When Theodore Wirth came to Minneapolis, he set aside public lands so that we could all enjoy our most precious resources — like our lakes and rivers. But he also wisely decreed that there should be a park within a few blocks of every home — so that all Minneapolis children and families would have a place to connect with nature and with one another. One hundred years later, our neighborhood parks are in trouble. With no adequate funding source, they are falling into disrepair. With the achievement gap as one of the most important issues facing our city, I commend our civic leaders’ efforts to fix this problem. Park Board staff and volunteers work hard to develop the character of our young people through outdoor activities, but the crumbling infrastructure around them makes the job difficult. Parks are the great equalizer of our world. Let’s make sure they are equally great across our great city.

John Munger, Minneapolis

JAMAR CLARK CASE

It isn’t a lose-lose; we all win if justice is served objectively

Jon Tevlin unfortunately portrays Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in an unfavorable manner, choosing to focus on his age and his political misfortunes in an article about the Jamar Clark case (“Freeman’s decision a lose-lose,” March 29). Tevlin also misstates the issues in the case. There are more than two possible outcomes. Tevlin writes that Freeman could anger police officers and the union or he could anger civil-rights activists, but a third possible outcome, which transcends the first two, is that justice could be served. If justice prevails, it would be good for the community at large even though some members of the community might not like what results. Justice transcends feelings of rage. Justice is the essence of an ordered society.

Norman Teigen, Hopkins

PLASTIC BAGS

Proposed ban, and discussion around it, reflects a larger issue

I found the stark contrast in the two March 28 letters about the proposed plastic-bag ban in Minneapolis to be particularly striking and reflective of the wide divide on a variety of issues facing the country today. The lead item put forth a compelling argument of why the move to outlaw plastic bags is not supported by research. It quoted many reputable studies and presented its case in a factual fashion and rational fashion.

The third letter presented its argument for a “practical non-choice mandate.” It wandered through a number of touchy-feely behavioral anecdotes that the author claims will lead to unsupported benefits of reduction of effort and waste and ultimately will lead to “saving us all money.” It states that, even after years (not to mention untold dollars) have been spent on “consumer education,” the mandate is the obvious next choice. One can only assume that this must be because consumers are not smart enough to absorb the message and therefore should not be left to their own choices.

The whole notion of a “practical non-choice mandate” strikes a large portion of this country’s population as the equivalent of “I’m smarter than you, and since you don’t seem to understand, you obviously need to be forced to do the right thing.” This, to me, is a microcosm of the basic divide that exists in this country today between those who believe that the government knows what is right for you and therefore should dictate behavior and the side that believes in personal choice. For those of us in that latter portion of the population, personal freedom trumps smart every time.

Mark Plooster, Plymouth

• • •

All of this hand-wringing over our dependence on trashy plastic bags!

What on Earth will we do if we can’t have what we’re used to using?

Here’s one suggestion — cardboard boxes. Most of the things we purchase are shipped to grocery stores in cardboard boxes. Those boxes get used once, then flattened and (hopefully) recycled. Why not use them one more time? Stores can keep a supply of various sizes near the checkout for anyone who doesn’t have a bag. Boxes are easy to pack and carry, fit in trunks and on bike racks, can be used for other things when you get home, and are recyclable.

Jennifer Schulz, Grand Marais, Minn.

TAXES

Business tax to general fund is an issue that needs attention

Minnesota businesses, like homeowners, pay property taxes to their local governments. These local property taxes pay for schools, snow removal, local street repairs and other essential services. However, unlike homeowners, businesses pay an extra tax that goes straight into the state’s general fund. Since 2002, more than $10 billion has been sent from our communities to the state to pay for this extra property tax. Fact is, the average business in Minnesota pays more to the state in property taxes than it pays separately to any of our local governments — schools, townships, cities or counties.

And the statewide property tax is on autopilot, going up by the rate of inflation every year, without any vote or intervention by the Legislature. Soon, this tax will take $1 billion every year out of our local economies.

Let’s use a portion of the state’s projected budget surplus to reduce Minnesota’s extra property tax and eliminate the automatic inflator. I think we can all agree that money is better spent by Minnesota’s job creators to invest in their employees and their businesses.

Brad Meier, Plymouth

The writer is president of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce.

STATE’S BUSINESS CLIMATE

Diversity of industries and large reservoir of talent are key

To support state Revenue Commission Cynthia Bauerly’s arguments in “There is more to Minnesota than taxes” (March 22), there is more convincing evidence than just a few negative correlations between taxes and economic growth or awards the state has received. Prof. Myles Shaver of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota has collected voluminous data on the movement of Fortune 500 companies into and out of the state over the last 60-plus years.

Shaver finds many reasons that individuals, especially high-talent managers, and corporations move to Minnesota or remain here after moving here. These reasons relate to why we have more Fortune Directory companies per capita with headquarters here than in any U.S. metropolitan area — and some of the largest private companies (e.g., Cargill, Carlson Cos.) and very many other sizable corporations. Though we had only 10 Fortune 500 companies during the 1940s, increasing in the 1960s to the high teens (our current number), we have had 30 companies move out and 40 new move in over that time. Why? Taxes? Weather? Social climate? All may contribute to movement.

While Shaver cannot do a double-blind study or prove the total answer with mathematical precision, his data identify a surprising important additional answer. That is a diversity of industries and our large reservoir of management talent, making it easier to transfer skills from one company to another or start a new company. Furthermore, most top executives remain here, even if headquarters move due to acquisition (e.g., Wells Fargo, Honeywell). We also spend among the lowest of any state on trying to attract industry.

John J. Mauriel, Edina

The writer is an associate professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.