When I was younger, I traveled extensively in other countries where it was a pleasure to use their mass transit systems. When I lived in Japan for two years, I was able to easily and safely go anywhere I wanted, even when challenged by many signs written in Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. But in the U.S., most of our transit systems not only are very limited in scope and frequency but also are plagued by major safety issues.

A Star Tribune article Feb. 6 quoted Metro Transit train operators who wondered if they’d end up on a gurney or body bag at the end of the day. The operators talked about witnessing drug deals, assaults and sexual activity. According to Metro Transit, violent crime increased by 35% from 2018 to 2019. Given these conditions, why would people choose to take mass transit? Yes, I’m concerned about climate change and wish America knew how to do mass transit well, but I won’t be giving up my Toyota anytime soon.

And how do our esteemed DFL lawmakers and transit advocates want to respond to the situation? They want to make it even easier for vagrants, hoodlums and joy-riders to abuse the system. They want to decriminalize light-rail fare evasion, reducing the fine from $180 to a petty misdemeanor with a $35 fine (Star Tribune article, Feb. 1). And when challenged with the problem of homeless people sleeping and peeing on trains, some of our “representatives” ask where else those people are supposed to go.

I used to consider myself a liberal Democrat, but no more. They have gone totally off the rails. In their unbridled obsession to increase inclusion and equity, they keep lowering the bar for everything. Heaven forbid they have the nerve to tell people that if you want to live in a civilized society, you need to obey the law and act civilly.

Pam Pommer, Bloomington

TRUMP VS. DEMOCRATS

All this, and Tice thinks it’s the left that’s the bigger threat to America?

After a week of hearing President Donald Trump describe political opponents as “vicious, horrible people who want to destroy our country,” I was startled to read that D.J. Tice is currently most worried about “excessive” and radical progressives, who paint a “dark progressive portrait of American government.” (“In wake of the trial, beware the ‘Never Say Never’ voter,” Opinion Exchange column, Feb. 9.)

Included in their dark suspicions, he says, are concerns that the Constitution and institutions of government are losing legitimacy and that normal democratic processes are no longer trustworthy. “This is the way,” he says, “that revolutionaries and coup leaders talk.”

Really? The phrases going through my mind as I read Tice’s statement were “Only I can fix it,” “Russia, are you listening?“ “Don’t believe what you read and don’t believe what you hear,” and “the press is fake news and the enemy of the people.” Those are the words of autocrats. Reasonable people believe an American president who expresses such ideas, as he flouts both the Constitution and laws, should be held to account.

Much more persuasive are the words of U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, hardly a radical progressive, in explaining his vote of guilty against President Trump: “What he did … was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

This is not a dark view. It is a principled view that gives us heart in a very troubled time.

Janet Urbanowicz, St. Paul

• • •

Tice claims Trump’s attempts to exercise nonexistent, autocratic powers were mostly unsuccessful. But Trump typically ignores other people’s input.

Since executive orders have the force of law, his orders are autocratic in nature. A quick review of his nearly 140 executive orders (more than President Barack Obama at this point in his first term) reveals just how successful his autocratic powers have been. A short list includes waiving of ACA provisions and other actions to sabotage health care access, freezing all new regulations, crippling nearly every government agency by not filling critical positions and freezing the federal workforce, sending immigration into upheaval with numerous orders and travel bans, putting the Clean Water Act under review and at risk, repealing critical climate-related initiatives, creating extremely protectionist trade policies and tariffs, shrinking national monuments, and limiting reproductive rights. Some orders were well-received by both sides of the political spectrum. But by and large, the attack on institutions supported by the left has been vigorous.

Mr. Tice is wrong in having us believe that Trump is just a “creepy clown show.” He is also a dangerous tool of forces interested in tearing apart our national fabric and rebuilding it to benefit the “haves” of the 1%.

Susan Barrett, Mora, Minn.

LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

End-of-life options, mental health solutions missing from parties’ lists

I was impressed by the DFL’s list of priority issues for the 2020 Minnesota legislative session (“The vision division,” Opinion Exchange, Feb. 9), with one exception. The End of Life Option Act, which could provide comfort to terminally ill Minnesotans, is another issue worth pursuing in 2020, but was not mentioned.

Even in an election year, many terminally ill individuals continue to face difficult end-of-life choices as they endure the final stages of their disease and the dying process — an observation I can stipulate after having practiced internal medicine in Minneapolis for 40 years. I believe every Minnesotan should have the freedom to make end-of-life decisions that are best for them and their family, based on the a full understanding of their diagnosis, prognosis, expected terminal course, and religious and secular beliefs. Minnesotans of every age, region, religion and party affiliation support medical aid-in-dying for terminally ill adults of sound mind who are suffering. I hope the Minnesota House leadership’s vision will include compassion for the dying who will not make it through this election year.

Dr. David B. Plimpton, Minneapolis

The writer is a retired physician.

• • •

The priorities laid out by both parties for the 2020 legislative session are missing an important issue — the need to build Minnesota’s mental health system. Our inability to meet the mental health needs of children and adults has left young children being kicked out of child care, students struggling in schools, adults losing their jobs, people living on the streets or in jails, and has left people without hope and contemplating suicide. While people talk about early intervention, the hard truth is that is can take months to get an appointment. When there is a crisis, it’s often a police response or a multiple-day wait in the ER for a hospital bed. And for culturally specific communities and communities of color, access is even worse.

The solutions are there in front of us — and have been for decades. What we have is a lack of commitment to investing in our mental health system and ending the discrimination against mental health care. Let’s make some progress in this important area in 2020.

Sue Abderholden, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

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