Annette Meeks' March 27 commentary "Our transit system is off the rails" raised some important points. I fully agree that we need a long-range funding mechanism for our transportation system, especially the mass-transit component, which traditionally seems to attract little support from legislators outside the metro area. Perhaps a targeted sales tax increase for the metro area is one of several options.
I agree that commuter rail is falling far short of expectations. The answer is not to close down the Northstar Line, but to expand it to St. Cloud, where it should have gone in the first place. Meeks' suggestion to stop funding Southwest light rail is shortsighted, however. The first two legs of light rail are performing above expectations, so it appears that it is a "need," not just a "want." The system will work even better when all four planned parts are completed. Only then will we get the full value of what we have already invested in it. We need to work hard to protect the federal match for the Southwest line's construction, since it is a classic example of a "shovel-ready" project after 10 years of work.
Our sister cities are pulling farther and farther ahead of us in building these rail transit systems. They must think that these systems are a need, not just a want.
John Crosby, Minneapolis
• • •
Meeks presents a strong economic argument against expanding the public transit system in our area. What is lacking in the argument is the inclusion of the amount of subsidy that is needed to build and maintain roads and bridges. The gasoline tax does not come close to covering these expenses. Consequently, every automobile is subsidized from tax dollars. Those who do not own or drive an automobile pay taxes to support those who do. Nor does Meeks' commentary include the human element. The elderly and the poor rely on mass transit. Completing Northstar to St. Cloud makes the Twin Cities accessible to the elderly who live in the St. Cloud area. For everyone's safety, it is good to keep us elderly off busy highways. Finally, the environmental impact cannot be ignored. Since mass transit reduces the number of cars on the road, it reduces the air pollution that they produce.
Wilfred Theisen, Collegeville, Minn.
SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL
Can you credibly favor the line if you have a stake in the matter?
Kelly Doran ("Pitch to halt federal funding for Southwest LRT is preposterous," March 29) miscalculated the certainty and timing of the Southwest project and is understandably worried about his company's investment in The Moline, a Hopkins luxury apartment complex slated to open this fall, the success of which is dependent on the completion of the light-rail line. While he makes some valid criticisms of the arguments made by light-rail opponents in the Legislature, let's keep in mind his true motivation: maximizing the return on investment for Doran Companies. Secondarily, Doran may be gearing up for another foray into politics. He ran campaigns (as a Democrat) for U.S. Senate and governor after the shopping center boom ended; he'll need something to do once he's done riding the luxury apartment building wave.
John Grimes, Minneapolis
• • •
In response to Doran's opinion that halting federal funding for LRT is preposterous, I would like to ask him if he plans on housing low-income residents who will be riding the Southwest line past his apartment development.
Before he calls Kenwood residents selfish NIMBYs, I would like him to examine his own motives of monetary gain at the expense of destroying the character of our Chain of Lakes.
He is no better than those he accuses of selfishness.
Maria Meade, Minneapolis
PROFITS VS. NONPROFITS
Freeman chooses short-term gain; we'll see long-term costs
Pay now or pay later, as the well-known saying goes. Paying later is what Hennepin County and the rest of the state will be doing because of the decision by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to terminate a successful nonprofit diversion plan, Operation de Novo, in favor of a for-profit, Diversion Solutions (local section, March 31). Mr. Freeman not only shows disregard for the quality of life of the first-time, nonviolent offenders by awarding the contract to the lowest bidder, but guarantees higher social costs in the future. The college-educated and experienced staff are being let go in favor of those "who have the time to help someone."
My prediction is that the turnover will be high as the new staff gets burned out while gaining experience for a better job. Good for them, but tough luck for the offenders and the rest of us.
Carol Koepp, Edina
Just a few reminders …
A March 31 letter writer wondered how much U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, Jason Lewis and Erik Paulsen got from the wireless and internet providers by voting to repeal consumer protections against having their internet and cellphone information sold to corporations. Well, here is that information: Emmer, $18,500; first-termer (three months) Lewis, $10,500; and Paulsen (who's struck it rich), $50,500. Now you know who counts.
Judy Bird, Rochester
• • •
So, Ivanka Trump is going to "serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees" (March 30). According to 5 U.S. Code § 3110 — Employment of relatives: federal employees are not allowed to work for their fathers. She's just like her dad, breaking the rules the minute she starts.
Gary Thomsen, Eden Prairie
Government made it easy to pitch straight to consumers
In the Science & Health section on March 26, the lead article ("Is that drug for you?") states that spending on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising "has grown 62 percent since 2012." In actuality, DTC advertising has been growing steadily since five or six years earlier than that, when the Federal Trade Commission lifted a ban prohibiting pharmaceutical companies from advertising direct to the consumer. Before that date, pharmaceutical advertising had been limited generally to professional journals directed to physicians — which spawned a submarket of dozens of journals directed to physicians serving every medical specialty. When that ban was lifted, early into the 2000s, that distinct market all but disappeared except for a few "society journals" sponsored by professional societies and the two hugely influential general journals: the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. Shows how strong the arm of government is in the life and death of businesses.
Daniel Kelley, Edina
LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER
As 'Splendid Table' host signs off, an anecdote
I have been a fan of Lynne Rosetto Kasper for years ("A 'Splendid' career," Taste, March 30), but my favorite anecdote was when I ran into her in the produce aisle at the St. Paul Whole Foods. She had just placed a bag of pre-washed salad in her basket. I sidled over to her and said just above a whisper, "You know a lot of your fans will be disappointed?" She looked back, and with a little smirk, said, "It says organic!" She is a local jewel.