Oh, the drama. Evidently a biblical drought has emptied all of Minnesota’s lakes except Mille Lacs of their precious water, and in the “Holy Grail of Lakes” the very last walleye has been caught and eaten.

Unless I’m wrong, there are more than 10,000 lakes in this state, with a couple thousand of them holding the walleye. Maybe this will be a chance for anglers (read: Twin Cities anglers) to drive more than 90 minutes and see that there are many great lakes where you can catch and actually eat a walleye. By the way, Mille Lacs anglers, they are tasty.

Tom Intihar, Brooklyn Park

• • •

The only place I fish is at grocery store seafood counters, but I’ve been following the Mille Lacs walleye controversy. I can certainly sympathize with resort owners who may lose business, but I’ve yet to read an explanation as to why other species of fish are somehow not as appealing. An article in the Star Tribune notes that bass, muskies and northerns are also in the lake. These aren’t goldfish; surely there is some sport in fishing for them as well. In fact, the same article quotes a resort owner as saying “people just don’t want to switch [to other fish].” I can understand such a preference, but this sounds rather childish to me. Life is full of disappointments. Adjust and hope for a better season in the future.

The criticisms of the roles of the government in the form of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and of Native Americans in the form of the Ojibwe bands have been very predictable and are never far below the surface. It’s very unfortunate that the issue has provided opportunities for these persistent prejudices to manifest themselves.

Russ Brown, Burnsville

PLASTIC BAGS

There’s more to think about than mere municipal prohibition

We don’t need to ban plastic bags; we need to make them compostable. Biodegradable is not sufficient. Those bags only break down into smaller pieces but don’t really go away. Biocompostable bags do. A company here in the Twin Cities (Northern Technologies Inc.) makes such a resin for bag production, and I believe it is used in other cities such as San Francisco. That would be an acceptable alternative to the plastics currently used and would be even better than paper.

Theodore Nagel, Minneapolis

• • •

The July 31 lead editorial (“Plastic bag ban? Proceed with caution”) sums up much of what has been written and may be considered about reusable vs. plastic or paper bags for shopping. To my knowledge, however, nothing has been mentioned regarding the use of your own recyclable containers for dining out. For years now, we together with friends have taken along plastic containers to use for our personal leftovers at restaurants. A bag with various sizes of containers is almost always available for such use in my luggage compartment to help with environmental concerns.

Richard Laybourn, Bloomington

• • •

I concur with letter writers praising the reuse and recycling of plastic bags from retailers. I myself love using Target bags as trash bags. However, I must point out as a former retail employee that at our store, the recycling bin at the front of the store was picked up by a corporate-arranged truck once per month. That meant that the majority of bags put in that bin ended up in our trash compactor.

Just because retailers have recycling bins does not mean those contents end up in recycling. I now work for two different companies, both of which use plastic bags regularly for their merchandise. I would support a plastic bag ban.

Jeff White, St. Paul

 

SCHOOL DISTRICT BUYOUTS

To get rid of ‘bad apples’? If only education were so simple

Everyone knows that public education is in trouble and that any large institution, including school districts, must struggle to weed out ineffective employees — and that costs money (“Schools pay to shed bad apples,” Aug. 3). But is that really headline news? No.

Here’s my gripe. There are myriad reasons we haven’t eliminated the achievement gap or turned around all of the failing schools — and it’s not because of a few “bad apples.” I know because I’ve worked on the front lines as a teacher for almost 20 years. The biggest obstacles we face include politicized school boards, inequitable funding formulas, fads in educational reform that require continuously overhauling the curriculum, and a litany of unfunded mandates (federal and state), to name a few. What is the biggest obstacle of all? The unrealistic expectations of an uninformed public that believes schools really can fix the problems in society and that all we need is to separate the “good” teachers from the “bad” teachers. As if.

Will the Star Tribune please start reporting the real story — that the only schools to have successfully solved the achievement gap are the ones that have been able to control the students who cross their doors or have the active involvement of parents (beginning in kindergarten)?

Jill Passage, White Bear Lake Township

• • •

I read with interest the article concerning the experience of several Minnesota school districts with teacher buyouts as an alternative to a lengthy and costly (and I would add uncertain) discharge process. Until we have more reasonable rules regarding the districts’ and teachers’ rights, the buyout process should be used in appropriate cases.

A couple of things bothered me about the information in the article. One was that many of the teachers were allowed to continue in their jobs for extended periods after the settlements were entered into. Why? The other is that all of the cases involved inappropriate conduct on the part of the employees. Nothing was mentioned about the buyout procedure being used to get rid of ineffective or incompetent teachers. In the big picture, these are the employees whose continued employment in the system causes the most problems.

Darrell Jensen, Anoka

 

MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO

Layoffs diminish the committed efforts of newsroom employees

As a retired member of the Minnesota Public Radio news staff, I cannot remain silent in the face of the devastating cuts recently inflicted on the MPR newsroom. Apparently dazzled by the accolades received for reporting on coverups of sexual abuse by the local Catholic hierarchy, the executives now want to pursue more such high-profile investigative work and have made the illogical decision that to do so they must get rid of 10 experienced, dedicated staffers. These are people who have devoted from three to 30 years of their lives creating innovative programs, working long hours in often challenging conditions to report on important issues and gracing the MPR website with visual sophistication. One talented editor, with 27 years’ experience, created the statewide coverage MPR is so well-known for, held her staff together through the death of a beloved colleague and supported everyone with stoic dignity during earlier mass layoffs. If you ask, “Where is the heart in this organization?” I answer, “They have just cut it out.”

Apparently for the bosses at MPR, loyalty is a one-way street. Apparently they never heard of retraining, and they’re not concerned about the morale among the staff who remain, for now.

Stephanie Hemphill, Duluth