CAUCUS NIGHT

Maybe a third party is the best choice for you

Historically, third parties have been instrumental in bringing about needed change in our political system. Independents make up 42 percent of all voters. Yet when it comes time for political caucuses and primaries, the media and the politicians are concerned only with two-party interests.

Third-party resolutions reflect the interests of the people and most often progress from the grass-roots caucuses to the highest level of their national party — whereas few of the grass-roots resolutions of the major parties ever get acted upon.

Find a third party that best reflects your political concerns, and support your nearest caucus. Not all precincts have a third-party caucus. There is no rule that forbids you from visiting a caucus outside of your precinct. Get involved and meet others who want to bring about real change.

ALLAN HANCOCK, Brooklyn Center

 

MANAGING WASTE

The first, best step is not to produce it

Among several recent letters about recycling, one author noted: “On many occasions, our recycling bin has been full after a week, leading us to start putting our recyclables in the trash bin.” I can’t imagine what that letter writer is buying — bottled water, perhaps, or cases of pop? Maybe several newspapers per day? Granted, there are only two people in my household, and we only take one print newspaper, but we fill the container only every couple of months.

Recycling reduces waste; however, producing the object in the first place takes energy, as does the very process of recycling it. On that basis, the first — and most important — step has to be reducing consumption.

LYNN EGGERS, Minneapolis

 

SOUTHWEST LRT

Co-location unwanted, but it is workable

In the complicated debate about the Southwest Corridor light-rail route, the Star Tribune continues to do a disservice by not explaining the situation accurately. In “New LRT tunnel study sought” (Feb. 1), the writers state that “another [option] is to reroute freight trains from the area to St. Louis Park, freeing up space in the corridor for the light rail to run at ground level instead of needing to construct tunnels.”

In reality, light rail could be routed through the Kenilworth Corridor without running it through a tunnel. A quick review of the publicly available project scenarios shows that “co-location” at surface level is quite possible. That’s right: freight, light rail and bike path can run side by side, even through the tightest bottlenecks along the corridor. I suspect many who are casually following the debate don’t realize that.

Obviously, “co-location” is not desirable for the Kenilworth folks, and as an avid biker who uses that trail frequently, I get it. But stakeholders throughout the metro area need to understand that St. Louis Park is being asked to demolish houses and lay new freight tracks near schools not because the only alternative is an expensive, environmentally risky tunnel, but because the Minneapolis Park Board and Kenilworth residents would prefer not to have two rail lines in that area. That is what this debate is about.

MATT BECKER, St. Louis Park

 

DRUG USE: WELFARE

It’s inappropriate to test without cause

Using truck drivers as an example, a Feb. 1 letter writer claims that mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients is not only worth the cost but eminently reasonable.

There are several problems with such a policy, however, that transcend the cost-benefit ratio. Most important, drug testing of welfare recipients has been declared unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches. A 1997 Supreme Court case, Chandler vs. Miller, determined that aside from public-safety reasons — for example, bus and truck drivers — drug testing is an unreasonable search that diminishes “personal privacy for a symbol’s sake.” This past December, a federal judge declared Florida’s drug-testing law unconstitutional, stating that “there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied.”

Why single out welfare recipients? Why not test farmers who get government subsidies or the elderly on Social Security? I suspect welfare recipients are singled out to stigmatize them — to brand them as undeserving of our aid.

JOYCE DENN, Woodbury

 

DRUG USE: CELEBRITIES

Overdose overshadows actor’s achievements

Now, granted, I don’t pay much attention to Hollywood and actors and such, but it seems more than a little sad when someone who dies from doing drugs is honored in the media (“A master character actor,” Feb. 3, referring to the death of 46-year-old actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent drug overdose). Is drug addiction really something to glamorize?

JEFF WHITE, St. Paul

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Social programs? Earnest but wishful

A Feb. 1 letter writer suggests that instead of the death penalty for murderers, we should “focus instead on programs that instill respect for life,” etc. Very commendable. But I see two problems with that idea: One, we have an abundance of such programs in place already, and they all require massive taxpayer support, and two, despite the best of society’s efforts, some people are going to turn out to be vicious murderers. No panacea, earnest social program or wishful thinking is going to protect society from such criminals. Only elimination via execution or lifetime incarceration will suffice.

HALE MESEROW, Eagan