It was interesting to read that new LED lights have changed the city of Detroit, but disappointing to see what the lights apparently look like (“Turning the lights back on in Detroit,” Jan. 12). Had this project been done in Minnesota, using any state funding, it would have been illegal. State law (MS 16B.328) sets standards for outdoor lighting fixtures requiring cutoff luminaires, meaning fixtures with lighting facing downward. We also require full consideration to “energy conservation and savings, reducing glare, minimizing light pollution and preserving the natural night environment.” There is also a suggestion for cities and other units of government to follow these standards.
Besides letting us see stars, this type of lighting puts the light where it is needed for safety reasons and is more cost-effective. What looks like spherical lights of Detroit should be condemned, not congratulated.
Phyllis Kahn, Minneapolis
The writer is a former state representative and author of legislation regarding outdoor lighting.
• • •
The article about Detroit should be read by all of our officials for consideration in Minneapolis. I’m 80 years old and drive up Park Avenue twice a week after dark. This past fall, I had my moonroof open and driver’s window a few inches. When I stopped at a red light on Park and Franklin avenues, two drug dealers said, “Hey, lady, you wanna buy something? We even have opioids for sale. Wanna make a deal?” Luckily, the light turned green, and I drove off.
Before the streetlights were dimmed in that area for “charm” perceptions, a lot of teenagers played basketball in the park there in the fall. The hockey rink was heavily used all winter, and there were softball and soccer games in the summer. As our Park Board can verify, those activities went away with dimmer lights due to safety factors.
As a society, we all know it’s a proven fact: Keep teenagers busy and tired with good activities, and they will resist the bad ones.
Bad people do come out when lights go down. With the multimillion-dollar remake of Nicollet Mall, our downtown must have proper lights so people will feel safe and encouraged to shop, eat and enjoy. Before the mall was torn up for construction, the most dangerous spot was near the corner of 8th Street and near the entrance to City Center.
Another area that urgently and obviously needs better lighting right now, with its additional businesses and expensive housing, is the Warehouse District. Better lighting should start as soon as possible at Hennepin and First Avenues North, where shootings have occurred recently.
Detroit discovered the hard way the results of turning lights down or off. Since its new streetlights have been turned on, it saves nearly $3 million in electric bills, putting more money in its pockets to do more good things, and cuts carbon emissions by more than 40,000 tons a year, the equivalent to taking 11,000 cars off the streets. The money spent for more efficient lighting is bringing people back to downtown Detroit. Minneapolis officials, please read the Jan. 12 article, and you will understand.
Barbara Nylen, Minneapolis
LICENSE TAB FEES
Infrastructure funding needed? Yes, but one idea was unfriendly.
The Jan. 13 Opinion Exchange article advocating “no more delays” on infrastructure funding was spot-on, with one exception — the recommendation that the depreciation schedule be adjusted for passenger vehicle license tab fees.
What this means in a covertly worded manner is to increase the license tab fees for working Minnesotans and their families each year that they renew their tabs. Our vehicles are subject to a 6.875 percent sales tax when purchased, but Minnesota takes this one step further by charging more for tab renewal based on the vehicle’s age and value. I choose to continue driving my 22-year-old car rather than purchasing a newer, more efficient and environmentally friendly car for this reason. Legislators, please tell me why, after initially paying the state its sales tax, should a couple of plastic stickers needed to be put on the car’s plates cost different amounts?
Oh, yeah: People driving a Porsche should pay more each year than those driving a Chevy Cruze, because they can afford it or they wouldn’t drive a Porsche. That there is “Minnesota Nice,” eh?
Daniel Romig, Minneapolis
FRANKEN AND SESSIONS
Scrutiny was appropriate
Sen. Al Franken, questioning Sen. Jeff Sessions at the attorney general nominee’s confirmation hearings, attempted to show that Sessions has a history of taking credit for cases in civil rights that others had taken to court (“Franken goes into the weeds … ,” Readers Write, Jan. 13.) Franken’s questions were going to the core of Sessions’ integrity and truthfulness. Franken’s questions were based on historical records and statements by lawyers who actually worked on the civil-rights cases.
In a commentary by J. Gerald Hebert, Joseph D. Rich and William Yeomans in the Washington Post on Jan. 3, the litigators wrote that in papers filed with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions “listed four civil rights cases among the 10 most significant that he litigated ‘personally’ as the U.S. attorney for Alabama during the 1980s. … Following criticism for exaggerating his role, he then claimed that he provided ‘assistance and guidance’ for these cases.” The writers went on: “We worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them.”
Do we want an attorney general who has a history of lying, stretching the truth and backtracking when caught in the act? I want transparency on all levels of government, especially in the law. We govern by rule of law.
Sally Strand, Plymouth
TRUMP AND MEDIA ‘BIAS’
In the eyes of the beholder
Who is biased? Could it be us, the readers? I read the Jan. 13 letter “Bias in the reflection” comparing coverage of President-elect Donald Trump’s news conference by the Wall Street Journal and the Star Tribune, and was struck with how biased a perception of bias can be! My understanding is that Trump put his assets into a trust that will be run by his two sons. This is not a blind trust, nor did he divest. We are all asked to have faith and believe that he will never discuss those business holdings with the sons, even though he will continue to benefit financially from them.
Perhaps a different but equally valid perception of the two headlines is that the Star Tribune’s (“Trump won’t divest from his business”) was the more accurate, and the Wall Street Journal’s (“President-Elect Moves to Put His Assets Into Trust”) implies that Trump actually did do the right thing. I guess everybody, including me, is entitled to their biased interpretation. I, too, am very disappointed, and I may be on the verge of canceling my subscription to the Wall Street Journal!
Kenneth E Abeln, Maple Grove
• • •
In the 1970s, Americans got their news from one of four sources: the three broadcast networks and the local newspaper. To remain profitable, each had to appeal to a broad, diverse customer base, thus the content was similar and very centrist. The advent of cable TV news both lowered barriers to entry and allowed the news to be profitably targeted to various cultural and demographic subgroups. Fox was by far the most successful of these cable news sources.
Social media has further reduced barriers to entry and allowed even greater proliferation of news sources. In fact, we can now watch whatever “news” appeals to us. For many people, truth has become whatever is accepted within their chosen tribal bubbles. Conflicting facts are simply rejected — usually by ad hominem arguments. “Fairness” is now defined as supporting/criticizing all viewpoints equally regardless of those stubborn facts. It seems to me that the Star Tribune tries very hard to present the truth irrespective of these bubble viewpoints. This, of course, produces many angry complaints of bias. I believe this is the greatest challenge of modern journalism. Democracy cannot survive if real journalists live within these tribal bubbles.
Steve Indvik, Minneapolis