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Readers Write: (Nov. 20): Gettysburg, Washington Avenue, Dayton's giving, crowdsourcing movies

  • November 19, 2013 - 5:27 PM

GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

Focus on equality is lost in today’s government

As I was reading the Gettysburg Address this morning in your newspaper, I was particularly struck by the final 18 words: ”and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” Somehow those words ring hollow in today’s context. Sadly, as our Republic has devolved into a plutocracy, more appropriate words come to mind: “and that government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich … ” Hopefully this perversion will perish and the government that President Lincoln envisioned will once again take root and enrich us all.

JOHN EVANS, Minneapolis

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

A flawed database is the least of the problems

Really, Star Tribune Editorial Board? Our ship of state is sinking under the ever-increasing amounts of money being poured into our elections and the best you can offer is to recommend that campaign finance data be accurate (“Database flaws are ‘slap at Minnesotans,’ ” Nov. 18)? It’s like being handed a can to bail a swamped aircraft carrier. Why not be bold and call on every single member of the Minnesota House to pass the We the People Act next session? (The act was passed by the Minnesota Senate this year.) Minnesota would join the 16 states in deciding that “money is not speech” and that local, state and federal governments shall regulate, limit or prohibit contributions and expenditures so we all have an equal “voice” in our democracy. The act further requires the disclosure of all permissible contributions. The We the People Act has more power to re-right our ship of state than your proposal to keep bailing.

PHYLLIS RODEN, Minneapolis

• • •

Your story and subsequent opinion on the errors in campaign reporting talk about the budget constraints that the system is operating under. Seems to me that the organizations benefiting from the contributions should have to pay the cost of reporting. The same argument could perhaps be made for having the contributor pay a small percentage to cover the cost of the database, but that is more complicated and raises constitutional issues. Levying a small percentage of the contributions to the organizations would be simple and have little impact on campaigns. There are fees involved in many of the records maintained by government, why not use them in this situation?

RAY SCHMITZ, Rochester, Minn.

WASHINGTON AVENUE

Friendlier streets will make city more livable

I am very pleased to see that the Star Tribune has endorsed the creation of a landscaped, pedestrian-friendly, resident-friendly, calmer Washington Avenue in Minneapolis that includes the installation of a protected bike lane (“Making the most of Washington Avenue,” Nov. 19). As someone who for a long time wondered why no one was building residential properties on all the parking lots along Washington, I’ve been delighted to see that change. Now, the next step in making Washington Avenue an artery of city life instead of a highway is to move ahead with this plan.

The value of cycling infrastructure to local businesses has been getting ever more attention, and combining a protected bike lane with a pleasant street that people want to stroll down will surely help boost small businesses along the corridor. That means more jobs, more tax revenues and an overall more livable city. It also will make residential development all the more attractive. I hope the Hennepin County Board approves this proposal.

JEREMY BERGERSON, Minneapolis

DAYTON’S GIVING

Study discounts role of partisanship in charity

A recent Letter of the Day opined that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s skimpy charitable donations (as reported on his last year’s tax return) are typical of “liberals” who believe in taxes but not in charitable giving, whereas — per the letter writer — conservatives give more to charity but don’t believe as much in taxes.

I’d first like to point out that while Dayton’s giving was very small in 2012, and I believe also in 2011, in some other recent years he reported donating a relatively high portion of his gross income to charities — in some years more than 10 percent. I certainly can’t explain his low giving the past two years, but it doesn’t appear to be indicative of his entire personal history.

More important, the writer’s basic point isn’t true, at least not based on the available hard data. MIT researchers Michele Margolis and Michael Sances published a study in 2012 showing there was “no statistically significant relationship” between political beliefs or partisan political affiliation and the level of charitable giving. This held true both nationally and at the state level.

Perhaps someone else will do another study later that comes up with a different conclusion than did the MIT study. But for now, this is the best hard data available on the question.

JOHN EWAN, Falcon Heights

CROWDSOURCING MOVIES

Amazon wisely uses technology to limit risk

Regarding the Nov. 15 Alex Beam commentary “Creativity by committee,” it should not be a surprise that large companies such as Amazon that are making large investments attempt to reduce their risks as much as possible.

The use of crowdsourcing is the next generation of focus groups and polling services used in the past, which in turn replaced the decisionmaking process of movie moguls during the golden age of cinema.

A film like “Casablanca” could be made only at a time when low-cost films were cranked out at a frenetic pace by a despotic film company to a captive audience to fill an insatiable need for diversion.

Today, film demands state-of-the-art visual effects, top talent fetches seven-digit salaries, production is planned out years in advance, and audiences have a wide range of entertainment options. It is understandable why you would want to hedge your bets. And, who knows, Amazon may have found a way to capture lightning in a bottle.

BENJAMIN CHERRYHOMES, Hastings

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