The story on the closing of Aurora's only grocery store brought to light an example of a growing problem in Minnesota — the grocery gap ("Iron Range town's only grocery store closes," Jan. 10). As the story noted, the loss of grocery stores throughout Minnesota is having huge impacts, not only on the economic vitality of communities but potentially on the health of Minnesotans, as well. Without access to healthy foods that grocery stores carry, people often default to less healthy foods offered by convenience stores and corner stores. That, in turn, can affect rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

For some, the loss of a grocery store can be augmented by a regional superstore, but for others that isn't a realistic choice. The elderly, the economically disadvantaged and the disabled face serious challenges when a grocery store is 10, or even 5, miles away.

Policymakers elsewhere have developed innovative approaches to the grocery gap, such as creating incentives to reopen grocery stores, providing help toward refrigeration updates needed to stock fresher foods, and exploring mobile markets. Minnesota policymakers also should explore such approaches, because if one considers the trend in grocery store closings in the state, this is a problem poised to continue over the coming years.

Karen Lanthier, Coon Rapids

The writer is assistant program director for sustainable agriculture and food systems with University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.


For Trump types, 'the force' is sound bites and fearmongering

As a cultural phenomenon, the Star Wars movies have at least one thing in common with the rise of right wing "populists": like the makers of Hollywood blockbusters, racist, xenophobic demagogues such as Donald Trump prefer spectacle over substance and shallow, patriotic myths over narratives that actually address the problems that working- and middle-class Americans face ("What force awakens?," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 10).

"The force" they employ is mockery and fear mongering — of women, people of color, people with disabilities, Muslims and Jews, immigrants and refugees. A true leader, however, would explain that none of these people is responsible for our current economic woes. They did not cut our wages while giving themselves huge bonuses. They did not close shops and send jobs overseas. They did not bail out the bankers with public funds, leaving the rest of us to drown in debt. They did not slash funding for education, health care, veterans' benefits, jobs programs and youth services, while sending our children off to fight and die in a never-ending "war on terror."

But Trump is no fool. He knows that when people are afraid, they don't want lengthy, complicated explanations; they want sound bites like Reagan's "morning in America," Obama's "hope and change" or his own promise to "make America great again."

Let's hope that American voters are smart enough, this time, not to fall for these lies.

Kurt Seaberg, Minneapolis

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Donald Trump is not Luke Skywalker — Donald Trump is Jar Jar Binks.

D. Kingsley Hahn, Arden Hills


Before greed, before fraud, there was human stupidity

Concerning Bonnie Blodgett's review of "The Big Short," I agree that greed, fraud and stupidity allowed the financial meltdown to occur ("What ruse awaits?," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 10). The bigger point is that without stupidity, greed and fraud would not have happened. Stupidity is allowing less than a 20 percent down payment on a house. Stupidity is the congressman from New York dressing down the regulator by playing the race card and saying there was a vendetta against the CEO of Fannie Mae. The politicians made it impossible for the regulators to do their job. Stupidity would be me spending money to see this movie.

Kenneth Emde, Woodbury


Consider all air travelers needs' for airport's bathroom makeover

Sunday's paper boasted that the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport is in the process of getting a $12 million upgrade to its bathrooms ("Bathrooms at MSP to get $12M upgrades," Jan. 10). I wonder if anyone in the decisionmaking process stopped to consider how we can present Minnesota as an inclusive and respectful place for all through the installation of "all gender" bathrooms. Surely, if we can afford to feature quartz countertops and mosaic artwork, we can throw in at least a handful of bathrooms that are welcoming and safe for all of our airport travelers. With a growing number of people coming out about their trans, genderqueer, gender fluid or gender nonconforming identities, this population should be accommodated in the bathroom remodel. As quoted in the story, "In many cases, the restroom is the first impression someone gets when they come here." Everyone should have a good first impression. If minority populations of lactating mothers and people with disabilities are accommodated, so must the minority population of those who feel uncomfortable in a bathroom labeled "Men" or "Women." The world is changing, evolving to be a place where people of all identities can feel accepted. This means that our representatives, business leaders and architects must also change their practices to include people of all genders. Sure, it hasn't been done before, but Minnesota could lead the way.

Chelsea Forbrook, Minneapolis


Defining fairness for seniors and for those in upper incomes

Lori Sturdevant would deny the retired seniors living primarily on limited fixed incomes an exemption from Minnesota income taxation ("State's elder taxpayers have clout. (Alas?)", Opinion Exchange, Jan. 10) This exemption purportedly would be at the expense of future generations?

Apparently, the welfare of future generations is more important than that of huddled, impoverished retirees who do exist in Minnesota. The research economist Karen Smith Conway of the University of New Hampshire is irrelevant to Minnesota as a whole as is state-to-state movement based on tax-free Social Security.

In response to Sturdevant's question: "Will they get political favors directed elsewhere?" Not only seniors but all property taxpayers need tax reform. At a minimum, property tax should be income-based with property being valued at cost. Please realize that some Minnesotans pay as much as 40 percent of their income for property tax while others pay as little as 1 percent. These taxpayers include seniors.

Les Ristinen, Frazee, Minn.

The writer is president, Becker County Taxpayers Association.

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Thank you to the writer of the well-written letter regarding tax fairness ("That we've 'taxed the rich' is a faulty premise for an analysis," Readers Write, Jan. 10). The writer quoted statistics from the Tax Incidence Study that attempted to show that the top 10 percent of Minnesota earners don't pay their fair share of taxes. Trouble is, he left out the key word "effective." That word, in this case, changes the entire meaning of the statistics. The writer also failed to mention that the report also says: "Taxpayers in the top decile (income of $140,692 and over) bore 40 percent of the total tax burden while having 44 percent of the total income." We can argue about whether it is fair or not, but the fact is that wealthier people pay most of the taxes.

Bob Copeland, Wayzata