Good for Halima Aden for grabbing hold of life here in Minnesota — being involved in student government, homecoming activities and now Miss Minnesota USA (“Muslim teen breaks cultural barriers,” Nov. 26). But I’m confused by her message — to show that Somali-American women who wear the hijab are not oppressed, that it’s a choice, and that she’s breaking barriers by doing so. I’ve heard this narrative from other Somali-American women, too — that it’s our society that is holding them back.

From the article, it sounded like the barriers she had to break and the pushback she received came from her mother and the Somali community, not the pageant organization or her friends or the St. Cloud community. According to the article, some considered “modeling” — even fully covered — un-Islamic. That sounds like oppression to me.

That she received criticism from within the Somali-American community regardless of her modest attire also casts doubt on the whole idea of the hijab being a choice. If Ms. Aden had not covered as a child and later decided to wear the hijab, that would be a choice. Or, she could have chosen to compete in the pageant without a hijab. Then no one would have known her religion, and she would be judged on her confidence, poise and intelligence. Actually exercising her choice seems really barrier-breaking.

Sarah Barker, St. Paul


The displacement of low-income individuals continues

It is time for all of us as Minnesotans to discuss disparities such as those discussed in “Few pockets left for low-income renters” (Nov. 28), but also solutions. The first point that needs to be made clear is that the 19 percent rent increase quoted in the article for an apartment on Pleasant Avenue in Minneapolis (to $775 a month) compares with a national average increase of 5.74 percent in 2015, per the National Association of Realtors. On the other hand, for the residents to move to another location would bring rent cost minimums up to $900, an increase of 38.5 percent.

On the side of solutions, Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano provided two options, but there did not seem to be much action taken beyond supposing. Land trusts would be great, but there must be organizations willing to take on the properties rented by low-income individuals. Naturally, this would require grants or government-funded endeavors.

In attempting to understand the difficulties faced by the Pleasant Avenue residents, I consider the frustrations of the residents of the Lowry Grove mobile home park in St. Anthony who lost a bid to block a sale that would force their relocation. The drastic increase in rent for Pleasant Avenue is simply the next displacement.

Cristina Klappa de la Cruz, Shakopee

• • •

The loss of affordable rental housing is a phenomenon that, unfortunately, was under the radar during the run-up to the election. One shortcoming of the Nov. 28 article is that it left the reader with the impression that economic displacement was just a Minneapolis problem. In fact, the loss of affordable rental housing is occurring throughout the Twin Cities and in every other metropolitan area in the state. What has been a quiet issue for legislative candidates during the campaign must now be faced by those elected this coming January.

Chip Halbach, Minneapolis

The writer is director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.


If Minnesota State system is ailing, close the poor performers

We frequently read of the funding challenges facing the Minnesota State higher-ed system (“Minnesota State needs red-ink rescue,” editorial, Nov. 26). There are schools in the system that are doing very well with enrollment and are more than pulling their own weight. There are schools doing poorly that are subsidized by those doing well. Wouldn’t a good steward close schools that are a drag? Infrastructure and salaries for the poorly performing schools claim more than their fair share of available funds. It would be interesting to see the enrollment numbers for each campus location.

William D. Bieber, Maple Grove


What Peterson gets and balkers don’t: It’s all about the message

In reading the Nov. 29 responses to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson’s thoughts about why rural voters don’t vote Democratic anymore, I think people are missing his point. Peterson is not trying to tell us to abandon our ideals, but rather talking about how those ideals lack a cohesive message to the voting public. The Democratic Party has become the party of special-interest groups (heck, even those special-interest groups have special-interest groups within them), while over the past six years, the Republican Party has given a master class in political gamesmanship.

For example, Democrats may have been annoyed with all those times the Republicans in the U.S. House passed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but what it did was create a singular message to the voting public: “Obamacare” equals “bad.” Then they harped and harped on this message. People didn’t know what specifically was bad, just that it was bad, and it helped Republicans win elections.

Going forward, if I were the Democratic Party or U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who is running for the chair of the DNC, I would pick two to three issues and harp on them. Get everyone in the party from federal to state government to repeat these issues time and time again. For example, the issue of global warming is incredibly vast, so pick one issue within the topic — say, our reliance on fossil fuels — and make that the message for the Democratic Party. This is how you win elections, and Rep. Peterson recognizes this.

Avi Rosenman, Minneapolis



Standing Rock response will be another dark mark on history

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is blocking food and medicine from getting to the Native American encampment at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. How is this different from a military siege? Call it what it is: an effort to starve these people into submitting. How is this different from our country’s behavior toward Native Americans in the past? At Wounded Knee? At Sand Creek? On the Trail of Tears? Unless history fails to repeat itself, the siege of Standing Rock will be followed by the armed removal of these pesky Indians. They’re standing in the way of oil, just like they stood in the way of homesteaders, range land and gold.

John Widen, Minneapolis