As the air turns cold and the leaves begin to change, I am again reminded of the annual autumn curse: the leaf blower. Worse than any swarm of mosquitoes at your ear is the high-pitched whine of these most annoying of devices. Rather than use a rake, it seems that many would rather spend five times longer swinging their deafening machine back and forth moving the leaves inch by blaring inch. One must wonder if users are unaware of the decibels, having lost their hearing long ago clearing their yards.
Robert Heise, Richfield
MINNEAPOLIS WORK RULES
What's the fuss? We've already adopted these best practices
At Gandhi Mahal, we see our employees as family — and treating them well fits into owner/chef Ruhel Islam's philosophy of building community and goodwill as well as a commitment to sustainability ("Mpls. weighs sweeping rules for sick time, work schedules," Oct. 4, and "Mpls. council keeps honing work rule plan," Oct. 7).
The working families ordinance wouldn't impact us significantly, because we are already doing many of the practices that the policy proposes — scheduling in advance, making sure employees are still paid when they are sick or have a sick child, etc. Because of these practices, we have also benefited — we have a higher retention rate, low turnover costs and strong loyalty, which have benefited our bottom line.
There is a value for businesses in providing quality work practices. A citywide policy would lift everyone in our community up. The process of this ordinance for fair scheduling and sick days has been flawed, and should have included more small businesses from the start. However, the dialogue has been tremendous — and the sponsors of the ordinance are showing their flexibility to change the ordinance and make sure that what is ultimately passed will be workable for small businesses and that it will add new protections for employees.
With an extended phase-in for small businesses and scaling back some of the initial proposals, this plan makes a lot more sense. Hopefully, the ordinance language reflects the input from small business owners, and in the future, the city should make sure small businesses are at the table when major policies such as this are drafted.
Andrew Papacosta, Minneapolis
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I have been following the overreach of the Minneapolis City Council dealing with employee issues, and as the owner of one of the 39,000 businesses in Minneapolis, I am shocked at the council's attitude and complete lack of understanding of the issues.
To begin with, nearly every government agency that I have ever dealt with — local, state or federal — has been very inefficient and not very responsive to the customer. Now a government agency is trying to control all businesses in Minneapolis? Where is the common sense here?
A perceived problem is not solved by mandating actions that will certainly increase costs and cause undue damage to businesses. Not every business is a retail or food business. If there is a problem there, deal with that in a fair and equitable way by involving all stakeholders in the decision.
My business must deal with emergencies and the weather. Scheduling may end up being from hour to hour, depending on circumstances beyond our control. How can the proposal for a 14-day schedule possibly work? And I know of few private businesses that give nine sick days a year, unless there is a union involved. Just another government decision with little basis in reality. My advice to the Minneapolis City Council is to start listening to the employers as well as a few disgruntled employees.
Scott Sayer, Long Lake
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
The Athletes Village project: another temple to football?
The University of Minnesota is committed to joining the elite in the college sports entertainment business, as evidenced by the Board of Regents' approval of the $166 million Athletes Village project ("University of Minnesota clears way for Athletes Village to open in 2018," Oct. 9). The project will provide attractive training, academic support and other facilities mainly for male football and basketball athletes. These facilities are needed to attract top high school athletes. The U has about $80 million in hand for the project and will finance the remainder. This adds to the over $300 million current athletic department debt, as reported to the NCAA.
Gilbert Gaul, in his book "Billion-Dollar Ball," puts the U quest in perspective. According to Gaul, major college football programs see profit exceeding 50 percent, helping to cover their overall athletic programs. The revenue is enhanced by federal tax law, which allows 80 percent of the "contribution" often required for the right to buy a football season ticket "box" to be written off as a charitable contribution, per law sponsored by Louisiana and Texas congressmen.
There are significant costs. Spending on football athletes can top $150,000 per year on scholarships, tutoring and other support. Texas has an athletic department budget over $170 million and employs 80 tutors so each football player can have a tutor assigned for each class. A major college football coach's income often exceeds that for more than 50 professors.
According to Gaul, major football schools are known to pad women's rowing programs to deal with Title IX requirements for women's equity. He describes the Kansas State rowing program, which has over 100 rowers and 20 scholarships to parcel out. The school spends over 10 times more per athlete on football players. The U lists 50 women varsity rowers, likely with a similar number of "novice" rowers. Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State all exceed 100 women rowers.
Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman quoted Dean Johnson, regents chairman, as saying, " … [W]e have to remember what the [tenets] of the university are, and that's outreach, academics and research." He should have added "and football."
Don Bailey, Bloomington
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The athletics industry here owes a huge debt of gratitude to Sid Hartman for his advocacy on their behalf. Without his passion for sports, we might not have Target Field, the new billion-dollar Vikings stadium, TCF Bank Stadium at the U or his latest achievement, the $166 million Athletes Village at the U. I urge Gov. Mark Dayton to proclaim a Sid Hartman Day very soon and that one of the new buildings at the Athletes Village be named after Sid.
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville
Close the loophole that lets bad actors drain your nest egg
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is trying to raise the fiduciary standard so that all financial professionals who provide retirement advice are held genuinely accountable for providing advice based on what's best for your financial future.
Right now, a loophole in the law allows bad-actors in the financial industry to provide retirement savings "advice" based on what's best for their pocketbook, not yours. This loophole allows them to recommend investments with higher fees, riskier features and lower returns, because they earn more money — even if those investments are not the best choice for you (and cost $17 billion each year, according to the DOL). I share part of that loss — my previous adviser was benefiting from incentives (both internal and external) that even when asked were never disclosed to me.
A new standard will ensure that all financial professionals who offer retirement advice must make recommendations designed to serve the consumer's best interests by keeping costs low, recommending sound investments and protecting retirement nest eggs from unnecessary risk.
I ask for the Minnesota congressional delegation to support the Department of Labor's efforts to close the loophole in current law.
Vikki Steward, Eden Prairie