Anyone who read the Aug. 30 article about Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender and the future of policing in the city should come away shaking their head (“Bender performs balancing act with policing”). There is so much in her replies that does nothing but stoke the fear and concern of so many Minneapolis residents.
Does the City Council really understand the urgency of the situation? Do its members understand that pain and anger in the community over police brutality coexist with pain and anger over the violence, looting and riots, and stranger assaults we all have endured since May? Expecting that we can live safely in Minneapolis doesn’t come from “a place of privilege” but rather from the basic compact between the city and its residents, and it’s an expectation held widely across the city, not just by wealthy white single-family homeowners, the group Bender most often uses as the foil in her policy creation.
When Bender describes her pledge to dismantle the Police Department — a promise made with no plan but with great drama on a stage in a park — as a “compromise” over even more radical proposals, residents justifiably wonder if her loyalties lie with the hundreds of thousands of Minneapolis residents or with a few special-interest groups that have her ear.
Last, it is indefensible for the council president in our weak-mayor system to dismiss the calls and concerns from residents outside the 10th Ward on topics of citywide importance. If she doesn’t want to have to listen to voices from outside her ward, perhaps someone else on the council would be a better fit for the job.
Mike Hess, Minneapolis
Lincoln on ‘mobocratic spirit’: A takeaway and a contradiction
The Aug. 30 Opinion Exchange reprint of Abraham Lincoln‘s speech in Springfield, Ill. (“America’s greatest danger is the ‘mobocratic spirit’ ”) was a wonderful reminder of the brilliance of Lincoln and the wisdom of his words. Yes, his words are relevant today to caution us against “mobocracy” but are also relevant regarding the behavior of President Donald Trump.
Trump’s presidency is the most corrupt and lawless in modern times, if not ever. Many of his colleagues have been indicted or convicted. He himself flagrantly violated the Hatch Act recently, using the White House as a political prop.
Included in Lincoln’s speech were the words “the lawless in spirit are encouraged to become the lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint … they become absolutely unrestrained.”
If Abraham Lincoln were with us today, would he shrug his shoulders or wink an eye at Donald Trump’s behavior? Never! We should follow Lincoln’s words, and not Trump’s example.
Todd Otis, Minneapolis
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So many wise words in Lincoln’s speech. Everyone I know is appalled by the looting and property destruction we have seen recently. And I agree that mob actions can ultimately threaten our democratic institutions. This country has a sad history of lynchings, most frequently of African Americans, and we have seen what happens when right-wing groups, encouraged by our president, clash with protesters against our national scourge — racism.
However, when Lincoln calls for “strict observance of all the laws,” he seems to assume that the alternative is only “redress by mob law,” which is never acceptable. When he praises our ancestors, he seems to forget that two of the incidents we remember and sometimes revere as important events of the American Revolution were mob actions: the “Boston Massacre” and the “Boston Tea Party.” In the former, an unruly mob of colonists, badly outnumbering a handful of British soldiers, taunted, provoked and, yes, threw various things at the troops. In the latter, colonists destroyed private property, and colonists who witnessed it refused to identify the culprits to the authorities. Were these colonial actions justified? Not if Lincoln’s words are to be taken literally.
There are, of course, alternatives to mob action or meekly following unjust laws and practices. We saw it in the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s: protest marches and civil disobedience Without them, I have no doubt that the Jim Crow laws and voter suppression practiced against African Americans for decades would still be with us. Even now, efforts are underway to suppress voting.
But civil disobedience is what most contradicts Lincoln’s prescription: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. explained it this way in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”: “One may ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. … I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” That letter is worth a read.
Diane Ring, Edina
The writer is a retired teacher of U.S. history.
BNSF kills Blue Line extension out of pure selfishness
We should all be disappointed in the BNSF railroad’s lack of cooperation on the Bottineau Corridor extension of the Blue Line light rail. A transit project that all stakeholders support nearly unanimously is such a rarity, with all affected communities excited for the opportunities the light rail would bring. BNSF’s decision to give the silent treatment to the Metropolitan Council and effectively force it to scrap the most effective alignment for the project is selfish and embarrassing. Eminent domain has been used by railroads to authorize the forced seizure of property for the “public good.” The brutal irony that they have no interest in supporting a project that unquestionably would benefit so many people should not be forgotten — nor forgiven.
Max Christensen, Minneapolis
CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE
They’re struggling, indeed, but here’s one city that helped
The Aug. 30 article about the financial struggles of chambers of commerce was right on. That is why I am so proud of my city, Burnsville, which made $50,000 of its CARES Act money available to the Burnsville Chamber and another $50,000 to the Burnsville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Both were given the awards due to their great efforts keeping businesses informed and promoting doing business in Burnsville. The city also made $20,000 grants available to businesses. Hats off to the city and both organizations for their strong efforts to keep Burnsville businesses in business.
Gerard Nienhaus, Burnsville
The writer, retired, is a former economic development coordinator in Burnsville.
THE ‘NO-FAIR’ YEAR
A vivid retelling of writer’s 1946 trip to an near-empty fairgrounds
Thanks to Harlan Stoehr for the vivid — and funny — account of his 1946 State Fair visit (“1946: The no-fair trip I’ll never forget,” Aug. 30). What a great testament to the power of storytelling and imagination! I could see it all, both the near-emptiness of the grounds and the glory of the fair as it should have been. I enjoyed the trip.
Anne Sovik, Northfield