Readers Write (Nov. 6): Election, disclosure law, orchestra

  • Updated: November 5, 2012 - 6:59 PM

The highly partisan voices on both the right and left need to tone down the rhetoric.

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THE ELECTION

A call for humility from the winning side

 

As I write this letter the day before the presidential election, I do not know who will win. I have a clear favorite and hope he wins, but I don't have the option of moving to Canada or New Zealand if he loses.

Rather, regardless of the outcome, I hope that the winner and his supporters keep in mind that nearly half of the voters cast ballots for the other candidate. The only mandate the winner should claim is the people's wish that he and the elected Congress work together to find agreeable and real solutions to real problems. By law, the majority rules, but most people prefer a humble majority that focuses more on problem-solving and less on ruling.

The winner's enthusiastic supporters need to back off and give the chosen president a chance to work with the other side to forge common-ground solutions. The opposition also has a moral obligation to offer positive alternatives, rather than just treating lawmaking as an extension of the next election campaign. Obstructionism only delays solutions, at great cost to a great nation. The highly partisan voices on both the right and left need to tone down the rhetoric and give the problem-solvers in the middle a chance to work.

J.H. FONKERT, ST. PAUL

* * *

DISCLOSURE

Payout editorial: The city responds

 

The city of Minneapolis values transparency in all its dealings and is one of the most transparent units of government in the state. The Star Tribune Editorial Board, nevertheless, takes a shot at the city for simply complying with the law as it is written ("Public kept in dark on another payout," editorial, Nov. 2 ).

The editorial focuses on a new state law that is intended to shed more light on payments made to high-level managers when they leave public employment. Unfortunately, as the editorial grudgingly concedes, the law does not fit the city's structure of management, which differs from most other local governments in the state.

The reality is this: We must follow the law as it is written, and we cannot decide which laws we will follow and which we will not. Violating state laws on data privacy can lead to expensive lawsuits and big payouts, all at the expense of taxpayers.

The editorial calls for a change to state law, and we completely agree. In fact, the day before the editorial ran, a City Council committee heard about a proposal for this next legislative session, encouraging the Legislature to amend the law so that it will apply to all of our department heads, the same as other cities. That committee meeting, like all of our other council and committee meetings, was broadcast live on TV and streamed online, another example of the city's efforts to provide open access to the work we do.

SUSAN SEGAL, MINNEAPOLIS

The writer is the Minneapolis city attorney.

• • •

In a recent story, in a Jon Tevlin column and in the Nov. 2 editorial, the Star Tribune criticizes Minneapolis' interpretation of a 2012 amendment to the Data Practices Act. This amendment was intended to give more sunshine to public official buyouts and resignations. However, nowhere in that coverage is any explanation as to why the Minnesota Legislature enacted language that allows Minneapolis and other government entities to keep the public in the dark. The answer is as follows.

It is an unfortunate reality of the workings of the Legislature that, when confronted with strongly contending points of view, legislators will tell the parties to go off and cut a deal. This is exactly what happened with the public official issue. The contending parties who got to cut the deal were the Minnesota Newspaper Association and representatives of government employees and local governments. The ambiguous language that resulted was the product of that deal. So, when the Star Tribune questions what happened, it needs to take at least some responsibility. It was industry lobbyists who helped the government to continue keeping the public in the dark.

Throughout the legislative process, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information urged the Legislature to adopt a simple and clear definition of the critical term "public official." The language that we suggested would have avoided the result described in the coverage and, more important, would have avoided another opportunity for more "dark" deals to be made in the Legislature.

In the next session, the coalition will propose this same language and work with legislators and others to achieve its passage.

DONALD A. GEMBERLING, ST. PAUL

The writer is secretary and spokesperson for the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.

* * *

ORCHESTRA

Waiting to hear from the man with the baton

 

A letter to maestro Osmo Vänskä: I am waiting eagerly for some word from you regarding the lockout of your orchestra. I'm sure the Minnesota Orchestral Association has tight rein on your ability to express an opinion -- you are, after all, under contract. But it must hurt to see the musicians, who under your baton have become the "world-class orchestra" you asked them to be, locked out and unable to perform. What do you have to lose by speaking out? If you do and are dismissed, you will not have an orchestra, but you don't have one anyway. Speak up, because it has to be heartbreaking for you, just as it has been for the rest of us, to see all of your hard work and accomplishment come to this.

ANN K. SMITH, MAPLE GROVE

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