Colin Powell was a model citizen ("Colin Powell's extraordinary life," editorial, Oct. 19). Like Martin Luther King Jr., he preached that everyone can be great because everyone can serve.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton called for a presidential summit on service, and asked Powell to lead the project. Originally known as "the summit on volunteerism," Powell inserted his strategic thinking and insisted that the summit should focus on one issue and demonstrate the quantifiable impact service can have. The focus became America's youth. The summit became the "Presidents' Summit for America's Future."
To participate in the summit in Philadelphia, organizations, corporations and agencies had to make a commitment to one or more of the promises to youth. Again, demonstrating his strategic thinking, Powell adopted a framework for those promises. The five promises were and are caring adults in the lives of youth, safe places, access to health care, education and skill development, and ensuring youth voice in shaping their future. To keep the incentive and the campaign moving forward, America's Promise was born and Powell was its very dedicated and visible founding chairman. I had the honor to serve as vice president for communities and states for America's Promise.
The fruits of Powell's commitment to youth is seen today in the Minnesota Alliance with Youth and the Colin Powell Center in south Minneapolis.
Powell was a bridge builder between military service and national service. He fully endorsed the expectation that everyone between 18 and 25 should spend a year in service.
I appreciated his understanding that politics is something to be practiced and is necessary to make the changes needed for youth. As a worker, I loved how he kept us focused on our mission and reminded us that we were part of an important movement.
To thank Powell, we should all imitate his life of public service.
Jim Scheibel, St. Paul
The writer was mayor of St. Paul from 1990-94.
Cure for congestion is fewer cars, more transit
Regarding "State's roads are safe but need work" (Metro section, Oct. 18): The Star Tribune reports that Minnesotans are stuck in traffic 56% of the time during peak hours. A big part of the reason for this is that our transit systems are wholly inadequate, and thus underused: University of Minnesota research shows that transit riders can access just 10% of the opportunities as drivers, even in the most transit-served parts of the metro.
Experience and research show that we can't just build our way out of congestion — more highway lanes lead to more driving. What does work is providing alternatives to car travel. The state should transform transit in our metros so that Minnesotans have real, equivalent choices for how to get around.
Minnesota could fund a world-class bus rapid transit-based system that would provide transit service every five minutes within a 10-minute walk of everyone in the Interstate 494/694 beltway, along with many other important improvements, for $6 billion. And while that may sound like a lot of money, it pales compared to highway costs.
Let's urge our elected leaders to invest in transit — it will get cars off the road, open up access to opportunities, reduce climate pollution and relieve the extraordinary economic burden of car ownership.
Samuel Rockwell, Minneapolis
The writer is executive director, Move Minnesota.
"The boss says slow it down in traffic" (Metro section, Oct. 20) is a noble thought, and I completely agree with the idea. However, there seems to be a general consensus around driving with your hair on fire, trying to get forward that extra car length and driving heavy pickups and SUVs like they were designed for the racetrack. I have observed that in reality the driver who drives by the numbers and the rules actually presents an increased danger to themselves and the immediate traffic around them doing just that. Here are some examples:
Speeding. In traffic where the general flow is somewhere between 5 and 10 (conservative estimate) miles over the limit, a driver going the speed limit forces people to tailgate and pass erratically.
Merging, which is somehow never managed very well, has most people entering the freeway at speeds that are either way below the traffic pattern or way over the limit. My observations indicate that most people do not bother to monitor the traffic as they are coming down the ramp. Just forge ahead with fingers crossed.
Exiting onto a clover leaf has always been a heart-stopper. The speeders, rather that tucking in behind the people trying to merge in to the traffic, will pass the oncoming traffic on the left, and then duck in front for the exit. Always fun to watch.
Stopping for a stop sign. Does anybody actually do that? A few of us do come to a complete stop. It really makes people mad — they slam on their brakes, tailgate and show their age and IQ with their left-hand middle finger.
Tailgating. I have ridden with hundreds of folks who routinely tailgate where the question I ask is, can you actually not hit the guy in front of you if he makes a panic stop? Leaving a three-second gap usually does not work in traffic, as it is generally filled in with Mr. Speeder trying for that extra car length.
I think the answer is better education and driver training. I am convinced that people are taught how to operate an automobile, not how to actually drive. I believe the driver should be able to press a car to its limits in a closed course with a qualified instructor. Better to understand the limits of their pickup there than in heavy traffic.
The answer is also recurrent training to qualify for a driver's license. As a pilot, every two years I must be undergo a formal ground check of my knowledge of the rules and regulations with a qualified flight instructor. I must then go for a ride in the airplane to demonstrate that I can actually operate in a safe and proficient manner. Will this work for maintaining a driver's license? I seriously doubt it. The expense and bureaucracy involved to administer this would probably put most people on the bus. Actually, that might just work.
Robert Ward, Jordan, Minn.
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