It always starts with a phone call. Mine came when I was camping in the Everglades. It was 2009, and at age 17 I was ignoring my mother’s phone call. After relentless ringing, the phone was held up to my ear. “Your sister was hit by a car … and … she’s not going to make it.” My mom’s voice was robotic, like she was acting as a puppet for a doctor who had told her the same thing. Spewing the information without really understanding the meaning. Her voice had no emotion — sterile is the best word I could come up with.

The death of Kunlek Wangmo on Oct. 1 threw me back in time to where my sister was killed, just a few feet away (“Woman hit by car, killed at St. Paul intersection,” Oct. 2). West 7th Street/Ford Road is the idyllic St. Paul passageway, but the only thing I’m able to see while passing through are blind spots and close calls. As an urban planning student, I’ve devoted my time to the beauty of place-making, land use and futuristic zoning laws. But the biggest issue that continues to be neglected by the engineers and planners I surround myself with is the danger of outdated and improper intersections.

The Oct. 1 incident seemed like something out of a safety video. Wangmo was on her daily route, she knew the road, she knew it was dangerous. It was daylight, the weather was clear. There was no traffic nor construction. Conditions were seemingly ideal. Except that the intersection of St. Clair Avenue and West 7th Street carries five blind spots; a driver going the speed limit of 45 miles per hour did not have time to stop when she saw Wangmo fall into the street.

For my sister, things were different: It was nighttime, and she wasn’t paying attention. She was leaving a meeting and waving goodbye to friends. She wasn’t in a crosswalk. The 31-mph collision provided the perfect strike between my sister’s head and the windshield. She was pronounced dead on impact.

The two stories are strikingly preventable. Even if both pedestrians were still hit, but at a lesser speed — even at 20 mph instead of 30, they both may still be alive. My call to action is clear: If we want to stop preventable pedestrian and cyclist deaths in unsafe intersections in St. Paul, we need to lobby for them. Attend open houses, report issues to traffic safety and utilize your rights.

Six years ago, my sister was killed as a pedestrian at St. Clair and West 7th Street in St. Paul. Is it time to act? Or do we need another death?

Nicole Mardell, Minneapolis

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Minnesota and Washington state laws are like apples vs. oranges

In his Sept. 30 commentary (“Are charter schools unconstitutional?”), Marshall Tanick asserts that the Washington state Supreme Court decision that ruled that state’s charter school law unconstitutional could shake education in Minnesota, too.

The problem with that assertion is that Washington’s and Minnesota’s constitutions are significantly different in terms of their specificity regarding education.

Washington’s Constitution has a very specific, particular and prescriptive definition of the term “common school.” The constitutional question was: Do charter schools meet the constitutional definition? Minnesota’s Constitution, on the other hand, does not even use the term “common schools.” In Minnesota, defining schools is a legislative matter, not one that is constitutionally prescribed.

Washington’s Constitution also has a specific provision that all revenue for common schools, no matter its source, must be used exclusively for common schools. Over the last 100 years, that court has ruled that common school funding cannot be used for vocational rehabilitation, nor public improvements, nor interest on public school buildings, nor schools attached to teacher training colleges.

Minnesota’s Constitution does not prescribe these matters. Those decisions are left to the Legislature. Unlike Washington’s, Minnesota’s Constitution gives the Legislature the power to define the types of schools that exist, how schools are funded and how schools can spend their funds.

So the assertion that Washington’s charter school decision could shake education in Minnesota is questionable, if not unlikely, unless Minnesota were to amend its Constitution in a manner that is as prescriptive, detailed and particular as Washington’s.

Eugene Piccolo, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools.

 

 

BLACK LIVES MATTER

Now it’s time to expand the dialogue further — and listen

Thank you, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Rashad Turner, for talking and listening to each other (“Marathon will go off as planned,” Oct. 2). Please expand that important dialogue so we all can truly understand the context in which we stand today.

Let us understand the damage that continues to our entire community and especially to children, young people and adults when they are told — every day, in subtle and stark ways — that their lives really do not matter and that they are to blame for their suffering due to our shared and ongoing history of slavery, segregation and the New Jim Crow.

Those of us who were born white ­— even those whose ancestors faced discrimination — have difficulty seeing that we have privilege we have not earned. We want to believe that everyone is on equal ground and all that is needed is hard work to succeed; that is what we were raised to believe. But we need to face facts.

Read Bryan Stevenson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tavis Smiley and many others; please, let us begin to listen to each other. Let’s have ongoing discussions in churches, homes and cities. And let us be transformed by dialogue, like the woman who listened to a young black man at the State Fair.

Kate O’Connell, St. Paul

• • •

The StarTribune Editorial Board says that Black Lives Matter should not use the threat of disruption to raise awareness (“A positive plan for a peaceful protest,” Oct. 3). I wonder: If Rashad Turner had asked Mayor Coleman a month ago for two hours of his time, would he have gotten it?

Ann King, Minneapolis

 

GUN VIOLENCE

Let’s treat male gun buyers the way we treat abortion-seekers

If we wanted to really address the gun violence plague in the U.S., we should treat prospective gun purchasers the way women who are trying to exercise their constitutional right to have an abortion are treated.

Put in place a mandatory 48-hour waiting period, require them to talk to a doctor about the inherent dangers of owning a gun, and make them travel to a faraway town and stay overnight in a hotel while thinking about the transaction so that you “really understand what you are doing.”

You could get really extreme and form lines outside gun shops and carry large gruesome signs with graphic pictures of children who have been blown apart by gunfire and scream at the buyers how they are sinners and are going to burn in hell. You could even propose requiring radical and invasive procedures like transvaginal or transrectal ultrasounds, to show them the damage a bullet can cause to your insides.

But I guess we treat the constitutional rights exercised mainly by men very differently than constitutional rights exercised exclusively by women.

Stephen Kriz, Maple Grove

 

Minnesota TWINS

Thanks for taking us to October

With the Twins’ last game on Sunday, I just want to say it was a really, really fun season (“Twins, Royals keep it light as sweep finishes season” and “Fond farewell ... for now,” Oct. 5). They really made me eat my words with their excellent play all year long. It was a real treat to be watching competitive baseball all the way into October. That is a luxury that I haven’t enjoyed in many a year. Good job, boys! I love you all!

Casey O’Brien, Culver City, Calif.