I took a picture recently in south Minneapolis. It tells a story. My husband and I were taking care of our grandsons and walked with them to Powderhorn Park. All of a sudden, as they were riding their scooters, they spotted “their” mailman. They hurried down the street to greet him. He gave them high-fives, and our 6-year-old excitedly told him that he had just “graduated.” Our 3-year-old chimed in that his brother was in first grade now. Our 4-year-old was anxious to show the mailman his new “tattoo.”
All the while, their mailman made them feel so special. One of the things these boys want to do when they grow up is to be mailmen. In the winter, they sit at their window and watch for the mail truck to park across the street. In the summer, they are often on the porch ready to greet their mailman. Thanks to our Postal Service for making our grandsons feel so special. Thanks to mail carriers like this who build community in their neighborhoods.
Mary Van Der Werf, Brooklyn Center
All of us could be better thinkers — and here’s a guide
Can our world be bad and better at the same time? Is there an antidote to the epidemic of lies, deception and ignorance in American society? Yes and yes! It’s the refreshing worldview described in “Factfulness,” a recently published book by the late Hans Rosling, renowned TED talk speaker, global-heath expert and sword swallower.
Bill Gates is offering the book free to every U.S. college and university graduate this spring. Wow! Why would he do that?
Gates’ offer astonished me. I am 70, so I bought the book. It taught me that I am more ignorant than a chimpanzee about why and how our world is better. So is most every person (Republican, Democrat, corporate CEO, world leader, doctor, teacher — and college student) who answers questions asked in the book ranging from poverty, wealth, population, health, energy, eduction, gender and environment. Turns out none of us is less ignorant until we see our world through data.
“Factfulness” offers a fact-based worldview. It offers “data as therapy” and “understanding as a source of mental peace” even in the context of what is still bad about our world. It gives us easy tools to use for putting factfulness into practice.
It asks us if we can be humble, curious and ready to be amazed.
This is how we stop the epidemic.
Wever Weed, Medina
Density is good when done well, but this 2040 Plan is worrisome
The proposed Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan will damage the character and physical fabric of Minneapolis at a scale that rivals the construction of our highway system 60 years ago. The plan rezones for increased density with little enforceable regard for livability, walkability and aesthetics. While it rezones for up to 30 stories within blocks of single-family neighborhoods, it does little to define precise requirements for reduced scale, height limits tied to street widths, setbacks, green space or sunlight at street level.
I am a practicing architect in Minneapolis and an adjunct associate professor teaching architectural design at the University of Minnesota. In my own training, I learned that density in cities is necessary and good — when done well. Unfortunately, the proposed 2040 Plan (tinyurl.com/mpls-2040-plan) seems poorly conceived. In its seeming rush to expand the tax base through unfettered market-rate development, its proposed hyperdensity fails to support affordability, livability and beauty. Further, it ignores years of formal planning by neighborhood organizations toward these goals.
An “open letter” by Lisa Albrecht published in Opinion Exchange on June 9 challenged elected officials and planners to explain why they believe that “bigger is better” in the 2040 Plan. In the face of the plan’s many oversights and weaknesses, I’m still eagerly awaiting their response. I’d also like to see substantial investigative reporting about this topic, with the hope of enhancing public awareness and of opening the plan to serious critique and revision — while there’s still time to stop its proposed damage.
Nina Ebbighausen, Minneapolis
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In response to a June 13 letter, “Tiny apartments in the sky won’t solve issue of affordable housing,” there are two issues. I don’t know who the letter writer has spoken to, but I have been working on affordable housing for the last 15 years, and I have not heard more than a few people say that they don’t want to live in apartments. The problem is that we are not building enough affordable apartments. In the last 10 years, we have made almost no progress.
The second issue is comparing now with the 1980s. Then, the population of the inner cities was declining; now, it is increasing. The Metropolitan Council projection is for 700,000 more people to be living in the Twin Cities area by 2040, many of them with a desire to live in the inner cities so they don’t have to drive to their jobs. How do we accommodate this increased population? There is not enough vacant land and there are not enough houses for this kind of population growth.
The solution to both issues is to build more apartments, but, and this is a big and important “but,” every development that gets any kind of government help, and that is most of them (this includes tax-increment financing grants), should have at a minimum 15 percent of the units affordable. Preferably, 25 percent should be affordable. Only then can we begin to cut into the need for affordable housing.
Bill Lerman, St. Paul
Up even more sharply for girls and women. Image pressures?
The June 8 front-page article “National suicide rates rise sharply” — they’re up 25 percent since 1999 — caught my attention. I found after my own further research that the suicide rate for women 45 to 65 years old has increased 63 percent, and most alarming is the 200 percent increase in the rate for girls ages 10 to 14.
As a woman in my late 50s, I can only speak from my perspective of aging. I am surmising that perhaps younger girls also feel the pressure of just being a female. We are living in a society that highly values youth and beauty. We are exposed to it every day in the media. Every day it is reinforced to women, we must be skinny and beautiful to be accepted by society, to fit in, and don’t we all want to fit in?
For me, it makes me self-conscious and self-critical. Whatever happened to growing old gracefully? It seems to have evaporated from our society. We as a society need to embrace growing old, wrinkles, sagging and all. And reinforce that beauty comes from within. We have this one life to live; let’s just be kinder to ourselves and each other.
Jeanne Kenady, St. Louis Park
He got to the point …
Twenty years ago or so, most Saturdays would find me at Canterbury Park. On the drive to the track, I would listen to a terrific program on KSTP Radio featuring Ron Meshbesher and others offering free legal insight to callers. (Meshbesher died Wednesday after a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease — see “Like a poet, and juries loved him,” front page, June 15.) One lady launched into a long and, to me, rambling and somewhat incoherent story about a dispute she was in. When she paused for breath, Meshbesher jumped in with, “So, you believe that this person’s actions were being used as a subterfuge.” He had filtered out the central point of this word storm and summed it up with the perfect word. Brilliant!
Eric Hammar, Mankato