The article about two proposed plans to provide free community college education (On the Beat, July 15) caught my interest. While living in Los Angeles in 1990, I decided to pursue a new career path, and my local community college offered two introductory-level classes. After Proposition 13 passed, California’s junior-college system went from free to almost free. Textbooks cost about the same as classes, free parking was available and my total investment for 16 weeks of college was about $120. My classroom building was new, both teachers were incredibly helpful and interesting, and their classes were challenging. The state had made a significant investment in providing postsecondary education to everyone who sought it.

So many students crowded into our first class meetings that we had to find extra chairs. By the time we took our midterm exams, crowds had thinned to half. On the day of our final exams, there were seven of us in one class and nine in another, supporting my belief that people do not tend to value things that are given away.

College costs have gone through the roof, no doubt about that, and something needs to be done. But maybe financial aid should come in the form of repaying shorter-term student loans for those who actually complete their course of study, rather than making free education available to dabblers.

Joan Graham, Albert Lea, Minn.


A job well-done, fireworks and all

A tip of the cap to Minnesota baseball fans who attended the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. They were first class all the way in their enthusiastic welcome of players at both events. It was heartwarming to see and hear their appreciation for Derek Jeter, for players from all of the teams, and for their own, past and present, such as Justin Morneau during the HR Derby.

Amid all of this I found it ironic that Bud Selig attended his last All-Star Game as commissioner at the home field for a team that was nearly “contracted” in 2002. Twins fans know and respect the game. I will make it a point to visit in the near future.

Robert Jenkins, Chevy Chase, Md.

• • •

The uproar over the late-night All-Star Game fireworks show is embarrassing and shows a true lack of perspective on the part of Minneapolis residents. I, too, live downtown, and I, too, was startled from my slumber by the colors and noise. And, yes, my dog was frightened. But as I watched from my window, it was certainly memorable, if also a bit surreal.

As for perspective, I wonder what the shellshocked citizens of Gaza would say if they knew Minneapolitans were outraged by a fireworks display at an inconvenient hour. And what must north Minneapolis residents think as they continue to witness deadly violence in their neighborhoods yet see mass indignation not about gun deaths in the city but instead regarding a bit of disrupted sleep.

Many major issues in our city and world today are worthy of true outrage and demand action. A fireworks show is not one of them.

Craig Hollenbeck, Minneapolis



The cars-only crowd misses the big picture

Many letter writers are against the Southwest light-rail line and its expensive construction cost. One (July 16) said she prefers roads. Does she think it’s possible to build enough highway to accommodate all of the people who need to drive? Go behind any of the sound barriers along freeways in the city, and you will see homes with almost no front yard and not much sunshine. The tall barriers block the noise and the daylight. Cars are polluters, and there is no way to provide enough lanes on freeways to keep traffic flowing, especially in rush hours.

I have been riding the Blue (Hiawatha) Line since it was built and find light rail to be the most efficient and pleasant way to get to downtown Minneapolis (and now to downtown St. Paul). I consider the ride to be a time out during which I can read, do crosswords or just look out the window at the parking lot called Hiawatha Avenue. In addition, riders pay for their rides, as do bus riders.

It is absolutely impossible to build enough roads. When the light-rail trains became too crowded, instead of adding a new strip of cement, they added a third car. Problem solved.

Charlotte Frampton, Apple Valley



U.S. involvement: Not always proactive

In a July 16 commentary, Bryan McDowell presents a cogent argument for U.S. involvement in the Mideast. There was, however, one misleading statement, which the editors chose to highlight in the print edition: “[W]hat if our nation’s leaders decided that during World War II, helping stop Hitler from taking over Europe was not our place?”

In his well-known “date which will live in infamy” speech before Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt asked only for a declaration of war on Japan, not Germany, which to that point had committed no overt acts of war against the United States. Involvement in the European part of the war was triggered when Hitler declared war against the U.S. on Dec. 11.

Though there is little doubt that the U.S. would have been drawn into the fighting in Europe somehow, the actual decision was made by Hitler, not U.S. leaders.

Joseph Sausen, Richfield



Advocates must keep engaging officials

For 30 years, I’ve been advocating for my son, who has significant disabilities, and I’ve learned that changes in state policy don’t happen as fast as I think they should. The July 13 article “State not meeting needs of disabled” further reinforced my belief that parents, families and people with disabilities need to be continually engaged with public officials to ensure that the state’s disability policies and services meet the specific needs of each person.

The Olmstead Plan mentioned in the article has undergone several drafts, based on input state officials have collected around Minnesota. Several other parents, people with disabilities, other disability advocates and I shared our views of what we wanted for our children’s future and their services at an Olmstead Plan listening session last year in Rochester. The document drafted so far has, in many ways, reflected our input, and it envisions a society where people with disabilities are more included and services are more person-centered than is currently the case.

The final plan and its implementation will only realize that vision if we who are most affected continue our vigilance and speak up when services fall short of stated goals.

Karen Larson, Faribault, Minn.