As a resident of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's Fifth Congressional District, I was interested to read about her plan for social transformation ("Minnesota can lead in social transformation," Opinion Exchange, June 29). I agree with her statement that police officers are perhaps not adequately trained to be the ideal first responders to problems involving substance-abuse disorders and various mental health issues. Investments in health care, education and affordable housing remain the most attractive options to address these structural issues.
As a teacher in Omar's district, however, I was disappointed that her argument referring to the success of Camden, N.J., as a model for Minneapolis was devoid of any factual detail. Omar noted that Camden "disbanded their police department and as a collective they built a system that made them all safe. It worked." She would make her argument more convincing if she included the following facts: Camden dissolved the police union, fired all of the officers who didn't quit, forced officers to reapply for jobs in the Camden County Police Department and, importantly, increased the total number of officers serving the city from around 300 to over 400. These officers also received mandatory training through a de-escalation mentoring program and were later required to intercede if another officer was using force inappropriately.
Strong arguments also acknowledge other points of view or other examples that run counter to one's position. Here, Omar could perhaps bring more people to her side if she acknowledged the failed attempt at a police-free zone in Seattle as well as the situation in Powderhorn Park (in her own district) where shootings, violent crimes and sexual assaults have many worried about living in a police-free community.
Matthew Loucks, Edina
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I have hope that a thoughtful approach will prevail before we rush to a vote on the proposed Minneapolis city charter amendment that would create a new Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department and remove the Minneapolis Police Department. The July 2 Star Tribune reported that Black community leaders, a coalition of business and property-owner groups and even the Minneapolis Charter Commission have all raised serious questions about the proposal ("Voices of dissent on ending MPD," front page). I agree that major police reform and department restructuring are needed, but I will not vote for a half-baked change to our city charter (akin to our Constitution). The problems with the Minneapolis Police Department are complex and require complex analysis and solutions.
The framework of the amendment addresses needed institutional changes, but I'm not convinced the City Council has thought through the details or the unintended consequences of their proposal. An example is the portion of the amendment that reads: "The Council may maintain a division of law enforcement services, composed of licensed peace officers ... ." I'm uncomfortable with any city charter amendment that contains the word "may," especially when it comes to something as important as providing for the safety and security of Minneapolis residents. It leaves open the possibility of major changes depending on the whim of City Council members. I will not vote for an amendment that includes a "details to follow" clause.
Steve Millikan, Minneapolis
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The June 30 edition of the Star Tribune carried an opinion from a Winona school board member, Karl Sonneman. The missive: "I have no regrets about removing SROs from school."
Sonneman's commentary, though well-intended, misses one important point. Sonneman has not taught a class in the Winona Senior High School. He has not experienced the "show" of a girl throwing a forbidden cell device at the teacher collecting it or a disruptive student.
Well, I have had such an experience, before school resource officers were contracted. This dodger was able to handle the matter, but do not think the event was not unnerving.
So, what about a smaller teacher who finds him or herself in a similar situation? There is comfort knowing help is present. What about teachers and students who want to learn, what about their needs?
Notice, the word "parent" is as absent from the above as they are from many a child's life, and which boards and administrations choose to ignore, always taking the popular and easy path. Why worry? When the problems become acute, the board member or administrator will likely be long gone.
Robert Hively-Johnson, Winona, Minn.
Honor the ideals, not the person
In 1963 I was a senior in a Minneapolis high school. We had a foreign exchange student from Germany, born in 1944, who had lived through the painful shame and poverty that Germans experienced after World War II. In the English class we had together the teacher assigned an essay in which we were to write about our hero. Fifty-seven years later I have never forgotten the opening sentence of his essay: "I do not have heroes. I have ideals." Dieter had spent his whole life in the shadow of someone — Adolf Hitler — who was once a hero to some of his countrymen.
Americans want heroes. We forget that people who accomplish great things are not better people, they have just done great things with the opportunities presented to them. Often, the "heroes" are not good people at all, but what they have done to benefit all of us still deserves recognition — just not idolatry.
When I visited Gettysburg I was moved to tears for all the young men and boys who died in the fight for freedom and union some were too young to even understand. It was the sacrifice of those young people that moved me, the price in life and limb paid by so many. No monument can adequately honor that sacrifice.
So let's take down all of the monuments. No one deserves to be an idol. Let's replace monuments to "heroes" with education about the ideals that underlie their accomplishments — if those ideals are still ones we choose to honor. And let's never ignore the persons and communities that enabled and sustained them in their achievements. We can't possibly set that in a stone.
Susan Abdallah Lane, Minneapolis
REBUILDING LAKE STREET
The future is in good hands
Bravo to the 13-year-old resident of the Longfellow neighborhood who wrote a letter to the editor and asked for a rebuilding on Lake Street rather than new condos, etc., with a plea to perhaps turn the burned Minnehaha Liquors into a memorial museum. She is yet another instance of why young people will lead the way for us all. Thank you!
PATRICIA LAZARUS, St. Paul
Thanks for sparing us the line
After reading the story about the miles-long lines for those waiting to be tested for COVID-19 in some places, I feel that I owe a huge "thank you" to North Memorial Medical Center for its no-appointment, drive-through testing site in Robbinsdale, which I used on Wednesday. The site was very well laid out, with clear instructions, and staffed by courteous and helpful people. It took was less than 30 minutes from the time that I arrived in line until I had been tested and was on my way, with the results to be known in three to five days. Excellent work, NMMC!
Robert W. Carlson, Plymouth
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