the back for having a lower incarceration rate than most other states. However, that frame leaves out the fact that the U.S. is an outlier, and even Minnesota’s incarceration rate is higher than most countries in the world. Further, because of extreme probation lengths, we have more people under correctional control than most other states.

Having followed the commission closely over the past several years, I was struck by how it was dominated by people with prosecutorial mind-sets. Walz’s appointments will bring some much-needed balance and a path toward making Minnesota a leader in smarter and more equitable criminal justice policy.

Lars Negstad, Minneapolis

VENEZUELA

Why decry involvement in one country and advocate it in another?

Please tell me why folks in the U.S. can’t stand the thought of Russia meddling with U.S. presidential elections and yet the same folks seem to think it is OK for us to be meddling in the affairs of other countries (editorial, May 7)? This is the case now with the U.S. thinking it should be in charge of who leads Venezuela, even going so far as imposing sanctions and threatening military involvement. The hypocrisy and arrogance of our leaders and citizens is astounding to me.

Barry Riesch, St. Paul

HEALTH CARE

Expand mental health treatment model to help Minnesotans

With respect to the Star Tribune’s recent article on Minnesota mental health care (“Mental health outreach cut short?” front page, April 28), I’m writing to argue that the expansion of Minnesota’s mental health treatment model is essential for current patients and all individuals who are seeking mental health care access.

As the rates of mental illnesses rise, there is a need now more than ever for accessible community mental health services. Individuals who are struggling with a mental illness face enough challenges and shouldn’t be presented with another problem of lack of care. According to Mental Health America, 46% of adults in Minnesota who had a mental illness in 2017 did not receive treatment. Individuals with a mental health diagnosis need a wide range of services that are not accessible for most people when care is fragmented.

While some politicians are against the funding for the expansion of this program, it will likely save the state money down the road by reducing expensive hospitalization costs and improving mobile crisis response. If Minnesota residents don’t advocate for the expansion of this program and action isn’t taken, the result will be devastating for all individuals with a mental illness, as well as their friends and families.

Madeline Nelson, St. Paul

EDITORIAL CARTOON

Where is this $27 minimum wage?

I can’t help but imagine the reactions of wealthy conservatives and wealthy liberals to Dana Summers’ Obama-Trump cartoon (opinion exchange, May 7) being split finely between smug grins and inelegant sputtering. However, one statistic that I’m sure made the working-class Joes and Janes raise an eyebrow was the purported “$27 average minimum wage.” Where exactly in America are full-time workers guaranteed such comfort, when few places can even manage to guarantee them a paltry $15? To be fair, I’m sure Summers just meant to cite the “average wage.” Of course, considering that the average wage can be boosted by the gains of the top 1% alone, maybe the completely inaccurate qualifier had another purpose.

Paul Villerius, Minneapolis