THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

See the upside

Minnesota state economist Tom Stinson said it's "disturbing" that new car sales fell off 12 percent in 2007 (front page, May 1). Somehow, I can't get myself worked up about that.

In the relatively tough economic times of the past year, people managed to forgo some large purchases, making due with or repairing the vehicles they already had. More use of existing parts and labor, less junk sent to the salvage yards. So what's the problem, exactly?

I'm not sure if it's possible, but it would be nice to have an economy that didn't require rampant consumerism in order to thrive. Like it or not, Americans are having to learn how to conserve resources and to re-use products to their full potential. It's not such a bad thing, and it's about time.

JEFF NAYLOR, MINNEAPOLIS

HENNEPIN COUNTY TAXES

St. Boni benefits

The residents of St. Bonifacius, a small rural town in a far corner of Hennepin County, are trying to get out of paying their county taxes, and "sometimes resent the higher cost of living they help support in the eastern big cities and suburbs" (front page, May 1). What?

Have they forgotten about farm subsidies, Medicare and Social Security? Combining all layers of government, they receive much more in services and payments than they pay in taxes. In truth, it is the "eastern big cities and suburbs," and also the highly productive and tax-paying Twin Cities, that are supporting their tax-subsidized rural lifestyle.

AVIS THOMAS, MINNEAPOLIS

AL FRANKEN'S TAX TEMPEST

Enough already

Your April 30 article indicated that Al Franken did pay all his taxes; but some were incorrectly distributed. A May 1 Star Tribune article again stirred the pot, implying tax evasion.

Although I have mixed feelings about Franken as a candidate for the Senate, it is time to put this story to rest. Although mistakes were made, from the evidence he appears perfectly honest in his intent.

WILLIAM JACOBSON, MINNEAPOLIS

Senate disqualifier

Anyone who is oblivious to the fact that he must pay income taxes to the state where the income is earned neither qualifies nor deserves to be our U.S. senator.

Perhaps Al Franken needs to try to resuscitate his failed radio and comedy endeavors back in good old New York, New York.

BOB MAGINNIS, EDINA

Tax code complexities

I find it amazing the negative response that Al Franken is getting over the tax issues that he is facing. As the owner and president of a small company that has employees in two states, I can attest to the utter complexity of the tax code, particularly when you do business in multiple states.

I hire accountants to figure it all out for me as my focus needs to be elsewhere and the tax code is not my core competency. That's what good businesspeople do. Does this mean that I'm "sloppy" or "incompetent" as some have stated Franken is? I would argue that both Al and I are putting our focus where it matters most and trusting trained experts to handle those facets of our business where our expertise doesn't lie. Franken's real sloppiness was in not hiring a good accountant.

KURT NELSON, MINNEAPOLIS

LEFT BEHIND AT NWA

But not Steenland

The hits just keep on coming at Northwest Airlines. NWA declares bankruptcy and the employees take pay cuts of 40 to 50 percent. NWA exits bankruptcy and CEO Doug Steenland is awarded a bonus of $26.6 million. Two years later, NWA and Delta will most likely merge and Steenland is in line to receive a severance package worth $18.3 million.

Our pay cuts are still in place. Many of us have lost our jobs and our homes and are working second jobs just to pay the bills. It continues to be a crushing struggle.

On the way to the bank with your briefcase full of cash, Mr. Steenland, please stop for a moment and look into our tired eyes and tell us why we shouldn't be disgusted.

JAYNE PETERSON, MINNEAPOLIS

victims of murder

Will cops make a link?

Minneapolis police and the FBI see no connection between the murder of University of Minnesota student Chris Jenkins and other college students found in rivers and lakes in 11 states.

Smiley faces were painted where some students entered the water. Graffiti at one murder site spelled out the name of a street 100 miles away at the site of another murdered student; there are many other clues.

We don't expect to have a Sherlock Holmes in the Homicide Division, but could they at least connect the dots that point to a serial killer or most likely killers?

SHIRLEY HALL, MINNEAPOLIS

SYNTHETIC TURF

Make sure it's safe

The April 26 article "Turf wars not taking place on most area athletic fields" missed the mark in two ways. First, it quoted only those who sell or have bought the product, plus a state health official who said he hasn't looked into it. Officials who have looked into it -- from legislators to city council members -- have concerns. A bill this session at the Capitol would require studies of turf's health and environmental risks.

Second, a turf war did take place this year -- and turf lost. A Minneapolis park board proposal died at the City Council after council members asked hard questions about turf's potential impacts and insisted on the natural grass alternative.

Other states and the federal government are investigating artificial turf, both for lead in the fake grass and for toxins underneath in the fake dirt -- which is really rubber crumb, made from pulverized scrap tires. For the health of our state's children and environment, let's wait to hear what independent investigators -- not turf industry representatives happy to pawn off old tires at a steep price, or local officials who OK'd heavy investments for plastic grass -- have to say about the safety of artificial turf.

CHRIS STELLER, MINNEAPOLIS