The Mississippi River is followed by train tracks from Little Falls, Minn., to our state’s southern border (“Dakota Access pipeline: What if it ran under Lake Pepin?” Readers Write, Feb. 11). The trains running along the river carry oil. Living in the north metro, I can observe the tracks carrying oil trains most days. The population of the Standing Rock tribe is 8,217 (Wikipedia). The combined population of Minneapolis and St. Paul is 694,943 (Google). These two cities pull their water from the Mississippi. The Upper Mississippi River Basin supplies 7 billion gallons of water a day to the many communities and plants along its banks. The Missouri River supports far less. The area of the crossing is sparsely populated. This large unpopulated stretch of river is an ideal place to cross when we compare it with the risks of trains running along the river for several hundreds of miles in a more populous basin. Idealism needs to step aside and allow a pragmatic solution. The crossing serves residents in the states bordering the Upper Mississippi well.

Tom Smith, Coon Rapids

U.S. REP. ERIK PAULSEN

Yes, he earned endorsement and reputation as independent

U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen deserved the newspaper’s endorsement for re-election (“Living up to Editorial Board’s endorsement?” Readers Write, Feb. 7). How did he earn it? From his unflinching support of legislation combating human trafficking, and his innovative ideas for lessening the burdens of government by making tax-deductible charitable donations more universal. Paulsen authored or co-sponsored three acts in 2014 and 2015 for which all parents, grandparents and socially conscious Minnesotans should be grateful. Those laws make recovering missing children easier, help stop exploitation of vulnerable youth, and strengthen families. To promote community support through charitable giving he authored HR894, the Interest for Others Act of 2017, which, if passed, will massively increase charitable donations and give nonitemizing taxpayers a financial incentive to make charitable gifts. Sure, he votes with the Republican majority on many issues, but in that respect he is representative of his constituents. His independent thinking remains intact in important ways.

William Dolan, Minneapolis

U.S. SEN. AL FRANKEN

Dignity of his office should have meant no backsliding to comedy

“What Franken told Bill Maher about Trump”: U.S. Sen. Al Franken should live up to the distinguished honor he has been given to represent his constituency in Minnesota and act with the respect the job requires. For him to make snide comments about the president’s competency because he is from another party and being able to laugh it off and admit it was cheap and not very diplomatic (“What Franken told Bill Maher about Trump,” Feb. 12) is reverting to his former self as a comedian. Rumors begin this way and take on a life of their own. What Franken is doing is encouraging discord among citizens for his or anyone’s perceived slight or difference and giving another excuse and/or permission to rise up and demonstrate.

A senator or representative has the responsibility when he accepts office to act with dignity, seriousness and for the benefit of this country’s entire population. Where has the dignity of this great country gone? Where has conciliation gone? No wonder children are following the adult example of acting out and causing incidents of frightening havoc. I believe the only truth there was to Franken’s conversation was: “There are some [members of Congress] who I guess don’t talk to me.” Franken — presidential buzz? (“Why Al Franken makes a weird amount of sense as a 2020 presidential candidate,” StarTribune.com, Feb. 6.) Give me a break. If that happened, we would have huge issues which he would just laugh off as whatever he said or did was another joke. I guess once a comedian, always a comedian, and that’s how we should take what Al Franken says.

Dorothy Ochis, Eagan

PRESIDENT TRUMP

Intrepid — that’s the word that describes this great man’s appeal

A fellow conservative cousin of mine calls President Trump “intrepid.” This isn’t a word I use regularly, so I googled it and got the definition: “Fearless, unafraid, undaunted, unflinching, unshrinking, bold, daring, gallant, audacious, adventurous, heroic, dynamic, spirited, indomitable.” And, there was more.

Yes, this describes The Donald, all right! This is why we patriotic conservative Americans voted for him!

Joel C. Eliason, Hudson, Wis.

RACISM

Overapplied, the term lacks its impact when it fits most

Reading the Feb. 11 article “Scarsella evidence portrays a racist” reminded me of the old fable about the boy who cried wolf. After repeated false alarms by the boy, when a wolf really arrived, no one responded when he again called for help and the sheep were lost.

Whites today are constantly told that, regardless of how progressive their views and how diverse their relationships, they harbor deeply rooted racism, whether they know it or not. If you question the “rotten to the core” assumptions about the U.S. judicial system of Black Lives Matter, or suggest that the behavior of some African-American men negatively impacts their ability to succeed, you are likely to be labeled a “racist.”

So now when men with disgustingly hateful attitudes and actions like Scarsella are labeled appropriately as “racists,” the term is nearly meaningless.

Jerry Anderson, Eagan

RURAL AREAS AND SMALL TOWNS

Are they truly best-served by the issues getting priority?

There’s a lot of press and talk these days about supporting education choice and about selling liquor on Sunday. During political campaigns and elections, politicians promise that they will keep metropolitan and outstate constituencies in balance as they create state and federal legislation. But are they? Putting politics and Sunday football aside, forgetting about teacher unions and test scores, and ignoring anything related to money and funding, the current rhetoric doesn’t match the political promises.

How exactly do outstate families and students benefit from school choice or vouchers? Although I now live in one of our “upscale” suburbs, I was raised and went to school in small towns (one of about 250 residents, another with 2,400). Students outstate do not have choice in their schools. Many outstate towns have just one public school, or students may have to bus to consolidated schools. So when our legislators are making decisions about public education, they must not let their decisions about what is best for our metropolitan schools outweigh the needs for our outstate schools. I do not have children in school, but I do have family who still live in small towns, so I care that they get the same degree of consideration that our metro schools do. And “choice” isn’t a realistic option across the board.

Just how do Sunday liquor sales benefit the businesses in small towns? There are only so many people in those towns who buy liquor, so the expense of staying open one more day does not help them make more money. To the contrary, it costs them money to stay open. If our legislators mean what they said about balancing decisions for outstate with those for the metro area, they will take this legislation off the table (and stop using taxpayer money to discuss it). And they will not let the 2018 hosting of the Super Bowl influence their decision.

Rebecca Fuller, Woodbury