The pipeline resistance march (“Pipeline protesters march through St. Paul,” June 7) shows democracy at its best, and the rally’s organizers and participants are to be congratulated for an impressive and colorful success. I applaud the diversity and creativity of the participants and hope their message will be taken seriously by government at all levels. Although the focus was on the Enbridge pipeline, tar sands and Minnesota, the broad spectrum of speakers and protesters showed that the real issues are global and affect our very survival. It is relevant to note that the world’s best economists believe a price on carbon is the optimal way to control carbon emissions, and studies by Regional Economic Models Inc., the Carbon Tax Center, the Center for Global Development and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis back them up.
This is catching media attention. A recent editorial in the New York Times said that a carbon tax is one of the best policies to solve the problem of climate change and would be much easier to administer than other policies, and the New Yorker reported that most experts agree that the only way to make a real dent in carbon emissions is a carbon tax.
Carol Steinhart, Madison, Wis.
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I oppose the Enbridge pipeline as vehemently as the people who stopped traffic in downtown St. Paul on Saturday. But I have to ask those who participated in the protest: Did you even consider the cost of your action for the wage workers and travelers you prevented from reaching their destinations? The Legislature was not in session; the state regulators who endorsed the Sandpiper pipeline were not in their offices. What, then, did this march accomplish, other than being a media spectacle?
Buses downtown were unable to deliver their passengers to their stops because of the crowd. For those of you unfamiliar with the place where you massed, the W. 7th Street neighborhood employs hundreds of minimum-wage workers who were unable to get to work on time. Many of them work at the board-and-care homes, and your traffic stoppage not only delayed them but meant that the staffers they were relieving had to stay until they arrived. Did you think about that?
The 54 bus is a limited-stop line taking passengers to the airport. If you’ve flown in the past 14 years, you know that it’s no longer possible to sail through the airport by arriving with minutes to spare. People missed their flights on Saturday because of the 54’s delay — and in this era, hard-nosed airlines don’t accommodate tardy passengers by putting them on later flights. Did you think about that?
Active protest is one element in efforts to prevent the pipeline and other environmental assaults from laying waste to the Upper Midwest’s waters and land. But could you not plan actions that don’t impose collateral damage on minimum-wage workers and others using public transportation?
J.Z. Grover, St. Paul
He’s overpaid, and attention to this has been underpaid
The University of Minnesota president receives an annual salary of $610,000 plus an annual contribution of more than $75,000 to his retirement plan, plus other benefits, including free housing (“6-figure pay to run a public college,” June 8). In 2013, the IRS released its final report on its compliance project on tax-exempt colleges and universities. The average total compensation of presidents of large universities was $399,723, and the median amount was $337,881.
The U president is not the CEO of a commercial business. He is the head of a nonprofit institution of higher education. The law restricts the pursuit of personal wealth by the leaders of private, tax-exempt organizations. Section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code imposes an excise tax on excessive compensation paid to senior administrators at private colleges. The section does not apply to public universities, as those institutions are classified as units of government. But we must be concerned with the reasonableness of the compensation of senior administrators at the U — and not simply by comparison to compensation levels at other large public universities. Until recently, no one has been watching the store anywhere in higher education.
Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville
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It’s not U President Eric Kaler’s fault that he measures success by the salary he deserves as the CEO of a $3.5 billion business. He’s been taught, like the rest of us, that money is the barometer of achievement. And it’s not his fault that a tuition hike is needed at the U to cover things such as his $610,000 salary. He runs a large corporation, not a kitchen table where a student and his parents are working out their budget for the fall. And, after all, Kaler is competing with the U’s sports coaches, whose salaries are double and triple his.
But true success isn’t about money. It’s about assuring that the CEO doesn’t earn more than 20 times the salary of the lowest-paid employee (see Ben & Jerry’s CEOs). It’s about paying your employees for a year when your mill burns down, as Aaron Feuerstein did in 1996 in Massachusetts. Success is about knowing that raising tuition may mean that some students will have to leave college, about knowing that $610,000 is more than you will even need to live well on. Success is about caring more for the world around you than for your ranking in the Big Ten pay scale.
But then we don’t teach executives to distinguish between success and true success, even in the business ethics courses now springing up in most M.B.A. programs. Shame on us.
Elaine Frankowski, Minneapolis
Minnesota’s leaders took steps this year to improve care
The June 8 commentary by Lindsay R. Friedman and Dr. Paul A. Friedman (“The case for uniform telemedicine”) clearly pointed out the barrier that state-by-state licensure places on the delivery of telemedicine. It is important to note that the article was submitted before the Minnesota Legislature overwhelmingly passed and Gov. Mark Dayton signed the interstate medical licensure compact. The Mayo Clinic applauds Minnesota’s leaders for supporting this effort to both improve quality and access to medical care through telemedicine. The interstate licensure compact is a necessary step in eliminating the barriers to the use of this technology for the benefit of patients. Our Legislature recognized the value of and increased demand for access to telemedicine. We thank them for this action.
Dr. Steve Ommen, Rochester
The writer is medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care.
No matter how well it rhymed, ‘hero’ headline was wrong
A racehorse an “American Hero?” (Sports, June 7.) Really? This horse is beautiful and has performed impressively, but an American hero? Not to me. Heroes save lives, improve lives, give of themselves unselfishly and unconditionally. I saw an American hero last Thursday: She unloaded a child’s wheelchair from her specially equipped minivan. Then she lifted her severely disabled daughter, about age 9, from the van, and adjusted strap after strap so her daughter would ride safely. They proceeded down the gravel road in the sunshine, both smiling. This mom, and all parents who sacrifice for their disabled children, are my heroes. I cannot be the only person who disagrees that a racehorse is an American hero. Parents of disabled children deserve a headline even larger than that given to a racehorse.
Cheryl Coulter, Bloomington