A Jan. 4 article ("Cities pull plug on speed cameras — and lose money") showcased an example of how not to earn public support for automated speed enforcement (ASE). It featured a case out of Long Island where 400,000 tickets were issued in less than two months. Though numerous studies show that ASE can be one of the most effective tools for reducing traffic deaths, it's little wonder citizens on Long Island felt like ASE was being used to gouge them, rather than protect them.
In Minnesota, our 2012 survey found that a majority of residents opposed the use of ASE, if placed on all roads. However, the survey found that a strong majority of adult Minnesota drivers supported ASE if it were only used on dangerous stretches of roads, such as where many drivers speed (69 percent support), many have died (77 percent), schools are nearby (82 percent) and construction is underway (83 percent).
Also, the thing that most dramatically increased Minnesotans' support for ASE was if "money raised from speeding tickets were used to improve local road safety improvements."
In other words, if ASE is adopted in a safety-centric way, rather than a revenue-centric way, a strong majority of Minnesota drivers actually support it.
Lee Munnich, Minneapolis
The writer is a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Statements on wolves, tourism questioned
A more truthful explanation is owed to readers, livestock owners and landowners on wolves than what was given by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr in his recent interview published in the Star Tribune ("Progress, and frustration," Dennis Anderson column, Jan. 4).
Landwehr was asked what actions the DNR can take in the wake of wolves returning to the Endangered Species List in Minnesota. He responded that "landowners can't deal with problem wolves even if they're killing livestock."
This is not the full or accurate story. What is missing is that livestock owners can still have wolves killed in response to predation on livestock but by agents of the government (and by anyone if a human life is at risk).
According to the DNR's own website, even under the wolf's new "threatened" status, "agents of the government are authorized to take wolves if pets or livestock are threatened, attacked or killed."
Livestock producers will continue to be allowed to have wolves killed as they were allowed since 1978, when the wolf population came above 1,200.
We're glad the recreational, reckless and unpopular wolf hunt in Minnesota is over, and we think that smart, science-based and nonlethal wolf management strategies need to be implemented in the future.
Maureen Hackett, Hopkins
The writer is founder and president of Howling For Wolves, an advocacy group.
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As members of the Minnesota Senate who represent southwestern Minnesota, we are concerned about Commissioner Landwehr's comment that there is no tourism in our part of the state "other than pheasant hunting" ("Pheasants' plight to be mulled at summit," Dec. 7).
The sport of pheasant hunting does play a role in our area's tourism economy. However, it is certainly not the only activity tourists can enjoy in southwestern Minnesota. There's something for everyone. Our local chambers of commerce and tourism bureaus work hard to promote several areas of tourism.
The commissioner's comment does our constituents a disservice. We invite him — and indeed all Minnesotans — to travel to southwestern Minnesota and discover all our area has to offer.
Gary Dahms and Bill Weber
The writers — of Redwood Falls and Luverne, respectively — are Republican members of the Minnesota Senate.
Let's frame (and fund) our needs correctly
Minnesota exists in a world that is investing heavily in transportation infrastructure for global competitiveness and for domestic needs. The state has done little to significantly enhance transportation infrastructure for 50 years since the interstate highway system was built. Our highways, bridges, freight rail lines, and the Mississippi River waterway are constrained by disrepair and/or inadequate capacity for today's competitive economy.
We do not adequately fund repair of our roads and highway bridges and have not even considered the needs of our rail lines and waterways. Our highway user fees are politically constrained because politicians call them taxes instead user fees. The result is failing roads and bridges. User fees should be at level that adequately funds our transportation infrastructure. We fund critical things from our state's general funds, but highways should stand on their own without subsidy from general taxes.
When we subsidize roads, we take away from other critical governmental needs. The subsidized roads make it cheap to overuse them, causing congestion. Too many trucks are hauling for long distances when they otherwise would be on trailers on the private rail lines. We cause people to use their cars when they could be on buses, trains or in carpools. The needed increase in highway user fees would not be overly burdensome on our commerce and our driving needs.
Let's stop kidding ourselves by calling user fees "taxes." We would just be paying the cost of using well-repaired and less-congested roads.
Edward A. Robinson, Arden Hills
Keep the beach, keep the views of the water
The proposal to permanently remove the beach at Lake Hiawatha is a terrible idea ("3 Minneapolis parks targeted for makeovers," Jan. 9). We should be adding amenities to our parks when we redefine them, not removing a vital beach so important for low-income residents who don't have air conditioning. The beach is right on a city bus line. During 2013's heat wave, it was packed. The water deepens very gradually — perfect for families and small children.
Over the years, the Park and Recreation Board has allowed the beach to decay terribly. It is never raked and rarely cleaned. Ugly floating mats of vegetation are not removed as at other beaches. Lifeguards are not posted. This is not benign neglect; it is neglect by design.
Removing the beach and adding a "restored shoreline" around the lake would block the great views we have from the shore. There are many park benches along the lake from which the views from the restored shoreline already are blocked. We should have a site that is immersive and interactive, as only a toes-in-the-sand beach can be. Removing the beach would turn Lake Hiawatha into another Mother Lake or Diamond Lake — swim-free zones. It would be a permanent solution to a temporary problem.