Finding an ice-free path for running, walking or biking during the winter can be difficult. What a shame, then, that the crown jewels of the Twin Cities park system, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and St. Paul’s Mississippi River Boulevard, have become busy commuter corridors that accumulate toxic vehicle exhaust. Combined with a thermal inversion and emissions from home wood fires, this pernicious fine particulate pollution renders exercise a hazardous activity. Perhaps a parkway/boulevard vehicle fee could provide respirators to human-powered park users.
Mickey Rush, St. Paul
Manufacturing’s untapped workforce: People with disabilities
Columnist Neal St. Anthony recently shed light on a critical issue for Minnesota-based manufacturers — finding long-term workers (“Manufacturers seek future workforce,” Dec. 10). There are incredible programs across the state that are working to help close the skills gap and build a strong manufacturing workforce. At MDI, we’ve thrived on a slightly different model.
MDI is a nonprofit corrugated plastic manufacturer and production services solutions provider, and nearly half our employees are people with disabilities. When individuals are considered for jobs at MDI, it is based on their ability rather than their limitations. Taking this approach has benefited us as an organization and has provided opportunities for people who are passed over for jobs on a regular basis. While the general population is experiencing low unemployment rates, people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed.
Our business has grown in the commercial and medical sectors. We’ve nearly doubled our staff, opened a new larger facility in Hibbing, Minn., and added 11,000 square feet of space to our Minneapolis facility. Through MDI’s Career Skills program, our staff members are learning new skills that allow them to contribute to Minnesota’s incredible, $50 billion manufacturing industry. But perhaps most important, our employees experience the independence, pride and sense of purpose that comes from being employed.
I encourage manufacturers across the state to consider the benefits of hiring people whose abilities may not be obvious or seem limited on the surface. Our employees inspire and impress us every single day and represent a truly untapped workforce in Minnesota and across the country.
Peter McDermott, Minneapolis
The writer is president and CEO at MDI.
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY NEAR SCHOOLS
Residents can see dangers, and officials must heed their warnings
Nearby families knew “it was the collision … they’ve been dreading for years” when two 14-year-old girls were hit by a vehicle along a busy four-lane road separating schools from homes, McDonald’s, a grocery store and other businesses (“Crosswalk crash spurs pleas for change,” Dec. 9).
An eerily similar scenario is currently playing out in Eagan. Residents have warned city and county officials for years of a tragedy waiting to happen where a high-speed, four-lane road with busy intersections consistently puts students and other pedestrians at risk whose destination is one of three nearby schools, athletic fields, neighborhoods, a coffee shop, ice cream shop, grocery store, restaurants, etc. Traffic engineers pursuing vehicle efficiency have created an area severely lacking safe pedestrian crossings. The problem is about to get worse as they move along a highly questionable project at the already-dangerous intersection.
Minnesota Department of Transportation guidelines allow speed-limit flexibility near schools and appropriate signage, including flashing lights to alert drivers of high-pedestrian areas. Yet these opportunities take a back seat as engineers focus on moving traffic as quickly as possible. Ironically, our local elected officials also tout their goal to make our communities more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. Unfortunately, what they say is not what they do, and we are done with lip service. As taxpayers and voters, our goal is pedestrian safety in school zones and beyond. We will work with city and county staff to achieve these goals, but we will also hold local elected officials accountable to anything that falls short.
Theresa Eisele, Eagan
An idea for lower taxes and for providing better services
The upcoming legislative session is an opportunity for both major parties to navigate the best options available in maintaining and improving the quality of life for all residents. No taxpayer/business enjoys paying more for less; the needs of business require protecting; and individual taxpayers deserve value for taxes paid.
I urge the Legislature and governor to carefully listen to and appropriately balance the needs of the paid/sponsored viewpoint (lobbyist) and the opposite side of what’s best for the individual residents/voters (majority).
One example is the restrictions placed on the state, counties, cities/towns and school districts when attempting to negotiate health insurance for their employees. The ability to cooperatively pool and leverage as a group for lower and more competitive rates is basically forbidden. I raised this question with our governor-elect at a forum in Hibbing recently, where he acknowledged a continuing resistance to fix this issue (along with other roadblocks) that prevent state and local governments as a group from negotiating lower costs and better services.
I would simply ask the incoming governor and each legislator to publicly and clearly explain why this is continuing to be allowed. The deliberate political support of regulations that prohibit efficiency and cost savings in government should be explained, modified or ended. The unfortunate fact is that the paid/sponsored viewpoints (lobbyist) are winning; the taxpayers/voters are not.
Bryon Fraser, Cohasett, Minn.
Diversity matters in the illustrative presentation of journalism, too
If a picture tells a thousand words, the half-page image on the front page of the Dec. 4 Variety section told a whole lot about the Star Tribune’s commitment to “variety”/diversity and its lack of awareness of cultural appropriation. The image of 14 white, young, able-bodied, thin women in various yoga poses perpetuates so many cultural stereotypes and biases — race, gender, able-bodiedness and body size. Additionally, the imagery of all-white practitioners of yoga is particularly problematic given yoga’s roots in ancient India.
Research has clearly documented health disparities among many minority groups. For example, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates are much higher among Latinos (47 percent) and blacks (47 percent) than whites (38 percent). Also, people living with mobility limitations are at elevated risks for obesity. Thus, culturally relevant health messages for people from diverse groups may be especially important.
The header immediately above this article indicates that the newspaper’s “Features” section is ranked second in the nation. We hope that a paper that is committed to “delivering more of what matters to Minnesota” incorporates words, stories, people and images that reflect all Minnesotans, not just white, young, able-bodied and thin women.
This letter was submitted by Michelle Sherman of Minneapolis and was cosigned by Dr. Andrea Westby, LuAnn Kibira and Stephanie Hooker. The writers are, respectively, a psychologist, a physician, a nurse and a psychologist.