The April 17 front-page article “Rehabbed rentals boost values but squeeze out poor,” about investors buying lucrative older apartment buildings in Twin Cities suburbs, informs about shifting real estate markets, but we were dismayed by the unfeeling ignorance in the statement by one developer: “Get the Caribou crowd in, and get the Jerry Springer crowd out.” While a stronger real estate market supports economic growth, we need growth that benefits the entire community, not just upscale clientele and profit-seeking owners.

Many Minnesotans summarily dismissed in the article are hardworking individuals and families making less than $28,000 per year — as child care providers, maintenance workers and, indeed, coffee-shop baristas. One in eight Twin Cities households struggles with unaffordable housing costs — at least half of their income is spent on housing. What happens to our community if safe, decent and “naturally occurring affordable housing” is lost via a new coat of paint and “niceties” to meet the demand of a young, upscale “different clientele”?

Despite the demand for “refurbished properties that can command higher rents,” the Twin Cities area is desperate for housing for lower-resourced families and individuals. Aeon is working with the national Housing Partnership Equity Trust and others to invest in renovation and preservation. Our leveraging of private investment from impact investors such as foundations, insurance and financial institutions — and soon individuals — is a critical component in the future preservation of affordable homes for people.

Home changes everything. It will require all of us working together to create safe, stable homes for families and individuals who need them the most.

Alan Arthur, Wayzata

The writer is president and CEO of Aeon.


Amid this debate, it’s also worth pondering field’s retention rates

The vigorous ongoing discussion over teacher tenure in the pages of the Star Tribune ignores a complementary issue: teacher retention.

Nationwide, the five-year teacher retention rate is about 50 percent; that means that if a school district hires 10 new teachers, in five years typically only five will remain.

Does anyone know what Minnesota’s retention rate is or why teachers left their jobs?

I taught for almost 40 years in what was historically a teacher college (Minnesota State University, Moorhead), though not in the Education Department, so over the years I got to know students who went into teaching and who left. The reasons I heard were small-town politics, boneheaded principals, exhaustion, lack of respect, poor wages, but never antipathy to the students.

Shouldn’t someone try to find out how many teachers leave teaching and why?

John Sherman, Moorhead, Minn.

• • •

Don’t be fooled, Minnesota. The Partnership for Educational Justice, the force behind the lawsuit on teacher tenure, has little to do with “partnership” or “justice” (“Suit assails teacher tenure law,” April 14).

Take a stroll through the group’s website (, and you’ll find a board of directors and an advisory board composed of lawyers, investors, communications strategists, community organizers and public-relations experts. Missing from this “partnership”? Teachers.

These boards have a “litigator of the year” and an attorney from a “boutique law firm.” Another worked for the anti-union school chief Joel Klein in New York City and advocates for “increased school choice” (or vouchers) and “principal empowerment” (or fire teachers without due process).

Ralia Polechronis, executive director, attended Harvard Law School and has represented charter schools and organizations. The founder, Campbell Brown, who did what I considered to be a biased report on teachers unions for CNN a while back, describes herself as a “passionate advocate for school choice” (yes, vouchers once again). One of the few minorities among this group, Dr. Howard Fuller, is described as an “African-American spokesman for school choice” (yes, again).

What “justice” do they want? More privatization and corporate influence on our schools. Vouchers. More charter schools. Weaken unions and teachers. Judging teachers based on “performance,” which usually translates into standardized test results as a major factor in teacher evaluations.

This education “reform” group’s skillful use of euphemisms and buzzwords may fool some of the people some of the time, but it didn’t fool the California judge who threw out its lawsuit last week (“Teacher case gets an early jolt,” April 15). Expect the same in Minnesota.

David Rathbun, Minneapolis

The writer is a teacher.


Efforts to urge a legislative veteran out are coolly received

Columnist Jon Tevlin (“Rep. Kahn, it’s high time to call it a career,” April 19) brazenly suggests that state Rep. Phyllis Kahn “should recognize that life is short and there are other productive things she could do” besides serve in the Legislature. My goodness, who has given him the authority to tell Phyllis or any of the rest of us seniors how to live out our golden years?

Liz Anderson, St. Paul

• • •

Tevlin thinks Kahn should retire, then goes on to insult her by saying her last major accomplishment was in 1975. The only reason he gives for supporting her female opponent is that she is young, new and represents the Somali community of Minneapolis. None of those is an adequate reason to elect someone from a district that includes the University of Minnesota, especially the part about being new.

Phyllis has served this district extremely well, and I don’t see any reason currently why she shouldn’t continue.

Art Hogenson, Minneapolis

• • •

I write to take issue with the comments of R.T. Rybak in the April 13 article about Kahn’s re-election campaign for the Minnesota House (“DFL race reveals rifts in the ranks”).

Minneapolis and our whole state have had decades of quality service from Kahn, a legislator with the skill of a surgeon. I learned a lot from Kahn during my first 10 years legislating on the appropriation committee, which she chaired. She was my mentor as I learned the complicated job of drafting good ideas on public needs and negotiating them into agreements.

Yes, Mr. Rybak, either of her opponents would be a “new voice,” but would this be a good reason to change your lawyer or your architect — or any professional with the record of skill that Kahn has shown for years?

All of us in Minnesota need for her district to keep her skills working for us.

Dave Bishop, Rochester

The writer served as a Republican member of the Minnesota House from 1983 to 2002.