The reaction of Twin Cities police union leaders to Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to name a training fund after Philando Castile (front page, July 7) is disturbing. The officer who shot Castile spent days training to use force and to shoot his gun, but had only two hours of de-escalation training. The president of the St. Paul Police Federation said the governor turned his back on police. Officer Jeronimo Yanez turned his gun on Castile when there were other options available.

One measure of a functioning democracy is whether the organizations of power are able to admit mistakes. The officer made a mistake, and law enforcement leadership has erred by not emphasizing de-escalation training for officers who carry lethal weapons but face a wide variety of situations and threats. If police want to avoid unnecessary shootings, why aren’t they prioritizing this training? The attitude of the union leaders is alarming to me and I’m a white guy.

Jeff Naylor, Minneapolis

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Gov. Dayton, what a slap in the face to law enforcement personnel in the state. Really, name a state-funded police training fund after Philando Castile? Excuse me! Were you on the jury? Our justice system has spoken, no matter how badly you or others may feel. Governor, do you want to be right or do what is right? You said it all: “We have a responsibility of all of us engaged in public services to bring Minnesota together, and that’s the spirit of this training.” Governor, suggest a more generic name for the fund if your intent is to bring Minnesotans together.

W.W. Bednarczyk, Edina

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Just because Yanez was acquitted in the shooting death of Castile does not mean people in our communities are in agreement with that outcome. Disbelief, outrage, deep sadness and a sense of despair are common emotions I have encountered in my circle of friends, black and white.

Our communities are in great pain, and I give Gov. Dayton huge credit for attempting to heal us after this tragic and senseless death.

Healing is the key word here. The police unions obviously don’t understand this when they accuse Dayton of turning his back on them. It’s not about them. It’s about us, the people who grieve for Philando Castile.

Diane E. Vorhis, Apple Valley


In Lake County, a gap-filler, not a boondoggle, as stated

While it is true, as the July 7 counterpoint “Painful lessons from a broadband boondoggle” states, that there are three purveyors of so-called broadband service in Lake County, none of them serves the whole county. Some of them do not even serve a whole city. With more than 2,100 square miles of dryland area, we did not even have affordable countywide telephone service — until our broadband fiber was installed.

This broadband fiber installation is as much a needed utility installation today as rural electrification was several generations ago. The system works very well and has been more reliable and wildly faster than the “broadband” service provided by the local phone company. The other providers are a cable company, which does not serve households outside the cities in our county, and a satellite service, which winks off and on during bad weather. The three providers would cover about 200 square miles, leaving the remainder of the county “dark.”

The only failure in our system is the failure to realize an immediate profit. This is a long-term investment in our county’s future, not some street-corner falafel stand that can shut down if it does not make a profit today. Having actually gotten some 2,400 subscribers, the utility has made a good beginning toward getting the targeted 7,500 subscribers. The population cluster adjacent to Two Harbors yet inside St. Louis County is served by Lake County services, so is a natural part of the utility subscriber base.

Thomas V. Koehler, Two Harbors, Minn.


Too much distorted thinking

One sentence in the July 6 front-page article about the since-settled contract dispute between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Children’s Minnesota says it all about distorted market forces in American health care: “Blue Cross is Children’s biggest customer … .”

The insurance carrier is the hospital’s “customer”? If that wording, from University of Minnesota health economist Roger Feldman, reflects the real thinking of a health care economist, it’s too bad that academics are so far from what really goes on at a hospital. Having spent 20 years as an oncologist at Children’s, I am certain that the hospital and its nurses and physicians consider their customers to be the sick children and their parents — and they still call them “patients.”

Blue Cross is an intermediary for the real customers, purchasing health care for them but acting without their values. When a child has a really complicated illness, Blue Cross is telling patients and families they can swap their need for a Rolls-Royce with a Chevy. Pretending that Shriner’s Hospital, as good as it is for a limited range of orthopedic services, provides the same product as Children’s Minnesota is fantasy.

Some say health economics would improve if patients “had some skin in the game” — i.e., participated in cost-based thinking when seeking care. LASIK eye surgery, for example, is a medical market where the patient (customer) directly buys the service; the price has decreased by 70 percent to 90 percent since LASIK first became available. Supply and demand have worked because insurance intermediaries are not involved. The big problem of unnecessary use of emergency rooms for routine medical care might benefit from this kind of rational economics. For seriously ill and complicated patients, however, the Blue Cross/Children’s Minnesota standoff threatened to force some patients into unacceptable cost-based decisions.

Dr. John R. Priest, Minneapolis

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Because of the contract dispute between Blue Cross and Children’s, parents were worried about paying out-of-network rates. Meanwhile, the uninsured pay an even higher “rack rate,” as does any insured person whose chosen procedure isn’t covered by their insurance. Why is it legal for a hospital’s fees to vary depending on who is paying? Hospitals should publish their rates and bill in a transparent fashion just like any other service provider. The current system is unfair and impossible to understand. We consumers and our elected representatives must demand change.

Eric Johnson, Minneapolis


Still missing in action

As a resident of the Third Congressional District, I’ve become accustomed to Rep. Erik Paulsen’s unavailability. His last public, in-person town hall meeting was September 2011, and he refuses to hold another because he doesn’t want people yelling at him. However, his last-minute cancellation at Edina’s July 4th parade took his unavailability to a whole new level. A Paulsen spokesman said he doesn’t make public events like this a priority during “off” years. I guess we can only expect his presence during election years when he needs our votes.

Paulsen recently stated he is “good friends” with former Rep. Gabby Giffords, and even attended the commissioning ceremony of the Navy ship in her honor. I implore him to listen to her advice: “Town halls … were a hallmark of my tenure in Congress. … [L]istening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do. … To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”

And, maybe even attend a parade.

Colleen Graf, Brooklyn Park