The May 9 article about the proposal of a Minneapolis City Council member to make all skyways safe for downtown’s apparently politically connected bird population (“Bird-safe skyways on city’s radar”) read like something in the satirical “Onion” newspaper. Minneapolis has appalling high school dropout rates, embarrassing racial achievement gaps and police-community tension that could spark a Baltimore-type incident at any time. Yet the City Council is spending time (and taxpayer dollars) looking out for the downtown pigeon population? The warped priorities of the leadership of Minnesota’s largest city would be amusing if they did not have such an impact on the entire metro region.
Jerry Anderson, Eagan
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I worked in downtown Minneapolis for some 25 years, beginning in 1972. Even back then, there were plenty of tall glass buildings and lots of skyways. The numbers of both only increased over my tenure. My colleagues and I were typically very active in terms of walking around downtown — it was one of the joys of being employed there, as opposed to the suburbs.
I consider myself a reasonably observant person. In all of those years of walking to my office, to the bus home from my office, to lunch and back when we could do that, to various after work functions — parties, ballgames and other events — I can honestly say I never saw a dead bird. Never. Ever. It seems to me, based on my own extensive experience, that all of this talk about bird-safe skyway rules is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem.
James R. Austin, Plymouth
MnDOT commissioners: Money must be adequate and dedicated
As former commissioners of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, we have been closely following the debate at the Legislature over transportation funding. We believe it is critical for the Legislature and the governor to come to agreement on a comprehensive, long-term funding plan that relies on dedicated transportation user fees.
Minnesota faces a backlog of transportation projects, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, due to dramatic increases in construction costs and increased demand on the system from more people and more heavy-vehicle traffic.
Highway, bridge and transit projects take years to plan, develop and construct. That’s why Minnesota has long relied on constitutionally dedicated fees that are deposited in the Highway Trust Fund and separate transit accounts. These can only be used for transportation — no other areas of state government.
Voters have passed multiple constitutional amendments establishing the funding system we have today. The Legislature needs to support that system and adjust proven, dedicated user fees to allow waiting projects like improvements for Hwys. 10, 14 and 23; a new Interstate 494/35W interchange, and replacement projects for deficient bridges to move ahead.
It sounds easy to use the current budget surplus to fix our transportation system. Unfortunately, we face a significant ongoing shortfall that cannot be met with a one-time shift of funds that are being fought over by many competing interests. Our experience, through numerous administrations and with both budget surpluses and budget deficits, is that relying on legislatures to agree to make transportation funding a priority for general fund dollars is extremely risky. Transportation has not competed well with other important issues like education, health care and public safety.
MnDOT’s recently updated 20-Year Highway Investment Plan proposes to spend most of the projected highway funds on simply maintaining the roads and bridges we have today. Even with that investment, pavements will deteriorate. Minnesota’s economy, safety and quality of life are all affected by the quality of the transportation system. Adequate, dependable funding through constitutionally dedicated transportation user fees is the only way to ensure that waiting projects all across the state will be completed any time soon.
Len Levine, ELWYN TINKLENBERG and TOM SOREL
The writers were MnDOT commissioners from 1986 to 1991; 1999 to 2002, and 2008 to 2012, respectively.
Are opponents (name-callers) losing perspective about goals?
I, for one, am tired of the constant attacks on the Metropolitan Council. It is “unelected” because long-range planning is best done when the views of today’s electorate are balanced by an understanding of regional demographic trends. It is not harmful “social engineering” if dispersed subsidized housing reduces the concentrated poverty that plagues this and other American cities. It’s not a “power grab” to imagine a future where our wells don’t run dry and our cars are not stuck in traffic for hours. Could we please debate public policy on its merits, and skip the adolescent name-calling that has become popular on some talk-radio stations?
Richard Adair, Minneapolis
CITY GARBAGE CONTRACTS
Kind of weird to be so upset over a single-hauler solution
I was blown away by the response from Bloomington neighbors at a recent City Council meeting (“Garbage-hauling plan raises stink,” May 11). The possibilities of turning over garbage collection to a single hauler brought out ridiculous panic attacks from concerned residents. One woman wrote to the city: “Middle class and fed up with GOVERNMENT taking away my money and taking away my CHOICE to choose the best economic choice for me!!!!!!!” Holy cow, over a garbage company?
As I sit writing this with the windows open, it’s hard to concentrate, because there is a constant thunder, clamor and screeching noises coming from multiple garbage trucks coming down my street in Andover. The emissions from these trucks (along with school buses in the mornings and afternoons) can’t be good for the air I breathe. The roads are in constant need of repair due to all of these heavy vehicles with heavy loads roaring through the neighborhood.
As always, price and efficiency are a concern for residents, but I can’t imagine that either would be so extreme as to ruin one’s finances or destroy one’s sense of being. Every city runs up against these same concerns, so, come on, people — get on board with letting our elected officials try a single-hauler solution.
Sharon E. Carlson, Andover
Heed your surroundings — and remember, we’re all human
I am both a biker — for recreation, and sometimes necessity — and a driver (“Maybe you’re just not bright enough to be on two wheels?” Readers Write, May 11). As a biker, I follow the rules of the road (stop signs are my only exception, if no one’s at the intersection). If I bike at night, I actually use a light. If the lane isn’t big enough for me to be on the side of the road or in a bike lane and be passed, I take up the full lane — because I don’t want some moron thinking he can just whiz by me with less than 3 feet between us.
As a driver and a biker, I’ve seen some pretty stupid behavior from both drivers and bikers. I’ve seen wrong-way bikers; drivers and bikers with no lights on in rain/darkness/snow; drivers and bikers who run red lights; drivers and bikers who won’t allow enough room for other cars to turn right — you get the idea. But that doesn’t mean all bikers or all drivers are stupid, as Monday’s letter implies. It means that at that specific moment, the person had other things on their mind and wasn’t paying enough attention. I think we can all admit to those moments, biker or driver.
Jeff White, St. Paul