As of Feb. 4, we will have three weeks until Minnesota’s main political parties hold caucuses. Caucuses! No, we didn’t do away with them. We will have the primary on Super Tuesday, March 3, to choose delegates for presidential candidates. But caucuses will still be held, on Feb. 25, and it is important that people consider going to them. You know how we like to think of teams like the Vikings and the Twins as being “ours,” when in reality they are owned by the Wilfs and the Pohlads? Well, political parties are not owned by anyone at all! To the extent that they seem owned, they are “owned” by the people who show up.
If a party stands for anything, that is, if it has a platform, that platform was created by those who showed up. If a party nominates any candidates for any offices, those candidates were chosen by delegates. And the delegates were chosen from the people who showed up to begin with. In Minnesota, the place to show up is at the caucuses. I can’t speak for Republicans, but with Democrats a person cannot be a delegate to any further convention unless he or she declared to the caucus his or her interest in becoming a delegate with an official statement. We see TV images of delegates at our national conventions; virtually every Minnesota delegate got there by first showing up at caucuses.
David Rosene, Brooklyn Park
Don’t just film crime. Prevent it.
I applaud the reader who wrote in on light-rail safety (“All I want is a safe ride,” Feb. 4): Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I too will not ride the train until it can be made safer. Spending more money on upgrading cameras is simply seeking a solution for problems that have already happened. Let’s instead devote efforts (and money) to ensuring that our very expensive trains cater to people seeking transit and not a place to sleep or terrorize others. Democratic legislators and the Metropolitan Council have proposed fining nonpaying passengers $25 instead of pursuing criminal penalties. Good luck collecting that fine. Again, this reeks of a knee-jerk reaction to a problem instead of dealing with the root cause.
I would respectfully ask the Met Council and our legislators to take proactive steps to ensure that nonpaying riders do not enter the trains. If they are simply boarding the trains to get out of the elements, there need to be better alternatives for them to get some relief and not jeopardize our billion-dollar train system. We can do better. Please take your civic roles seriously and fix this very fixable problem.
Gregg Ellingson, Bayport
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My experiences with public transit have been very different from Tuesday’s letter writer. While I can’t say all my experiences have been positive, most of them have been. I’ve met lots of great people and had many a laugh. For 15 years, I’ve ridden the train and buses to my professional job downtown. I also do volunteer work and I take transit there, as well, riding the No. 14 bus through north Minneapolis in my dress shirt, slacks and (when it’s warm) my fedora. I’ve not seen anyone actively smoking on the train. Some kids used to regularly smoke marijuana in the elevator bay at the Lake Street station, but I asked them politely to stop because I have disabled friends who have to use the elevator. They were annoyed, but over several interactions, they moved their activity elsewhere. I never felt unsafe.
Yes, there are weird situations, and I would like to see a more regular police presence, but abandoning these great services is a mistake. I pick up garbage on the platform because, as a father who raised two teenage boys, I know 100% compliance is hard to come by, but if I set a good example, I can change behavior. I hope the letter writer gives transit another try. We might meet each other. Or he might meet many more wonderful people than those he met on his recent trip.
Sam Catanzaro, Minneapolis
Are permit rules just for fun?
Residents who live in Minneapolis’ critical parking areas have the privilege of purchasing permits ($25/year/vehicle) in order to park beyond posted limits. The problem is that Traffic Control rarely enforces the limits, and those of us with permits are often left without nearby residential parking because violators face no consequences.
I live in Critical Parking Area 16 near DeLaSalle High School. Some students and staff think the two-hour limit doesn’t apply to them. I’ve spoken directly to violators who laugh and say, “It’s never enforced,” and I’ve written to DeLaSalle, Minneapolis City Council Member Steve Fletcher, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Chris Meyer and talked to a Traffic Control supervisor on more than one occasion. The supervisor claims agents are here regularly, yet citations are never issued. I’ve seen cars arrive at 8:15 a.m. and leave at 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. If Traffic Control was doing its job, there would be tickets on certain vehicles every day. Despite efforts to resolve the issue, nothing changes. That same supervisor said they don’t have the staff to do the job.
Is this just a way for the city to generate additional revenue with no added service? By Traffic Control’s inaction and other broken promises to correct this, I think so. I realize the city has far greater issues to manage (homelessness, affordable housing, etc.), but parking is one part of making the city a better place to live as well.
Mark Carlson, Minneapolis
Legislators: Do nothing and do good
When the Minnesota Legislature convenes this month, legislators will have an opportunity to enact smart criminal justice reform by doing absolutely nothing.
In January, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission approved a five-year cap on felony probations, excepting homicides and sex crimes, that will take effect Aug. 1 unless the legislature overrules the decision.
The humane and sensible thing to do is to let the probation cap stand.
Decadeslong probations impose conditions few could navigate. They prolong securing employment and housing for people trying to put their lives back together. For longer than necessary, they restrict travel, rescind voting rights and put people at risk of incarceration for things as trivial as curfew violations.
A five-year probation cap isn’t a radical idea. Iowa and Missouri already have them. Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont have also reduced probation terms, according to Pew Charitable Trust research. State governments are finding capping probation terms to be prudent from fiscal, public safety and social justice perspectives.
Working together, policymakers, law enforcement and community leaders can devise common-sense solutions to criminal justice system challenges.
Surprisingly simple things work. For example, under Lights On!, the Minnesota-based MicroGrants program, police departments issue vouchers to replace broken taillights rather than citations that can trigger a downward spiral of tickets and confrontations (“A tool, not a ticket, for Mpls. police,” editorial, Feb. 4).
We need to stop perpetuating programs that aren’t working — like lengthy probations — and initiate innovative interventions — like Lights On! — to make our criminal justice system work better for all of us.
Eric J. Jolly, St. Paul
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