We were pleased to read that the Minnesota Department of Transportation provided schools with $250,000 to support walking and biking through its Safe Routes to School program (“More than 100 Minnesota schools get grants to support biking and walking,” Feb. 11). As retired generals, we can tell you that this is good news, because nearly one in three young Americans is too physically unfit to join the military, and we need to do more to encourage an active, healthy lifestyle.

The bad news is that MnDOT was able to fund only half of the dollars requested for school-based walking and biking efforts due to a limited availability of funds under the program. As the Legislature and the governor consider transportation funding this session, they need to include sufficient dollars to support walking and biking, especially among Minnesota’s youths. Doing so will not only improve our children’s health, it will also strengthen our national security.

Dennis W. Schulstad, Edina, and HARRY SIEBEN JR., Hastings

 

The writers are retired U.S. Air Force brigadier generals.

MINNEAPOLIS PARKS

Interests, it seems, evolve over 132 years

A group of business leaders met in Minneapolis 132 years ago this month to draft a bill to present to the Legislature that would create an elected park board — and parks — for Minneapolis. That foresight transformed a city. Those visionary leaders convened under the auspices of the Board of Trade, the forerunner of today’s Chamber of Commerce. The contrast between their actions and those of today’s chamber, which supports Graco’s attempt to extort land from the Park Board (Opinion Exchange, Feb. 18), is starkly discouraging.

I’m no fan of the Park Board’s present plans for the land Graco covets so badly that it will renege on its commitments to grant an easement for a riverfront trail, but that plan will require partnerships with private developers. Let Graco live up to its past agreements and maybe there could be room for discussion on its participation in those plans. Meanwhile, Graco has more than two acres of surface parking lots at its property in northeast Minneapolis. Perhaps better use of that land would obviate the need to carve two acres of riverfront from parks.

David C. Smith, Minneapolis

The writer is author of “City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks.”

 

DRIVER’S LICENSE SYSTEM

Or maybe it’s profits vs. state taxpayers

The Feb. 18 letter concerning the “modernization” of the state’s driver’s license and vehicle registration system (“It’s state bureaucracy vs. free enterprise, and taxpayers lose”) had the tiresome aura of “government bad; free enterprise good,” but some of us who have worked in the IT industry recognize the story for what it is: usual overselling by a private business to maximize income by prolonging implementation of yet another inadequate solution.

Mark Hanlon, Eagan

 

DANCE CONTROVERSY

Was the five-team boycott bullying?

We have been hearing the word “plagiarism” bandied about these last few days in regard to the state high-kick dance competition that took place Saturday. The word, I think, that should really be talked about is bullying — for that is what happened that night. And it is for all to see by looking at the other YouTube video — not the split-screen one comparing the Faribault team’s routine to that of a team from Utah, but the one where we see a small group of girls lined up for their earned first-place reward, then looking somewhat puzzled. Who knows what they were thinking, but obviously they felt that they were in the wrong, so they inched closer to the five other teams, only to see the other five teams move away from them.

So is this bullying? I think so. You decide. Definition: Deliberately unfriendly behavior. Tending to browbeat others. Tending to domineer. From stopbullying.gov: Embarrassing someone in public, telling other children not to be friends with someone. So, yes, these girls were bullied, but so, perhaps, were some of the 150 other girls in the “protest” group who maybe did not want to participate in this action, but who felt they dare not oppose a coach who was so obviously in charge of what they say and do.

OK, parents. The media hasn’t heard from you. They’re your kids. It’s your turn.

Tina Landeen, Edina

• • •

My heart breaks for all of the girls and coaches involved in the dance controversy. As passionately as the Faribault team believes it played by the rules, the other five teams believe that Faribault didn’t. And this is a sport governed by substantial and unique rules.

Most of the commentary has focused on defending one side or the other. What about examining the original decision by the Minnesota State High School League to approve the Faribault dance? Who are these people? What is their expertise related to dance? Did they have any of the experienced, talented judges who see hours and hours of dances every year compare the Faribault dance to the Utah dance, and weigh in on the original decision to approve the dance? Was their decision without bias? Could they have foreseen the mess created if they in fact bent the rules they themselves set, and what responsibility do they bear?

The five teams are criticized for poor sportsmanship, but I can appreciate the abject frustration and powerlessness when you feel like the authorities just got it wrong. (Anybody recall widespread protests in our country lately?) Let’s be sure we know before any consequences are executed.

Patty Morrissey, Apple Valley

 

MEANWHILE IN BEHAVIOR …

Ignorance seizes the day in Vermont

Here’s some anecdotal evidence that prejudice and ignorance correlate. A Vermont lawmaker proposed that the state’s motto include “Stella quarta decima fulgeat.” (That’s Latin, not Spanish, and it means “the 14th star shines bright.”) Before long, people complained on the Internet that Vermont and America are not Latino or Mexican.

Apparently, not all bigots live in Alabama. (Trouble is, at least some of them vote.)

Jim Bartos, Brooklyn Park

 

MINNESOTA’S ‘BRAND’

The arts reasonably belong in any slogan

If Minnesota needs a brand, I suspect “North” will do (as has recently been promoted), but after listening through two stunning concerts at Orchestra Hall over the Valentine’s Day weekend, Minnesota’s brand for me is “land of poetry and song.”

I am not a longtime resident. If I had better understood what a rich life of the arts I would find here, I might have hurried to come. The Twin Cities, of course, are arts central to the state, but small arts councils, small-town poets, theaters, performers and artists are at hand everywhere. This unique arts brand has immense value and deserves wider recognition.

Judith S. Rose, Alexandria, Minn.