In last Sunday’s Opinion Exchange section, a retired Star Tribune business reporter decided to chide us all for not having abandoned our cars (like him!) and moved downtown to a car-free utopia (“Car wars,” Aug. 11). One issue that he so smugly exempts himself from, and which Minneapolis routinely disregards, is that employers make business location decisions based largely on the supply and accessibility of labor. Cars are popular because they are supremely flexible, despite their obvious costs. You can work one place, have your kids in day care in another, stop by the store, and do it all in a reasonable amount of time. Try taking transit for that. You could take Uber, but that doesn’t eliminate cars from the streets, it just exchanges who is operating them and, of course, has its own costs.
If a dense business location is too expensive for employees, or is only available to employees via transit, you limit the potential employees you can attract. Few businesses can afford to blithely ignore this reality — especially when they have to compete in the marketplace with businesses in car-centric locations where traffic is light and parking is free.
Stephen Grittman, Buffalo, Minn.
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I have a few bones to pick with the usually-on-target philosopher of the times, Mike Meyers, and his “Cars Wars” commentary. First of all, downtown businesses need to have more skin in the game regarding accessibility for their workers. Parking is only one factor that goes into the decision for driving into downtown. Hours demanded by the company, special events or meetings that run long, props needed for the day and, of course, the location within downtown all play a decisive role. Depending on the disability of the worker, ease of availability is also key. If downtown businesses advocated for more days worked from home, traffic woes would surely be solved. Forward-thinking organizations discover different ways that workers can be productive outside the office. It is time we realize our carbon footprints are exacerbated by poor choices made by many of our employers.
Another fallacy Meyers promotes is the idea that ordering products online is good for the environment. How can this be when many more trucks are delivering items on our roads and freeways? Either we go there or they come here. Also, idling at curbside most certainly enhances emissions. Good try, Mr. Meyers!
Sharon E. Carlson, Andover
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I had mixed reactions to Meyers’ article. Certainly I agreed with his description of himself as a car abstainer “wrapped in an envelope of smug.” And at first I felt a tinge of envy. Here is this retired guy, living in apparent luxury downtown, able to pay some menial 10 bucks to pick up a loaf of bread or a carton of eggs to be delivered to him. He also doesn’t have to mingle with the rabble in a brick-and-mortar store, since he buys everything online and has it delivered to him. While he is innocent of driving a polluting car, all of the stuff he buys is delivered to him in polluting trucks. What a deal!
On the other hand, I also pity the man. If he wants to visit Duluth or the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior, he cannot just hop in his car as I do. He has to rent one, or beg someone to loan him a car. I have siblings and friends who live in suburban homes, not accessible by bus or light rail. Does this guy have a social life?
I am not a slave to my car. It is my servant. Although I am over three score and ten years old, I am healthy enough to walk in my Uptown neighborhood when I please, ride my bicycle for recreation when I please (and when the bicycle paths are not torn up or barricaded for light-rail construction), or drive when I need to carry cargo, or if the weather is inclement. I like having the option to choose my mode of transportation, and it greatly annoys me that those who know what is best for me, whether it be the Benderites in City Hall or smug Mike Meyers, are trying to deprive me of that choice as they slavishly try to emulate Portland, Amsterdam, or whatever city is in vogue.
Donald Wolesky, Minneapolis
The imbalances we create when we shut out certain people
I have concerns about the limitation of “unskilled, lesser educated or refugee” immigrants to this country (“Tighter rules for poorer migrants,” front page, Aug. 13). These include the following:
When this country was founded, most of the European governments were glad to see the people who headed to North America leave. Many were debtors, landless people with no means of supporting their families and members of religions that were considered subversive, such as the Puritans. Yet when these people came to North America, they were motivated to work hard and succeed. In the process, they produced our vibrant and innovative culture. Much of American innovation came about because these immigrants brought a new perspective and motivation for success.
On the other hand, the places where the wealthy elites were the majority of the people settling in new territories (Africa, South America and Asia), these upper-class individuals developed very oppressive colonial structures that enslaved the local residents to do the work that these “elites” were unwilling to do, and had no idea of how to do.
We now want to take the highly educated people from other countries as immigrants here to the exclusion of the poorer, less-educated people. The highly trained people were often educated at their country’s expense with the hope that they would help improve conditions in their home country, but we want to steal them away.
In this country we are not lacking people who want to get a good education so that they can raise the standard of living of their families. However, due in part to the reduction in taxes on corporations and wealthy, the colleges and universities in this country are raising tuition to the point where many people seeking higher education are unable to finance advanced degrees.
Yet we have seen that many sections of this state and the U.S. are experiencing shortages of laborers in many occupations as reported in the Star Tribune (manufacturing, farming, child care, elder care). Traditionally, these jobs have been taken by immigrants who see the jobs as important (they are!) and as a good way to start to work toward a better life. We are told that there is a very low rate of unemployment in this country — so who will we get to do these jobs if we only allow highly educated people who want high-paying jobs?
The vibrancy of our culture comes in part through learning from and accepting the varieties of religions, ethnicities and races. Although this acceptance has and will continue to require much work on the part of our people, it is what makes America great. If we stop being a haven for humble people, we will lose much of the essence of our greatness.
Joan Felice, Roseville