'Gratitude' is shown with higher premiums


"Thank you for smoking?" (Letter of the Day, Feb. 22.) Well, a big "you're welcome" from us nonsmokers!

We pay higher premiums because we need to help cover the cost of your habit and the inevitable health issues associated with smoking.

Even though, as the letter writer stated, life expectancy for smokers is shorter, the end of their lives is typically rife with medical complications.

And when you decide to quit? The average smoker then has considerable weight gain, so again, we help cover your health care needs by paying higher insurance premiums.

So, actually, we all end up paying. Unfortunately, the ones with the bad habit pay a higher price.


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Fighting racism

What doesn't work -- and what does


Wake up, antiracism trainers! Read the Feb. 21 commentary by David Banks ("How to diligently avoid progress.")

He nailed what I've lamented for more than a decade as I've attended many antiracism trainings -- the misguided use of shaming as a technique to inspire people toward greater racial justice. It doesn't work.

Making white people feel badly about themselves as individuals doesn't work. Blaming white people for deeds committed in the past by whites doesn't work. What works is people telling their stories -- everyone, not just blacks.

What works is honest acknowledgement of the complexity of racial issues, as part of the larger sphere of discrimination. What works is sharing the data and building community, not polarity, so that we can work together in a caring, hopeful way toward our dream of racial equality.


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It takes a village at the U -- literally


They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee. I can't wait to see the final result of the 21-person advisory committee that will choose a new athletic director at the University of Minnesota ("Variety of voices will have their say," Feb. 22).

To make sure this process works efficiently, in West Bank terms, a four-person search committee will work with the 21-person advisory committee, as well as with the committee of search consultants at Parker Executive Search (whose services have been retained for $100,000).

For other examples of committee decisionmaking, you don't have to look far. Just drive by Block E or the Metrodome, or think of the name of our professional hockey team (no longer the North Stars).


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Incidental rerouting was handled fluidly


Good job, Metro Transit, on your organization and operation of the detour for light-rail passengers between the 38th Street and Franklin Avenue stations. My trip today from downtown to the VA Medical Center went much better than I expected in both directions. Transit employees were on platforms directing passengers to busses. Buses were clearly marked and lined up at each station to carry riders around the detour zone. Train operators and bus drivers made announcements to let passengers know where the buses would take you to catch the train again. All very smooth and professionally done, I thought. And the whole trip took only about 15 minutes longer than usual. No big deal. Thanks for dealing well with a difficult, unexpected emergency.


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Pay more, make less, be grateful -- really?


Food is up 4 percent from last year. Energy is up 6.1 percent; electricity, 2.4 percent; a new vehicle, 3.2 percent. New apparel to wear in your new car is up 4.7 percent. If you get sick, medical care is up 3.2 percent. Just getting to the hospital is up 2.1 percent. Everything I do costs more than it did last year, yet they tell me that because I'm a public employee, I deserve a pay cut and should feel lucky just to have my job. People working in the private sector are taking pay cuts, too.

I don't feel that either group of workers should feel good about just having a job. If we're all making less and paying more, where does all the money from the increased payments we make go? Someone is making money. They just don't happen to work with and hang around us.


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Teacher seniority

Minnesotans back both funding and reform


Minnesota needs a serious conversation about school funding, but let that not stifle a commonsense reform ("Few want teacher seniority scrapped," Feb. 18) that can allow students to have highly effective teachers in spite of budget constraints.

The achievement gap is persistent, and funding increases alone will not achieve the kinds of results we seek. Voters know schools are hurting, which is why more than 70 percent of local levies were approved last November.

Minnesotans also expect school leaders to scrutinize every penny spent and that ensure students are the beneficiaries of great teachers and strong principals.

This is one of a handful of states to require decisions about whom to hire, promote or lay off in public schools to be made solely based on years on the job.

A Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now statewide opinion poll demonstrated strong bipartisan support among Minnesotans for education reforms:

• 96 percent believe that student learning progress should be an important factor in determining which teachers to lay off first.

• 91 percent believe that performance should be the primary factor in determining teacher layoffs.

• 92 percent agree that school officials should have more flexibility and authority to remove poorly performing teachers.