I thought the mental whiplash from our election was bad, but the Nov. 30 Star Tribune offered more. The Opinion Exchange page featured an insightful story about a young man’s exchange with a homeless person in St. Paul’s George Latimer Central Library (“Places in the Twin Cities where worlds sit side by side”). Then, in the local section, was a story about how the Metropolitan Council needs to come up with a $1 million overage for the U.S. Bank Stadium pedestrian bridge.
What? We have homeless people spending their days in libraries, but don’t blink at adding $1 million for what is now a $10.6 million pedestrian bridge to serve eight Minnesota Vikings games?
What if the Met Council instead took that $1 million and converted an unused downtown building into small living spaces? Where homeless families could be immediately assessed by a health professional for mental illness or addiction and be treated? Any number of current nonprofits could provide meals. We have many organizations that help provide transportation and jobs to disabled citizens; why can’t we provide transportation and jobs for homeless people?
Since the pride of self-reliance does wonders, maybe put a time limit on the housing and provide a way for residents to give back to newcomers. At best, some percent of people could meaningfully move forward. At worst, we’d simply get people out of libraries, off the streets and into an environment where they stand a chance.
As for the pedestrians spending $300 on a Vikings game, I think they’ll survive a walk across the street.
Christine McLaren, Chanhassen
Connect the dots: Library cuts and susceptibility to fake news
I couldn’t help making a connection between the Nov. 26 editorial (“Minnesota State needs red-ink rescue”) and the Nov. 25 commentary about the fake-news problem (“Scapegoating Facebook ignores much bigger issues”). In the former, it’s mentioned that Chancellor Steven Rosenstone “makes a strong case that further cuts in faculty and staff would hobble Minnesota State’s mission.” Allow me to share some information about how hobbled we have already become.
As a faculty librarian at a two-year college in the Minnesota State system, I can tell you that colleges across the state have lost faculty librarian positions due to budget cuts. Several have no librarian; some are sharing a librarian. Many librarians worry that if they retire, their positions will not be filled.
As information moved online, some folks (college administrators included) have wondered if there is still a need for libraries and librarians. One of our main responsibilities is teaching our users to find and evaluate information. When there are fewer of us available, students move to jobs (and life) without the skills needed to determine what is credible and what isn’t. It’s no surprise to librarians that there is a problem with people being unable to discern between real news and fake news.
Each college spends thousands of dollars (some spend tens or hundreds of thousands) on databases rich with credible sources. It’s inefficient for a college to save money on a faculty position only to have no one to educate students how to use these resources. Unfortunately, libraries are easy targets for budget cuts because most do not generate tuition money.
It’s time our legislators increase funding to our Minnesota State college system so we can afford to have our libraries (and other academic units) staffed with faculty at a level appropriate to meet the responsibilities we have.
Cynthia Jorstad, Thief River Falls, Minn.
• • •
The editorial about the Minnesota State system reports that one suggestion for reducing red ink is to “Downsize the physical plant.” This is putting it mildly. Minnesota has more campuses per capita than any other state in the nation, each with its own faculty, administrator and maintenance workers. When the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system was established, the goal was to make a two-year college available to every state citizen within 35 to 50 miles of where they lived. And now, look up, on the map, how close some of those campuses are. Further, they are not all equally busy and/or renowned.
Yes, I know that closing a campus is the “third rail” of Minnesota politics, and when the University of Minnesota’s Waseca campus was closed, it brought down opprobrium on regents’ heads, but they firmly stood their ground.
So, the only way to accomplish this fairly peacefully is to follow the example used when military bases were closed around the country: Get a buy-in from legislators and other leaders up front to accept the final package “as is.” Then hand it over to a citizens’ panel to make recommendations of which campuses to close, with an eye toward reaching a certain amount of annual savings. Introduce those closings in the Legislature as an up-or-down bill, with news outlets and others calling for approval per the advance agreement. Minnesota has solved thornier problems in the past. We can do this!
Mary McLeod, St. Paul
GOLD’N PLUMP SALE
Elected officials must now act to protect jobs, farms
The announcement of the sale of Minnesota’s Gold’N Plump (“Pilgrim’s Pride buys rival Gold’n Plump for $350M,” Nov. 30) will require an immediate plan of action involving the governor, legislators and local officials from the Cold Spring and Luverne areas. At stake are some 1,700 jobs in various plants and facilities and the future of 400 family farms. While the buyer is located in Colorado, the fact remains that the principal owner runs a global operation out of Brazil. Consolidation usually means job loss.
State leaders must put aside their petty squabbles over art at the Capitol and do all in their power to save Minnesota families.
Arne H. Carlson, Minneapolis
The writer was governor of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999.
Are you sure domestic extraction is better environmentally?
A Nov. 25 letter writer makes the point that our “consumption-heavy” lifestyle and our sourcing of raw materials from elsewhere in the world are not ethically responsible.
While his point about consumption is spot-on, he really doesn’t talk about alternatives such as the use of conservation, the development of alternative materials and energy sources, or the promotion of increased efficiency. There are more than a few corporate profiteers in the fossil-fuel and mining industries who actively oppose these other approaches.
I also question the letter writer’s point that the global environment will improve if we mine or drill more domestically, because it seems like, in reality, the overall environmental impact of that would be negative, especially if regulations are compromised, which is the direction the president-elect is heading. Furthermore, what exactly would be the incentives for multinational companies to improve their poor environmental record in the other countries they operate in, if more operations take place in the U.S.? Most likely: none.
John Clark, Minneapolis