The Burnsville city government has a long history of having its head in the sand — or, in this case, in the garbage — about the impact of its landfills/garbage dumps (“Landfill height proposal criticized,” Feb. 26). Usually its decisions are purely from a financial standpoint without considering effects on the environment or on views.
In the early 1970s, the self-appointed Burnsville Environmental Council asked the City Council not to renew the permit for the Freeway Landfill, which is also on the bank of the Minnesota River just west of Interstate 35W as it enters Burnsville from the north. Not inclined to listen to this Burnsville citizen nonprofit, the City Council approved the renewal of the permit — and now the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recommends digging up the Freeway Landfill and adding a protective liner, with a potential solution cost estimated at $64.4 million (“Customers may have to foot the bill for landfill,” Feb. 16, 2017).
The Environmental Council, a 501(3)(c) nonprofit now disbanded, was created by environmentally concerned citizens in response to the City Council’s rejection to form a city Natural Resource Commission similar to what existed in Bloomington at the time, but now dissolved, too.
But some good came out of this rejection. Knowing that opposing individual environmentally damaging projects was a losing battle, the Burnsville Environmental Council proposed a more comprehensive federal tool to protect the natural environment of the Minnesota River Valley — the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Recreation Area. Approved in 1976 by Congress, the Wildlife Refuge now protects 14,000 acres of the Minnesota River Valley and extends 45 miles upstream. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, cities and counties have added to this acreage, and thousands more acres of flood plain are now in a natural condition, reducing soil erosion and other pollutants from entering the river and providing for wildlife and wildlife-oriented recreation.
Putting a mountain of garbage 362 feet tall above the river and near the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is not exactly like placing it next to the Grand Canyon, but the Wildlife Refuge and adjacent wild areas are one of Minnesota’s versions of a grand canyon, and the river and its valley should be given as much respect.
Edward S. Crozier, Burnsville
Support for Senior Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA remains strong
The Feb. 25 article “Volunteer programs lose local presence” contained statements that cast doubt on the federal commitment to the longtime national service programs AmeriCorps VISTA and Senior Corps. As leaders of these programs within the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), we want to clarify some characterizations in the story.
Like all of our national service programs, Senior Corps’ Foster Grandparent, RSVP and Senior Companion programs and AmeriCorps VISTA are highly respected and have a rich history across the nation. These initiatives provide vital services by enhancing local initiatives to create economic opportunity, strengthen neighborhoods, support education and expand society’s safety net for some of America’s most vulnerable populations.
CNCS recognizes that the future of these important programs depends on building a strong foundation to create a sustainable structure.
As CNCS moves to a regional structure, there will be no interruption of support or customer service. Any changes we make will not impact the funds allocated to states and communities, nor will they change our support for governor-appointed State Service Commissions that administer CNCS grants.
The legacy of national service in Minnesota and across the nation is one we value and intend to preserve, from rural areas to our largest cities. AmeriCorps and Senior Corps will continue to answer the call when America needs us, just as we have always done.
Eileen Conoboy and Deborah Cox-Roush, Washington, D.C.
Conoboy is the acting director of AmeriCorps VISTA and a former VISTA volunteer. Cox-Roush is the current director of Senior Corps.
VIDEO OF VIOLENCE TOWARD SUSPECT
Ramsey County wants to be clear: There is no place for this behavior
The Ramsey County Board would like to address the incident from April 13, 2016, and the actions shown by a Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office employee in media reports last week (“After inmate’s beating, officials pledge changes,” Feb. 27).
The conduct of a correctional officer inflicting significant force upon an already restrained individual is extremely disturbing, even more so when other officers were observed participating in the restraint of the individual. On Monday, Sheriff Bob Fletcher issued a statement about this incident and the follow-up actions taken by his office. He accepted the resignation of the individual highlighted in the story and is taking steps within his organization to prevent future incidents. We know it will be important to have additional conversations with him and our broader community about this.
The actions of the officer are grossly contrary to the expectations of Ramsey County employees and are an affront to us in the community we are here to serve.
It is also important to acknowledge that the racial dynamics associated with this incident — a white officer acting upon a black male with a group of predominantly white officers present — are alarming and raise additional questions about systemic issues in our criminal-justice system and beyond.
On behalf of our board and entire organization, we want to be perfectly clear: There is no place for reprehensible behavior like this in our organization. It is not reflective of thousands of our employees committed to public service at Ramsey County. But we also know we must spend every moment working to earn the trust of our community that can become distrustful or disillusioned after such a situation.
We recognize that our residents see us as one organization that must be working together to stop situations like this from ever happening — whether under the oversight of the sheriff, the Board of Commissioners or the county attorney. The public puts its trust in all of us collectively. We will therefore continue seeking regular opportunities to engage with the sheriff and county attorney to reform our criminal-justice system, and we appreciate our community’s critical role in holding us accountable.
This letter was signed by commissioners Jim McDonough (the board chair), Toni Carter, Blake Huffman, Trista MatasCastillo, Mary Jo McGuire, Rafael Ortega and Victoria Reinhardt, and by County Manager Ryan O’Connor.
STAR TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD
The Star Tribune Editorial Board has let “Minnesota Nice” slip into its editorials again. The latest example is “Keep seeking truth after Cohen’s testimony” (Feb. 28), but there have been others (e.g., “Reduce racial bias in police traffic stops,” Feb. 18, and “Minnesota’s new leaders must build bridges,” Jan. 6). These are “positions” with which no one could reasonably disagree. Readers benefit from the Editorial Board taking a clear position on controversial topics. This is not to say the Editorial Board should be sensational or one-sided. But it would do well to ask itself: Could anyone reasonably agree with the inverse of this position. If the answer is “no,” then the Editorial Board is not making a meaningful contribution to the discourse. Perhaps it’s partly an issue with the headlines, but no reasonable person would publicly advocate to “Stop seeking truth after Cohen’s testimony” or “Increase racial bias in police traffic stops.”
Brian Bell, Minneapolis