The three-part series “Danger Downstream” (Oct. 2-4) is prophetic. Minnesotans/Americans need to be made aware of the immediate danger to not only our rivers and lakes but our drinking water. Phosphorus/nitrates are choking our water. The comments in the articles like “We are going downhill” and “it’s like a big gun barrel … we are on the other end” are spot-on. I have a cabin that is being choked to death, and there are many, many other lakes and rivers in Minnesota that are impaired. Any person who lives, works or plays on the water needs to be involved. We need to ask ourselves, politicians, farmers, corporations like Cargill (with headquarters in Minnesota) and universities to be invested in making change through conservation and research.
Bill White, Eagan
ALLINA NURSES’ STRIKE
In whose interest is their resistance? Theirs? Everyone’s?
I am all for organized labor, collective bargaining, the right to strike, etc., but have found myself struggling to empathize with the union representing Allina nurses after reading Tuesday’s front-page article (“Allina nurses reject contract with ‘resounding’ no, stay on strike”).
If I understand correctly, the primary sticking point in the negotiations is health insurance, and the union’s desire to protect its no- or low-deductible health plans instead of joining the standard corporate health plan that the rest of the company has.
From my perspective, the days of gold-plated health insurance are long gone. The majority of Minnesotans, me included, have been dealing with high-deductible health insurance plans for over a decade now.
Health insurance costs continue to spiral out of control, and as a result the vast majority of working Minnesotans have seen their premiums and deductibles rise in tandem, year over year. It’s a painful reality and a byproduct of the unsustainable rise of health care costs.
The article states that the latest offer to the union included provisions to leave two of the current plans untouched through 2019, and then cap them after that at 7 percent over a three-year period. On paper, that sounds like a reasonable offer to me. I think the majority of us would jump at such an opportunity in our current health insurance environment.
And so I’m having a hard time empathizing with the union. To think a select few should continue to enjoy the gold-plated health insurance of years gone by is unrealistic at best, and at worst unfair to the rest of us who continue to shoulder the higher premiums and deductibles required to support the current system.
Brad McFaul, Rosemount
• • •
Martin Shkreli bought a drug company and raised the U.S. price of a pill for parasitic infection from $14 to $750. He cannot make that huge price increase in Japan, Germany and most other industrialized countries, but in the U.S. he can do it because of our obsession with avoiding regulation. Japan is strongly capitalistic (it has few natural resources), but its Health Ministry sets all the prices, and the drug companies must accept them. Germany requires all of its 240 “sickness funds” (insurers) to collectively negotiate the prices with the drug companies. The Germans have learned there is strength in collective bargaining.
My wife (a nurse on strike) wants to keep her collectively bargained union health insurance, and she voted accordingly on Monday. If she is forced by Allina to give that up, her out-of-pocket maximum, which is now $500 in the union plan, will increase to $4,500 in Allina’s core plan in the year in which the change occurs. As her husband, the same numbers apply to me, so together we could incur an $8,000 increase. Too much!
Nurses, demand to keep your union health plan, and continue advocating to achieve affordable health care for all Americans.
Mark Nelson, Afton
New approach to gangs seems like little more than a show
So Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau are going to spend $250,000 to solve the gang problem (“Shootings spark pledge for gang reform efforts,” Oct. 4). Let’s look at the dynamics. Hire a program administrator for, say, $75,000, an assistant, a press representative; staff the offices with cellphones, car allowances, rent, paid interns to do the work, a holistic consultant, coffee and doughnuts for the “gang summit,” and some T-shirts with a novel theme. A grand opening gala, balloons and Kool-Aid. Meanwhile, a whole generation of people will be ignored, forgotten, continued to be buried while the politicians continue to pat themselves on the back. Gun buybacks, hire a grant writer to reapply for the grant next year, a party for the businesses that are suffering downtown property damage and a contingency fund for the next public uprising …
What is left? Surely nothing for the kids.
David Bordwell, Minneapolis
Turnout numbers matter in an election and referendum
In the referendum held in Hungary (“Hungary: Anti-quotas vote invalidated,” Oct. 3), 98.8 percent of respondents rejected the idea of mandatory European Union quotas for accepting asylum seekers and migrants. An astonishing number. Forty-four percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. To validate the vote, the current government a few years ago raised the bar from 25 percent participation (undemocratic) to 50 percent (democratic). By the latter criterion, the vote is invalid.
On the same day, Colombians voted to accept or reject the peace treaty negotiated between the government and the FARC rebels. The voters by a razor-thin margin (50.25 vs. 49.75 percent) rejected the treaty (“Colombia votes no on peace accord,” Oct. 3). The Star Tribune called the result “stunning.” The voter turnout was 40 percent.
In the U.S., about 52 percent of voters turn out to vote in a presidential election year and between 40 to 45 percent in a nonpresidential election year.
Geza Simon, Minneapolis
Canada sets an example for the U.S. to emulate
Congratulations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for announcing that his government will impose a nationwide tax on fossil fuels (“Canada plans to implement carbon tax,” Oct. 4). As Trudeau said, “the effects of climate change itself cannot be denied. There is no hiding from climate change. It is real, and it is everywhere.”
Like Canada, every community in Minnesota is subject to the risks of climate change: frequent floods, droughts and wildfires. Just last month, another record-setting rainfall damaged Waseca and other communities in the southern part of the state.
The Minnesota Department of Health has identified the climate hazards that can sicken and kill us: increased air pollution, extreme heat, flood, drought, insect-borne diseases and harmful algal blooms in our lakes. We feel these hazards in both our bodies and our pocketbooks.
Congress can emulate Canada and put a tax on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, return 100 percent of the revenue to U.S. households, and both promote renewable energy and reduce the greenhouse gases. This market-based approach can satisfy both conservatives and liberals. We can protect U.S. producers and farmers by putting a border tariff on imported goods from counties that don’t tax carbon (though even China is experimenting with cap-and-trade policies) and thus encourage international action on climate.
We can cheer on elected leaders who acknowledge the reality of climate change and are willing to take meaningful action to halt it. Let’s remember them when we vote in November.
Claudia Egelhoff, West St. Paul