My son Joe is the Deli Express employee pictured in the online edition of the Nov. 22 article, “Firms are working overtime for hires.” Joe has autism, has very limited language and is a client of a sheltered workshop, Opportunity Partners (OP). He worked at OP for subminimum wages, like many people in the Star Tribune series “A Matter Of Dignity” (Nov. 8-12). However, OP provided a safe, clean, supported environment where Joe learned valuable job skills. It also provided transportation, classes and a job specialist who helped Joe find a full-time, well-paying job with Deli Express, then shadowed him until he mastered the job. OP’s sheltered-workshop format turned a young man with autism into a dependable worker who really enjoys his job and who will pay more than $5,000 in state and federal taxes this year. Joe would also want me to make one correction: He did not move into assisted living. He moved to a regular apartment and has help as needed to enjoy a full, happy life.

Marcia Crist, Chanhassen

• • •

Wow! What a welcome blast of good news from the front page of the Sunday paper. How impressive to read about Minnesota businesses digging in and developing creative solutions for hiring both skilled and unskilled employees.

The Nov. 22 article serves as a textbook example of the benevolent power of free-market capitalism. A state minimum wage of $8 an hour? Not good enough when capitalism clicks and creates an environment of competition for workers, as evidenced by Eden Prairie’s Deli Express paying $12 an hour for entry-level line workers. That’s what happens when good people start a good company and develop a successful product.

Employers providing training, transportation and extra benefits to attract workers are all noted in the article, examples of businesses doing what they can handle far more efficiently — and with pinpoint accuracy — than can government. Also noted is how Minnesota’s low unemployment rate provides employment opportunities for those with criminal records rightfully in need of a second chance. Government can offer these people welfare, but only private businesses can offer them success.

Good work, Minnesota!

Donald G. Engebretson, Excelsior

 

PACKAGE DELIVERY

If we set up a parcel haven, we won’t need stinky ink

James Lileks brings up an interesting problem in the proliferation of package delivery thefts throughout the country (“Stinky ink might thwart those package snatchers,” Nov. 22). Certainly, more proactive steps are needed to reduce the disappointment of “lost” packages, relied on by our consumer-driven economy.

Our local hardware store, Settergren’s Ace Hardware of Linden Hills, has begun a new service to our neighborhood. An agreement with UPS provides a secure drop point for undeliverable packages to be retrieved later. After several unsuccessful delivery attempts, packages are left at the hardware store and notes are posted at homes with instructions for retrieval. The hardware store requires the delivery slip and a valid identification to release the package to the rightful owner and confirm electronically with UPS.

While the stinky exploding ink packs Lileks suggests may have more dramatic effect, a safe haven may prove to be a more effective and less violent solution. The safe haven approach should take root throughout the country.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Update Statewide Payables List to reflect seriousness of offenses

Walter Palmer, the infamous Bloomington dentist who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, is now being investigated for the alleged use of a pickup truck to herd deer onto his property in western Minnesota to hunt them (“Allegations made of deer ‘herding’ to dentist’s land,” Nov. 13).

Is this an offense in Minnesota? Yes. But only because it’s on the “Statewide Payables List.” This is a long list intended to cover mundane, victimless offenses that can be remedied with a small fine to avoid clogging up the court system or jails. Under the Statewide Payables List, even if Palmer’s herding is a violation, he faces less than $300 in fines and court costs — hardly a deterrent.

In response to this situation, state Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, urges legislative attention and action. He is calling on lawmakers to re-examine the list to remove crimes that are not victimless and warrant closer scrutiny, such as intentionally running animals over, illegally killing bear cubs — and herding deer onto private property. Such cruel, unsporting methods allow poachers to have an advantage over law-abiding hunters, to steal wildlife from citizens and to endanger public safety.

These are not victimless crimes, and Rep. Lesch is correct: Action is needed to update the Payables List and ensure that state law reflects the gravity of poaching.

Florence Brammer, Minneapolis

 

SPECIAL SESSION?

We just might get a chance to see what Democrats are all about

Gov. Mark Dayton wants a special session to extend unemployment benefits to his unionized, Democratic constituents on the Iron Range. Seems to be good politics. Also, if Republicans push back, they can be accused of not being sensitive to the plight of the people — also good politics. What’s to be done?

Republicans have actually come up with a good idea. Tie extension of unemployment benefits to provisions that will promote projects on the Range that will create jobs — the PolyMet Mine and the Sandpiper Pipeline. Both projects have been delayed or opposed by the Democrats, and both projects will actually create jobs with little or no public funding. This will be a good test for Dayton and the Democrats. Can they support provisions that will create jobs and provide extension of unemployment benefits, or will they cave to the far left and sacrifice jobs and unemployment benefits?

Casey Whelan, Maple Grove

 

DEBATE OVER THE MOVIE ‘TRUTH’

I apologize for a statement made about the Power Line blog

In a Nov. 8 letter to the editor, I wrote that John Hinderaker, a founder of the conservative blog Power Line, had said in a radio interview that his organization did not check facts before posting items on its blog.

I cannot verify that he made that statement, and I should not have written what I wrote. I apologize to Mr. Hinderaker and to those who read my letter.

Gary Gilson, Minneapolis

The writer is former executive director of the Minnesota News Council.

 

VETERANS AFFAIRS

Reassignment is a familiar, lazy way of dealing with a problem

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs took a page out of the Catholic Church playbook when dealing with former St. Paul veterans benefits director Kim Graves (“Demoted VA official is relocated to Phoenix,” Nov. 25). Graves is being scrutinized for possible abuse of her position for personal gain. Rather than dealing with the situation, the department will just hide her elsewhere in the VA system. Sound familiar?

In the private sector, Graves would be fired and possibly charged if her activities and manipulations were deemed illegal. These large institutions do a disservice to our veterans and church members who have put their faith in the hierarchy. Transparency is only lip service and patronizing to the members of these institutions.

Ty Yasukawa, Burnsville