The trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez for manslaughter in the death of Philando Castile was argued in all-too-familiar terms: Did Yanez follow correct police procedure? Did he feel in any way endangered?
The implicit questions about the dead man that have haunted this and so many trials are also familiar: Was “correct procedure” followed as a civilian was pulled over, out of the blue, on a summer evening because a police officer thought he resembled someone else? Was the civilian cautious enough, slow enough, crisp enough in his movements? Did he speak clearly enough to justify his continued existence, in the eyes of a police officer? Did he do everything in his power to keep a nervous cop from imagining the worst and emptying a clip into his body?
As of Monday, the case was in the hands of the jury. Whatever the verdict, it is sorely evident that we need dramatic changes to the way our communities are policed. Falcon Heights’ practice of contracting police patrols from other municipalities, without direct local oversight, presents its own set of issues. For all of us, the values inculcated in police training, as they’ve been discussed in this and similar trials — protect yourself at all cost; regard any possible threat as an actual threat; shoot to kill — and the judicial standard of giving the police the tremendous benefit of the doubt put a premium on the life of the police officer, not the civilian whom the officer is supposedly sworn to “protect and serve.” Under these circumstances, the weight of innocent black lives lost to police shootings will grow ever more staggering, while the narrow question of an individual officer’s guilt is accepted as the only question that matters.
Neil Elliott, Falcon Heights
ROADS VS. TRANSIT
Regional competition and light rail: an asset, not a liability
I find it perplexing that light-rail opponents ignore the many Twin Cities business leaders who argue that expanding our existing lines is important for regional competitiveness. In his recent commentary on transportation (“The sad truth behind our congested mess,” June 9), John Hinderaker of the Center of the American Experiment provides some insight. While expressing his admiration for its faster “average driving speed,” he asserts that the Kansas City metro area is “comparable” to that of the Twin Cities.
Kansas City has many great attributes, but from an economic perspective, it is very different from our region. First, the Twin Cities metro area has about 3.5 million residents, which is more than 60 percent higher than the Kansas City region. Further, while we have 17 Fortune 500 headquarters, they have only one. This might partly explain why (according to Forbes) the total annual economic output of the Twin Cities is $232 billion, a bit more than double the $112 billion produced by the Kansas City metro area. Finally (also per Forbes), our median household income is approximately $70,000 annually vs. $59,000 for the Kansas City metro area.
If Hinderaker were to look at the regions with which our Fortune 500 companies are in daily competition for talent and capital, he likely will find that light rail is viewed as an asset, not a liability.
Jerry Anderson, Eagan
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Hinderaker and study author Randal O’Toole list some of the problems associated with reducing traffic congestion. They failed to mention the impact on traffic that is caused by local administrations. Looking at the map of the Twin Cities, one will notice there is no easy way to go to Interstate 35W north from I-94 west. The highway department actually purchased the property to install a ramp from I-94 to I-35W, but the local community fought it. In St. Paul, taking I-35E south of downtown, one must slow down to 45 miles per hour, and trucks are not allowed to drive on that short section of the freeway, so as not to disturb the wealthy populace of Crocus Hill. When locals are able to interject their opinions and desires into federal and state highway planning, one is not surprised when their personal interests can override the designs of the highway planners, and it can easily cause congestion for many years to come.
Darrel Mathieu, Luck, Wis.
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When people think of what makes their favorite city special, I doubt the width of the freeways is ever the aspect they recall. Instead, people value the unique places, neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, parks or countless other features that make cities vibrant places to live. I wonder if the author of the study advocating for expanding the region’s highways considered this at all.
What I believe was missed in that study is a lesson American cities have learned the hard way over the past 70 years: The success of a city is not determined by how fast you can drive through it. Over the decades, our highways have expanded, carving up cities and displacing once-vibrant neighborhoods. If the physical destruction wasn’t enough, more traffic lanes simply result in a taxpayer-funded incentive to drive more. Traffic isn’t alleviated, people drive farther, cities lose their population, and soon the once-vibrant city is an empty hull surrounded by freeways and surface parking lots.
The last 20 years have seen a reversal of this trend as cities have managed to attract young professionals and empty-nesters alike. A year and a half ago upon graduating college, I became one of these newly converted urbanites when I chose to move to the Twin Cities. There were many reasons behind this decision, but the ability to drive down I-94 at 70 mph was not one of them.
Michael Greif, Minneapolis
The writer is an urban planner.
New trees, but it won’t be the green space it could have been
Trees won’t bring enough green to the mall (“Trees bring green to Nicollet,” June 12). The reconstruction project was a chance to spread green space, one of the most desirable and valuable of all urban amenities, from near the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on one side of downtown to the Mississippi River on the other side via the mall, but the mall was covered in concrete again and will retain its road traffic. Has no one seen the High Line in New York? A grassy corridor of open space, walking and bike paths lined with outdoor cafes, shops and pubs would have been just awesome and a magnet to downtown residents and visitors, while increasing the property values all the way along. What a loss.
Cherie Doyle Riesenberg, St. Paul
Arms sale to Saudis would extend misery in Yemen
The war in Yemen has triggered the worst humanitarian crisis in the world: Nearly 7 million people are at risk of famine, and cholera is on the rise. Saudi Arabia has been bombing the country for more than two years with no prospect of success in ousting the Houthis, and with the chaos strengthening Al-Qaida. There are resolutions in the U.S. House and Senate to block President Donald Trump’s proposed arms sale to the Saudis. If the Saudis use our bombs to attack the Yemeni port of Hodeida, 80 percent of the country’s food and medicine cannot get in. Sen. Al Franken has introduced the Senate resolution — a vote is anticipated this week. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the rest of the Minnesota delegation must sign on.
Cathy Murphy, St. Louis Park