I have lived in the Twin Cities for many years, and witnessed countless architects and city planners design surfaces and statuary for downtown without taking into consideration our weather conditions in winter. As a result, citizens have had to take their lives into their hands when trying to navigate some of these surfaces that become slippery when cold, wet, frosty, snow-covered, etc. In a similar vein, planted trees (ah, the beauty of greenery) have come and gone on Nicollet Mall in a revolving-door fashion. Now I read that the brand new trees are dying and will “be replaced” (“Greening of Nicollet Mall turns out to be not so easy,” front page, June 7). Who pays for the replacement? And are you replacing the dead trees with the same trees? Do we KNOW why the trees died? I wouldn’t replace a plant in my yard that suddenly died with an identical plant until I know more about its suitability and why it might have died. Too much sun? Too little sun? Too much pollution? Hello! Is anyone out there thinking logically about this?

Kathy Mattsson, Minnetonka

• • •

Regarding: the story about the dying trees on Nicollet Mall. I once talked to a contractor replanting a dead tree. It was planted in a sunny location in the middle of a sidewalk. He explained that the heat from the sidewalks can be too hard on a tree. Your picture of the dying trees made me wonder. Is a gravel mound surrounded by sidewalk the appropriate planting enviroment for a tree? Would a native grass buffer around the tree work better to absorb some of the heat? With no buffer, I think the replacement trees will die as well.

Carla McClellan, Minneapolis

FOUNDATIONS

‘Building community’: It’s easier said than done

Thank you for the thoughtful commentary by Judith Koll Healey (“Have community foundations lost sight of their North Star?” June 6). The idea of “building community” is so alluring during these raucous times, but it’s not easily done. I know the trend is that city councils, police departments, faculty members at elementary and secondary schools, boards and members of any number of nonprofit organizations that look to foundations for grants to carry on some of their mission are “supposed to look like (name of city here).” And they don’t. Minnesota has welcomed — and I use that word on purpose — immigrants from Laos, Somalia, Myanmar, and Mexico and other Central American countries. Add them to our African-American population and there is a sizable pool for building communities that no longer are predominantly white.

How can we get together and build real communities? Certainly, there are a plethora of hyphenated organizations — African-, Somali-, Hmong- — but they don’t look like (name of city here), either.

Is it the fear of assimilation? Cultural identity lingers for decades. See Cinco de Mayo as one example or Rondo Days in St. Paul as another. Or last week’s celebration of St. Boniface at the Church of the Assumption in St. Paul. When my mother was growing up in St. Paul, the Assumption was the “German Church,” while St. Louis, King of France, just a few blocks away, was the “French Church.” At the Assumption’s celebration, almost the entire mass was in German, and it was followed by a lunch of bratwurst, warm potato salad and sauerkraut. Vestiges of those earlier times are gone, but somehow the memories remain and have blended into meaningful events for those who now make up the congregation.

To build communities that look like any city in the metropolitan area these days is a great goal, but getting there is easier said than done. Minneapolis and St. Paul community foundations, can you help?

Mary Vik, St. Paul

• • •

Healey’s commentary offers an outstanding example of sound, direct communication. I hope that journalists and journalism educators will take note that Healey did not start her piece with a tale of hardship (aka sob story) that so dominates today’s journalistic style. Rather, she states the issue clearly and succinctly in her first paragraph, and then proceeds in a most articulate and convincing fashion to make her case. And, rather then being confrontational about her gender, she quietly inserts the word “she” rather than the more traditional “he” in her text when referring to individuals. The concepts communicated by Healey were thoughtful and coherent on an important issue, and she also provided an example of outstanding journalism that I wish more would follow. Well communicated, Judith.

Thomas P. Moyer, Golden Valley

RELIGIOUS ‘NONES’

Here’s where you can find us

Thanks to Rebecca Sager and Brie Loskota for highlighting the growth of the “nones,” or people who have rejected traditional religion (“Religious ‘nones’ need to organize to be heard,” June 7). I have been a “none” for decades, and it used to be a lonely place. However, thanks to the internet and organizations like Meetup, we are increasingly finding each other. While we need to do much more to become the kind of cultural and political force that the authors describe, the organizational pinnings are there. We just need strength in numbers. If you are a “none” and looking for “gathering spots” and “social connections,” as mentioned by the authors, please check out the Humanists of Minnesota Meetup group (meetup.com/humanism-166). You will find people who are intellectually curious, civically engaged and full of life — things you can find outside of religion.

Suzanne Perry, Minneapolis

The writer is a board member for Humanists of Minnesota.

• • •

I was glad to see the commentary on religious “nones.” The nonreligious don’t need to get organized. They just need to join organizations that already exist and are growing faster than ever. Locally, we have Humanists of Minnesota, Minnesota Atheists, First Unitarian Society (a humanist congregation) and CASH at the University of Minnesota. They have many programs, activities, services and projects, plus the many related but independent groups with special focuses, such as Camp Quest for children and young people.

Nationally, there are many organizations of humanists, atheists, freethinkers and skeptics. They’re easy to find online. Also, there is a coalition of all our groups for lobbying — the Secular Coalition for America. There is also a Secular Student Alliance with groups on hundreds of campuses. The Freethinkers Caucus was recently organized in the U.S. Congress.

So we are well-organized and present lots of options for those free of traditional religion, theism and supernaturalism.

Paul Heffron, Shoreview

USABLE DISCARDS

Carleton students show the way

In response to Karin Winegar’s June 7 Opinion Exchange critique of the neighborhood dumping of piles of useful goods left by vacating college students, perhaps the Universities of St. Thomas and Minnesota and Macalester College could take a suggestion from Northfield’s Carleton College (“A neighborhood garbologist finds trash and treasure in the great spring exodus of students”).

Every year in mid-June, the college hosts the popular Lighten Up! garage sale in the school gym, converting the unwanted year-end possessions of Carleton students into bargains for area residents and cash for local charities. Last year, over $31,000 was raised to support three local charities, and hundreds of residents flocked to this “greener living” project to harvest the bargains in clothing, books, furniture, electronics and more. The charities provide volunteers to run the garage sale — a win for the charities, a win for the students and a win for the environment. Not that difficult.

Susan Sharrow, Northfield