I feel that large sports complexes are totally unnecessary ("Suburban splurges: A race to build big," May 10). Instead of speed and strength conditioning, let's learn how to speed-read and strengthen our reading skills. I realize that keeping our bodies in shape is a necessary part of life, but, really, go outside for a walk without your phone and observe your neighborhood and talk to your neighbors — that will really shape your mind and your body, and it's free.
Also, I would really feel better about our society if we could start with young children learning how to get exercise without a cost — for instance, walking, biking, and playing baseball and soccer and basketball in the yard, not inside. We have really spent so much extra money on sports that our lives are out of balance — and isn't that a big part of growing as a healthy individual, having balance in our lives?
Pat Lewis, Plymouth
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The article about cities building taxpayer-funded sports facilities was outrageous. The main problem with the entire concept is the decisionmakers have absolutely no skin in the game. When I have made decisions to borrow money to expand my business, no bank has ever offered me, in 32 years, money without a personal signature. That sure makes you pay attention.
Perhaps that should be the requirement — mayors and City Council members must personally guarantee the loans they are taking on. It might make them think twice about the business viability of a sports dome or community center.
Perhaps the most insane viewpoint comes from Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens, who was paraphrased in the story as saying that "cities make many spending decisions without voter approval. At a council meeting last year, she said that if the city can build a bridge without a referendum, it shouldn't need one for the aquatic center." Sorry, but comparing a bridge with a community center is like comparing school with youth hockey. One is essential; the other is not.
What if a private organization were in the business of building these facilities, and had to evaluate the long-term viability? Could it compete with a city to get the work, given the need for a profit motive? Well, it seems like there are no private developers who are interested in building these venues. Isn't that interesting?
Dale Vaillancourt, Burnsville
U.S. VS. BRITISH POLITICS
Talk of polarization fails to recognize a false equivalency
Lawrence Jacobs wishes that the U.S. political parties could work together like British political parties ("An educational election," May 10). From his invitation-only front-row seat, he bemoans the extremism and polarization that characterizes politics in this country, and attempts to cast blame on both sides of the political divide.
The reality, of course, is that the Republicans, along with their neo-Bircher brethren in the Tea Party, are to blame for the depths of this polarization. Jacobs himself has a hard time finding examples of liberal extremism. He implies that MNsure is one because its implementation has not gone smoothly. He paints Obamacare as overly ambitious and divisive even as he praises the British for agreeing on their much more comprehensive National Health Service. He equates one conservative Democratic senator's primary loss to the far-reaching ideological purity wars waged by the Tea Party on Republican incumbents.
In reality, the austerity that Labor and the Tories agreed to has prolonged the recession in Britain.
Jacobs' other examples of cooperation in Britain — climate change and same-sex marriage — are issues here only because the right refuses to recognize plain reality. Obamacare was based on a watered-down Republican health care plan, and now it's condemned as liberal extremism by the Republicans, who can't stand that it was enacted by Democrats. I understand that pointing the finger of blame at one side is not conducive to rekindling cooperation and pragmatism, but neither is pretending that we got to this point because of equally bad behavior on both sides.
Steve Loubert, Golden Valley
Support for wellness programs is of benefit to all parties
I was pleased to see business leaders in the Star Tribune's 2015 business survey ("24th Annual Star Tribune 100," May 10) overwhelmingly supporting employer wellness programs. The survey question was tied to businesses reducing health care costs. However, as an employee who took advantage of a wellness program, I can tell you firsthand that it made a difference in my personal health and life. With the support of my company's program, I was able to make positive health changes (including quitting smoking). My participation in the program also reduced my health insurance premium. To the degree my engagement reduced my employer's cost, too, I would call this a win-win-win. These programs make a difference, and it is great they are supported by Minnesota businesses, employees and elected leaders.
Nicole Hyatt, Edina
If throwing money at it hasn't worked yet, why will it now?
President Obama says that the United States is unwilling to do what is necessary to fight poverty ("Obama laments nation's reluctance to confront poverty," May 13). According to the Congressional Research Office, there are 83 federal welfare programs, and the total amount spent on these programs in 2011 was $1 trillion, with $746 billion of that money coming from the federal government and the rest coming from the states. This is 21 percent of the entire federal budget.
Americans also gave $335 billion to charity in 2013. In 1947, 33 percent of Americans lived in poverty. By 1964, the year that President Lyndon Johnson declared a "War on Poverty," the poverty rate had fallen to 18 percent. Since then, the U.S. has spent more than $22 trillion to fight poverty, and the rate has barely changed, to 15 percent.
Americans have given generously to fight poverty; unfortunately, government programs have not made much headway after spending trillions of dollars. Now the president says that we're not doing enough. How many more welfare programs will fix the problem? How many more billions of dollars in spending each year?
James Brandt, New Brighton
MILITARY LANGUAGE SCHOOL
A World War II humanity lesson
The Japanese language school during World War II wasn't completely secret (Minnesota History, May 10). Our family met one of the nisei men who came to our home near Fort Snelling, which was rented out while our dad was in the Army. Before the man arrived, our mom carefully explained that the nisei were the good Japanese. And he was a good man — he was the first person of Japanese descent that I, at age 5, had ever seen, and he had a bag of marshmallows. (They were a rare treat because of wartime rationing.)
I still remember that after his visit we couldn't see why our Dad had to be taken away to fight the Japanese — they seemed like good people. And we have friends in Japan who are also good people. A little kindness goes a long way toward building lasting relationships.