A courageous leader knows when to go

I was saddened to read about the resignation of several Minnesota Orchestra board members (front page, March 29). These are friends and colleagues who have contributed extraordinary leadership over the years. And while I respect their viewpoints, as a former member of the orchestra board and as a leader of a Twin Cities nonprofit, I can say unequivocally that no one is indispensable in any organization, for-profit or nonprofit. Michael Henson did amazing things during his tenure, but unfortunately became a divisive figure for the whole of the organization. It takes a great leader to know that what is best for the enterprise is to move on.

I prefer to think that Henson ultimately came to this conclusion and did a very courageous thing by resigning. Some will argue that this isn’t fair, but in the end, it was the right thing for the future of the Minnesota Orchestra. The most important responsibility of every nonprofit CEO and board member is to ensure a successful and sustainable future for the organization. Henson knew this, and I applaud him for a selfless and undoubtedly tough decision.

Sara Sternberger, Eagan

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While it’s disappointing that any members of the board would feel the need to resign due to process concerns, I think it points to the next issue to address: board size. How can a board of 77 members function effectively in fulfilling governance accountabilities? The orchestra’s website also indicates that there’s a 25-member executive committee. Interesting, too, is the stat provided by the Star Tribune that “earlier” there was a 40-8 board vote of support for Henson. Where were the other 29 members of the board? Why were they not actively participating at such a critical time in the organization’s history?

Governance best practices would suggest board size to be a liability for this organization. Perhaps it is this very liability that helped undermine the orchestra’s financial health and the management of the embarrassing public-relations crisis that followed.

Christopher Causey, St. Paul



Protest is about money and morality

A March 28 letter (“Of all the places to try to stifle speech ...”) contained a commonly held belief that strongly objecting to a person’s choice of words somehow infringes on their right to free speech. Students and faculty at the University of Minnesota vehemently object to Condoleezza Rice being paid for a lecture for which she would receive $150,000, but they aren’t suggesting that she should be arrested for anything she says or plans to say. However this protest plays out, Rice’s First Amendment rights will remain fully intact.

Steve Scofield, Minneapolis

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There is something morally grotesque about someone playing a major role in the decisionmaking process that sent young men and women to war and an early grave, getting paid well for it, and repeatedly getting a big payday for it years later. This is not to mention the service members who were maimed for life and the question of whether the war was a good decision. That is the issue, not free speech.

David Rogde, Bloomington



What we lose when we ignore an urban route

The March 28 letter “Wrong thing, wrong place, wrong time” was the latest of several suggesting the Southwest light-rail line run through Uptown. I hope it isn’t ignored as the others were.

It seems that planners are convinced the line should be a commuter run from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. It can be so much more. Following the route suggested in the letter would make it an entertainment run as well. Schedule it often and run it late, and I will no longer have to choose between Uptown and downtown or drive between the two and find parking twice. I can eat at a restaurant in Uptown, take the rail downtown to a play, game, bar or concert, and stop for coffee back in Uptown before a ride back to the suburbs and home. Take the bus? My last commuter bus leaves downtown at 9 on weekdays, 8 on Saturdays, and 6 on Sundays and holidays.

With light rail, the residents of both Uptown and downtown can enliven the evenings of the entire central city. The route mentioned in the recent letter would provide the only public transportation that would run north and south as well as east and west, and with a single, two-way, low-cost evening fare that could include feeder bus routes, make Minneapolis as cosmopolitan as San Francisco and its cable cars.

Dennis E. Erickson, Mound



It’s low priority because it’s low priority

The insinuations by state Reps. John Lesch and Pat Garofalo about why opponents are not responding to calls for public debate about their proposal (“Minnesota needs National Popular Vote,” March 28) are off base. It’s not just about the merits, or lack thereof, in assigning Minnesota’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote (not the Minnesota popular vote). In this shortened even-year session where the attention has been on the budget surplus, marijuana, bullying and other matters, the lack of attention to the NPV proposal shows that it’s a low priority on the state agenda. The legislators’ apple-pie, boilerplate language appealing to democratic ideals have run up against a mix of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and the classic Minnesota “that’s inner-­resting” dismissal. Get over it.

Luke Walbert, St. Paul