I doubt I’m the first fantasy railroad engineer (“Town evacuated as oil train burns,” May 7) to ask this question: Is having 100-plus railroad cars with heavy liquid sloshing inside and moving at frequently changing speed on sometimes geologically infirm and shifting strata not an invitation to disaster? When I was 6 and set up my first Lionel train set alongside the Christmas tree, it wasn’t long before I intuitively understood that number of cars, speed, continuity of speed, weight of cars and subtlety of grade were all factors in avoiding derailment, necessary calculations for arriving safely at my cardboard station.

Though I’d not yet studied algebra or calculus, my young instincts took me far, as I wondered why increasing any one of these factors as an arithmetic add-on seemed to exponentially multiply the likelihood of negative consequences. All of us who are no longer kids but now community stewards need to trust our seemingly unexpert perceptions. Let’s not forget the prevailing fantasy of owners and shareholders — that profit margins and “holiday greed” unregulated continue to trump issues of public safety.

Judith Monson, St. Paul

LIGHT RAIL

When weighing expansion, know that some really value the service

There has been a running commentary on the cost of light-rail expansion in the Twin Cities. Full disclosure: I regularly use light rail, buses and bike trails — snow, rain or shine. My views will likely differ from those of a politician who only takes public transit as a publicity stunt and not as a primary means of transportation. I favor light-rail expansion.

However, I believe one big consideration should be taken into account anytime an issue like this is presented: Are politicians, and for that matter all Minnesotans, willing to look beyond themselves and their pocketbooks? Will we be willing to do something that may not directly benefit our lives but will benefit the lives of others, now and in the future? I imagine if critics of light-rail expansion were presented with personal stories from real people, their minds would change. I’m curious if the Star Tribune is willing to seek out those stories — the voices of people who need this expansion.

Frederick Messmann, Minneapolis

 

‘FARMER-BASHING’

I’ve heard it all before, but the fact is, not all are good stewards

I am compelled to offer a quick response to the May 6 commentary by Noah Hultgren from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (“Buffer bill: Enough with all of this farmer-bashing). I lived on a hobby farm in southern Minnesota for 20 years and watched my local lakes go from bad to disgusting over that time. As an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, it was very upsetting. Now that I live in northern Minnesota, I can speak out much more easily.

I was friends with my farm neighbors and my lakeshore homeowners association neighbors and watched the finger-pointing and paid close attention to the water-quality studies and statistics. There is nothing new here. I paid close attention to manure spreading, farm chemical application, plowing practices and water resources all around the area. I heard all the ag associations whining about farm-bashing and burdensome regulation and how all farmers are good stewards of the land and always use best practices. There is nothing new about that rhetoric, either.

Some farmers care about water quality, but most don’t or at best feel that they can’t afford to. Facts are facts, and farmers need to be forced to be accountable. The honor system is part of the problem, and money trumps honor in Big Ag, the same as in any other big business. The bottom line and the fact of the matter is that farms are responsible for the vast majority of the serious water pollution all across southern Minnesota. Kudos to Gov. Mark Dayton for putting political correctness aside and standing up to the powerful ag lobby regarding the terrible problem with water quality and with all of the wildlife and public-use issues that flow from farm runoff into lakes, rivers and streams.

Don’t be fooled again.

John McIntosh, Aitkin, Minn.

 

‘NET METERING’ REFORM

Are cooperatives ganging up on small producers? Seems like it.

It’s difficult to know what is more disturbing about the proposal by the electrical cooperatives to change net metering (“Why net metering reform is needed,” May 6) — that it is misleading, or that the same proposal was made by Arizona electrical producers just last month. On the facts side, they claim that small producers pay nothing when no net electricity is used. As someone with a small solar system, my Xcel Energy bill would contradict that. Further, we even owe Xcel money during months when we produce more net electricity than we use.

Solar is a long-term investment. Those of us who pay for it have made a long-term agreement with the power company on the costs and charges. To attempt to renegotiate the terms after an investment is made is nothing more than a power grab. It’s either an amazing coincidence or a planned action that proposals to change net metering terms are being made across the country simultaneously.

At a time when the drawbacks of the most common sources of power in Minnesota, coal and nuclear, are becoming more challenging to resolve, it is unfortunate that efforts are being made to undermine better long-term alternatives like wind and solar.

Gary Simons, Eden Prairie

 

‘THE COMMONS’

Park process near stadium is the latest slap in the face

The Star Tribune Editorial Board recently celebrated the development of the Commons, the new park planned near the Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis (“Plans for a park that’s not commonplace,” May 4). The editorial says: “Expectations are high.” But many sensible citizens following the development of the Commons believe that the expectations are unrealistic.

The “creative governance” agreement applauded by the Editorial Board is nothing more than a very thinly veiled evasion of the Minneapolis charter by the City Council. The evasion of the charter has allowed this project to bypass the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s planning process and the City Council’s budget process.

The duly elected Park Board rejected adding the Commons to the park system in summer 2014 because development of riverfront parks and maintaining neighborhood parks are much higher priorities. In December 2013, Hennepin County District Judge Mel Dickstein stated that “common sense and the advancement of effective government” make it clear that city founders never intended that “two separate bodies, potentially acting at cross purposes, could each develop the Minneapolis park system.”

Millions of unbudgeted dollars are now going to be expended on a “park” that is a priority because the Minnesota Vikings will have a grand space that they can use for free.

It is time for someone — anyone — to stand up and put a halt to this expensive fiscal folly.

Arlene Fried, Minneapolis

 

RUNNING

Outfit your feet, and then, as that one ad slogan goes: Just do it

As someone who has been running for over 40 years and coached high school cross-country for nearly 30 years, I read the “Run 101” article (Variety, May 7) with interest. My suggestion for people who are thinking of running: Go out and buy a good pair of shoes. Then go out the door and start running. Don’t worry about your hands, arms, posture or foot placement. Just run. It’s not that difficult.

Patrick Foley, Northfield