Beyond public policy, benefits for genealogy

A recent news story described the current controversy about census taking ("What's riding on the 2010 census?" March 7). It overlooked a major long-term benefit of answering the census: Your great grandchildren will thank you when they can find out where and how you lived.

As a family historian, I'd get nowhere without the census. It's the first place you look to find your roots. Individual census records aren't available to the public for 75 years, which is beyond the recollection of most people. These records give context to people's lives, track them back to their earliest origins in this country and tell us when they immigrated and from where.

Starting my work with the 1990 census, I was able to find out my great-great-grandfather's address, birth date and place. There's no other source that compiles this level of detail about families as a starting point for the rest of the work. So fill out your census and preserve your place in history.


mortgage deduction

Target tax break to those who need it most

With the state swimming in debt, perhaps it should stop subsidizing mansions, second homes and $1 million mortgages. A recent Star Tribune article ("Report stirs up talk over mortgage interest deduction," March 10) leaves the impression that the only option for cutting back on the mortgage interest deduction -- a huge drain on the state budget -- is to scrap it altogether.

There are scaled-back options. Most of the deduction actually goes to households with higher incomes, bigger (or second) homes, and larger mortgages.

So let's target the deduction to people who actually need it. One line on state tax forms could ask higher-income households to limit their deduction to their primary residence or limit the amount of mortgage interest that can be deducted. Or perhaps $1 million of debt is too much for the state to subsidize. Maybe we could limit the deduction to the average homeowner's mortgage debt.

All these ideas have been proposed in years past as a way to stop a governor from slashing affordable-housing budgets or programs that help low-income renters. With a record number of people experiencing homelessness or struggling to stay in their homes, Minnesota needs to take a hard look at misplaced tax deductions.



All the fixins, even if they're not on the menu

It brought a smile to my face when I read about the hot dogs at the new ballpark. ("Wiener winner: Schweigert," March 8).

The brand, the company, the restaurant -- should we or shouldn't we have this good food -- etc.

No one seems to mention the dioxin, mercury and cinders that will fall into their dogs and beer, not to mention the stink that will accompany their fine dining experience from the garbage incinerator next door. I encourage ballpark attendees to lobby public officials to close down the burner and at least take a leadership position in saying no to the requested 21 percent expansion.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has stated that he does not want to take any energy option off the table. Ask him to show the leadership of an aspiring governor and keep cinders from your beer and your lungs.



Teaching trades might reduce dropout rate

Right on, Star Tribune editorial staff, a reprieve on the Graduation Required Assessments for a Diploma would fail our Minnesota students (editorial, March 8). Just as importantly, I believe, would be to resume adding industrial arts courses in our high schools. Not all students seek college admission, and we are neglecting the needs of those better suited for professions in the trades. Wouldn't this reduce the dropout rate?


gamc politics

Governor shows wrong style of leadership

A letter writer ("GAMC Remedy: Cost savings should be a model for national reform," March 9) claims that Gov. Tim Pawlenty's initial veto and threat to move General Assistance Medical Care patients to MinnesotaCare eventually accomplished the intended effect -- getting out-of-control spending of GAMC under control, and that this approach should now become a model for national health care reform.

The writer ignores several facts. The original plan to eliminate GAMC and shift people to MinnesotaCare would have also shifted the cost of paying for their care to the Health Care Access Fund and downsized the number of working Minnesotans eligible for MinnesotaCare. The writer also ignores that Pawlenty has pulled $400 million from the access fund to help balance the budget in years past and had to revise his original budget cuts last year that would have increased the number of uninsured by 115,000 because acceptance of federal stimulus dollars required the state to maintain the number of people covered by the state safety net programs.

Finally the writer fails to mention that Hennepin County has raised county taxes to pay for uncompensated care at Hennepin County Medical Center due to state budget cuts. Shifting of responsibility to others, inability to be honest with voters about who pays for the uncompensated care of the uninsured, willingness to increase the number of uninsured while refusing to raise taxes on those who continue to have plenty of financial cushion -- these are not indicative of the type of leadership this country needs in the national health care reform debate or any other national debate.