DAKOTA WAR SERIES
Good time to revisit state flag and seal
I have just finished reading Curt Brown's marvelous series, "In the footsteps of Little Crow." I believe it is a must-read for any Minnesotan who wishes to understand the modern conditions and relations between native people and European-Americans.
In the spirit of reconciliation, I suggest that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature take a careful look at our state flag and seal. Questions might be asked about the relevance and value of the symbols appearing in our schools, outside our government buildings and even on the doors of our State Patrol cars.
I know this topic was explored in the 1970s and that there was some creative rationalization about why the images are not offensive. I would recommend that people look objectively at the flag and think about what it would mean to them if they were of Dakota heritage.
BILL DURBAHN, MANKATO, MINN.
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Enforcement helps, but more can be done
I was very happy to read that police are doing something about cars not stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks ("Police get cross about crosswalks," Aug. 17). I own a salon on Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park. There is a crosswalk right outside our windows. Daily, pedestrians take great risk crossing there. It is a very busy crosswalk on a very busy road.
At any time during the day, I can look out and see men, women and children waiting for a chance to cross. The signs are there. The street is painted. No one stops. No one.
What makes it worse is that it is right next to the St. Louis Park Police Department. In over five years at our location, I have yet to see someone ticketed for speeding or not stopping for pedestrians. I hope the story makes more drivers aware of the law. I hope the police continue to crackdown on violators.
DARRIN MIERNICKI, CRYSTAL
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A grave inadequacy in the plan to create safe pedestrian crosswalks was not mentioned in the article, but is evident in the accompanying photo: The small, short, free-standing pedestal signs plopped down in the center of busy traffic lanes fall woefully short of capturing drivers' attention.
In Winnipeg and other Canadian cities in which I travel, pedestrian crosswalks abound. They are defined by large steel poles that rise from each side of the street or highway, curving over the lanes of traffic, similar to traffic lights.
At the end is a large, square, electronic sign with a pedestrian silhouette hanging directly over each traffic lane. When a pedestrian pushes a button on the pole, these overhead lights immediately flash in blazing amber, clearly evident to drivers as far as 200 feet away.
Drivers respond as they do traffic lights, since the pedestrian lights are on par. A driver new to Winnipeg will catch on in about five seconds. The fine for entering the crosswalk with your vehicle while the lights are flashing is severe.
If safe pedestrian crosswalks are the goal, cities should propose raising property taxes and spending the millions of dollars required to do it based on the Canadian model. Keep in mind that no solution is perfect: In Winnipeg, a pedestrian gets clipped about once a month.
DON G. ENGEBRETSON, EXCELSIOR
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Helmet debate is like the seat-belt debate
Thanks for the excellent counterpoint by Seth Colbert-Pollack ("Biking and helmets: Beyond passion," Aug. 17), although my perspective is different. The debate reminds me of the 1950s and '60s, when some (otherwise thoughtful and accomplished) people refused to wear seat belts in cars. In fact, I had to pay to have seat belts installed in the first car we owned (1963). Those who produced and sold cars likely were afraid that if they provided safety belts, people would think driving an automobile was dangerous.
As far as unintended side effects -- such as decreasing ridership after helmets were mandated in some countries -- it seems to me that the key is education, so that we can overcome the prejudice against helmets. Of course, it would help if all role models (including, but not limited to Minneapolis' bicycle and pedestrian coordinator) lead the effort.
JOHN T. (JACK) GARLAND, MINNEAPOLIS
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Some definitive numbers are needed
You can find data or opinions to support any side of an argument. As for the ethanol debate ("Too much corn is being wasted as fuel," Aug. 12, and subsequent letters), I think we need a scientific study that will provide data that both sides will sign up to. One problem is people who promulgate data and statistics without referencing their origin.
In the meantime, here are more data for digestion:
1. About.com (part of the New York Times Co.) and Christian Science Monitor both say that 40 percent of American corn crop will be used for ethanol this year.
2. A letter published in the Star Tribune says ethanol net energy value is 1.34. Energy Justice Network (hardly a conservative organization) says ethanol production using corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than ethanol produces.
3. A letter also says that 1 percent of the corn crop is eaten "directly" by humans. About.com says that is misleading. The rest is used in animal feed, food supplements and ethanol. A little bit of brain activity will tell you that much of the corn crop that goes to animal feed and food supplements is ultimately consumed by humans in the form of beef, chicken, etc.
4. Scientific American quotes a Swiss study from 2007 that found that all of today's most significant biofuels, ethanol and biodiesel, do more environmental damage overall than do fossil fuels.
5. The Congressional Budget Office says ethanol contributes 15 percent of recent food price increases.
JERRY BICH, WAYZATA