The Star Tribune Editorial Board’s series on the “great divide” between urban and rural Minnesota (“Better Together,” Dec. 6, 13 and 20) is remarkably well-conceived. While it’s true that policy decisions, including those made by the governor and Legislature, can have an impact, I would suggest that less formal avenues are also worth noting.

Three of them come to mind. Ex-Star Tribune writer Jim Klobuchar’s bicycle rides were an exercise (so to speak) in getting urban bikers out into Greater Minnesota. For 39 years, the “Jaunt with Jim” rides (now the Tour of Minnesota) brought hundreds of people into small towns across the state. Places we knew only as names on a weather map became real and personal. In fact, we weathered tornadoes and hailstorms around Wabasha and Ortonville, torrential rains near Hackensack, flooding in Wadena, and headwinds coming into Red Wing.

We also danced in Blooming Prairie, Frazee and Elbow Lake, and dined with the members of American Legion, VFW and Eagles clubs in places like Two Harbors, La Crescent and Pine River. We brought our views and life experiences, along with colorful jerseys, Spandex and “commerce,” to these towns and were met — almost without exception — with hospitality, friendship and good humor.

The Minnesota History Center’s MN 150 exhibit a couple of years ago sought to collect the “150 people places and things” that made Minnesota what it is today. The nominations were open to all and included everything from Vern Gagne to the Duluth Lift Bridge. My daughter was part of the team that assembled the show, and she traveled around the state collecting stories and items for the displays. She met with a man in Duluth who helped guide the NASA moon landings and a woman in Chisholm who imported the first Linotype machine to Minnesota — among many, many others. It was a terrific exhibit — based in St. Paul, but including the whole state.

And then there’s Garrison Keillor. Lake Wobegon may be a fictitious small town, but it has a reality all its own for millions of people around the country and for most Minnesotans. “A Prairie Home Companion” harks back to an idealized rural America from half a century ago, but much of its audience is urban and up-to-date. There’s a reason the end-of-the-year shows sell out in Town Hall in New York City.

So while you discuss political approaches to bridging the gap between the metro area and the rest of Minnesota, keep in mind these other efforts. History (as Lori Sturdevant points out) can help. So can English majors. And even bikers.

Doug Wilhide, Minneapolis

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I commend the Star Tribune for naming transportation, broadband and local government aid as “three must-do legislative items” (“Better Together,” Dec. 13). I wholeheartedly agree that these are the top issues the Legislature must address next session if lawmakers want to help not only Greater Minnesota but our entire state.

However, I am dismayed that LGA even has to be included on this list. Like many city leaders, I thought the days of LGA being a divisive political issue were behind us. Sadly, the 2015 legislative session proved otherwise. The Minnesota House’s plan to cut LGA from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth and essentially freeze it for all other cities does nothing to strengthen our state. Rather, it sends Minnesota backward.

With a $1.9 billion surplus, there is no reason to pit cities or regions against one another. Tearing down one city (or three) will not help Greater Minnesota get ahead. Instead, our legislators should use this extraordinary opportunity to invest in infrastructure and successful programs — like LGA — that will help all of Minnesota’s communities to thrive.

Robert Broeder, Le Sueur

The writer is mayor of Le Sueur and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

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The Star Tribune’s solution to Minnesota’s growing divide always seems to begin with state money. Society as a whole and both political parties have bought into this charade. Isn’t it time private corporations stepped up to the plate and acted as decent corporate citizens?

Rather than complain that Hwy. 12 is only two lanes, why don’t companies pool their money and build high-speed rail to the Twin Cities? Remember Minneapolis’ streetcars? They were built by private companies because it was good for business. Now corporations expect the government to provide employees with transportation.

Rather than complain that they need high-speed Internet to grow, why don’t they pay for it? Many companies now offer to pay for high-speed Internet for employees who want to work from home. Google is supplying high-speed access to entire cities because it is good for business.

Why complain that there is a shortage of trained workers? Can’t companies train their own workers? Facebook and other successful companies have discounted the role of schooling in hiring quality workers, opting to train their own. At one time, corporations used to attract managers by offering a one- or two-year training program in every part of the business. And if they needed specialized skills, they would select their best line workers for further training. It was good business sense. Now they expect government to train their employees.

Finally, handing companies huge tax breaks to build commercial buildings is corporate welfare at its finest. If you can’t afford a new building, fix your business before you go begging to your community. If companies provided better working conditions and housing for their employees, they could attract better workers. Better workers grow profits. Profits can be plowed back into the business to make it grow to a point where you can afford a new building. It doesn’t take an MBA from a government-sponsored school to figure that out.

Corporations have convinced us that socializing their costs will benefit everyone. Meanwhile, they spend their money on accountants who find every tax loophole to reduce their contribution to society and hand over huge profits to executives and Wall Street. Instead of drug-testing the poorest welfare recipients, we should be drug-testing CEOs and heads of corporations. Whatever drug they’re on seems to be providing great rewards.

Richard Crose, Bloomington

 

BATTLING ISIL

Give Obama some credit for steady, thoughtful leadership

In his Dec. 13 column, D.J. Tice states, as a criticism of the president’s approach to battling the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, that Americans “won’t enjoy the boost in morale that forceful action might bring.” First, I would argue that forceful action has certainly been taken to reduce ISIL’s offensive capability in Iraq and Syria and to reduce the group’s area of effective military control. CBS News reports that more than 9,000 sorties have been flown against ISIL already, a number greater than that of all other nations combined. Second, and perhaps more fundamentally, I would question whether “boosting morale” is a sound basis for setting American foreign policy — especially in a region as complicated and sensitive as the Middle East. I’ll take steady, thoughtful leadership in our nation’s long-term interests over the chest-thumping, shock-and-awe, cowboy approach we witnessed under Mr. Obama’s predecessor.

Todd Redmann, Le Sueur, Minn.