As we write this, we are about to attend the military service and burial of our son, Craig, who passed away May 4. We could not let this day pass without expressing our heartfelt thanks to the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center and the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who cared so well for our son during his desperate fight against brain cancer. We know the criticism that veterans’ health care has been under recently. We want to voice a contrary view of sincere appreciation for the caliber of care and support our son received during the many months he was treated for this terrible disease. We cannot begin to fully estimate the hundreds of thousands of dollars that our son’s care undoubtedly costs; we can only state that his family and wife were never billed a nickel.

So as we leave to attend our son’s service, we want to say again how deeply appreciative we are for the quality of health care and support our son received. We thank our government and the wonderful professionals of the VA Health Care System for caring so well for our son.

Bruce and Mary Gensmer, Bloomington

TEACHER COMPENSATION

Wrong emphasis was chosen for front-page presentation

The net effect for teachers from increasing benefits costs, particularly health care, is simply declining take-home pay. This was true 10 and 20 years ago, and it plays out again, as analyzed by the Star Tribune on May 13.

Along with rising costs, the writers calculated an inflation-adjusted 2 percent decline of take-home pay over 11 years. Even so, the front-page headline was a misleading “Cost of teachers’ benefits soars.” Regardless of the subhead that follows — “Salaries are stagnant” — the overwhelming message is: Teachers are costing us taxpayers a wad of money.

While a headache for budget-balancing legislators and school district officials, take-home pay is the true story of sustainability in any profession. And 11 years of teacher salary stagnation or actual decline is an exit sign for prospective and current teachers. This is a societal tragedy, and a clear failure of government-mandated stewardship of public education, our most valuable resource.

Children, and the teachers who shepherd them, should not be undermined, compromised or condemned by the chaos of the marketplace.

Steve Watson, Minneapolis

• • •

There is no nobler profession than that of instilling knowledge in others. Knowledge is what makes the human race better. Teachers deserve our respect and admiration, not scorn and derision. Those who whine and complain about teachers haven’t a clue what it takes to instill knowledge. They should try just once to stand in front of 30 kids and not only keep the kids’ attention but actually teach them something. See if you last even an hour, let alone a career.

Irving Kellman, Plymouth

 

WATER QUALITY

Attention is warranted. So, what can we as individuals do?

Wow — where to start? I applaud the Star Tribune in publishing multiple pieces on the important issue of water quality on its May 13 opinion pages, and I especially appreciate the courageous work of the Dodge County Concerned Citizens in working against contamination of groundwater in Minnesota (“At ground zero of the groundwater crisis”). I recently saw the eye-opening documentary “Cowspiracy,” which quotes the statistic of 116,000 pounds of animal excrement that is produced every second worldwide and how livestock operations have created 95,000 square miles of dead zones in our oceans. Animal agriculture is also having major effects on climate change and overall worldwide food supplies.

It takes 18 times as much land to supply a typical American diet containing meat, dairy and eggs, compared with a diet of plants only. One thing all of us can do, as difficult as it is to change our dietary habits, is to eat less meat, dairy and egg products, a change that has been shown to be healthier but that also would lead to less need for more animal feedlots and toward more sustainable land use and protection of our precious water.

Eleanor Wagner, Edina

• • •

When you have more dessert than people to eat it, dividing it up is easy. Seven cookies, divided among eight people, changes the dynamics of the discussion completely. Local officials will find the same issues in managing groundwater resources (“Debate over deep wells brings tensions to the surface,” May 10). Today, southwest metro suburbs each get a full helping of water. Cooperation will be difficult when City Councils have to start telling residents and businesses “no” to more water use, or spend large amounts of money to fix the problem. One only needs to look at the situation around White Bear Lake to see the same dynamic in action today.

Steve Peterson, Bloomington

The writer is a former member of Bloomington City Council.

 

BIRD DEATHS BY GLASS

If you don’t see the evidence, you’re really not looking

To the uninformed and benighted critics of the proposed Minneapolis skyway ordinance (“Please, City Council, focus,” Readers Write, May 9), you are wrong. The social problems facing our city do not eclipse the need to protect our wildlife. Minneapolis is central to the largest flyway in North America, with more than 40 percent of our nation’s birds passing through it. It’s estimated that 5 percent of fall migrants meet their deaths by colliding with windows, and contrary to one critic’s statement, pigeons are rarely the victims. Instead it’s our native warblers, sparrows and woodpeckers that are killed.

Furthermore, empirical evidence collected by scientists demonstrates that hundreds of millions of birds are killed annually by striking windows in the U.S. alone. Before arrogantly dismissing hard data, you might consider that your personal absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In addition to being on the edges of buildings, where you are less likely to notice them, many birds that strike buildings are collected and disposed of by street cleaners. Many more are taken by urban scavengers.

It is time for Minneapolis to join the ranks of other progressive cities such as San Diego, New York City, San Francisco and Portland, which have already made steps toward reducing the death toll of our cities on native wildlife.

Elise Morton, Minneapolis

 

PLASTIC BAGS

A ban, as proposed in St. Louis Park, would entice this shopper

Good for St. Louis Park! (“Plastic bags might get the boot,” May 12.) I’m tired of seeing plastic shopping bags stuck in the trees, littering paths and polluting our lakes. As an Edina resident who lives near the borders of St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minneapolis, I have plenty of choices of where to shop, and I’ll vote with my feet. If St. Louis Park enacts this ban, I will make it a priority to bring my business to St. Louis Park stores.

Melanie McCall, Edina

• • •

Why stop with bags? How about Tupperware, plastic garbage cans and kids’ toys? They use a lot of plastic, as do cellphones and computers. Does this mean my paper will be an unprotected soggy mess, and I won’t be able to savor the Star Tribune’s editorials on the environment? Then there is Air Force One, which burns 5 gallons of gas to the mile. A round trip to Hawaii would consume about 47,000 gallons of gas, enough petroleum to make about 23,000 pounds of plastic bags. What’s next, our toilet paper?

Nick Johnson, Excelsior