So U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen thinks his phone town halls are more civil? (“Telephone town halls mute critics,” front page, March 27.) Of course they are — because Paulsen gets to choose the questions. Of course they are — because they almost always occur at a normal family dinnertime, and many people simply hang up since it is not a good time. Hit *3 and ask a question? Yes, you get a polite staffer who takes your question and puts you back on mute.
I’ve participated twice. Neither time did my question get asked — too tough a question, Rep. Paulsen? A question about which you might have needed to disagree with your party in order to agree with your constituents?
Phone town halls are a sham! We need a representative who actually listens!
Lonni Skrentner, Edina
• • •
On the evening of March 19, my telephone rang, and I heard a recording of Paulsen’s voice announcing his telephone conference call. Although I was already late for a meeting, I decided to accept his invitation to press *3 and ask a question. When Paulsen’s screener came on the line, I told her that my question involved the scheduling of his conference calls. Could he please announce the dates and times of these calls in advance, because his constituents have their own schedules and many don’t have the luxury of dropping all of their plans at a moment’s notice in order to participate in unannounced telephone calls? The screener wished me a good day and hung up on me. Although I continued to listen until the end of the conference call, my congressman never answered my question.
Robert Malecki, Brooklyn Park
INCIDENCE OF CHILD ABUSE
A disgrace for Minnesota that leverages societal problems
According to a legislative audit, “more than 500 children from abusive homes never received a required court-appointed advocate [guardian ad litem] in 2017,” because of increased caseloads (“Abused kids on their own in court, front page, March 24). That is a tragedy. If that number is added to the number of children who were assigned an advocate (7,971 in 2017), the total is almost 8,500 children living with the trauma of abuse and experiencing the court system. That is astounding! It is a black mark on Minnesota’s image of doing things well.
When considering the effect this issue has on children and the rest of society, policymakers need to know that according to research (Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, 1998, and subsequent studies), intense trauma before age 18 negatively affects individuals for the rest of their lives. The incidence of both mental and physical illness in adult years is increased. A checklist of 10 adverse experiences was developed by researchers. A score of 4 increases the risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent, and suicide by 1,200 percent. Such people are more likely to be violent and to have more marriages, more broken bones, more depression and a life span 20 years shorter than otherwise expected. Childhood adversity contributes to most of our major issues in chronic health, mental health, economic health and social health.
Besides funding for more guardians ad litem, we need programs that provide early intervention for at-risk families, enough treatment programs for parents who are suffering from addiction, more stable housing, etc. — all contributors to childhood trauma. Responsible public policy protects children from adverse experiences and their consequences. Responsible public policy protects society from the consequences of adverse childhood experiences.
Carol Koepp, Edina
ST. OLAF AND BEN SHAPIRO
Is rescheduling request about timing or something more?
As an alumnus of St. Olaf College, proud of that school’s liberal-arts heritage, I am perplexed by its recent decision to cancel an appearance by conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro (“St. Olaf asks Ben Shapiro to reschedule,” March 24). The stated reason was “inappropriate timing” because it would coincide with the anniversary of protests that “made us take stock of how we as a college make students of different cultures, races, socio-economic backgrounds, and beliefs feel not only welcome, but included.” But wouldn’t allowing him to speak promote those same goals that the college wants to advance? Don’t “beliefs” include political ones? It is immaterial whether one agrees with his message or not as long as he does not espouse violence toward a particular group. We should keep the liberal arts “liberal” enough so that an unpopular conservative is allowed to speak. St. Olaf has missed a golden opportunity to advance the very ideals for which the students protested.
Erik Strom, Minneapolis
• • •
The story’s online headline (“Ben Shapiro barred from St. Olaf College during protest anniversary”) portrays St. Olaf as opposed to free speech, yet from reading the article that is clearly a mischaracterization. Proposing to bring a controversial speaker like Shapiro to campus exactly one year after the protests, regardless of intent, put the administration in a no-win situation. Is postponement of a speaker on a college campus really worthy of attention-grabbing headlines? It seems as if the Star Tribune is creating its own news story at St. Olaf’s expense. How embarrassing.
David Beimers, Northfield
Put it this way: We’ve met the raw material, and it is us
It dawned on me when I read John Rash’s March 24 column (“Cambridge Analytica tactics pose a threat to democracy”) that when you parse it down, Cambridge Analytica’s sole purpose is to profit from our fears. Mine our social-media accounts — without our knowledge or, turns out, our permission. Identify our fears — of taxes, guns, jobs, etc. And then sell these tasty nuggets to political campaigns and candidates. Brilliant, cynical and oh so nefarious.
And when managing director Mark Turnbull says this: “Our job is to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else,” it struck me that he perfectly encapsulates White House politics in the age of President Donald Trump. Each month, each week, each day now is darker and colder than the last with no notion as to how much lower we’ll sink. But all holes do eventually hit bottom, right?
Timothy Hennum, Minneapolis
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
How not to fire people
My heart goes out to all the people President Trump has fired, ridiculed and mistreated. One wonders how they can deal with it. I am reminded of a quote by Maya Angelou: “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Gloria Aronson, Bloomington
FRONT-YARD HOCKEY RINK
One way or another, think big
It seems incongruous to me that a Minneapolis resident has to fight City Hall to have a skating rink in his front yard (Minnesota section, March 24), but the same City Hall may soon be OK with his replacing his home with a fourplex unit.
Robert Borchert, Minneapolis
• • •
As a huge supporter of public art, I couldn’t help thinking there could be a simple solution to the neighborhood dispute over a front-yard hockey rink. Given that one neighboring couple’s objection is that they must “look at something that looks like a construction site six months out of the year,” why not hire a local artist to transform the “offending” fence to enhance the entire neighborhood? The neighbors could work together to oversee the project and possibly even find funding through a community art grant.
Barbara La Valleur, Edina