The White House conferences on aging typically have been important weeklong events to address a variety of salient issues around aging. This year’s nonevent scheduled for Monday is a tragic missed opportunity to address innovative ways to deal with one of the most pressing social challenges of our time. Instead it will be a hackneyed, one-day pseudo-event with little creativity, no real dialogue and no opportunity to create an agenda for the next decade. Apparently there is no funding for a gathering that traditionally has been used to set agendas for policies on aging in ensuing decades.

If ever we need to engage the best and the brightest, it is now. At a time when our society confronts great challenges from an aging society, we need to think creatively about how to address them. Old solutions will not fit the current times.

The four topics of focus — healthy aging, improved health and social services, elder justice and income security — are good areas to focus on, but not to simply summarize, what has been done. Each demands attention to the accomplishments, the gaps, the challenges and the opportunities for doing better. It is clear that demographic and economic forces will not allow us to just continue on as we have been going. Innovation and creativity are needed. We need to raise public consciousness about these issues and suggest reasonable ways to meet the challenge of the next decades.

If the White House conference is a dud, perhaps we need a state conference on aging that can tap the talents of Minnesotans who have led the nation in addressing such issues. Let’s convene consumers, providers, scholars and policymakers to think creatively about how to meaningfully and realistically address the economic, social and political implications of the demographic evolution we are living in.

Dr. Robert Kane, Minneapolis

The writer is a professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

MINNESOTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

No, this is not the group looking out for small businesses

As a small-business owner, I’m offended by Lee Schafer’s claim in his July 5 column (“Business climate not same for all”) that “the business group that represents mom-and-pops is the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.” If he’d taken the time to gain input from anyone other than Charlie Weaver, Schafer would have found that the Minnesota Chamber lobbies against the best interests of truly small businesses and has been bought by the large corporations to do their bidding exclusively.

Ninety-five percent of Minnesota companies have fewer than 10 employees, and the vast majority of us do not pay corporate property taxes, nor do we make enough to be taxed at the 9.85 percent level that Schafer mentions. So when the Chamber is heavily funded to lobby at the State Capitol to lower corporate property taxes, it’s threatening to raise the personal property taxes of everyone else in order to supplement the 5 percent of large corporate owners, many of whom don’t even live in Minnesota, and some not even in the United States.

Actual small-business owners are tired of the Minnesota Chamber saying that it’s looking out for “small business” when it really means “our large corporate backers.”

Todd Mikkelson, Orono

 

BICYCLISTS

Please repeat after me, courteously: ‘On your left’

In response to the well-written bicycling commentary by Doug Shidell (“Are they jerks or just fast riders?” July 6), I must add that he needs correction on one statement. Fast riders — or, may I say, 90 percent of all riders — do not have the decency and respect to announce “on your left.” I moved here 37 years ago in part due to the expansive system of bike trails. All those who ride them would really inspire others by using those three simple, amplified, courteous words.

Doug Nienhuis, Minneapolis

• • •

Everyone knows that texting while driving is dangerous and illegal; unfortunately, many drivers have realized that laws regarding it are unenforceable. Bikers, sitting high enough to see what drivers are up to, know that texting while driving is omnipresent.

To a biker sitting above the average compact car, the sea of cellphone screens in rush-hour traffic looks something like the night sky. While a biker rolls up to a stoplight, it’s not uncommon to see every driver looking at his or her phone. Even while riding behind cars, I see people texting or taking selfies while driving at a frequency high enough to make me consider putting on a neck brace before I leave the house — just to make things easier for the paramedics.

I understand that biking is not for everyone, and that drivers and bikers may never get along, but biking is my preferred method of transportation. It’s an economic, healthy and sustainable choice. Plus, the greater Twin Cities area has great infrastructure for it. Yet, for one of the most bike-friendly areas in America, it’s still extremely dangerous — thanks largely to complacent drivers.

Tyler Heikes, Minneapolis

 

READING

Serial novel running in Variety section is another winner

I have been actively reading another great serial novel daily in our Star Tribune — “Under Ground.” As a lifelong Minnesota senior now, I recall my childhood Iron Range historical mine tour experience, which I also relived with my children many years ago. My grandparents told me stories of my grandfather as a child traveling from Holland to western Minnesota in the 1800s, and the struggles of starting a farmstead in midwinter. The help of neighbors was critical to their very survival.

The novel relates the daily struggles of our early settlers working the mines, many laying the groundwork for our workers’ rights today. The detail of daily life and love, while a sharp contrast to the modern comforts of today, bears much common resemblance to our basic humanity.

Thank you to the Star Tribune and the author for sharing this third summer reading adventure with a loyal readership community.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis

 

MINNESOTA TRAVELS

May I call to your attention a gem of a town: Little Falls

The July 10 lead letter about the Great River Road reminds me of other drives in Minnesota.

For people in the metro area, a gem on the way to the northern lakes is a town halfway between St. Cloud and Brainerd. Most of us are at least vaguely aware of Little Falls, but have you ever really visited there? Heading north, exit onto Hwy. 76 (the Hwy. 10 loop). Simply follow it for a few minutes to the well-maintained, historic downtown. Once there, turn right onto Broadway (Hwy. 27). You’ve got to make a pit stop anyway, so find some goodies at the classic downtown bakery on your left. It’s on your way back to Hwy. 10. Short and sweet. Next time, you might want to see more of this place people call home.

Minnesota has a lot of exemplary towns. Explore as many as you can on the way to and from the lakes. No, I’m not a member of a special committee or promotional group. I’m just an old transplant from back East who always has liked living here.

Jim Bartos, Brooklyn Park