A couple of state representatives are co-authoring a bill that would make it illegal to use a handheld phone while driving (“Bill aims to stop ‘carnage on our roads’,” Feb. 8). While I think this is a fantastic idea and long overdue, it also has to “hurt” if an offender is convicted. (Under the current distracted-driving law, the fine is $50 for first offenders and $250 for second-timers.) If we find later that these fines aren’t having an effect, it will be much more difficult to change than to have handled it correctly from the get-go.

Dave Colburn, Hayfield, Minn.

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First off, show me the numbers. How many accidents/injuries/deaths have been attributed to a driver with a phone to their ear? Also, let’s see a comparison with other distractions.

If “talking” is a distraction, then there should be a law against talking to your passengers, and even singing along with the radio when driving.

I see no point in instituting a ban on using a handheld cellphone while driving except for creating a new revenue stream for counties and state. Dealing with children in your car is more distracting. Eating while driving is more distracting. Messing with the radio/climate controls/GPS is much more distracting than driving down the road with one hand on the wheel, the other holding the phone against your ear and both eyes on the road.

True, it may take a couple of seconds to dial a number, or scroll through your contacts to find the number of the person you want to call (not even that if you are simply answering an outside call), but, again, that distraction can’t be more than the others I’ve listed.

Perhaps roadside signs and billboards should be banned as well, as my reading their messages takes my eyes and mind away from the operation of a motor vehicle. Sometimes the scenery, whether natural or man-made, will distract drivers from applying their full attention to the road in front of them.

Are there going to be some less-than-intelligent-people out there who put themselves in a needless distractive situation, whether it be talking on the phone or eating or playing with the other buttons on their car at 70 miles per hour in four lanes of traffic? Yes, there are, but a law forbidding it is not going to change their actions. It’s only going to inconvenience the vast majority of the public and create a new revenue stream for not only the counties and state, but also the legal profession.

Bret R. Collier, Big Lake, Minn.


MFSA leaders oblivious before the fact, and maybe still

The simultaneous release of the legislative auditor’s 100-page report finding the obvious — that the use of the US Bank stadium suites by Michele Kelm-Helgen and Ted Mondale was unethical — and the publication of the culprits’ attempted defense of their conduct was very instructive (“Stadium suite use found unethical,” front page, and “Our stewardship of the people’s stadium,” Opinion Exchange, Feb. 8.)

What was readily apparent to virtually all seems not yet to have penetrated the consciousness or conscience of either MSFA Chair Kelm-Helgen or the authority’s executive director, Mondale. Their lengthy self-defense comes down to the lame excuse that “the original suite use policy was carried over from the policy of the Metrodome.” Assuming that to be the case, it is difficult to believe either of them ever read that policy. Kelm-Helgen’s and Mondale’s decades of involvement in politics should have at least triggered the smell test, which their plans most assuredly failed. They are employed by the people of Minnesota, operating a government facility. If they operated a state park, would they feel entitled to admit friends and family at no charge and then feed them using public funds?

Mondale deserves special attention. As an attorney subject to explicit rules of professional responsibility, a former state senator and the former chair of the Metropolitan Council, he should have instinctively shied away from the personal use of public facilities. That he did not speaks volumes of his character or lack thereof.

Most amazing of all they wrote is the complete absence of any sense of having done anything wrong. It’s time both resigned and allowed professionals to operate the stadium. We’ve had enough of entitled political appointees, thank you.

James M. Hamilton, St. Paul


The dividing line on DeVos

Creating a great America is a laudable goal. Education is the bedrock of a great nation. Disagreements about policy are expected and should be welcome. The political paths we take are, and always have been, debatable. And politics — well, it’s messy, tough and mostly a biased affair. However, the power and worth of public education should transcend politics.

Sometimes senators and members of Congress should support what is right for the country and not their party. Every senator who voted Tuesday to confirm Betsy DeVos as education secretary should have their name read at every PTA meeting, every public school fundraising event and every high school graduation.

DeVos says she is passionate about education, yet she knows nothing about summative and formative assessment. She hopes to let schools and teachers have guns, when most elementary teachers hide their adult scissors. She does not support many programs for special-education students. According to a commentary by the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, “DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.”

And yet those who lack concern or courage voted for a person who is hostile to public education to lead the nation’s public schools. Shame on them!

Roger A. Mahn, Plymouth

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If you want your children to be open-minded and intelligent, then you should support DeVos for secretary of education, because she believes in trusting parents more than pointy-headed bureaucrats to know what is best for their children. Our bureaucratic, top-down, government-run schools are a mess. The costs keep going up, but the student performance is stagnant. The programs that DeVos supports, such as tax credits, charters, vouchers and educational savings accounts, are exactly the kind of changes that are needed to improve educational outcomes. Remember, he who pays the piper calls the tune. In education, that means that government monopoly over education will produce students who are obedient servants of the government. Freedom and choice are what is needed. Betsy DeVos will provide that.

Roy Miller, Phoenix

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The Los Angeles Times editorial board (Short Takes, Feb. 8) gives a shout-out to Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, because they were the only two Republican senators to vote against the confirmation of DeVos. And, the board opines, “a few heads should be hanging with shame in the Senate.”

School choice, championed by DeVos, threatens union power. Many families have little choice beyond public schools, due to the legislative influence of monopolistic teachers’ unions and their progressive, politician partners.

Perhaps it was an oversight — but the Times editorial board neglected to mention that these two Republican senators are the only two who routinely receive A’s on the National Education Association’s “report card.” The other 50 of 52 Republican senators aren’t in the union’s pocket.

Only two Republican senators’ heads should be hanging with shame.

Gene Delaune, New Brighton