Readers Write: (Aug. 26): Commuting times, the prison system, invasive species, golf and the middle class, the digital age, Ebola survivor

  • Updated: August 25, 2014 - 6:44 PM

The Green Line may be slow, but the freeway is unpredictable.

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The first trains on the Green Line prepared to leave the station after an official ribbon cutting ceremony June 14 at Union Station in St. Paul.

Photo: DAVID JOLES • djoles@startribune.com,

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The Aug. 21 editorial (“Green Line needs more green lights”) states that the train would finish second in “an end-to-end race with a good long-distance runner.”

Actually, a top distance runner would have trouble beating the train’s best time if dealing with the same conditions. In real-world road races, cars are banned from the course. And, of course, running sub-5-minute miles is not a practical year-round commuting strategy even for the very fit.

I travel regularly from my home in Golden Valley to a location on Franklin Avenue near the Mississippi River. Usually, I go by bicycle, but on a recent day I had to make the trip by car. On two wheels, the trip consistently takes me 35 minutes because I can take a direct route over a combination of bike trails and lightly traveled streets. When driving, the freeway is my only practical option, but my travel time fluctuates widely with traffic — from a personal best of about 12 minutes to (on this particular day) 40.

As a real-world commuter using all modes, I prefer predictable times over record times. And I see that auto traffic and infrastructure — above all other factors — seem responsible for the difficulty in consistently achieving either one.

Charles Quimby, Golden Valley

THE PRISON SYSTEM

It’s not just the future we should care about

While grateful to learn of the enlightened decision to ban the use of restraints while inmates are giving birth and giving incarcerated moms-to-be access to a birthing coach during delivery (“State takes a gentler approach to pregnant women behind bars,” Aug. 22), I was nevertheless appalled to read the careless comment by the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Laine: “It’s not about these women as much as it is the future citizens of our society.” Really? It’s just about the baby?

Her comment strikes a heartless discordant note with the rest of the story. Obviously, unshackling a woman in delivery has intrinsic value for the mom and the newborn.

The Rev. Susan M. Moss, St. Paul

 

INVASIVE SPECIES

DNR is missing an opportunity to educate

I read the Aug. 22 article concerning the upgrades the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources feels are needed to its State Fair building (“DNR wants some TLC”). I was at the State Fair on Friday, and while we can debate the merits of what the DNR is asking for, one of the agency’s priorities should be educating the public about invasive species. It was very disappointing to visit the DNR building and discover that the room devoted to invasive species closes at 6 p.m. It was roped off and the room was dark. All of the “feel-good” displays were open for viewing.

Our governor said in a different article last week that the advantage of the State Fair is that you can stand in one place and the entire state walks by. The entire state needs to be educated about invasive species and their impact on their lives. The DNR needs to get its priorities straight.

Steve McCulloch, Plymouth

 

GOLF

It is the canary in the middle-class coal mine

I have been reading about the decline of golf in the Star Tribune’s recent coverage and have been amazed that no one has pointed to the obvious reason for the decline of the sport — the decline of middle-class incomes.

Those incomes peaked at the same time that golf did between 2000 and 2002. Plain and simple, more people could afford to play golf than ever before. Since then, wages have been stagnant or have declined for the entire bottom 70 percent of the distribution. During this time, cities lost aid from the state that lead to an increase in property taxes, and the cost of education at Minnesota state colleges and universities has increased dramatically. Other costs, such as health insurance premiums, increased more than 200 percent between 2000 and 2012, while employer contributions to those plans were reduced or almost eliminated. The killer blow was when the middle class lost a huge portion of its wealth during the recession.

Eliminating an expensive sport like golf is a no-brainer if you are struggling financially. Golf clubs and balls are not cheap, nor are green fees. Plus, you have to have the time for a three- to five-hour round of golf, and people don’t have that if they work more than one job.

Golf is like a canary in a coal mine. It is a reflection of the economic health of the middle class. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee the decline reversing anytime soon.

William Bloomberg, Eden Prairie

 

THE DIGITAL AGE

Is convenience worth the threats to privacy?

The electronic economy appears to be a failed experiment. Target, Supervalu and others (the list is very long) have had their computer databases hacked, with highly valuable personal information leaking out every which way, and with unknown and unforeseeable consequences for individual consumers and the larger economy.

But the convenience! It’s so important, compared to actual functionality, right?

We were better off with checks and paper money and paper records. We are better off paying our bills and communicating via the U.S. Postal Service. Every e-mail is subject to search. Every electronic payment is monitored. Cellphones allow all users to be tracked down.

Go back 30 years and try to tell people of that day what we are willing to sacrifice for convenience, and you would get a unanimous “No! That will never happen! We value our privacy.”

But step by incremental step, Americans have forfeited privacy and have chosen an electronic sieve for our system of financial records and payments. My bet is people will cling to it until the entire economy collapses, worldwide.

Mark R. Jacobson, Minneapolis

 

EBOLA SURVIVOR

Many people do see God’s hand in healing

Those of us of the faith community are grateful that an Aug. 23 letter writer (“Survivor had great help, but it was not divine”) has figured out how God acts or should act. People have been puzzling over that question for centuries. Despite his somewhat narrow view, many of us would prefer to see God’s hand in healing and help — as in the case of an American doctor brought back from Africa after he contracted the Ebola virus — even if it is not always according to our preconceived notions.

Ted Schroeder, Maple Grove

• • •

The Aug. 23 letter writer’s complaint about “toxic theology” misses a key point: It is that so-called “toxic theology” that inspired the good doctor to go to Africa to treat those living in poverty and lacking medical care in the first place.

Steven Baird, Roseville

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