Sometimes, laws and ideas are given names that befuddle me. For instance, one that should have been named “the law that’s almost guaranteed to cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars” was instead called the “Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980.” And it did cost us $125 billion.

The 2001 law that said “bend over, we’re spying on everything you do” was called the “Patriot Act.”

Laws that say “we hate unions” are called “Right to Work.”

The 1996 law that said “we hate gays” was instead called the “Defense of Marriage Act.”

And now, the proposed law to allow monopolistic Internet service providers to continue to be monopolistic is called the “Internet Freedom Act.”

Those and others continue in the tradition of the novel “1984,” where “war is peace” and “2+2=5.”

Bill Slobotski, Roseville

MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOLS

The district can’t win under policies that allow ‘flight’

My daughter attends Anwatin Middle School in Minneapolis. It’s a great school with wonderful after-school activities (she is on the ski team and in the school play). Yet, when I mention our child is at Anwatin, people look at me as if I’m a leper. They ask, “So, really, how is it?” I’m not from around here, so am thankfully unaware of the rumors, bad (and unwarranted) press, and prior history of this school. The reality is that currently it’s a fine school.

This disconnect is one of the many reasons why the public policy of allowing students to leave Minneapolis Public Schools for the suburbs for any reason is misguided (“Mpls. fights school flight,” March 19). The policy is counterproductive. The parents who want to leave the district are the very parents that we need to remain in the district in order to effect change. The policy of allowing families to leave the district can lead to a vicious circle, and it is the children of Minneapolis who are affected.

Jonathan O. Scott, Minneapolis

• • •

As I recall, the original open-enrollment proposal many years ago had only three-fourths of per-pupil state aid follow a student to a new district. The assumption was that exiting students’ aid dollar loss hurt the district more than incoming students with lower dollars would hurt the other district. If a district is losing students, it needs the money to improve programs to maintain student enrollment and entice students to return. This type of program should include all schools, public and private.

John Forman, Albert Lea, Minn.

 

STADIUM HIRING

Summit has delivered on diversity goals as needed

I am writing in response to the March 18 story “Stadium vendor far short of goal,” which states Summit Academy OIC is behind in its efforts to support the stadium workforce diversity goals. I have the responsibility to clarify our role and performance on the project. The Employment Assistance Firm (EAF) put in place by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority is a contingency plan designed to ensure that contractors on the project are able to find skilled minority members, women and veterans. So far, the project is at 38 percent minority and women participation and has used the EAF minimally. Summit Academy OIC has fulfilled every order we have been given.

The $275,000 we received equals about $5,700 per individual placed on the stadium project, which only partly covers the cost of skills training. Further, $160,000 of those funds were spent on training at St. Paul College and with the unions for advanced training that will lead to lifelong careers. While we knew the EAF was a new method, we did not know there was a massive availability of minority workers, given the failure of major projects to meet past state diversity hiring goals of 18 percent.

We are proud to have played a role in the advocacy efforts that are allowing hundreds of minority members and women to overcome the disparities that this region is famous for. It should be noted that through Jan. 31, minorities alone have accounted for 312,114 work hours out of 935,619 — that’s 33 percent of the total hours on the project.

We salute all who are leading the way as we face a declining workforce and a demographic shift that threatens the productivity that we have come to rely on. We will continue to take the risks associated with making progress to ensure that the region has a skilled workforce.

Louis J. King II, president and CEO, Summit Academy OIC

 

BUFFER STRIPS

At issue are the costs and the effect of drainage ditches

Kirby Hettver (“Yes, we oppose buffer-strip bill, but we’re surely not ‘Big Ag,’ ” March 18) complains about losing land to the buffers, but how much tillable land has been gained by digging ditches and draining wetland? To address Hettver’s concerns about crop prices, I could mention the more than $327 million worth of farm subsidies that Swift County farmers have enjoyed since 1994, but I digress.

The practice of draining wetlands destroys the natural runoff process and is the reason we have “100-year” floods every few years, while ducks are becoming a thing of the past here. The wetlands act as natural dams and filters, allowing runoff to slowly seep into the land, purifying it while acting as flood control simultaneously.

Now this water pours via topography and drain tile, unchecked, into these ditches, which pour into local streams, which pour into rivers. All of this sudden, unchecked water churns downstream, eroding riverbanks, which in turn destroys the water quality, not to mention additional damage from routine flooding.

“Big Ag” or not, everyone needs to do their part.

John G. Morgan, Burnsville

• • •

Nicollet County, where my family and I farm, has 400-plus miles of agricultural drainage ditches. A 50-foot buffer along these ditches will affect 5,000 acres of farmland. Farmland in our county is assessed at $10,000 per acre. That’s $50 million of farmers’ assets and Nicollet County tax base that we’re being asked to give up. If the DNR estimate of 125,000 acres statewide is correct, that’s at least $1 billion of farmers’ assets across Minnesota. Given the size of the economic impact, it’s no wonder that farmers are very concerned.

Farmers might be more supportive if buffers could be expected to improve water quality. Unfortunately, they cannot. The Nicollet County ditch system consists of spoil-bank ditches. Soil excavated to create the ditch was deposited on the ditch bank. As a result, ditch banks have a higher elevation than the surrounding field, and water runs away from the ditches, not into them. Water enters ditches though tile lines, not through surface flow. There is simply no water flow through the buffer and into the ditch to be filtered.

Peter Anthony, St. Peter, Minn.