Imagine catching Ted Nugent in the kitchen sautéing tofu. That's what I thought last week after I read a short, vanilla-white story on Xcel Energy in the Business section. The article simmered quietly below the fold, casually stating that even though Xcel Energy lost revenue last year, its profits rose by 57 percent.
At first glance I thought the energy giant had finally shed its coal-blackened dungarees and put on sunscreen. That it took the advice of the pitchfork and torch-waving public and cut its corporate fat-cat salaries and embraced efficiency as the surfboard of the energy future. Then I reread the story.
Xcel's profits rose because it raised our rates.
It's true. Because we were too efficient with our usage, Xcel boohooed the Public Utilities Commission until it got the rate increase it wanted. Indeed, Xcel also cut operating and maintenance expenses, but does this mean it's modernizing? Or does it mean that when a transformer blows, it'll take a week to fix?
Remember that Xcel went into wind power kicking and screaming and that now it's embracing solar with clothespins on its nose. Most of the great things it's done were because we forced it to. Sure, Xcel stockholders are happy, but what about us?
Steven Stratman, Minneapolis
What happened to all that extra money voters already approved?
Regarding Minnesota's transportation budget: What was the impact of the transportation amendment in 2006? It was supposed to be phased in over five years and add $300 million for roads and public transit per year starting in 2011. I've been asking this question of my elected state officials since I first heard of raising the gas tax and have only received one form-letter response. That was more than a year ago, and it said (paraphrasing): The state of our roads and highways are terrible because we haven't raised the gas tax in over 10 years. Which, of course, doesn't answer the question: What was the impact of the transportation amendment of 2006? I just can't believe that $300 million per year was added only five years ago and now we need hundreds of millions more.
Pamela Wicklund, Minneapolis
Editorial writers wore blinders in declaring support for high-rise
The May 16 editorial supporting the 40-plus-story Alatus condo tower in Minneapolis ignores two significant arguments against the development.
First, alternative means of achieving density: It's not 40 stories or nothing. A walk along Main Street and 2nd Street SE. within the St. Anthony Falls Historic District shows that density and resultant tax base can be achieved by mid-rise buildings. And just a block away from the Alatus site, the Cobalt building shows that it's possible to have a sleek contemporary development without shooting for the sky.
Second, precedent: The City Council will be hard-pressed to turn down other developers' proposals for high-rise projects within the Historic District — and there are potential development sites along both University Avenue and 2nd Street SE. not far from the Alatus site. The Alatus project sets a precedent for ignoring the Historic District guidelines, making the guidelines — and the thoughtful planning that went into them just four years ago — meaningless.
Robert Steller, Minneapolis
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This editorial overlooked important information. The existing towers along the East Bank were built in the 1980s, and the St. Anthony Falls Historic District guidelines were rewritten in 2012. The documents are clear. No more high-rises. Low-rise buildings only. It is this thinking that drew many of us to purchase in a historic area.
The proposed gleaming, glass 40-story Alatus building would be within the Historic District and across the street from the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood. The East Bank is a small, triangular-shaped piece of land approximately 0.148 of a square mile. With the six recently built, passed and proposed residential buildings for the East Bank, plus the Alatus project, latest East Bank figures show the population of 1,302 could easily reach 3,550. There would be 1,599 additional parking spaces with these seven buildings, along with the many hundreds that already exist for condos and rentals.
The editorial could have addressed looming density, traffic and crime problems, and how this fragile, historic piece of land, the birthplace of Minneapolis, can maintain its historic character amid the drive for more real estate taxes. It could have addressed why the city turned down an environmental assessment worksheet study for a sensitive site now groomed for high-income buyers. And it could have addressed offering "talented younger workers" more low-rise buildings like the six-story rental approved for the Nye's site that was initially planned as a high-rise. Isn't that the kind of thinking that makes sense for this special, pint-size neighborhood trying to hold on to the character that makes it a charming, historic neighborhood? If the city's Heritage Preservation Commission exists to protect special cases, why wouldn't the Star Tribune's editorial writers rally in support instead of urging the City Council to overturn its decision?
Joanne Netland, Minneapolis
Don't blame me, the state AG, for closures already destined
Globe University/Minnesota School of Business (MSB) credits the closure of its for-profit college campuses in Minnesota and Wisconsin to a lawsuit by the Minnesota attorney general's office ("Globe University closing 4 campuses, blames attorney general," May 17).
Let's look at the facts. The schools had a reduction in employees and enrollment before the suit was filed. They employed 224 admissions recruiters in 2010 but only 134 in 2013 (the year before the suit was filed), a decline of 40 percent. MSB's recruiters signed up 10,406 students in 2009-10 but only 5,705 students in 2012-13 (the year before the suit was filed), an enrollment drop of 45 percent.
The for-profit college industry as a whole has seen a precipitous decline in enrollments. Overall, attendance at Minnesota private "career school" campuses fell from 37,033 in 2009 to 18,650 in 2014, a 50 percent drop. Companies like Anthem College, Everest Institute, Art Institutes International, University of Phoenix, Sanford Brown, Le Cordon Bleu, ITT Educational Services and Kaplan Higher Education have all closed multiple campuses in Minnesota or nationally in the last few years.
Lori Swanson, St. Paul
The writer is Minnesota's attorney general.
It's not the dying that's the issue, it's the dignity in the 'how'
Dr. Ann Marie Chiasson, writing about her opposition to "physician-assisted suicide" (Opinion Exchange, May 16), wants us to know that starving oneself is a "pleasant" way to die as an alternative to a lethal dose of medication. It only takes a few weeks.
I wonder: Has she ever tried it?
Throughout her article, she refers to ending one's life when terminally ill as suicide. But it is not. That is the lie. People who commit suicide want to die. People who are terminally ill do not want to die. They just want some control over those last days of their lives so that they can die with dignity. Lingering for weeks is not most people's idea of dignity.
How can she in all good conscience say this is the most compassionate way to end one's life?
Mary Alice Divine, White Bear Lake