Outgoing University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler proposed (in an article first posted March 1 at Star Tribune.com) that Coffman Memorial Union and three other university buildings be renamed due to their namesakes’ segregationist practices. I am quite certain that I will be vilified for this, but this latest manifestation of political correctness needs to stop. To be clear, segregationism (nor racism or discrimination of any kind) has no place in our society. Ever. That being said, our society today and what American society was a hundred years ago are greatly different. Such beliefs were common, and held by many people who, in other measures, were not the monsters we would deem them to be today. Accolades were given for their accomplishments.

But the question really is: Where does this political correctness stop? Should whole states and cities get renamed? (Such as Jefferson City, Mo., Washington state and Washington, D.C.?) Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are revered as the founding fathers of the country, yet both were slave owners. In today’s society, men who held those beliefs and their actions would be utterly criminal. But historical context does have meaning in such discussions. We cannot simply erase the past by renaming it. How people thought and what they did, for both good and bad, are part of who we are today. We must studiously consider the historical context when viewing words and actions from the past. Then actions taken such as renaming a building are not a reaction to knee-jerk political correctness, but rather a thoughtful expression of right and wrong.

Richard Rivett, Chaska


Please support this legislation to make the process fair

The Legislature is now hearing bills that will determine how we pick our lawmakers. After the 2020 census, all state legislative and congressional districts in Minnesota will be redrawn, as happens after every census. This time, we need a new law to put a politically balanced commission in charge of how the new districts are drawn, rather than leaving that work in the hands of the Legislature (only overseen by courts when necessary). The commission would draft fair districts for approval by the Legislature. Such commissions are used by many states, with good, fair results.

Voters like us can affect the decision about how districts will be drawn. Here are two key reasons why I support HF 1605 and hope you will, too. Some things to know:

Who would be on the commission? Both retired judges and other citizens — picked fairly to represent the whole state. The bill does not propose using only retired judges, as some have suggested. Most judges are white and male, and are well enough off to have gone to law school and connected enough to have raised money for their own election campaigns in years past. Experience in other states has shown that it doesn’t take a judge to make good judgments on redistricting.

Who would pick the members of the commission and how? Under HF 1605, commission members will be nominated by the community at large as well as by legislators, in a process managed by the secretary of state. The bill specifies how to keep people with less-than-obvious partisan agendas off the commission, to assure that it will work transparently and fairly for all Minnesotans.

The Legislature will be debating which law to pass in the coming weeks. Please let your state representative, senator and the governor know now that for fair representation across the state, you strongly support the redistricting commission described in HF 1605.

Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, St. Louis Park


It’s going to happen regardless, but here’s a way to make it safer

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, a former state health commissioner, made some fine points in his Feb. 28 commentary about marijuana (“For medical use? Yes. Open adult use? Not yet”), but it seems to me that this train is about to leave the station and it’s a little late to be planning how to screen passengers. With recreational use already in a dozen or so states and the whole of Canada, the drug will be ever more available (if that’s even possible) and less and less prosecuted. Recreational marijuana is a done deal in Minnesota regardless of how legislators think or act.

The hard truth is that, regardless of potential health consequences, people are going to self-medicate. Even if the reward is just unwinding at the end of a stressful day, deadening a small hurt, or to step away from inhibition and have a little fun. A lot of people are going to accept the risk, and most of them will be fine. The question is how to identify and deal with those who are not going to be.

Understanding that prohibition has never worked, why not just license users? The license could even be medicalized. Here’s how it could work:

When a person turns 21, they could apply for and receive a recreational-substances license. With that license, they could buy alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and anything else stuffed into the risky recreational-substances bag. The license would be automatically renewed, with a biannual wellness review conducted by a physician or a physician assistant.

With a license and medical review, there is a tool for early intervention and a method to revoke the privilege of those who may risk harm to themselves or others. The whistle on this train has already blown, so about all we can do is make sure that those who want to jump on have a ticket.

John Cook, Burnsville


Can’t stop people from doing what they want, except when you can

There is no point in having either Congress or the Minnesota Legislature pass laws requiring universal background checks on gun sales, because criminals who intend to get guns will find a way to get them anyway, and the laws would be an unreasonable burden on the rest of us. There is no point in having laws against drinking and driving, because people who drink too much will drive anyway, and such laws are an unreasonable burden on those of us who want to have just a little drink before driving. There is no point in having laws on the legal age for buying tobacco products, because teenagers who want to smoke will find a way to get cigarettes anyway, and the laws are an unreasonable burden on clerks at shops selling tobacco. Wait a minute — I don’t believe any of these statements, including the first one. So, the gun lobby’s argument against universal background checks doesn’t wash with me.

Bill Kaemmerer, Edina

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God made man; Samuel Colt made men equal. Minnesota legislators want to make the biggest and toughest man the undisputed ruler again.

Edgar Toensing, Coon Rapids


There’s nothing racial about this (unless you want there to be)

So Jessica Treat, executive director of Move Minnesota, is worried about people of color being profiled for smoking on our transit system (“Transit cops to confront smokers,” Feb. 28). So, truly, she must believe that people of color smoke on the trains.

I am a white women who smokes. Never would I smoke on a train and or bus. It is called being polite to other riders. Does it really matter the color of skin for smoking on a train? Just don’t do it.

Sue Wilson, Savage