I read with great interest the June 16 story about Shelia Van Pelt’s mission to make HMO care investigations public (“A solitary fight to end the silence”). She is not alone; I know several people besides me who admire her and cheer her on. She has put in exhausting effort to get to the truth and to get government folks to follow through.
Why is it our government, which ought to protect the citizens of Minnesota, won’t listen to their real needs? Oh, yeah, they are being heard, but for some reason the state’s “politicians” are protecting big business from the innocents. Until someone in power grabs these problems head-on, people like Van Pelt will be forced to continue to spend far too many hours to get the “wood” out of the eyes of those obstructing justice.
I’m hoping that our “politicians” line up this summer to get in touch with Van Pelt. They should apologize that she has to put this much effort in to get her message across. They should also work on making HMO care investigations public. Until then, yes, they are “politicians,” not truly elected officials serving in our best interest.
Paul Tuveson, Woodbury
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I’m impressed with James Eli Shiffer’s reporting on the problem of secrecy in Minnesota government, especially when such secrecy is designed to shelter and aid corporate profitability. The story about the woman’s fight to remove the secrecy from complaints to the state about quality of health care reveals another way that HMOs and the state are not adequately accountable to the public. I have been in contact with the woman, and she told me there is bipartisan support to correct this situation. A bill, SF1517, can be taken up in February when the Legislature convenes again. With that in mind, I asked my two legislators to support that bill. I think most Minnesotans would agree that logic and decency require that formal complaints to the state should have outcomes disclosed and publicly documented.
Diane J. Peterson, White Bear Lake
The current rise is not like 2006
Lee Schafer’s June 11 column on price bubbles and his concern over the current rise in real estate prices, comparing it to the bubble of 2006, missed some critical differences. As anyone with a cursory knowledge of economics understands, price increases are driven by differentials in supply and demand. Zoning laws limiting density in the Twin Cities severely curb new supply entering the housing market, so any increase in demand puts huge pressure on prices.
In the 2006 bubble, the increased demand came from a relaxing of lending requirements so that virtually any renter could buy a home without demonstrating an ability to repay the loan. This is why in the period running up to 2006, rents stagnated or even decreased as the demand shifted from apartments to housing and many rental homes were converted to owner-occupied units.
The ensuing crash eliminated these undercapitalized investors and converted many of the new homeowners back to renters and their foreclosed homes back to rental units.
In this current price run-up, the demand is not being created by renters but by millennials forming households and entering the housing market. Rents are increasing as well during this period. These borrowers, unlike those in 2006, are required to demonstrate the income and assets necessary to repay their loans. Additionally, investors are required to make 25 percent down payments and demonstrate their ability to repay.
To the casual observer, this may look like a repeat of the previous bubble and crash, but the underlying causes are completely different. Without changes in supply, this price increase is very likely to continue and unlikely to pop without some big decrease in regional employment.
Will Rolf, St. Paul
The writer has been a real estate agent since 1988.
Progressives aren’t new to this
In his column “Progressives’ newfound love for states’ rights” (June 11), D.J. Tice got to the point — “the rules [for federalism] were made before anyone knew which ‘side’ would be advantaged by them.”
But he got there only after the inaccurate claim that “progressives fighting for states’ rights is something of a novelty.”
Before Roe vs. Wade, several states were allowing safe abortions, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has acknowledged in retrospect that the political process could have continued absent the ruling.
Medical and recreational marijuana laws, state by state, have won support from progressives.
The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement was entered in November 1998, originally between the four largest U.S. tobacco companies and the attorneys general of (count ’em) 46 states.
And Minnesota demonstrated its state rights by voting down the marriage and voter ID amendments.
States’ rights? We’ll take ’em.
Hal Davis, Minneapolis
This is on the governor
In her June 11 column (“Minnesota’s top court must come to the rescue”), Lori Sturdevant attempts to provide a balanced approach in assessing blame as to who is at fault in the dispute between Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature. However, most of the article consists of attacking the Legislature for violating the “single subject rule” of the state Constitution, which prohibits tacking on unrelated issues to bills in order to pass them as part of a package.
Sturdevant also quotes the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which in a previous article claimed that the Legislature was bullying the governor. She does balance out the blame somewhat by chiding Dayton for his actions by stating: “I’ll add that two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Missing from the column is any mention of the fact that the governor and the two top legislators spent several all-nighters negotiating an agreement during an extra legislative session. What was presented to the governor for his signature was what legislators say he had already agreed to. There were items in the package that he obviously didn’t like, just as there were items in the package that the legislators didn’t like. That’s what negotiations are for: to come to an agreement that both sides can live with rather than shutting the government down and making everyone angry.
The legislators felt it was necessary to add a clause that authorized cutting off funding to the Department of Revenue if Dayton didn’t sign. But Dayton’s subsequent action of cutting off funding to the Legislature indicates that he intended all along to renege on the agreement. So who’s bullying whom?
Robert Sullentrop, Minneapolis
The true ‘heroes’ are kids
Christopher Elliot wrote in his June 11 travel column that an adoptive parent “Lisa” was a “hero for adopting an Ethiopian orphan.” My husband and I have two biological children and two adopted children, and I can say that there are heroes in our adoption scenario, but my husband and I are not them. The heroes in our home are our two younger girls, who due to circumstances over which they had no control were separated from their biological parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings, on top of losing their language, culture and home. Can any of us who grew up with our biological families even imagine this kind of loss?
Rather than heroes, my husband and I are people of extraordinary good fortune: to have the means to bring these actual heroes into our family and to have the privilege of raising them. I imagine that is the case for Lisa as well.
Jenny Dahl, Roseville