Regarding the May 21 article "Utilities warn of lack of power if Big Stone II plant isn't built": Minnesota does not need this power plant.

The utilities behind the Big Stone plant are not adequately reacting to the strong renewable electricity standard and efficiency standard that was passed last year.

The efficiency requirement will do a tremendous amount to reduce future growth in demand. And the need for new production in the coming years from renewable sources will meet that demand. Simply put, Minnesota does not need new coal-fired power, and the means for taking care of our electricity needs have already been passed into law.

Otter Tail Power wants to build an unneeded coal plant, then stick rate-payers with the bills when the price of carbon inevitably rises over the 40- to 50-year life of the plant.


California high court was following the law

Katherine Kersten, in her tiresome and predictable zeal to regulate the private lives of people of whom she disapproves, sloppily accuses the California Supreme Court of being "arrogant" and "activist" (column, May 21).

Had she bothered to acquaint herself with the actual ruling, she would know that the California state constitution guarantees a right to marry as well as equal protection for all citizens under the law. The court (six of whose seven members are Republican appointees) logically saw that any law prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples would run counter to these guarantees, and thus would be unconstitutional.

Readers need only remember that, in right-wing code-speak, any court ruling one disagrees with is automatically arrogant, elitist or an example of improper infringement on legislative authority. No examination of the ruling itself, or the reasoning behind it, is required.

My questions for Kersten: If civil unions are such a salutary solution for the dilemma of gay marriage, where are her earlier columns advocating for that option? Moreover, perhaps she would care to give us a historical overview of just how well "separate but equal" worked in the early 20th century with regard to race relations. Finally, if everyone's basic civil rights should be voted on by the public, why stop with gays? When do I get to vote on the rights of people I don't like?


Elected officials should do more than rail against gas prices

With gas prices out of sight, airports operating at capacity, air fares sky high and air service at rock bottom, isn't it time for our politicians in Washington to finally sponsor some legislation to create an national high-speed rail system akin to the interstate highway system? If ever a new rail transportation system was needed, it is now. This is an opportunity for our political leaders to actually show some leadership. How about it, Amy and Norm?


Why schools need anti-bullying program

A May 21 letter writer criticized the new anti-bullying program for some Minneapolis elementary schools, arguing that bullies are simply disrespectful of others and that they will find any reason to torment their classmates, as "bullies" did her and her husband in middle school, for her gap teeth and his unusual last name. While such unkind behavior is certainly not to be minimized, it hardly compares to shooting a classmate in the head, which is only the most recent example of the many violent crimes committed against GLBT kids by other kids every year.

The writer's language and tone revealed exactly why a more specialized anti-bullying program is needed in the schools. She called it a "disguise" for the "gay agenda," designed to help kids accept the "homosexual lifestyle." She displays a troubling lack of understanding of homosexuality (which is not a "lifestyle"), and she fails to discern the difference between teaching children to be kind, and working to prevent the shocking violence perpetrated disproportionately against GLBT kids (the real "gay agenda" that should be everyone's). If this is the best example of modeling tolerance to our children in the home, we are in desperate need of something more in the schools.


'Suspension gap" raises concern about other gaps

The May 18 and 19 Star Tribune investigative report concerning the "suspension gap" between black and white students in Minnesota schools raised a number of important questions. Chief among them is why the suspension rate breaks down so sharply along racial lines, with black students six times more likely to be suspended -- for a range of activities including "fighting" and "talking in class" -- than white students. Perhaps most laudable, the report goes on to provide a handful of insightful first-person accounts that detail the perspectives of school administrators, teachers and the students themselves.

Yet, while the report indeed offers a rare in-depth look into the state's educational system, and indirectly alludes to the factors currently ailing that system, I can't help but think that the issues raised demand a broader investigation into the social and economic disparities that extend beyond, but also find their way into, the classroom. For the most part, the report attributed "the suspension gap" to matters of interpersonal classroom dynamics, with an occasional, passing reference to "cultural differences" and family mismanagement. I'm curious to know how this gap breaks down when not conceived primarily in terms of racial difference.

For example, what about "gaps" in household income, neighborhood and property values, employment rates, child care, and community involvement? How might the conditions of the classroom be connected to things like inflation, food prices and health care? Unfortunately, the report failed to address these issues; instead it relied on a few pointed speculations about bad parenting and seemingly irreconcilable differences between black students and their (mostly) white teachers. As a result, one gap is traded for another, as a complex situation involving an assorted range of possible contributing factors is treated as simply a matter of black and white.


On the front lines

I have been a volunteer in the Minneapolis public schools for nearly 30 years. Yes there is a discipline problem in the classrooms. But don't blame the teachers for trying to keep order in the classroom. How else can they teach effectively? When will someone have the guts to ask for accountability from the parents?

But if you think certain kids are being suspended more than others, get cameras installed in the classroom. Or are you afraid of what you will see?