My worst fears about the November election arrived Thursday with the Star Tribune article about Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Jayne Miller (“Dogged by criticism, Mpls. parks chief is resigning,” Dec. 7). I worked closely with the Minneapolis parks as 10th Ward City Council member (1984 to 1994) and as head of the park’s community planning department (1998 to 2001). Although everyone loves our parks, the leadership, both elected and appointed, historically left much to be desired. I remember one occasion where the board was so divided it needed to go to the hospital to get the approval of the board meeting agenda by its hospitalized president. Later in the 2000s, a failed search for a new superintendent resulted in the hiring of a superintendent who wasn’t even a candidate.
Superintendent Miller turned the system around with her strong leadership skills both inside and outside the parks. She played a major leadership role garnering support for last year’s approval of the increased mill levy for capital and operating expenses to improve racial diversity in hiring and promoting staff as well as recreational activities throughout the park system. She should have been retained for her professionalism and financial transparency — not chased out of town.
I’m extremely concerned about Minneapolis’ ability to attract a new superintendent to replace Jayne after candidates learn how she was treated.
Joan Niemiec, Minneapolis
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Regarding the article about Miller’s departure, I am taking issue with the use of the word “criticism.” The word implies fault, and it was the wrong word to describe what was occurring at “open time” at Park Board meetings. I attended those meetings, and “criticism” is not the word to describe what the protesters were saying. They were harassing and threatening Miller. Jayne was a consummate professional, and the rude, abusive and mean-spirited attacks at open time were insulting, shocking and disgusting, yet protected speech. No wonder Miller wanted to leave Minneapolis.
Arlene Fried, Minneapolis
The writer is co-founder of Park Watch.
THE WEEK’S EVENTS
And Franken’s …
I am one of the 53.2 percent of disenfranchised voters who voted for Al Franken in 2014. My vote is being voided by the several mostly Democrats who demanded that he resign — a demand he promised on Thursday to accommodate. Franken has apologized for his relatively minor lapses of judgment. He is accused of no crimes or misdemeanors. Now Gov. Mark Dayton alone appoints our senator for the next year. This is craziness.
Steven Arnold, Wayzata
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Franken represents the people of Minnesota. Let the people of Minnesota decide if we want representation by him. The citizens of Alabama have a choice in their senatorial candidate. We have been shut out of our state’s right choice. Franken’s name should be on the 2018 special election ballot.
Cynthia Snyder, Edina
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Dear Sen. Franken,
Please reconsider your decision to resign. We need people with your conviction and integrity in the Senate. We need more thoughtful and intelligent people like you. As a woman who voted for you in 2008 and again in 2014, I can assure you that you will have my vote should you ever decide to run again.
It angers me that my vote will be nullified without due process. Suggestions that you should be replaced by a woman or a minority make me ill. When did sex or race become job qualifications? Could anything be more sexist or racist?
I believe you can fight the allegations against you, and I believe you owe it to those of us who have supported you to do so. I believe you owe it to yourself and your family to clear your name. We will stand behind you.
Somebody has to take a stand. People have to realize that the PC times we are living in have created a society of victims. This is not OK. I want my daughters to grow up believing they can speak truth to power. However, I do not want them to grow up believing they have a right to not be offended. Please reconsider!
Dana Mahoney, Maple Grove
THE BIG PICTURE
Morality for grown-ups
Morality has been in the news lately, but something has been missing from the conversation.
Actually, a lot has been missing from the conversation. Ideas such as remorse, repentance, compassion, forgiveness, discernment and proportionality.
Without those dimensions to our conversation, what’s left is a juvenile caricature of morality, in which everything is either black or white, good or evil. It’s the morality of reality crime shows, comic book superheroes and gotcha journalism. It’s a morality that already permeates our culture, and in its most vicious and racist form, gives us mass incarceration, and the longest prison sentences and harshest prison conditions of any advanced industrial society.
It’s the morality that jumps from “He did bad things 10 years ago, or 30 years ago,” to “He isn’t fit to hold public office today,” without stopping to reflect.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Some bad acts are worse than others. Much worse.
Not every offense is a hanging offense.
Doing bad things doesn’t make you a bad person.
People change. At least, some people do.
We all have done bad things in our lives — some worse than others. What matters is what we did next. Did we apologize? Did we make amends? Did we learn from our mistakes? And before we would judge anybody else, we ought to ask not just, “What did they do then?” But also, “What are they doing now?”
In some of the cases that are currently in the public spotlight, the men in the headlines richly deserve our condemnation, not for what they did in the past, but for what they do and stand for now. In other cases, not so much.
I suspect that at some point in the future, when we look back at this time in our history, we will find that spotlight turned on us. How did we come to our judgments? Did we act with maturity and discernment? Or did we just follow the crowd?
Jeremy Iggers, Minneapolis
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I am cheering on the sidelines of every firing and every resignation, no matter the politics of the person involved. I am giddy that many men will develop a new sense of paranoia in their interactions with women. I and nearly every woman I know started experiencing sexual harassment during adolescence or earlier. Whether it is the raunchy man who yells at you from his car while you’re walking to the store, the teenage boys who bully girls by calling them sluts, the guy who follows you home from the bus, or the man loved and admired by everyone, showing you his evil, vile side should you find yourself alone with him. I won’t go into the fact that most women have experienced sexual assault. I won’t explain the raw fear and the trauma that conditions us to approach otherwise mundane situations with the utmost caution.
Maybe this new anxiety of how a man should interact with a woman will bring forth a sense of empathy (we could be so lucky). It probably won’t, but that won’t stop me from jumping with joy at the fact that men will now have a teeny tiny taste of what it’s like to have to constantly police your own behavior for fear of how the other sex might react.
Karla Basta, St. Paul