Hennepin County District Judge Susan Robiner’s decision to circumvent the constitutional separation-of-powers tradition is evident in her decision to require a vote on the $15 minimum wage charter amendment proposal in Minneapolis (front page, Aug. 23). For better or worse, the decision to allow voters to decide their minimum wage is akin to allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. It is also something more tragic in that it continues down a path whereby judges, unhappy with their idea of progress, usurp authority.
The City Council made a ruling. If enough people don’t like it, elect a new City Council. Do it legally and properly. Robiner’s decision has the stink of politics all over it, and Minneapolis will be the worse for wear as a result of this erosion by fiat.
There was a time when people did what was right for their communities and their country. Her ruling reaffirms that time has long since passed.
Mike Rowland, Eagan
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Minneapolis is properly appealing Robiner’s ruling allowing the minimum wage question to be placed on the November ballot. This question is not an appropriate direct-referendum issue under the city charter, a conclusion supported by the thorough and much-researched opinion of City Attorney Susan Segal.
It is remarkable that the interpretation of the charter was not challenged in the 2005 Haumant vs. Griffin case — a precedent Segal cited. The Haumant case, in which a measure to legalize medical marijuana in the city was determined not to be a proper charter amendment, is similar to the minimum wage issue in that it was a policy question. The fact that the minimum wage issue itself has much grass-roots momentum is not a factor in whether or not it is allowable as a direct-referendum question. This appears to be a glaring overstep by Judge Robiner, and one can only conclude that the subject itself is the reason for the ruling rather than the legal merit of the question. If this distinction is blurred or lost, as appears has happened with Robiner’s ruling, then a worrisome precedent will have been set — that the will of a vocal portion of the public prevails despite its being at odds with the law. I hope we can count on objective minds prevailing in the appeal.
Andy Cohen, Minneapolis
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There are times in elections when process is more important than policy. Recognizing that fact leads folks who want more tax money for ecology and the arts to vote against amending the state Constitution to achieve that goal. It leads opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walter to vote against a referendum to remove him on grounds of popularity. And it leads folks like me who favor higher minimum wages to vote against enshrining this policy decision in the city charter, where it clearly does not belong.
Rodgers Adams, Minneapolis
Major omnibus bill that passed shows cooperation can happen
I share the concerns expressed in an Aug. 20 editorial about the unsuccessful negotiations for a special legislative session to complete unfinished work, but as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee I note that the one major bill finished and signed by the governor (without vetoes) was the omnibus supplemental finance bill.
Like any such omnibus bill, it was not perfect, and as the author and conference committee co-chair, the conference committee process was not quite up to the high standard I wanted. But the result was a very good one. It was a process of compromises with a conference committee of four Senate Democrats, one Senate Republican and five House Republicans, along with the involvement of many other finance division chairs and other members of the Legislature. No one got exactly what they wanted; it was a legislative compromise.
And the results speak for themselves: needed funding for the Department of Human Services deficiency for Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter; money for racial disparities (first-in-the-nation funding and money continued in the base budget); a bipartisan effort to deal with prison overcrowding by changing sentences for nonviolent offenders; economic development money for both metro and outstate; money for the successful Mighty Ducks youth ice activities program now named after our friend and colleague, the late Sen. Jim Metzen, and, in an unique twist, tax relief for Minnesota veterans, among other appropriations.
I am proud of this effort, and its successful conclusion illustrates that it can be done.
State Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul
SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL
It would be irresponsible to let federal funding go elsewhere
As legislators, we have heard from countless constituents, business owners and local elected officials about the importance of completing the Southwest light-rail line. Economic development is happening in anticipation of the line to the tune of $430 million. This development is already bringing employment opportunities that are attracting the young people and families that are the future of our state.
All of this progress will be stopped dead in its tracks without immediate action to fund the last local match of 10 percent. A $144.5 million investment stands in the way of $928.5 million in federal funds, decades of planning, countless hours of citizen input and multiple supporting votes from the cities along the line. Without a local match in the next few weeks, the federal government will award millions of Minnesota tax dollars to Seattle, Denver and Portland to build their transit systems.
This sense of urgency is why we are asking the governor to weigh in and find a way to cover the local match. We still have faith that the people of Minnesota believe in investment for the future. We agree with what the governor has said many times: that leadership is not about pitting one region of the state against another or about putting politics before people. We ask him to stand with those who believe in this critical public investment and want him to know that we will have his back while he does.
State Rep. Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins, state Rep. Yvonne Selcer, DFL-Minnetonka, and state Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park
Future ‘fintech’ isn’t the utopia that letter writer thinks it is
Well, it didn’t take long for the first letter criticizing U.S. Bank’s efforts to provide bank services to the “underbanked.” An Aug. 23 letter writer (“Pay the fee or join the future”) attacks U.S. Bank for its new “safe debit account” products and the fees they would entail. Instead, he extols the new technology of online financial transactions between parties “without any bank’s intervention.” The problem with that is, of course, the users of this financial technology need to have access to it and the ability to use it. Also, what can possibly go wrong if all your financial transactions are between two parties, online, with no oversight (“intervention” as the letter writer sees it). Right now, many of the underbanked pay fees for check cashing, money orders and more to take care of their needs. Of course, U.S. Bank should do this for free, I guess. I’m not surprised by how soon the criticism started, just disappointed.
Debbie Lewis, Long Lake
His on-air relationship with
his son is a joy to experience
When I read the Aug. 23 article about Sid Hartman, it reminded me of something that might be of more than a passing interest to fellow older folks who may have lost their fathers over these past years. (Mine died when I was 14.) Nearly every Friday at 2 p.m. on the public airwaves at WCCO Radio (830 AM) is a really great example of the respect and love that a father and son share with each other. As a listener over the years, I have been rewarded with something that I lost so many years ago. (I’m 68.) The playful banter and fun that Sid and Chad Hartman share is truly heartwarming, and I only wish them more of the same in the years to come. I really need that.
Jerry England, Shakopee