The front-page article “Distracted walkers pay a mounting toll” (Dec. 20) brought up a very valid point that pedestrians, distracted by cellphones, can put themselves at an increased risk of injury or death. However, what the article failed to mention is that, whether a walker is using a cellphone or not, very few drivers will slow down and stop for a pedestrian at an intersection without a crosswalk or light. And Minnesota law clearly states that “motorists must treat every corner and intersection as a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or unmarked, and drivers must stop for pedestrians.”
The fact that most motorists are completely ignorant of Minnesota’s crosswalk laws also needs to be addressed if we are to reduce the incidence of pedestrian deaths or injury.
John Clark, Minneapolis
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While taking graduate classes in safety, security and emergency management, I researched transit safety and wrote papers on corporate safety compliance. Metro Transit buses, for instance, could be equipped with bright sidelights and announcements that the bus is turning. At least one recent bus-related fatality could have been prevented. The cost to equip the 900-bus fleet is very reasonable. Rail could be retrofitted with safety devices as well. Note the rail-related injuries and fatalities. It is time for the governor and Legislature to sit down with Metro Transit, check the qualifications of all Metropolitan Council safety employees, and become proactive enough to set the example for countrywide transit agencies.
Wayne Dokken, Robbinsdale
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It’s rare to see a news story contradict its own sensational headline in the first column, but the Dec. 20 story managed to do just that. Soaring numbers of pedestrian injuries and deaths “pushed” by use of cellphones sounds like a growing crisis. Until you see those numbers are only “mounting” back to average. The number of deaths has only risen in comparison to last year, a statistical outlier. Deaths and injuries to pedestrians in 2015 will be on par or lower than in 2013, 2012 and 2011.
It’d be easy to wave this off as lazy journalism — and a front-page headline reading “Pedestrian deaths maintain 10-year average” may not sell many papers. But the Star Tribune had to purposefully misrepresent the trend, which actually required some work. Worse, it creates the misconception that pedestrians are somehow a growing “problem” that needs to be fixed. Neither the facts, nor the numbers support that.
Tane Danger, Minneapolis
STATE CAPITOL ART
Paintings don’t fully reflect our history and need to come down
Although the Brown County Historical Society’s president and director (Anne Earl and Bob Burgess) acknowledge in their Dec. 20 commentary that the paintings “The First Battle of New Ulm” and “Treaty of Traverse des Sioux” are “disturbing to some viewers,” they advocate for these works to remain on public display in the Minnesota State Capitol (“In Brown County, we prefer to keep our history in view”). To bolster their case, Earl and Burgess point to their 497 museum members, 7,000 visitors and the “careful research” that “has proven that these pieces were created with great care to detail and accurately depict the events portrayed.”
What Earl and Burgess fail to acknowledge is that the specific events selected and the way they are represented reflect white settler experience, privilege and understanding; they never address the specific arguments against the images, the very reason why “some” find the paintings disturbing. Their logic is much like that of confederate flag supporters — the whole it’s-part-of-‘our’-history-and-therefore-should-remain line of persuasion. This is particularly critical, as the State Capitol should be a welcoming place for all, not just the European-ancestry demographic. While walls of the Minnesota Capitol feature art, the building is not a standalone museum, a place where people go and expect to encounter controversial images. Add to this the facts that racial inequality remains very much a part of Minnesota culture and that the vast majority of state lawmakers remain white men.
Here’s hoping in 2016 Minnesota welcomes more perspectives to our State Capitol. It’s time to be more inclusive; it’s time for these paintings to come down. Besides, the works have had quite a bit of display time — few perspectives get that much play in our nation’s Capitol. Think of all the other viewpoints that have yet to be presented through visual imagery.
Julie Risser, Edina
Orchestra president offers a template for U athletic choice
One can’t but hope that the leaders of a search for a new athletic director at the University of Minnesota would have read the Dec. 20 article about the Minnesota Orchestra’s president (“How Kevin Smith restored harmony to a broken orhestra”). Not that Smith himself ought to be a candidate at the U — an intriguing thought,though. But the qualities he possesses seem exactly what the U needs.
Paul A. Gilje, Burnsville
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The Dec. 20 editorial “ ‘One state’ needs one top-notch university” (part of the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s “Better Together” series about the urban-rural divide) refers to the University of Minnesota as an engine of innovation and describes the stellar work of the faculty. All true.
The editorial also refers to recent high-profile problems in the university administration. Also true, unfortunately.
There are serious issues in administration in significant areas such as fiscal management (excessive administrative costs) and facilities management (crumbling academic infrastructure with one-third of the buildings on the Twin Cities campus rated in poor or critical condition).
Too often the current U administration reacts defensively to valid criticism, as noted by the legislative auditor in his report on the suicide of Dan Markingson, a patient in a clinical research trial.
By coincidence, another article in the Dec. 20 paper describes the return of the Minnesota Orchestra from a devastating lockout. The restoration began with a change in administration. A new chairman started informal talks between musicians and board members. A new president demonstrated an “ethic of transparent communication and respect.”
Compare that approach to that taken by the U administration in the proposed integration of the University of Minnesota Physicians and Fairview Health Systems. In November, the U president obtained emergency approval from a minority of the regents to pay $1.5 million to one accounting firm to provide consulting services for the merger and to pay $425,000 to another accounting firm to “facilitate” the process to reach an agreement on the integration by March 2016.
We need a change in the attitude of the U administration to an ethic of transparent communication and respect. That will produce the greater support from the Legislature that the editorial advocates.
Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville
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A big thank you to Chip Scoggins for his two-day series on athletic directors (Dec. 19-20). From painting a picture of what the job is all about on Saturday, to Sunday’s article on what Beth Goetz is all about as she fills the “interim’ job,” the reporting was very well done. I was particularly struck by Sunday’s article. This young lady should be encouraged to apply for the permanent job. She is exactly what the U needs as it tries to mend its fences with everyone who cares about the university. I hope those who have some influence with the day-to-day operation of the U will help her decide to pursue this job, and I hope that Goetz gets that opportunity. She seems a perfect “fit”!
Jim Stromberg, Edina
D.J. TICE COLUMN ON CHRISTMAS
Go back and track this down if you haven’t read it already
Bravo, D.J Tice! Your Dec. 20 column “Once upon a time, Christmas was out of this world” was excellent. Required reading. I’m sending a copy to each of my children and adult grandchildren.
Dorene Davick, Bloomington