The Star Tribune did a disservice to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in its Oct. 18 coverage of her speech at Northrop auditorium. The headline stated that she “decries ugly political climate,” yet, far from doing so, she calmly and judiciously avoided political discussion and urged respect for one another, for differing opinions, and for our system of government and law. The article stated that she called for “the end of a ruthless political climate brought on by the presidential race and statements of Republican candidate Donald Trump,” yet she never mentioned Trump by name or implication.

While the article correctly stated that her “answers were nuanced, delivered to a full house in a calm manner that looked at both sides of the issues,” the headline and the one unfortunate paragraph waved red flags where there were none. Instead, Justice Sotomayor spoke movingly about her childhood illness, which taught her to cherish every day, and about the Supreme Court justices who can violently disagree yet remain friends and respected colleagues. She repeatedly returned to her main themes of respect for one another, for our institutions and for differing opinions.

In this political climate, her words were calming and inspiring. It is a shame that the headline sorely misrepresented the tone of her speech.

Sharon Decker, St. Louis Park

THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Comparing sentences in recent cases is troubling

I read on the front page of the Oct. 18 newspaper that Susan Ann Russo got four days in jail, 40 hours of community service and a $3,000 fine for killing Joseph Tikalsky while driving distracted. On the front of the local section the same day, I read that, under a plea deal, Jodie Burchard-Risch got 180 days in jail and up to five years’ probation for assaulting Asma Jama with a beer mug.

Am I wrong, or should a person get more than four days in jail for showing no regard for life? And is a beer mug really more important than a 5,000-pound vehicle? Can someone smarter than me please explain it in words an everyday Joe can understand?

Jeff Kramer, Bloomington

GRADUATION RATES

More diplomas, but worse student preparation

The Associated Press article praising the rise in graduation rates in the nation and in Minnesota (“More teens getting diploma,” Oct. 19) is no cause for celebration. Buried in the article is the admittance that test scores are falling even as more students graduate. Why? We are moving back to a “seat time” system where students show up for class, get minimal passing grades and then are allowed to graduate.

When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tried to tie test performance to academic “know-how,” a backlash ensued. Unfair! Cries of “one test does not demonstrate what a student really knows” began. But we need a “plumb line” by which we can be guided to help students achieve at a level that, when graduating from high school, will assure them and their parents that they can begin postsecondary education or begin a job that is a steppingstone to work that pays more than minimum wages. We are going back to the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Alice Seagren, Bloomington

The writer is a former Minnesota commissioner of education.

EDINA POLICE INCIDENT

Here, pedestrians have to walk in the streets, so …

As a retired white male who lives in Edina, I feel compelled to support the pedestrian who was detained (“Outrage spreads with video of arrest,” Oct. 15, and “Edina drops citation against black pedestrian,” Oct. 18). The pedestrian was walking in the street because there was no place else to walk. The fact that the charges were dismissed tells me that the city didn’t think it had a case.

I live on a cul-de-sac with no sidewalks. My wife and I frequently go for walks in our neighborhood. We use sidewalks where they exist, but for the most part we must walk in the streets. Where there are no sidewalks, we walk close to the curb facing traffic, but we still walk in the street. There’s no place else to walk except people’s yards. It’s scary to think we could be arrested for doing this.

If the city of Edina supports police citing people for walking in the streets, then it needs to force each and every property owner in Edina (including us) to put in sidewalks on both sides of the street.

Mike Wallis, Edina

THE 2016 CAMPAIGN

Voter fraud is almost rare, and intimidation is a crime

As readers have probably seen over the past several weeks, the Republican Party’s candidate for president, Donald J. Trump, has been aggressively urging his supporters to show up at polling places, particularly those in districts with a large percentage of minority residents, to harass and intimidate people hoping to vote. This is all under the pretext of preventing voter fraud.

Never mind that voter fraud is essentially nonexistent and that no credible evidence has been put forward to indicate a pattern or tendency for fraudulent voting.

It should be noted that voter intimidation is a federal crime. If people go to the polls on Election Day and see people attempting to harass, intimidate or provide false information, they should call the police and also the office of the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota (Minneapolis: 612-664-5600; St. Paul: 651-848-1950) to report a violation of federal criminal statute 18 USCA 594.

Chapin Smith, Minneapolis

• • •

Here we go again! Trump sowed doubts about the citizenship and legitimacy of President Obama for years (and when it was to his advantage, he made a retraction).

Now he is doing that same thing with the possible Hillary Clinton presidency even before she might be elected, by saying that the election is “rigged” — then, as now, giving absolutely no evidence to back it up.

That’s a great strategy. Just sow doubt, and suspicion will take root!

The Rev. Michael Stelmach, Minneapolis

• • •

I walk 10,000 steps religiously every day. Therefore, I know my neighborhood very well. It is astounding the lack of signs supporting either presidential candidate. Currently my total count is Clinton, 1; Trump, 1, and Johnson, 1. The signs for local and state candidates are too numerous to count. The lack of enthusiasm on the national front is palpable.

Gwen N. Milano, Plymouth

• • •

I just read 16-year-old Greg Bolles’ assessment of the current political campaign (“What’s the lesson kids are learning from this?” Oct. 18), and his commentary left me feeling a lot better about the younger citizens he hopefully represents. At nearly 69, I certainly have thought about the toxic election cycle we are in and what effect it may be having on his peers. I’m more than pleased to hear such insightful understanding of the current state of the election. If Greg is representative of the soon-to-be adults who will take the helm, we can all feel much better about the direction in which they will steer the ship. Well done, Greg. You’ve made this old man proud.

Jerry England, Shakopee