University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler is headed in the right direction, as described in the Sept. 23 editorial "Rethink how the state sustains campuses." However, his proposal does not go far enough.
What is needed going forward is for the state to cover 100 percent of the cost of new buildings at both the U and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). In return, the two systems should commit to cover 100 percent of the depreciation (repair and renovation) on those new facilities.
Depreciation is a standard budget line item in every for-profit and nonprofit organization. It is the proxy number for the amount of repair and renovation that should be budgeted in any year. Depreciation should be a standard line item for both the U and MnSCU, and it should be funded from the general operations budget and include any gift or grant received for repair and renovation.
To get started, both systems should determine the current "cost" of the depreciation for all current facilities and report those numbers to the Legislature. Once the depreciation cost is available, and once those costs are calculated for any new buildings, a realistic conversation can be conducted on the long-range facility costs of the two systems.
If this idea is implemented — the state paying 100 percent of the cost of new facilities and the systems budgeting for the cost of the depreciation — the systems will be more likely to propose new buildings that can be maintained or renovated within their annual depreciation budgets.
DAN LORITZ, St. Paul
BROADBAND UP NORTH
Legislature needs to keep up momentum
Paul Bunyan Communications deserves praise for its serious investment in broadband infrastructure in northern Minnesota ('"GigaZone'" comes Up North," Sept. 19). As a cooperative, Paul Bunyan can expand world-class service because its customers are also its shareholders. Too often, larger providers' out-of-state shareholders demand quick returns on investments, inhibiting costly broadband expansions. Partly as a result, a governor's task force ranks Minnesota 23rd nationally in terms of broadband speed.
High-quality broadband means economic growth. For example, a Blandin Foundation-commissioned study found high-quality broadband in Kanabec County could spur $18.2 million in business revenue. Currently, 71 percent of households there — and 46 percent of Greater Minnesota households — don't meet state speed goals.
Thankfully, the Legislature recently established a broadband fund to target areas with greatest need and economic return, while helping align a provider's short-term need for a return on investment and a community's long-term need for broadband infrastructure.
State leaders should follow the task force recommendation to devote $200 million to the fund so Greater Minnesota — and the state — can reap broadband's benefits.
GARY EVANS, St. Paul
The writer is president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership and former CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications.
What became of firm that made us proud?
I've always considered Medtronic to be one of our country's best corporate citizens, not only because of the lifesaving products it has produced for decades, but also because of its extensive civic involvement and leadership. I've been proud that it is a Minnesota company.
I am extremely disappointed with Medtronic's disloyal tax-avoidance scheme, however, which serves to enrich its officials and recent speculative investors at the expense of long-term investors, many of them retired employees, and the U.S. taxpayers and the many states and municipalities that have contributed to its success ("New regulations unlikely to stop Medtronic deal," Sept. 24). The fact that the company is spending millions to protect its top officials from taxes related to the move says a lot about its priorities these days. Its profits-at-all-costs actions cause me to doubt its commitment to patients as well, and if I ever need a pacemaker or similar device, I will ask my doctor to consider a product made by another reputable company, several of which remain based in Minnesota.
SUSAN PETERSON, Minneapolis
'THE HEIDI CHRONICLES'
Review proves that play's themes resonate
Reading Graydon Royce's Sept. 22 review of "The Heidi Chronicles" ("'Heidi' is a throwback to another time"), I immediately thought of the Betty Davis character in "All About Eve," who caps an argument with her director/boyfriend by saying, "It's obvious you're not a woman."
The Heidi Chronicles may seem dated to some, but not if you lived it, as I and so many other women have done and still do.
Yes, it's a highly autobiographical play about a particular time and place. So are the plays of Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon and Larry Kramer — and no one seems to think they are dated. Your reviewer may wish to think that the issues raised in Wasserman's entertaining and prizewinning play are no longer relevant. His review shows that they are.
KAREN BACHMAN, Minneapolis
The writer is a member of the Guthrie Theater's board of directors.
State's plan is falling short of its potential
I'm glad that Judge Donovan Frank is insisting on more specific outcomes in the state's Olmstead Plan to reduce the segregation of people with disabilities ("Disability reform plan falls short," Sept. 20). As a parent of two adult sons with disabilities and as an advocate for others who have disabilities, I know that a positive vision to promote inclusion is not enough. We need assurance that this vision will result in better lives.
This is all the more important now because I see evidence that we are slipping in our efforts to make people with disabilities fully connected to people and activities in our communities. It has become the norm here in southwest Minnesota for self-advocates to say, "We can't go into town because we do not have staff," or to have direct support staff tell us that management must give the OK to leave the house. People can no longer attend church services and other events because only paid staff can accompany them, not volunteers. Staff who retire or leave an agency aren't allowed to contact people they supported.
This doesn't happen in all cases, but the fact it happens at all is not what the Olmstead Plan envisions.
LEE ANN ERICKSON, Sherburn, Minn.