On Nov. 8, voters should vote “no” on an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would “Remove Lawmakers’ Power to Set Their Own Pay.” This amendment defines bad governance for several reasons.

The amendment violates one of the foundations of American democracy — the separation of powers. The amendment would form a “independent citizen-only council to prescribe salaries for lawmakers” appointed by the governor and by the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Spending money is the task of the Legislature. If legislators want a raise, they have to earn it and justify it to their constituents.

This “council” would be unaccountable to voters, and, by constitutional law, its members must officially belong to the Minnesota Republican Party or the Minnesota DFL Party. The amendment chisels in partisanship in a time when more and more voters identify as independents and empowers these parties even more. How many Minnesota voters are official members of those parties? One hundred? Two hundred? Most Minnesotans would be ineligible to sit on this council.

The slick title of the amendment sounds very enticing to voters who are tired of bad government and overpaid elected officials. But if this amendment passes, those same lawmakers are practically guaranteed a raise.

Mike Kiepe, Minneapolis


If they came after persecution, and now are traveling back …

Upon reading the story about how Somalis in Minneapolis get their rent reduced while on trips back to their home country (“Housing board lowers rent for tenants who travel,” Sept. 30), I was thinking about why and how they were allowed to enter the U.S. in the first place. There are two definitions, refugees and asylees.

They are basically the same in benefits — allowing legal status with a path to citizenship in the U.S. Refugees are people picked through applications living in a foreign country, while asylees are people who are already inside the U.S.

Both require a substantial fear of persecution from other groups or the government in their nation.

That said, with how the law currently is written, they cannot be sent back to their home country, even if conditions improve, if their political/religious group regains control of the government, etc.

One thing to note is that if they go to visit their home country while on asylum or refugee status, they would not meet the original definition of the status of fear of persecution, due to fraud.

Anyone who has been persecuted is not usually one to again put themselves into that position, unless they are doing it fraudulently. Anyone visiting their home country should not be having their rent paid by the taxpayers, they should be having their legal status terminated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Josh Warren, Lonsdale, Minn.


We love to hate Putin, but this relationship is complex

The Oct. 6 commentary by Thomas Friedman (“Putting up with Putin has gone far enough”) goes way too far in demonizing a convenient figure for Americans to hate. “Pushing back” on Putin, as Friedman advises, is not the same as confronting Saddam Hussein, which led to the disastrous Iraq war and the spinoff wars of the last 15 years that we are still fighting today. Unlike Iraq, Russia is a formidable military power and, critically, has a nuclear arsenal. Any miscalculation could lead to nuclear winter.

Russia has not attacked any country or threatened American interests. The U.S. encouraged the violent revolution against the democratically elected president of Ukraine in 2014. As the victorious Kiev revolutionaries — some of whom bore deep grievances against Russia dating back to World War II — stormed toward Crimea, they killed hundreds of ethnic Russians in their path. In defense, Putin did not invade Crimea. The Russians had a longstanding legal agreement to station troops at their military base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. As the rampaging Kiev troops advanced toward them, additional Russian troops were actually welcomed by Crimeans, 85 percent of whom voted to join Russia.

Today, Russia is defending its neighbor and longtime ally, Syria, which requested assistance to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and other rebels trying to conquer their country. We would surely defend Canada if it faced a similar terrorist threat. The Russians have not attacked any Americans. So far, Russian troops and the American-backed rebel troops — who are also at war against ISIL as well as Syria — have not attacked one another. Falsely demonizing Saddam Hussein, who had never threatened America, made it easy for Americans to justify attacking Iraq. We do not want to repeat the same mistake by needlessly provoking Russia. Our grandchildren might not be around to tell the story.

Dean DeHarpporte, Eden Prairie


Don’t underestimate the power of a long marriage

Because I have throughout my 35 years in ministry counseled many couples during marital crisis, I want to offer a perspective on the campaign for president that I don’t hear others voicing. This is not about political views, but about the extent to which the candidates are bringing in personal accusations about past life choices.

My experience tells me that two things are important to a long-term marriage, commitment and forgiveness. Let’s talk about forgiveness first. Without it, or the ability to make it manifest, no relationship can survive long term. One of the truths that most evangelical Christians espouse is that a repentant sinner, no matter how big the sin, is forgiven in the eyes of God. Churches are full of them! Then there is commitment. Ask any person in longstanding marriage what carried them through the times of crisis and they will say, “I made a promise.” That coupled with the ability to forgive makes a lasting love, and a powerful witness to the world.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have been through the crucible of unfaithfulness, failure, repentance and shame. Through all that they have remained committed, and their marriage has become a force for good in the world. I can only assume that they understand forgiveness and stand strong in their support and love for each other. I hope the above sentences are their answer to any challenge of that. They deserve our honor for their faithfulness.

The Rev. Mark Samuelson, Minneapolis


One observer’s ‘not so bad’ is another’s fear for the future

Regarding the Oct. 3 article “Maybe our rush hour isn’t so bad after all”: Or maybe it’s worse than you think and we’re killing ourself with it.

When I drive over Interstate 494 at rush hour, I look at the traffic jams in both directions. All lanes are full and hardly moving at all. What I see is the unnecessary burning of fossil fossil and the resultant pollution. I just see it destroying the world every time I drive over at rush hour.

People are paying for wasted gas, not to mention what all those slow-moving vehicles are doing to our atmosphere.

So I think it is pretty bad.

Terry Houle, Bloomington