We live in a city with some of the finest art, music and theater in the country. So I cannot understand why I keep seeing patrons “getting a head start” by walking out of performances at the Minnesota Orchestra and Orpheum (to name a few) during applause following the performance.

These talented musicians and performers spent the previous two hours entertaining you and showcasing their incredible talent. So unless you have mobility issues or young children, please show them the respect they deserve and stay through the end of the applause.

If you can’t be bothered to extend that elementary courtesy, please consider staying home next time.

Mike Obradovich, Minneapolis

FORESTS AND FARMING

The role of the safety net in land use

Thank you for your recent articles on the connection between large-scale potato production, deforestation and water pollution (Feb. 2 and Feb. 6). I applaud the decision by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to study the effects of potato processor R.D. Offutt’s expansion. While being aware of the effects of deforestation is important, it is also critical that we understand an underlying cause: the federal crop insurance program.

Originally set up as a basic safety net for farmers, crop insurance now generates such excessive subsidies for the largest producers that it all but eliminates the financial risks associated with what would otherwise be high-risk farming. These public subsidies minimize the risk of planting marginal land, like the pine forests that sit on a permeable aquifer. By guaranteeing income on fragile land, crop insurance incentivizes environmental harm.

To understand just how big the economic incentive is to plow under Minnesota’s forests, consider the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop insurance subsidy data and the agency’s Title I crop subsidy statistics. By cross-referencing these data, the Land Stewardship Project determined that in 2011 alone, Minnesota’s biggest potato producer benefited from more than $1 million in premium subsidies. The state’s (and the nation’s) biggest potato producer is Offutt.

We must demand crop insurance reform that reduces subsidies to the largest operations and connects any subsidies to positive conservation outcomes. Until we do, deforestation will continue to be subsidized by the public treasury.

Katilyn O’Connor, Minneapolis

 

SUNDAY LIQUOR SALES

What we risk with one more day of alcohol

A Feb. 2 commentary by legislators Roger Reinert and Jenifer Loon spoke of the need for Sunday liquor sales, noting the increased sales and tax revenue ($7.6 million to $10.6 million) that would be generated.

Alcohol is the most dangerous of all drugs. This is the finding of the Scientific Committee on Drugs originating in England. It is judged on its impact on individuals as well as on the community. Alcohol is three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco. In the United States alone, alcohol-related deaths amount to about 80,000 people a year. Surprisingly, we advertise the harmful effects of tobacco, yet encourage the consumption of alcohol.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the cost of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S. as $223.5 billion. These costs can be found in lost workplace productivity, health care expenses, criminal-justice expenses and the motor-vehicle-crash costs. Last, of all intoxicating substances, alcohol is most closely associated with lethal violence. Forty percent of all incarcerations are for violent crimes committed while under the influence of alcohol.

One suggestion offered by the CDC for controlling excessive alcohol consumption is limiting the hours and days for alcohol sales. Why not hold onto a little bit of the past and keep Sundays alcohol-free?

Don Lohrey, Burnsville

 

MILITARY TAXES

That $750 credit isn’t really such a prize

The Feb. 4 editorial urging the Legislature not to pass legislation on a military retirement tax exemption (because the state has already been generous with military retirees) was deceptive.

The editorial stated: “American fighting forces have sacrificed much in the last decade and deserve tangible thanks. In that spirit, Minnesota has provided military retirees and disabled veterans with an income tax credit of $750 per year since 2008.” This intimates that the credit is enjoyed by the majority of Minnesota military retirees, when actually very few qualify for what was designed for impoverished retirees. The $30,000 annual income ceiling to qualify for the full credit (and the credit’s elimination above an income of $37,000 for joint filers) disqualifies most Minnesota military pensions from tax relief. Most military veterans and their widows receive no tax relief, especially those over 65 (many disabled in the service) living on limited incomes in the twilight of life.

Minnesota has a reputation as one of the stingiest states in granting tax relief for military retirees, lagging 36 states that honor military retirees in this way. Nothing of any substance has ever been done in Minnesota, as it has been in 75 percent of other states, to welcome and retain military retirees.

David Thompson, Rosemount

 

STATE CABINET PAY

Dayton’s largesse is out of proportion

It amazes me that Gov. Mark Dayton finds it necessary to give such substantial raises for an entire Cabinet because he claims we need to “keep and attract” the most-talented people. I understand that raises are part of any occupation, but to jump them 19 to 58 percent across the board in one year?

One would hope the best people running state government are those who dedicate themselves to the public because they are passionate about their work and want to make a positive impact, not because they want to make six-figure salaries.

Angelea Marriott, Stillwater

 

SCOTT WALKER

Wisconsin’s politics, Pawlenty’s playbook

Ah, déjà vu. Wisconsin’s predicament takes us back to the Tim Pawlenty era. Our governor then, like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker now, had Potomac fever and held the state hostage to personal dreams for eight years. One of the worst legacies of that era was setting back road maintenance and construction so far that we’re still catching up. (Pawlenty also borrowed from the schools and stole tobacco settlement money.) I hope Wisconsin’s legislature also has enough courageous members to pass a transportation bill over a gubernatorial veto, even if it means putting their own seats at risk. Otherwise, perhaps, another huge bridge will collapse.

Like our governor, Walker will be long gone by the time his state has to make up those deficits. At least Pawlenty didn’t get to Washington. Walker should have learned from that.

Mary McLeod, St. Paul