After reading about In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s financial struggles (“Pulling every string to survive,” front page, May 4), I felt compelled to write about the important role that art, music and theater play in our lives and in our community.

Having lived in the Twin Cities for nearly two decades, I discovered the joys that these fine arts bring to our lives. But where do I begin to list those joys? For starters, it’s just plain fun! The fine arts transport us to different places and times that transcend the here and now, and they reach deep into our souls to arouse creativity, liveliness and childlike qualities that remind us we shouldn’t always take life so seriously.

There are many things that make Minneapolis and St. Paul unique and fun places to live and visit. Some of the seasons’ best entertainment can be found at any park or one of our many lakes, with live music and other performances that bring us together as a community to celebrate, converge, foster good spirits and awaken an inspiration and passion that is inherent in all of us. Let us not forget the many other concerts, plays, choirs and various array of local and worldwide performers that abound in our area throughout the year.

The fine arts aren’t always about the biggest, most sensational artist of the year, of the decade or even the century. Sometimes it’s about smaller — but equally as important — names that are local to our community. The Twin Cities metro is richly blessed with many talented artists eager to share their many hours, and sometimes years, spent practicing and rehearsing to make their dreams come true and to highlight the gifts of giving and sharing. The fine arts allow each of us to share in experiences that are common to all of us.

Bailey R. Meixner, Minneapolis

SCHOOLS

To address the achievement gap, take responsibility and volunteer

It is time to face the fact that our federal, state and local governments will never provide the resources required by our schools. The need is too great, the supply too little. If we are serious about closing the achievement gap, more of us need to take individual responsibility by volunteering in classrooms. Tutor mentors, by giving one hour a day, can make a dramatic difference with struggling and high-need students. Contact your local principal and get into a classroom next fall.

Paul Stearns, St. Paul

MINNEAPOLIS LAKES

Best thing about lakes isn’t their names, but their public access

Whatever the name of the lake — Lake Calhoun or Bde Maka Ska — the best thing about the lake is that it is totally available to the public. Its lakeshore provides an opportunity for biking, walking, swimming and many fun activities. It is our lake!

And this public feature is supposed to apply to all our city lakes. The early leaders of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board acquired and preserved lakeshore for public use. It was their foresight that led to the bike and pedestrian paths around our city lakes.

There’s supposed to be no private lakeshore in Minneapolis, but some Cedar Lake residents have had exclusive use of parkland for more than 70 years. The Park Board owns the land that encircles Cedar Lake, including land on the southeast corner and land through the Kenilworth Channel.

Public access has been cut off by creative encroachments of the residents there — hedges, fences, docks, patios, etc. — and has occurred because our Park Board has allowed these homeowners to do so without any resistance. And the Park Board has allowed the residents along this special privileged area to benefit hugely from this condition. Some lots along there are valued at $1 million! This situation is just plain wrong.

It is a total violation of their mission statement, of their encroachment policy, and a breach of the public trust. The Park Board did not acquire this land around Cedar Lake for the sole use of a few individuals. It was acquired for the use and enjoyment of the entire public!

Ron Werner, St. Louis Park

PROVIDER TAX

Claims expenditure assessment a better way to fund health care

A Star Tribune commentary argued for ways to ensure that Minnesota’s health care safety-net programs continue to receive funding (“Don’t let the provider tax expire,” May 4). Unfortunately, the commentary did not accurately reflect the experience in other states and fails to give credit to a viable win-win alternative to the repeal of the sunset of the provider tax: the claims expenditure assessment (CEA). This approach to raising Medicaid matching funds was approved by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare in October 2018 for Michigan, where it is called the Insurance Provider Assessment (IPA). This approach has withstood legal challenges.

Unlike pediatricians, discussed in the commentary, most mental health professionals provide services in individual or small group practices with an inordinate burden upon them for the accounting side of the provider tax. It is neither simple nor easy for mental health professionals to continue to deal with this tax. The CEA would ensure safety-net funding while relieving providers of the daunting tasks involved with the Provider Tax. As an added bonus, the CEA will likely save the state money because it will no longer have to regulate and audit health care providers but rather only a handful of health insurers.

And yes, we realize that our reimbursements from insurers will likely go down 2% if the CEA is put in place. We will also likely lose the 2% if the provider tax is allowed to sunset.

The simple, easy and fiscally responsible alternative is to put the CEA to work for Minnesotans.

Trisha Stark, Minneapolis

NOOR SETTLEMENT

$20M is too high for a city that the jury didn’t find to be negligent

Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s family suffered a great loss and deserves to be compensated for it, but $20 million is too much (“Noor settlement record $20M,” front page, May 4). Her father has evidently convinced himself that he is doing the city of Minneapolis a favor by forcing it to pay an amount he called “transformational.” It will certainly transform his family finances, but it will hurt Minneapolis.

The trial showed that a single policeman made a terrible mistake. It didn’t show that the city was negligent in hiring or training him. In the absence of that negligence, such a punitive settlement is not warranted.

James Brandt, New Brighton

GAS TAX

Better roads are worth the 20 cents

Nobody wants to pay a higher gas tax. But our streets, roads and bridges are crumbling. Some of the streets I drive on have more bumpy patches than proper asphalt or concrete, and they need repair multiple times a year.

Gas in California averages $4 per gallon. In some countries in Europe, it costs nearly $7 per gallon. How much would a tax increase of 20 cents per gallon cost us? If your vehicle gets 30 miles per gallon and you drive 15,000 miles per year, it would cost you $100 per year. If your vehicle gets 20 mpg and you drive 10,000 miles per year, it would cost you $100 per year. Come on, everyone, step up to the plate and hit a home run!

Joseph Kapusta, St. Louis Park

2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Qualified Democrats abound

When it comes to presidential candidates, the Democrats have an embarrassment of riches. The Republicans only have an embarrassment.

Doug Williams, Robbinsdale