“Taking risks to pursue the American dream” was the headline and “For some poor families, moving to the suburbs is the route up the income ladder” was the subtitle on the Dec. 28 installment of the “Rising from poverty” series (Dec. 28-30). This front-page, above-the-fold story failed to deliver what was promised in the display text.
After the subject of the story moved from Chicago to Minneapolis, the federal government moved her and her children to Chaska for an economic leg up. I read the article from start to finish and never found the “route up the income ladder.” I read that the family had a difficult time adjusting to Chaska socially but soldiered on to make friends and enjoy school. We, the readers, will never know if they would have been as happy or possibly happier if they had stayed put. The family seems very nice and I feel sure they are lovely, but how are they better off financially, and how much public money was invested in this and the other families? And last, how did we, the people of Minnesota, benefit from this experiment in social engineering and use of tax dollars?
Elizabeth Anderson, Minnetonka
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I’m not sure if the article about Ethrophic Burnett was a feel-good story or a slap in the face. I’m all for giving people a helping hand when they fall on hard times, but I also expect them to help themselves by making wise, responsible decisions when receiving public benefits. Having six children when you are “poor” and getting taxpayer-provided services does not pass that requirement. Neither does dressing head to toe in expensive Victoria’s Secret apparel. Nor getting tattoos.
Does personal responsibility ever enter the equation in these situations? The first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging. Children are the biggest “shovel” there is. Unfortunately this story appears to be the rule, not the exception.
The people who write the check, those of us who work our tails off, deserve better, deserve accountability for the dollars that are handed out to the less fortunate. As part of this, birth control should be mandatory, and cigarettes, alcohol and unhealthy food should not be allowable purchases using EBT funds.
John G. Morgan, Burnsville
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Burnett and her family put a human face on the complex implications of public investments and regulations to improve communities. Their journey highlights the challenges and benefits to creating affordable-housing opportunities in wealthy suburban areas and increasing resources to historically disinvested inner-city neighborhoods.
The story errs, however, in stating that the Supreme Court found that the federal housing agency broke the law in not putting enough affordable housing in the Dallas suburbs. While it was an important ruling, the court decided only that the concentration of affordable housing in areas of poverty could be considered in deciding whether fair housing law was violated — even absent an explicit act of treating a population differently because of race.
That this narrow federal court ruling was cited as significant underscores the limitations to federal support for efforts to address poverty in Minnesota. Yes, even prior to President-elect Donald Trump taking office, the federal government has not done a great deal to provide the funding or regulatory tools needed to improve inner-city areas or expand the access to the opportunities found in many suburban communities. For the next four years, at least, solutions to these challenges in Minnesota must come from Minnesotans. That requires a majority of people in this state to see at least an element of the success and challenges faced by the Burnetts as their success and challenges.
Chip Halbach, Minneapolis
The writer is executive director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.
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Part two of the series (“Prosperity grows out of small-town America,” Dec. 29) tries to figure out the “rural recipe” for upward mobility. But the author misses one important factor that leads to better outcomes: Rural children grow up working. They work on family farms, on neighbors’ farms, in local businesses, and doing chores at home. They develop a strong work ethic from a young age, in a way that no longer happens in urban areas.
Deborah Levison, Minneapolis
The writer is a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
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Regarding part three of the series (“Housing struggles force tough choices for the poor,” Dec. 30): The scale of this affordable housing crisis is so large that our region will only be able to address it with a “both/and” or “all of the above” approach.
The affordable-housing industry provides units and most in it provide excellent management, but the industry doesn’t build capacity, jobs and neighborhood homeownership. Affordable-housing developers must continue at their pace, but there are other forms of affordable development that must be facilitated by reducing regulatory barriers without adversely affecting health, safety and welfare, by building neighborhood capacity; educating for local ownership; training for construction jobs skills; building more NIMBY-resistant, time-tested, low-rise, high-density house types common to other parts of the country instead of solely building high-rise towers, and other strategies.
The Metropolitan Council is rightly proud of what it has accomplished with its Livable Communities Act (LCA) carrot. It needs to develop the courage to use sticks to enforce some of the effective things recommended in this thread. Equitable distribution is also crucial to broader success in a host of livability indexes.
Run the calculations on the number of units created by the LCA over its 20 years so far. If the Met Council projects these numbers forward and uses only this “demonstration” method of affordability delivery, and if we do not continue to lose affordable units to conversion to market rate, and if the council’s growth projections are correct, and if other federal, state, county and municipal programs continue to operate at current effectiveness, by 2040 the Minneapolis-St. Paul region will have a shortfall of 124,000 households (that’s approximately the entire population of St. Paul without housing).
Our region is on the brink of experiencing the impacted problems suffered by metros like Seattle, Portland, Boulder/Denver, and Austin, Texas — all victims of their own success. This is our critical time, but Minneapolis is a place that knows enough to address these problems, and, I believe, has the leadership to do better than those other magnet cities. We need the political will and the commitment to work together.
B. Aaron Parker, Minneapolis
The writer is an architect, urban designer, and developer, a senior research fellow at the Metropolitan Design Center in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, and board president of the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing (MICAH).
If you’d like to understand better, start with this book
On any day, one can read headlines, or see on TV, opinions, statements, questions about Israel and the Palestinians.
For a better understanding of this complicated world, I recommend reading “Israel, A Concise History of a Nation Reborn” by Daniel Gordis. From hopes for a homeland, to the time of the Holocaust, to the history of relations between the Jews and Palestinians, the writer offers facts and clarity. One can make one’s own judgment.
Helen Klanderud, Bloomington