We have heard a lot about making America great, and I wonder if we have a consensus about what a great country looks like. Here are several attributes I think would make a legitimate claim to greatness:

 

• Public safety and national security provided with minimal expense of blood and money.

• Mutual respect and cordial dealings with other countries.

• Exemplary civil and human rights.

• Respect for nature and natural processes.

• Investment in young people.

• Justice system that prevents crime and rehabilitates offenders humanely.

 

• Good physical and mental health care available to all.

• Economic opportunities for all, and tax burden fairly shared.

• Vibrant artistic activity.

• Scientific research addressing important questions.

• Respect for history, and vision for the future.

• Efficient, accessible public health, transportation and communication systems.

 

This list is just for consideration. What changes should be made to the list, and/or to our country to make it really great?

Janet Mitchell, Northfield

RANKED-CHOICE VOTING

Let me say it more bluntly: Pre-emption is worst kind of bill

Thanks to municipal leaders Amy Brendmoen, Lisa Bender, Sue Sanger and Michael Wojcik for their excellent — and admirably restrained — March 27 commentary about the ranked-choice voting pre-emption bill (“Why is Legislature trying to block cities from giving voters a choice?”). I’m furious that it passed committee on a party-line vote, following a hearing (packed with pro-RCV testimony and very little against, incidentally) that was scheduled past the deadline.

Like other recent attempts to override municipal decisionmaking — from paid-sick-leave measures to plastic-bag bans — this latest pre-emption scheme is an affront to local democracy. And unlike efforts to derail other community-led initiatives, this one targets decisions that have been made directly by voters via charter amendments.

I’m a Minneapolis voter who’s repeatedly used, and loved, RCV for municipal elections. I won’t list the reasons, as the authors (and many, many others) have made that case ad infinitum. This measure is offensive on principle.

Is the bill a response to constituent concerns? Are the authors and cosponsors besieged with phone calls from folks in their districts who are gravely worried about successful voting reform in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the chance that other communities may embrace it?

It’s astonishing that Republican lawmakers apparently can’t find other, more urgent work to do — work that might actually be germane to the people who elected them.

Susan Maas, Minneapolis

REPRESENTATION

This was the polite atmosphere at town halls I’ve attended

Unlike a March 29 letter writer (“You want town halls? You can’t handle town halls!”), this voter rarely missed a town hall meeting hosted by either U.S. Reps. Bill Frenzel or Jim Ramstad; I also attended what may have been the only in-person town hall hosted by Rep. Erik Paulsen. At no time did I witness any audience member being rude to a congressman.

At all of those town halls, audience members raised their hands and were called on to ask their questions. We could easily see which people were raising hands and who was being called upon. Were questioners of both sexes being chosen? Were people of color being ignored? Were young and old among those selected?

Not only do Paulsen’s calls arrive at inconvenient times but, even more important, those “meetings” lack the transparency of in-person events. Paulsen’s office makes the calls to our homes, then chooses which questions will be answered. In order to ensure “friendly questions,” do they only respond to questions offered by known donors to his campaigns? When his office is making the calls and choosing the questions, how are we to know? Just asking.

Carole Rydberg, Plymouth

REGIONAL GOVERNANCE

An important, bipartisan bill would update the Met Council

As a City Council member from Coon Rapids, one of the more exciting things for me that is making its way through the legislative process is real, bipartisan reform regarding the governance of the Metropolitan Council.

Legislators Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake; John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin; Dan Hall, R-Burnsville; Jerry Newton, DFL-Coon Rapids; and Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, have joined cities, counties and many others to lead the charge in the state Senate as cosponsors of SF 2809. This bill reflects all of the principles that many cities and counties have led in developing over the last few years. This legislation would put the Met Council in compliance with federal requirements regarding how metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are made up of elected officials who are accountable to the voters.

There are many in local government with the time and desire to serve our communities on the regional planning body. Many do this now, on other boards set up to deal with regional issues. More important, the current system is riddled with conflicts of interest, with members coming from ideological special-interest groups and being primarily accountable only to the governor, who appoints them.

Thank you to all the legislators working on this issue. Ensuring that our MPO conforms to federal requirements and is made up of representatives who have been locally elected by citizens is really the only way to make our Met Council more transparent and accountable.

Brad Greskowiak, Coon Rapids

The writer represents his city’s First Ward.

MINNEAPOLIS DEVELOPMENT POLICY

The place I know and love is leafy

I moved here from the East Coast more than 50 years ago. I thought I was pretty sophisticated compared to the Midwest rubes. I also thought there were mountains in Minnesota, which says a lot about my sophisticated attitude. Anyway, what a shock to my senses that a big city actually had trees and grass and houses with yards! I was used to big cities like South Philly that had row upon row of houses that shared walls. Grass and trees? Fuggetaboutit. You go to Jersey if you want that. And now my beloved Minneapolis is becoming South Philly with its proposal to put fourplexes in every neighborhood. Grass and trees? Go to Wisconsin.

Norm Spilleth, Minneapolis

HOW THE NEWS IS GATHERED

Sometimes it’s luck and intuition

While the accolades and tributes pour in for recently deceased Jane Freeman — wife of former governor Orville Freeman and mother of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman — I was reminded of something that happened way back in the early days of the JFK administration (“A DFL ‘founding mother’ dies at age 96,” March 24).

I was working in the KSTP newsroom when our chief weatherman, Johnny Morris, came by. “I think I have a lead on a good story.” He told us how his house was next door to the Freeman home and that Jane told Morris’ wife the Freemans were moving to Washington, D.C.

We did some checking and sure enough, a few days later, Orville Freeman was named secretary of agriculture. We thanked Morris — a weatherman who knew which way the political winds were blowing.

Willard B. Shapira, Roseville