In looking at the Feb. 8 map of the Dakota Access pipeline running under an area of the Missouri River otherwise known as Lake Oahe, I could not help thinking about the prospect of similar construction under Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River. Minnesota and Wisconsin would never allow it, protests and outrage would be so overwhelming. These great rivers are crucial to our nation’s watersheds and greater commonwealth. Yet once again, North Dakota and the Army Corps of Engineers have resumed this misguided construction through eminent domain under one of our great rivers and affecting the water source of the Standing Rock Reservation (“U.S. gives the green light to Dakota Access pipeline”). The Standing Rock Tribe is correct and heroic in its role as water protectors for us all. Stand with Standing Rock and call senators, members of Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers to oppose.
Brad Beal, Minneapolis
‘Show me the numbers,’ letter writer demands. As you wish …
A law to ban the use of a handheld cellphone is viewed by a Feb. 9 letter writer as just another source of revenue for the counties, state and legal profession. This letter writer wants to see the data on how many accidents or deaths have been caused by people talking on phones compared with other distractions. With the inference being what, exactly? That cellphone use has caused far fewer deaths than by some other driving distraction? Of course, the logical extension of such an inference would be that having fewer deaths is somehow OK.
What I find extremely troubling about this letter writer’s argument is it sounds very much like the dissenting opinions that abounded back in the days when MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was pushing legislatures across the country to adopt stricter laws. One only needs to spend a few minutes to do some online research to find data on distracted driving and its devastating impact on highway safety. From the website www.distraction.gov, one simple statistic shows that more than 3,000 deaths in 2014 were the result of distracted drivers!
Holding a cellphone and driving is a distraction, and the letter writer readily admits as much by saying that scrolling through contacts or dialing a number might distract a phone user for a “couple of seconds.” We are asked to believe that looking out our windshield at a billboard is every bit as distracting as looking down at a phone.
I don’t know about your phone, but mine has hundreds of contacts, and scrolling through those would take more than a few seconds. And typing a phone number is no different from sending a text, both of which take more than a few seconds. The bottom line is that when your eyes are focused on your phone, you are not looking out your windshield. In just three seconds of “scrolling” or “dialing” at 60 miles per hour, your car has traveled just under the length of a football field (88 yards, to be exact).
To anyone who has lost a loved one to a distracted driver, cracking down on this phenomenon is not a major inconvenience. I lost a good friend to a distracted driver, and I say any law that can be passed to make it easier to keep such drivers, regardless of the distraction, from killing someone is a law worth having.
Mike Koepke, Eden Prairie
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While I do applaud the recent introduction of the handheld cellphone ban bill in the Minnesota Legislature as a great idea, I have to wonder when this law will be enforced. I highly doubt law enforcement is going to give it any more impetus than, say, the comparable no-texting-while-driving law that is rarely enforced now. Besides, these days I see cops on the phone all the time. Are they going to “self-police”? Are there funds included in this bill to hire and employ more officers to enforce the law?
Please, let’s not bother with a law that is a very good idea but will not be enforced.
Jeff Fuller, Brooklyn Park
If legality is the only concern, do we truly value morality?
Stephen B. Young ends his Feb. 10 commentary, “Our door opens only when we choose,” with the possibly correct assertion that Minnesota and Washington state have no legal basis to ask on behalf of foreign persons that they be admitted to the U.S. contrary to our federal laws. But, as executive director of the Caux Round Table, an international network of business leaders working to promote moral capitalism, surely he is aware that legality is not the only basis for acting on behalf of foreign persons. The organization he directs bases its international work on morality, not legality. It acts for people who need a moral work environment. Certainly he can extrapolate from the Round Table to the current moral reasoning behind Minnesota’s and Washington state’s legal appeal.
Elaine Frankowski, Minneapolis
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I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to all the attorneys who have volunteered their time and expertise to help refugees and visa holders at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. According to the Star Tribune, 200 to 250 Minnesota attorneys have volunteered to take a shift at the airport. These attorneys are backed up by an off-site immigration attorney and a federal litigator. In the words of one of those attorneys, “For us, it isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a question of law, and the law is very clear.”
Thank you all for what you do.
Cindy Gentling, Minneapolis
RELIGION AND POLITICS
Churches as leaders in social change? That role is overstated.
The Feb. 8 letter “This is about the exchange of ideas in the public square,” about the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment regarding religion and politics, overlooks the history of the church as being a follower of social change, not a leader. The church cannot claim to have been leaders in the civil-rights movement; it did not lead the Vietnam demonstrations or the gay-rights movement. There is a very good reason for the church’s low profile in these causes, and it is a financial reason. What clergy wants to upset a segment of his congregation by taking an unpopular stand? The disapproving members may speak with their feet and withdraw their financial support. Clergy have actually hidden behind the Johnson Amendment to avoid taking a stand on important social issues. Maintaining their tax-exempt status would appear to be a good reason for remaining silent on political-social issues.
Wesley Fitzsimmons, Minnetonka
Can’t bother to count coins? Then I won’t be a customer.
I learned a basic saving technique years ago — pay with dollar bills for everything, and at the end of the day, put all your change in a jar. When the jar is full, take it to the bank and put it in savings. It’s also the way every child begins to save. Now Wells Fargo wants to take away one of its few truly useful free customer services, because it is somewhat costly to maintain (“Wells Fargo to pull plug on lobby coin counters,” Feb. 10). So much for “Vision and Values” and putting the customer first. Now “customers will need to roll their coins”? The bank doesn’t seem to have a problem keeping its ATMs going for deposits (which are serviced by an outside agency). My savings will be going elsewhere.
John Flannagan, Minneapolis