Have I missed the letters in support of our new state flag designs? I am so excited to have a flag that's easy to identify and one that represents all of Minnesota. Having never seen a loon, I am thrilled they have chosen to focus on the North Star. It is our motto, after all. I can't wait for our state to join the group of beautifully designed flags along the lines of what New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, Colorado and Texas have. Heck, I might even buy some Minnesota-centric merchandise depicting it!
Heidi Wortel, Bloomington
The chair of the State Emblems Redesign Commission says the loon "doesn't really represent the people of Minnesota everywhere in the state" ("Why the new flag won't have a loon on it," Nov. 29). Earlier, commission member Bjorn Olson, a state representative from Fairmont, said, "I've never seen a loon in southern Minnesota" ("Flag fans cry fowl over lack of loons," Nov. 23).
Maybe Rep. Olson isn't looking hard enough, as the eBird website shows multiple sightings of loons right there in Fairmont, on both Budd Lake and Hall Lake. In fact, during spring, loons can be seen all over Minnesota, including in the Twin Cities and south.
But beyond that, "not common in all parts of the state" is a ridiculous standard. Are grizzly bears a routine sight for residents across California? No. But it's one of the few American state flags that just about anyone across the country can bring to mind immediately. It represents all Californians not because they see bears daily but because it's on the state flag and it shows all Californians' regard for the state's natural heritage. How could that not be obvious?
Another rare state that has a flag known across the country? Texas. Memo to the Minnesota commission: There's already a Lone Star State.
The best design was a variation on the North Star design that had a beautiful profile of a loon in white between blue water below and a green background above (submission F590). The commission should reconsider its absurd and inaccurate "everywhere in the state" standard and go back to the pool instead of sticking with the mostly bland and repetitive designs it's now calling the finalists. I live in Minneapolis and don't see loons that often, but I never feel more Minnesotan than when I go to one of our many splendid state parks in summer and hear the cries of the loons across a tranquil lake.
Jason McGrath, Minneapolis
Featuring the North Star in the new state flag made sense when Minnesota territory extended further north than any other state, but that ended when Alaska joined the Union.
Minnesota is the source of the Mississippi River. The flag should highlight that. Why not an outline of the state that features the three main areas, evergreen forest in the northeast, prairie in the southwest and hardwood forest in the southeast, and also featuring the Mississippi, Minnesota and maybe the Blue Earth Rivers?
Ross Arneson, Mankato
POLLUTION CONTROL AGENCY
A Citizens Board, but better
The Star Tribune editorial on Nov. 26 made a good case for better oversight of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in its regulatory functions ("Dig into concerns over foundry pollution"). At the end of the editorial, it suggested re-establishing the "powerful MPCA Citizens Board"; similar suggestions have been made after the Legislature, in 2015, eliminated it in an act of political retribution. I think it is a good idea to have a citizen's board for transparency of agency actions, but there seems to be some rose-colored blush in historical memory of former boards. I speak from some experience because I was a member of the early MPCA Citizens Board, appointed by Gov. Rudy Perpich, and served from 1983-1991 as solid waste committee chair and vice chair.
In my estimation the Citizens Board's success is dependent on two things: 1) relevant knowledge and constructive attitude about the agency's mission, and 2) constant and substantial coverage of the agency's actions through the board's open meetings. The board is not the final decisionmaker (that is the function of the MPCA commissioner) but can provide the public with agency background and insight into the decisionmaking process. That obviously means thorough briefings by the staff and sincere appreciation of the citizens' board purpose. During my time on the MPCA Citizens Board, the second aspect was provided by Star Tribune's excellent environmental reporter, Dean Rebuffoni, who made sure the agency's actions were highlighted on a consistent monthly basis. The functioning of the first aspect was a mixed bag. I will recount one humorous example. Perpich had a constituent he rewarded by appointment to an arts board that Perpich cared about; he proved to be unsuited on that board, so Perpich continued to reward him by putting him on the MPCA Citizens Board, where he was unsuited as well.
My hope is that a well-thought-out citizen advisory structure can make a difference for our environment and that the Legislature can be persuaded to establish a new Citizens Board.
Janet C. Green, Duluth
The future is nigh
Having played a small part in the creation of Hourcar, I read with delight the article "Word gets out about electric car-share" (Nov. 27). Over the years, I've watched the evolution of the Twin Cities' car sharing program as it has grown from a few cars and hubs, outcompeted its rivals, added hybrids and charging stations, and gained in popularity and use. The shift to all-electric vehicle, through Evie, was a huge step forward and should serve as a signpost to what might be a transportation paradigm shift. For the day will come when we can no longer afford "mycar," the strongly held belief in the primacy of individual vehicle ownership, regardless of how those vehicles are powered. The use of carbon-based fuels has left us with a legacy of pollution and changes in climate that threaten the well-being of individuals, communities and the Earth itself. And while solar energy is unlimited, the materials needed to convert it to electricity are not. In the face of these challenges, we do need to rethink our individual transportation wants and needs. The successes of the Hourcar/Evie car-sharing model point in a new direction. The question now is whether we can change our ideas about how the individual transportation system should work.
Wayne Barstad, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Do the basics, please
I hope I'm not the only one struck by the contrast of priorities by our city of Minneapolis leaders: Known health and welfare needs evidenced in the article "Mpls. fixed dead-end pipe, but hundreds remain" (Nov. 27) have for years been taking a back seat to impractical wants pushed by special interest groups inside and outside the City Council like ubiquitous bike lanes, parking elimination, the 2040 Plan waste of resources, giving breath to city-provided sidewalk shoveling, etc. My city clearly has the money but is not spending it wisely.
Daniel Patton, Minneapolis
In response to the letter "Missing the big picture" (Nov. 27) advocating for student loan relief: Yes, we most certainly do better when we all do better, but there comes a time when we have to use common sense. Yes, it would be nice to have a well-educated population and help pay for the education of our students. But right now, when we are going through the largest inflation in four decades, people are struggling to house and feed their families, millions of tax dollars are going to foreign countries, millions of migrants have entered this country and tax dollars will be used to help support them, our country's debt is beyond belief, etc., etc., financing student loans at this time would not be using common sense.
Jerry Fahlstrom, Crystal