I agree that it is time to "Get workers the 'hero pay' they deserve" (editorial, Nov. 22).

However, I am now more than a little frustrated over the standoff between the Legislature and the governor, apparently over the bargaining chip of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm's job.

It was reported in another newspaper that the Zoom call between Malcolm and Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller was the first time the two had met — clearly a failing on the part of the commissioner.

There is enough blame to go around: If the politicians have any concern at all for those they claim to appreciate — the so called "front-line workers" who have been at risk throughout this entire COVID nightmare, they should finalize their plan, announce it, and get funds out to people. If Malcolm truly cares about those same people, she should step down from her position as commissioner, thereby clearing the way for the governor to call the special session.

With an entire department of professionals who have been doing the work throughout the pandemic, the work of the Health Department will continue even without the current commissioner. In the meantime, Minnesota remains one of those states that has failed to distribute the funds passed with much fanfare at the federal level.

Darcy Miner, St. Paul


Another simple message, gleaned from the Boy Scouts

The Nov. 21 editorial "A simple message: vaccines save lives" makes the point that once you get COVID-19, it's too late for a vaccine. Although I was never in Boy Scouts, we all know their motto: "Be prepared." Having just had my booster, I feel that I am prepared to do the best I can in the event of an infection. Presumably all who are or were Boy Scouts are doing the same.

Stan Kaufman, New Brighton


The many ways in which Minnesota falls short

It's very instructive to learn about the high carbon emissions, particularly in the transportation sector, by Minnesota and neighboring states ("Minnesota, Midwest, are key in combating climate change," Lori Sturdevant column, Nov. 21). The urgency for all voices to be heard in crafting solutions to combating climate change could not be more timely.

However, Minnesota's highway-dedicated gas tax is not "Minnesota's original carbon tax." By definition the revenue from this tax is dedicated to highways, or more generally to driving — which is a major carbon emitter. The revenue from this state constitutionally dedicated tax can't be focused on the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians or broadband, and is only minimally used for public transit. This logic of dedicating revenue is like a cigarette tax funding strategies to make it easier to smoke in public places.

If we want to reach, not just set, a goal of reduced vehicle miles traveled — a critical climate protecting action, it is imperative that we halt a road's first funding mentality. Rather our priority should be to fully fund alternatives to driving.

Dave Van Hattum, Minneapolis


As a student at Winona State University, I read Sturdevant's commentary about two Minnesota legislators traveling at the public's expense to Scotland to attend the summit on climate change. I would not be upset except for the fact that they, and the entire Legislature, are ignoring the environmental attacks at home from the Enbridge pipeline built by a Canadian company with an appalling safety record and the PolyMet mining project that could send toxic chemicals into Lake Superior.

Students are always taught that good government starts at home. That should apply to our legislators as well.

Ahmitara Alwal, Winona


Thanks for Ron Way's historic review ("Land of 3,000 impaired waters (and counting)," Nov. 21) of the importance of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act and its accomplishments vs. egregious assaults to our state's waters back when untreated sewage, industrial and slaughterhouse waste flowed into our rivers. Massive sewage sludge mats smothered the Mississippi River near the Ford Bridge: No fish survived there and downstream.

What about today? Are Minnesota's waters and their unique biodiversity of underwater life being protected from newer sources of pollution?

Way exposes the major flaw in the Clean Water Act — that only "point source" discharges are regulated. That clause limits the regulatory work of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to protect state waters. Discharges from agricultural lands and feedlots are off the hook because they are "non-point." In Iowa, regulators tried to impose nitrate limits on upstream agricultural lands of the Raccoon River watershed that dump so much nitrate into the Des Moines River that the city's waterworks has to spend millions removing toxic nitrates from city drinking water. So far, they've lost this battle.

The MPCA's recently released Impaired Waters List gives the basis for listing impairments. The majority (267) of the newly listed polluted rivers and lakes are biologically impaired. Of these, 130 have damaged aquatic invertebrate communities, and 137 have fish assemblages in distress. Scientifically sound methods are used by MPCA staff to document changes in these aquatic communities from water pollution.

Looking forward, how can the MPCA control the sources of pollution that kill the aquatic life and impair state waters?

Way alluded to potential impacts from copper-nickel sulfide mining in the northeastern part of our state. Mercury pollution, already documented by the MPCA in the St. Louis River and its tributaries, the Embarrass and Partridge Rivers, is a major issue. Today, children shouldn't eat mercury-contaminated fish in that watershed. Scientists warn the PolyMet mine will release even more mercury as it destroys vast acres of peatlands, known to store mercury.

How can we allow this copper-nickel mine to demolish more than 900 acres of pristine, biologically diverse wetlands, many peatlands, in the watersheds of these streams? PolyMet plans to mine three to four times more ore tonnage daily than it stated in its original request for permits from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the MPCA. What greater impact will that have on diverse wetlands, will more mercury head downstream?

Judy Helgen, Falcon Heights

The writer, retired, is a former wetlands scientist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.


The trouble with 'senseless'

There have been many acts of violence in our communities recently, with responses including the common phrase "senseless violence." I'm offering a reframe of that phrasing here. An act of violence tends to make sense to the perpetrator, and if we dismiss violence as senseless, we give ourselves a tidy pass to look away and not try to understand the conditions that are resulting in it. A challenge to our community is to have the courage to look at acts of violence and not dismiss them as senseless but as a symptom of something we can change if we work for it.

April DeJarlais, Minneapolis

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