Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins represents a kind of leadership that fosters genuine conversation and real change in how ordinary citizens are perceived and treated in public venues, and shows us how to stretch our sense of community to include more diversity ("Jenkins forum to focus on racism," Jan. 10.)

Her response to criticism by a coffee shop staff member for handing out newsletters to customers: host a dialogue at the same coffee shop and extend an invitation to participants to reach a better understanding. It's so simple, brave and direct. I'm grateful she's in office and provides an example to our broader community of how easy it can be to engage in conversations and gestures that free us from assumptions.

Julie Remington, St. Paul
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The article about Jenkins reports that at a sensitivity training she'll oversee at Blackeye Roasting, she'll show a video of two black men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last year. The problem here is that many people in both queer and black communities strenuously objected to the very attitude of those two men and thought their justifications were arrogant. Theirs was an assault on franchised businesses locally maintained by hard workers. Jenkins' choice to screen this reveals her elitism, prejudice and contempt.

I've tracked Jenkins' community organizing efforts since she came to Minnesota from Chicago. Ever the virtue-signaler, she loves to demagogue over phobias and conspiracy theories about race. Jenkins dominates and "wokescolds," while narcissistically claiming to speak for all the rest of us in queer and black communities. So what if someone gets fired in the fervor — it's all for the glory of the cause! That said, to be sure, she does not speak for a great number of us. For many in both realms, Jenkins is an embarrassment who echoes the grotesquerie of Maxine Waters, John Conyers and Andrea Dworkin.

P. S: "Wokescold" is a term coming into usage. It refers to those of the so-called "resistance" who use the term "woke" to describe their sudden sociopolitical illumination.

John Townsend, Minneapolis

Tower-topping tenant sign is a concession that shouldn't be made

After United Properties warned that conditions set by the Minneapolis City Planning Commission and Public Works Department would jeopardize the mixed-use tower they hope to build on the corner of Hennepin and Washington avenues, Mayor Jacob Frey supported their appeal and the Zoning and Planning Committee of the Minneapolis City Council went against city staff recommendations, voting to allow design concessions, including the erection of a tenant sign at a height of 484 feet ("Officials concede on Gateway design," Business, Jan. 11).

What do you think, citizens of Minneapolis and those who come downtown to work and visit? Do you think a downtown skyline should be plastered with signage? Would that be aesthetically pleasing? Should we set a precedent of allowing individual developers to dictate our city's aesthetic guidelines?

I believe it is the job of city officials to put our city's long-term aesthetic appeal above a particular developer's or business' desire for advertising rights.

Residents of Seattle have the same concern for their skyline and have put the question this way: Do we have to "commodify" everything? Would we allow buildings to emit a noise or odor that would be noticeable from several miles away if that were considered a way for them to advertise themselves? Why do we treat visual impact any differently?

Of course, affordable housing and a thriving business environment are priorities for a healthy community. But so is a continuous commitment to make our city as aesthetically appealing as possible. A city's parks, plazas, malls, riverfronts and, I would argue, its skylines, are its oases, and also require our devoted attention.

So, Minneapolis City Council members, when you vote on this and other projects, I hope your vote will advance the goal of aesthetic improvement, and not set a precedent for turning our skyline into an ugly smattering of towering billboards.

And wouldn't it be nice if developers/large businesses, would, instead of threatening councils with withdrawal if they don't get their way, instead donate the cost of a giant sign and its lighting toward the beautification of Nicollet Mall? Perhaps the city could erect a tasteful sign somewhere on the mall listing and thanking donors of the benches, trees, flowers, etc. Just a thought.

Marie Sullivan, Edina
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I am so disappointed that my downtown view will soon include what is basically a giant billboard on top of the planned Gateway tower. I'll just add that I am continually disappointed by the power that businesses (read: dollars) have in this country. Will that anchor tenant be financially responsible for removing the signage if (when) it moves on?

Cathy McCarty, Minneapolis

If it is to be built, it cannot be an environmentally slipshod affair

"We're going to build the wall, folks. That wall will go up so fast, your head will spin." — Donald Trump in 2016.

Previous presidents saw fit to make sure that government-sponsored construction projects that could have adverse effects on the environment and people should never "go up so fast your head will spin." The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon on Jan. 1, 1970. It holds the U.S. government to being protectors of our nation's resources through a scientific approach. Not raw emotion.

Any time federal funding is involved in an "undertaking" — whether it be a short stretch of road, a 600-mile oil pipeline or even an absurd plan to build a thousands-mile-long wall along our border — an environmental-impact statement is needed.

If the wall is best for America, then it should be run through the NEPA process. We owe it to the individual states, the thousands of private landowners and the publicly-held land it would cross, as well as the vast array of flora and fauna that reside on those landscapes.

But doing something right takes time, and our president knows that time is running out. That's why he will push for a "national emergency" to not only get around the U.S. House but also try to avoid the yearslong environmental analysis that each mile of the wall would require.

Regardless of which side of the wall you fall on, we need to hold him to that requirement.

Dan Born, Northfield

The writer is an environmental scientist.


The penumbra of its impact

The inconvenience and expense caused by the current government shutdown is being felt by many Americans besides those whose salaries have been suspended. Five days ago I traveled to Washington, D.C., to join my son, who was scheduled for a series of interviews on Tuesday, the final step in a rigorous process leading to a possible entry-level job in the State Department. On Monday afternoon, my son received a terse e-mail message informing him that, due to the shutdown, his interviews on Tuesday had been canceled. At that point we had no recourse but to pack our bags and return home, having enjoyed a father-and-son getaway together but realizing we had wasted both time and money in the pursuit of a dream that may never be realized.

Our disappointment was compounded by the thought that this shutdown of our government need not have occurred. Securing the Southern border of our nation is indeed important, but our president's insistence that our national security depends almost entirely on the construction of a physical wall does not seem to be based on actual facts or evidence. Not everyone criticizing the president's fixation on a wall is suffering from a "Trump derangement syndrome." Some of us fear that the president is suffering a wall derangement of his own.

Charles M. Hanson, Brooklyn Park