I must be a glutton for punishment: I just finished reading the reader comments about the PolyMet mine runoff flowing toward the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (front page, Sept. 2). As expected, some are adamantly against the mining, and some are for it, just like the Enbridge pipeline issue. At some point, we have to come to a consensus about how we make decisions about Minnesota’s water. We citizens can’t come to a consensus on our own.

One of the board members at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission once said that “a certificate-of-need proceeding is not the appropriate forum to mandate alternative energy development.” She may be right, but what forum, exactly, is the appropriate one? Will our governor and relevant state agencies get together and decide, once and for all, which is more important: money or water? We’ll all save a bundle of time and money if we have a forum, decide what we value most, and make it our state policy.

Janet Hill, McGregor, Minn.

• • •

I agree with Kathryn Hoffman, who is quoted in the Sept. 2 story as asking why, after 10 years, we do not know whether wastewater from the PolyMet mine would flow north or south? I have yet another “what are we getting here” question for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which is leading the project’s environmental review: What will be the state’s financial gain from the proposed copper-nickel mine? Let’s add it up. Assume that each of 350 new jobs represents approximately $85,000 to $100,000 in gross income.

According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, an estimated $70,000 taxable (not gross) income would generate approximately $4,400 (an overall 6.3 percent rate) of new tax revenue. Multiplied by 350 jobs, that would increase state revenue by approximately $1.5 million per year, for a $30 million total revenue gain over 20 years. That’s our trade-off for 350 jobs for 20 years. That’s also, by implication, the value we place on nearby natural resources, including the BWCA.

Thirty million dollars. That doesn’t include the cost of the 10-year study. It also assumes that nothing goes wrong. Given the latter scenario, how likely is it that any environmental cleanup would cost less than $30 million? Whether you’re a jobs or environmental advocate, do the math. Then ask: Is it worth the risk?

Judith Monson, St. Paul

 

OIL-TRAIN SAFETY

Wouldn’t ‘all of the above’ include pipeline transport?

Notably absent from the “all of the above” approach to rail safety promoted by U.S. Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Minnesota (“Avoiding an oil train explosion shouldn’t be a matter of luck,” Sept. 2) is any mention of the pipeline alternative to transporting crude oil. The basis for this omission is easily understood when one notes the senators’ voting records with respect to the Keystone bill vetoed recently by the president. The senators’ proposals contain the usual liberal formula of increased federal rules and regulations, while also raising the costs to the rail and oil industries of rerouting trains and reformulating the oil that’s being transported. Reducing the actual volume of oil transported by rail and thus reducing the risk of the disasters they describe doesn’t seem to register with them.

I am also one of the thousands of people living within a half mile of tracks carrying oil. I would appreciate some relief not only from the risk of explosive disaster the oil trains pose, but also from the intrusive noise they generate at all hours.

James Winberg, Little Canada

 

AIRPORT NOISE

We hear it’s gotten so much worse. Not true where I live.

We have lived one and a half blocks from Lake Harriet in southwest Minneapolis for 25 years. For many of those years, we could sit on our deck and watch plane after plane after plane fly over the south side of the lake. My stepfather from rural Nebraska would take his chair and watch them endlessly while visiting us.

With those old DC-10s, the noise was very noticeable, but we knew where the airport was when we bought the house, so we acclimated.

Today, the planes don’t line up like they used to. The noise is substantially less. It’s much better. So, I haven’t seen a lot of letters from people like us, but we like what has happened. We didn’t whine a lot in the past, but we certainly enjoy “sharing the wealth” with the rest of the area!

Steve Williams, Minneapolis

 

POLICE AND THE USE OF FORCE

Nightsticks aren’t an adequate control tool in today’s world

A Sept. 2 letter writer is concerned that the police rely less on nightsticks as control devices than in the 1970s. I suspect that this is true and would completely understand why. Readers of any paper will find stories of young men waving guns around for any and all reasons, none good: Kid tries to hold up moon-gazers (doesn’t end well); basketball player wounds teammates in Rochester — ad nauseam.

The letter writer would have police officers accept “personal risk” so that we all feel better. Details escape me, but I recall a study that showed how someone within 21 feet of a knife wielder was going to get sliced. Acceptable? There is no such distance factor for a firearm. Is the stick still the best choice? Tasers have come along since the ’70s and are a good way to incapacitate without contact or injury to either party. When there is a gun involved, though, the decision tree necks down very quickly: Who is going home after this shift — him or me?

Peter Discenza, Eagan

 

TAXES AND SPENDING

Extra funding isn’t going to improve schools magically

A Sept. 1 letter writer, commenting on the Black Lives Matter protests, asked, “Are we willing to pay more taxes so that schools serving people of color are as high quality as mostly white suburban schools?”

According to Minnesota Monthly magazine, the Minneapolis and St. Paul schools spend significantly more than the suburban schools. For high schools, as of 2008, the average suburban school spent about $9,000 per student, while the average city school spent about $11,500.

There are many factors that contribute to student success. School funding is only one of them. It appears that the Minneapolis and St. Paul schools are receiving adequate funding. It seems likely that there are other factors besides lack of funding that are making the city schools less competitive than their suburban counterparts. Rather than throwing more money at the problem, let’s address those issues.

James Brandt, New Brighton

 

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Border walls are a priority, and distracted driving is not?

Border walls and fences? Really? (“Walker: Northern wall is legit idea,” Aug. 31.) Why don’t we shift our irrational fixation from “terrorism” to what is really killing our citizens and family members: distracted drivers.

The real terror threat is the selfish and irresponsible driver texting in the cars around us. Those drivers live here. They’re are not sneaking in from Canada.

I’d like to see just one presidential candidate elevate distracted driving to the top national priority that it deserves to be. I often wonder whose loved one has to die senselessly before we address this issue in a serious manner.

Mike Beer, Minneapolis