What — we can’t find problems to address?

Over the last few weeks, I have encountered the following stories in the news:

1) Smaller bridges all over the state in danger of falling down.

2) Roads all over the state in conditions ranging from dismal to dire.

3) Children being denied lunch in public schools because they lack the dollar or two that is needed to buy it.

4) Municipalities asking citizens to volunteer to do necessary jobs, because the money isn’t available to hire someone to do them.

5) The working poor being forced to pay usurious rents to absentee landlords in order to live in roach- and bedbug-infested firetraps, because the state supposedly lacks the funds to build affordable, decent housing for them.

6) Theoretically, the state of Minnesota has a projected surplus of funds exceeding a billion dollars.

Enlighten me: Why isn’t No. 6 being used to deal with Nos. 1 through 5? Anyone?

Sharon L. Casey, St. Paul



Follow the money — to more-trivial pursuits

There was an inspiring story on the Sports page (“Teacher and student, March 3) about Alex Meyer, the young pitcher picked up by the Twins who works as a substitute teacher during the offseason. He signed for a bonus of $2 million, yet he teaches for $63 a day in his hometown in Indiana. I don’t know what is more shocking: $2 million for a rookie baseball player, or $63 for a teaching job that requires a college education.

Robert Idso, St. Peter, Minn.



Your view may depend on your perspective

While I wholeheartedly agree with Doug Champeau’s conclusion that we must raise the minimum wage, I’ve had very different experiences of those struggling with poverty (“I wish I could be truly poor,” March 8).

Champeau implies that those who are living in poverty are living well — steak fillets, televisions at tax time and more. While I’m sure he is speaking of what he sees at his retail job, it is important to be mindful that he is only seeing one piece of a very complex puzzle.

I work at a nonprofit that provides low-cost car repair for low-income Minnesotans who are struggling to keep aging cars running in order to get to work, medical appointments and school. I have had experiences with customers with TVs and prepaid-tax-return debit cards, too, except in my case it was a woman who pawned her old TV set so she could afford to get her 1995 vehicle towed to us, and the debit cards were used by grateful women who could finally pay off the bills they owed us.

I would invite Champeau to spend a day at our shop to see a very different side of poverty. I’m guessing his desire to be “truly poor” would evaporate quickly.

Cathy Heying, Minneapolis

• • •

A March 8 letter writer doesn’t think the minimum wage should be raised because “it’s no secret” that tips pay the bills. Apparently, he’s got some idea that Minneapolis is not just the center of the universe, but that there is nowhere else to even consider. I would love to have him come out to the smaller towns. He wouldn’t last a week if he had to rely on tips.

I’ve never thought that my wages should depend on customers when I know that by just coming in for drinks or food they’re helping the business and town. Many people outside of the Twin Cities area have to work more than an hour just to buy a gallon of milk and a gallon of gas. Many people can’t leave tips — a few manage to leave a couple of quarters, but it’s certainly not enough to make a dent in the rent payment. It’s hard enough for people to try to cope and survive without hearing from someone who acts like no one else in the state even exists.

Robin Ritter, Lake Benton, Minn.



Well, if you’re going to put it that way …

I live in southwest Minneapolis. Like everyone else who frequents 50th & France, I know the area’s 951 ramp parking spaces are in high demand (“50th & France parking to get revamped,” March 8). Employee parking costs $60 annually and could be increased to $120.

Consider a part-time employee who works four days a week, 48 weeks a year. Today, parking costs that person about 30 cents a day. Doubling it would still only be 60 cents. Quite a bargain. Aren’t those valuable parking spots worth at least a buck or two a day?

David Aquilina, Minneapolis

• • •

Instead of large type stating that motorists wasted 24.5 hours per year in traffic in 2013 (March 7), why not state that Minnesotans chose to drive an extra 24.5 hours on congested roads? This would recognize the trade-offs stemming from choices of where to live, work and play.

Ron Hobson, St. Louis Park



A few more facts …

The March 6 counterpoint by U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan (“On trade talks, let’s not repeat NAFTA errors”) contained a few assertions to our original article (“Trade talks? NAFTA is a guide,” Feb. 19) that we want to correct.

First, the share of trade-related jobs in Minnesota has more than doubled since NAFTA passed, from 10.8 percent in 1992 to 21.8 percent in 2011. Jobs at plants that export pay on average up to 18 percent more than similar jobs in plants that sell only domestically.

Second, Minnesota’s export-related jobs are not just at large, multinational corporations. Of the Minnesota companies that exported goods or services in 2011, 723 were large companies and 6,088 were small and medium-sized businesses.

Third, increasing trade has also been beneficial for farmers. Minnesota is the fourth-largest exporter of agricultural products in the country. We are the top state for sugar beet exports and are among the top four for exports of soybeans, corn, oilseeds and swine.

Finally, although we do have an overall trade deficit with Canada and Mexico, it is driven by our oil imports. In 2011, we had a trade surplus with our North American neighbors in manufacturing, services and agriculture.

Contrary to assertions, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade deals are not negotiated in secret. As former members of Congress, we know that any congressman can request a meeting or any documents relating to the negotiations at any time.

Tim Penny and Mark Kennedy, former members, U.S. House