Last year, advocated change to the welfare system became a reality with recipients gaining the right to earn a GED and learn valuable skills without jeopardizing their benefits. This was no act of charity but rather a systematic approach to develop a skilled workforce so jobs in manufacturing, construction and other services no longer go unfilled due to a lack of trained workers.

Unfortunately, most of these welfare recipients have no idea that they now have access to education and training.

This change is a direct result of the efforts of the Northside Community Response Team, a group of organizations that came together immediately following the 2011 tornado that hit north Minneapolis — where 67 percent of households rely on government assistance — four years ago today, on May 22, 2011.

The integration of people of color into the workforce is not only a moral imperative; it is an economic necessity. Baby boomers are retiring, and there are not enough workers to take their place. And 100 percent of the net increase in the future workforce of this region will be people of color. Without these workers, our economy will suffer even greater racial disparities and loss of Minnesota’s gross domestic product, estimated to be more than $18 billion in 2015.

We must inform, advocate and empower the residents of north Minneapolis by setting them on a course to live productive lives with dignity.

We need them to know that there are opportunities for them to become contributing members of society— because we all do better when we all do better.

Louis J. King II, Woodbury

The writer is chairman of the Northside Community Response Team and president /CEO of Summit Academy OIC. The team will be hosting a four-year anniversary event from 4 to 6 p.m. May 28 at the Minneapolis Urban League. The public is welcome.

BIG BUSINESSES

Accountability comes really cheap, if you think about it

Wow! Five banks have agreed to pay a $5 billion (with a “b”) fine for interest-rate rigging. That sounds like a lot of money. Is it? It’s about the total player salary cap for the NFL for one year — not such a big deal. Or to put it another way: The five banks probably service about half of the people in the country. The “big fine” is the equivalent of $30 or so per customer. Does anyone think that bank fees and surcharges won’t go up by $30 over the next year?

You can’t punish big corporations with fines. Put some executives in jail, and things will almost for sure change.

Dick Hendrickson, Minneapolis

 

SMALL BUSINESSES

This is news worth highlighting

What a breath of fresh air to read about business success along West Broadway (Neal St. Anthony column, May 18). Finally a story about success, no matter race or gender (both stories highlighted African-American women), that emphasized education, hard work, and motivation to do something great and make things happen. While I’m certain both of these women have encountered obstacles like any business or organization, they have persevered and made a difference. These stories should be front-page news every day, and we should support these businesses the best we can.

Jesse Schelitzche, Deephaven

 

MEMORIAL DAY

Find time for the true purpose

The first big weekend of the summer is upon us. All of the commercials are encouraging us to shop early and be prepared to go to the cabin for that all-important summer fun. However, the original purpose of this holiday was to remember and honor the men and woman who served and died to keep our great country free. So please, as you enjoy your holiday time, take a moment to remember them and the families that lost them.

Mary K. Bergling, Anoka

 

COLLEGE GRADUATION

Let mortarboards sing

I read the article on how college graduates today enjoy decorating their mortarboards (“Capping off college,” May 18). Our daughter just did the same thing, and it was featured on a video her university published on the 2015 graduation class. I find it amusing that the University of St. Thomas discourages such freedom of expression under the auspices of “tradition.” Having spent my first 12 years of education in the Catholic school system, it seems many institutions (not all) are hanging on to things that just don’t matter. That small position of warning graduates not to decorate their caps (which they buy and own) at one of the significant emotional events of their lives is precisely the type of pettiness that caused my wife and I to take our daughter out of Catholic education after the fifth grade.

Raymond August, Edina

 

EXTREME SPORTS

Don’t glorify illegal activity

I am greatly disappointed at the May 19 story about Dean Potter’s death in Yosemite National Park (“Years before fall, extreme jumper had premonition of his death,” May 19). BASE jumping is illegal in national parks, yet this article all but praised him as a pioneering adventurer worthy of sainthood in extreme-sports heaven.

National parks are grossly underfunded to begin with, and as a supporter of the National Park Service and a visitor to the preserved areas it supervises, I resent that funds that would better be spent enhancing the visitor experience of law-abiding visitors must instead be spent policing scofflaws, rescuing them when their behavior results in injury or getting lost, and finally, retrieving their bodies when they make the biggest mistake of all.

Curtis Lesmeister, Maple Grove

 

BRINGING UP RACE

There’s no need to goad

I was visiting the Twin Cities last weekend and was enjoying the Sunday paper, reading the book reviews, when I came across this line in Weston Cutter’s otherwise well-written review of “Leaving Orbit” by Margaret Lazarus Dean: “I was years from being born when the last of the 14 white American men who have so far set foot on the moon did so …”

Why on Earth (pun intended) would one even write a sentence like that? First of all, 12 “white American men” walked on the moon, not 14 — if you’re going to make a snarky editorial comment, at least get your facts right. Second of all, why even mention that the 12 moonwalkers were white men? Everyone knows that, so why emphasize it unless you’re trying to make some cheap political or cultural point, which does not belong in a book review, anyway. Please advise Weston Cutter to stick to book reviewing. I’ll be reading this book, despite the bad experience reading the review.

Christopher Rodel, Sun Prairie, Wis.