An Aug. 29 letter writer offers a false narrative when she scolds U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen for not holding town-hall meetings. Comparing a Minnesota State Fair interview event (moderated by the Star Tribune) to a traditional town hall? They are completely different settings. The State Fair is not at all attuned to the environment organized disrupters much prefer. Disrupters are strategic in both their settings and their tactics, such as shouting down free speech, constantly interrupting, strategically piling on, and simply not permitting reasonable and civil speech and discourse to even be heard. Disruption is in fact their sole and primary goal.
What the letter writer missed was Paulsen’s clear willingness to address and answer tough questions, not dodge the issues, while offering reasonable answers, explanations and solutions.
At a time of regrettable coarseness in the public arena, which tears away at the fabric of our shared social discourse, Paulsen is actually one of the most genuine and thoughtful people you would ever hope to meet and talk with.
I suggest the writer focus her attention instead on those organized elements whose sole purpose is to deny all of us our freedom of speech to actually discuss the issues of the day, in a civil manner.
Town-hall meetings? Certainly, but only for actual constituents living in any representative’s district. No disruptive astroturfers allowed.
Thomas R. Schwebach, Eden Prairie
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I want to publicly say “thank you” to Jack Dwyer, district director for U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, for taking an hour of his time to sit and listen to me and others who are connected to Bread for the World to discuss the federal budget. We shared with him our deep concern about budget proposals from the Trump administration and the House Budget Committee that would cut domestic and international funding for those who need it the most — people living with hunger and poverty. We pointed out that domestic programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), WIC and tax credits for low-income working families provide our neighbors here in the U.S. with a critical safety net. In addition, international programs like food aid, development assistance, and maternal and child nutrition improve the lives of millions of our neighbors around the world, on less than 1 percent of our federal budget. All of these programs face potentially deep funding cuts that would impact millions of men, women and children.
I firmly believe that our federal budget is more than just a financial document; it reveals our values and priorities as a nation. Congress will make a final decision about the fiscal year 2018 budget when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., this week. Please take the time to learn more about what is being proposed, what is at stake and how you can be a voice for the most vulnerable in our society by visiting www.bread.org.
Scott Brazil, Jordan
THE AMERICAN CULTURE
Even in everyday ways, we can stand up for unity
I had just left church wondering what difference one person could make, in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, Va.
I drove to the park in my hometown for its annual celebration. As I admired handcrafted items, I noticed a man and woman about my age standing close by. They were as far from milky-white Scandinavian as you could get. I smiled at them in passing, and wondered if anyone else would acknowledge them.
Later, I noticed the woman sitting at a table while nibbling on a pork chop on a stick. The man and two young women about my daughters’ ages joined her. A couple who I assumed were local residents were eating at the other end of the long table. They looked at the family with thinly veiled disgust, picked up their food and walked away.
I sat next to the out-of-towners. We talked about fair food, and where we lived. They were going to see a nearby state park. I encouraged them to stop at the local sculpture gardens along the way.
I heard someone call my name. A friend waved me over to join her. I waved her toward me, then introduced her to the visitors. They lived in Fargo and their daughters lived in Minneapolis. I sympathized with the woman whose daughters lived so far away.
“Why Fargo?” I asked.
The answer was simple. Ten years ago, a congregation there had sponsored the man to come to the United States. He’s lived there ever since. He claimed the weather was rough only four months each year. We laughed about Midwestern winters, talked some more, then said our goodbyes.
It was only a 10-minute encounter. I didn’t march through the park while holding a political sign on a stick. But I sat with strangers, and we shared what we had in common. By sitting down, I stood up for what I believed was right.
Tracy Gulliver, Minneapolis
Project is a properly sized, thoughtful plan for the future
Regarding various coverage for and against the redevelopment plan for St. Paul’s Ford site: The master plan is right-sized for a future that we can best imagine and shape. Coming decades will see, and the Ford plan embraces, dramatic changes in transportation — driverless cars, increased telecommuting, more year-round bicycling, vibrant transit networks. There will be a St. Paul population surge over the next 20 years — and even greater demand for housing than now — that the Ford plan helps address.
The plan is right-sized for sustainability, incorporating state-of-the-art stormwater management and compact land use. Ford can achieve on a fresh canvas the village development and sense of place — multifamily housing, mixed land use and multimodal transportation — that cities and even suburbs struggle to retrofit. And the plan is right-sized to be a net contributor and financial asset to the city overall.
The development can be right-sized for equity, allowing for a broad range of housing. That outcome, however, is not secured even with passage of the master plan. We must ensure that developers and public/private institutions in the Ford site and across the city address affordable rentals and the home-ownership gap. Currently in St. Paul, 60 percent of whites but only 27 percent of people of color own a home, one of the most critical strategies to creating generational wealth.
The Ford site has enormous potential. Over the next 15 years, citizens will have opportunity to safeguard that the project is not just a right-sized plan but a well-implemented development. The City Council should approve the master plan.
Joan Pasiuk, St. Paul
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I am extremely excited about the Ford site development! The site is right next to where I rented for several years, and it was one of the deciding factors in buying our home in Highland Park. I am mostly excited about how the plan has considered the environmental sustainability of the site.
St. Paul has some awesome park space, and 96 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, compared with a median of 66 percent for other larger cities. I think the city has done a fine job zoning the legal maximum of 9 percent parkland on the site to maintain St. Paul’s rich park space. I especially enjoy the stormwater feature the city designed, bringing life again to the Hidden Falls Creek.
The zoning plan allows for more of these public green and open-space opportunities as opposed to a sprawling single-family-home scenario or the dirt field it is now. It will also encourage other modes of transit and healthy living. I hope the city votes to continue the plan as it stands, and I cannot wait to watch the site develop into all the great things it can be.
Kourtny Long, St. Paul