I’m one of the activists who seems to have unsettled Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, a “membership-based business organization.” (“Leftward, whoa,” Opinion Exchange, July 23.) This year was far from my first caucus or Minneapolis convention. In fact, four years ago, the last time Minneapolis elected a mayor, there were only 12 attendees in my precinct. This year there were 96, most of whom were first-time attendees. This pattern was true at the ward conventions and the city convention, too. Cramer is right that most people are not interested in committing themselves to the DFL endorsing process, but this time many more were interested.
Cramer claims Minneapolis has the most-progressive city government in the nation, and while I would argue that claim, it seems to me that many people in the city are interested in a more truly progressive city. The desires of the people of Minneapolis may be at odds with the desires of a membership-based business organization. Cramer seems concerned that policies will have a harmful effect on small businesses. What has his organization done to support small business? He worries about the impact of policies on the lowest-earning workers, but again, what has his organization done to address the issues of lower-earning workers?
Seems to me that business interests have dominated for far too long. I’m proud to be part of a progressive movement in Minneapolis that puts people before corporations, voters over donors, and people, planet and peace before profit, and that prioritizes dignity, equity and justice for all people.
Caroline Hooper, Minneapolis
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Whether city government is heading too far left has nothing to do with the fact that downtown Minneapolis is in terrible shape. It is pretty obvious that downtown has been completely taken over by real estate developers and real estate investment trusts. There is nothing about downtown Minneapolis that is vibrant or interesting, except for the North Loop. The rest of downtown is a series of wind tunnels, surface parking lots and ugly skyscrapers.
Why did the Minneapolis Downtown Council sit by and watch the retail trade die, and do nothing to help small independent businesses survive? Why did the business leaders of downtown Minneapolis focus all of their efforts in the last 10 years on getting U.S. Bank Stadium built? That did nothing to contribute to the vibrancy of the downtown central business district. They might blame the current state of Nicollet Mall on city government, but they sat back and let it happen. It looks to me like the business leaders downtown are nothing more than a bunch of carpetbaggers who care nothing at all about what it is like to live and work in the city of Minneapolis for the average person.
I suggest that Cramer focus his efforts on developing some leadership within the downtown business community and leave the big-picture issues to the people of the city of Minneapolis.
Catherine Fuller, Minneapolis
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If, after a successful career, I had the honor of getting a thought piece published in the Star Tribune, I hope that I would be able to do better than to sing, essentially, “It’s not time to make a change, just relax, take it easy” to a city working to bend its arc through history toward justice.
When Cramer says, “Local government doesn’t solve the world’s problems. Anyone running on that platform is aspiring to hold the wrong office,” he has the distinction of being precisely and entirely wrong, perhaps most obviously in the assumption that government-subsidized poverty wages and a militarized police force that murders civilians are “the world’s” problems.
I see no reason why Minneapolis should wait until Eden Prairie, Anoka County or the state of Minnesota all agree that all workers should be treated with dignity before enacting measures to ensure that families working in Minneapolis can afford to live in Minneapolis. Likewise, we should feel no obligation to check in with the Blaine Police Department or the federal Department of Justice before ensuring that our police force is fulfilling its promises to all of our citizens.
The problems of our city are receiving international scrutiny. These problems are ours to solve; there’s a lot of work to do, and there is no worse response than to get in the way of the people doing the heavy lifting.
Ethan Parsons, Minneapolis
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Good for Steve Cramer for his well-reasoned counterpoint to what sometimes appears to be a mindless, mean-spirited leftist agenda of some in Minneapolis city politics. Cramer’s experience in business, government and the nonprofit sector gives him standing in this discussion.
Its tactics aside, maybe the passionate views of this year’s version of the progressive movement should be considered not necessarily as reasonable answers to current city problems but more as visions of what will motivate and nurture city people in years to come. Yes, sanctuary cities, $15 minimum wages, and great national and even international movements squeezed into the meat grinder of city politics should certainly take second place to public safety, jobs and well-paved streets, but they also should be seriously considered as those things that will set us apart as good and holy, those things beyond the current daily bread of city life.
It will take good people like Cramer to find a way to balance the needs of the here and now with the visions of the future.
Charles Neerland, Minneapolis
Reporting on man’s TSA complaint wasn’t the half of it
The July 23 “Travel Desk” article by Kerri Westenberg regarding a complaint by a man outraged by a recent Transportation Security Administration pat-down was disheartening while also lacking some critical facts. Obviously, people should remove belts, coins — everything like that. But if you have any kind of joint replacement, you cannot get through a detector without setting off the machines. My doctor informed me that my hip replacements should not trigger metal detectors and gave me an information card to show TSA security. It’s totally disregarded. These machines are calibrated high.
I’ve had three pat-downs since the new regulations, and I, too, have been outraged at what’s being done. Feeling the top of my breasts with an open hand and touching my genitals is not security. This is way out of line and nowhere in the realm of appropriate. I know exactly what happened to that man. In Florida, a 9-year-old was patted down, to the outrage of his parent. Recently in France, I passed through metal detectors, nothing else, and no, my hip replacements didn’t cause the machine to go off. It’s long been known how the Israelis handle airport security. European countries didn’t allow radioactive machines because they understood the health concerns they pose, and their citizens are not being exposed to this utterly unreasonable surveillance.
Claire Auckenthaler, Minneapolis
ANNIVERSARY OF I-35W COLLAPSE
A time to build bridges
As we near the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse on Aug. 1, there are many stories that will be told. We will be reminded of the courage and ongoing challenges of the survivors, the heroism of first responders and the shared mourning of our community.
As we honor all who were deeply affected by this event, there is another story to be remembered, especially at this time in our country. The 13 individuals who perished shed a light on who we had become as a community, and it wasn’t the image many carried of Minnesotans. Among those who died were Julia Blackhawk, a Native American from the Winnebago Nation; Artemio Trinidad-Mena, a Mexican living and working in Minnesota; Sadiya Sahal and her 2-year-old daughter, Hanah, of Somali descent; Vera Peck from Cambodia and her 20-year-old son, Richard Chit; and Sherry Engebretsen, a descendant of Swedish immigrants.
I was so struck at the time as I looked at the faces of all those who perished. These were my fellow Minnesotans and neighbors. We passed each other on the streets and bridges, in the grocery store, and in the hallways of work and school. This could have been any one of us. This is our community, a community of Native people, immigrants and descendants of immigrants. Perhaps this anniversary is a time to be building bridges between our communities and celebrating the strengths of the true Minnesota we have become.
Laura A. Kinkead, Minneapolis