Kudos to our own Sen. Amy Klobuchar and her counterpart, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and their staffs for their parts in the behind-the-scenes planning as well as their on-camera emceeing of Inauguration Day festivities. The pomp and pageantry were not diminished for lack of citizen audience, and I humbly suggest that future planners consider switching out the evening's typical balls, which most of us cannot attend, for the concert we experienced this year: an array of music, poetry and inspiring stories that included lesser-knowns as well as "stars." Highlighting people from all over the country, it really made us regular folks feel much more a part of things as we watched (and at times sang along) from our homes.

Truly, some higher powers were at play, sprinkling a few snowflakes on Washington, D.C., so that jokes could be made about Klobuchar bringing along weather from her (our) home state. And I think our nation's collective prayers for a peaceful day may have contributed to that morning's strikingly calming sunrise. From my vantage point, it was a lustrous mix of rosy pink and soft blue, segmented by pale gray-white clouds streaming across the eastern sky. It certainly seemed scripted to match the later performances of Bon Jovi ("Here Comes the Sun") and John Legend's rendition of "Feeling Good," with lyrics: "It's a new dawn, a new day, a new life for me."

Lisa Wersal, Vadnais Heights

WATER QUALITY

An argument against mining can be drawn from 3M's situation

The Jan. 17 article covering the ongoing fight to remediate Washington County groundwater ("Discord over clean-water plan") is a clear example of why prolonged water quality should be a heavy weighting factor when assessing proposals for copper-nickel mines. The proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine, for example, would be in the St. Louis River Watershed. Any runoff from the mine β€” which would contain poisonous substances like arsenic, lead and sulfuric acid β€” would find its way south to Duluth, possibly sideswiping Cloquet and Jay Cooke State Park on the way.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 3M stopped disposing PFAS wastes at its Washington County sites in the early 1970s. Fifty years later, 150 square miles of groundwater are still contaminated with PFAS and 170,000 Minnesotans are still at risk of developing a whole mess of health problems. The population of Duluth's metropolitan statistical area alone is around 280,000 people, and the heavy metals that would leach from the PolyMet mine would put all of them at risk for multiple cancers, decreased immune response, and physical and mental developmental delays in children.

Is this really something we're willing to risk? It took decades and a massive lawsuit payout to even start assessing ways to get PFAS out of Washington County's groundwater. What will it take to clear Cloquet and Duluth of the poisons of copper-nickel mining? How many lawsuits? How much money? How many people sick, or dead before their time?

The best course of action would be to not build the mine at all.

Kelsey Murphy, Shoreview

ELECTION INTEGRITY

GOP official in southern Minn. continues to hawk bad wares

I am disappointed to see Nicollet County GOP Chair Kim Spears continue to repeat utterly false claims about the election ("In flipped county, voters wary about the future," Jan. 17).

I was a DFL observer for the Nicollet County portion of the mandatory recount in the state House race between Jeff Brand and Susan Akland. A Republican observer stood a few feet way from me the whole time. We could see every vote clearly and agreed on every count, and they matched the machine counts with only a single error over hundreds or thousands of votes (which added a vote to the DFL candidate, by the way, so it wasn't a vote stolen from the Republican candidate).

Minnesota is justifiably proud of our elections system. It worked in 2020. Kim Spears should stop spreading false rumors that serve only to undermine our democracy and give succor to the kinds of people who assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Dave Kamper, Brooklyn Park

CAMPAIGN REFORM

In light of the moment, an opportunity to make progress

In the days following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we saw a small wave of corporations reevaluating their campaign contributions and in-kind support for political events. This moment in history presents a grand opportunity to look closely at campaign reform: reduce candidates' dependency on corporate contributions, minimize the influence of superwealthy donors, enforce (through the Federal Election Commission) existing campaign law, and figure out how to shorten "campaign season" to several weeks before an election.

That's a lot, and none of it is simple. These aren't the only issues in our electoral process. But they may be issues on which it's possible to gain traction right now.

Christie Burke, Richfield

'SORE LOSERS'

Pertaining to Jefferson/Burr: Now here's the rest of the story

Thanks to D.J. Tice for his generally adept overview of presidential "sore losers," (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 17), but he needs to drop Aaron Burr from his list and amend some claims: "An early constitutional glitch had allowed the conniving Burr, Jefferson's running mate, to try to snatch away the presidency itself."

That "glitch" was the Constitution itself, under which the Electoral College in 1800 awarded both Jefferson and Burr identical totals of 73 votes, thereby sending the contest to the House. Where, after 35 more tie votes, the conniving Jefferson snatched victory by a single vote on the 36th. Surely, no bribes were involved.

In 1807, Burr was tried for treason at Jefferson's urging (after Tom publicly proclaimed him guilty in true Trumpian fashion), based on forged evidence presented by Col. James Wilkinson, then governor of the Louisiana Territory.

Burr was acquitted by demonstrating at trial that he had not been within 100 miles of the group that the government claimed was plotting its overthrow. Wilkinson was later shown to have been, in 1807 and for years before and after, in the employ of the king of Spain as a well-paid spy against our fledgling republic.

At the very least, Burr deserves our fervent thanks for killing Hamilton in a duel, making an overhyped Broadway musical more entertaining and dramatic. After all, isn't Broadway where most Americans get their history?

William Beyer, St. Louis Park

COVID VACCINATIONS

Here's what's at the heart

How nice that all those people in their 60s were able to get the vaccine last week while those of us in our late 70s and 80s who weren't lucky enough to be picked have to wait. We're the ones most likely to die of COVID-19. We should get the vaccine next. We'd like to spend time with our grandchildren, too.

Patricia Farnham, Bloomington