Interesting that a group of Minnesota lawmakers want to make the Labrador retriever the official state dog (“A fetching choice?” Jan. 30). According to the American Kennel Club, Labradors have been the most popular breed for each of the last five years, not just in Minnesota, but nationwide. Designating the Lab the state dog would be a little like deeming the hamburger the official state food.

Put me down for that group of folks who would prefer a mixed breed or a lovable mutt for state dogdom. The shelters are filled with mixed breeds, millions of which are euthanized each year, simply because the number of available dogs outnumbers prospective owners. When you adopt, you are saving a dog’s life. Adopting a dog from a shelter is less expensive. The dog will usually come to you already spayed or neutered, and mixed-breed dogs are often healthier than purebred dogs.

There are dozens of fantastic pet rescue organizations and shelters throughout the Twin Cities. Four years ago we adopted a pit bull mix, Rhyker, just out of puppyhood from A Rotta Love Plus, a rescue group dedicated to rehoming Rottweilers and pit bulls. Rhyker has now become something of an ambassador for pitties. He worked very hard, and on his first attempt he aced the test for AKC’s Canine Good Citizenship designation and now volunteers in assisted pet therapy settings.

Nothing against Labs, retrievers and poodles, but in our house, paws down, our favorite breed is rescued.

Stephen Monson, Golden Valley

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I think it’s heartwarming we are thinking of making the Labrador retriever our state dog. They are fine animals. But, given last week’s weather, I think we should broaden the list of nominees, with the Siberian husky as a prime candidate. My entry, though, would be the St. Bernard, with its cask of brandy.

John Widen, Minneapolis

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Our health care system needs fixing, our schools have never been fully funded, and we have no tax conformity to the federal tax system. Yet, at the Legislature they are proposing that the Labrador retriever be named the state dog? And Dakota County is dedicating funds to studying bringing back bison to county parks? (Minnesota section, Jan. 30.) Come on, government officials, we elected you to do a serious job! Get to it!

Lonni Skrentner, Edina


Remaining questions and an opportunity to address harm

As we enter into Black History Month, residents of Ramsey County and St. Paul applaud the dissolution of a controversial data-sharing legal agreement between the city, county and schools that many feared would result in racial and ethnic profiling of students “predicted” to engage in future delinquency (“St. Paul data-sharing agreement called off over privacy concerns,” Jan. 29). The disbandment of a joint powers agreement (JPA) that was created to apply predictive analytics to students’ and families’ private data was announced on International Data Privacy Day, and followed many months of grassroots advocacy and public education.

Communities support our agencies’ stated intentions to better coordinate to deliver services “upstream” to youth and families, long before they are ensnared in the overly expansive nets of our criminal justice system. But before we launch into yet another round of community engagement, let’s pause and reflect on lessons learned to avoid repeating the same mistakes. When we can honestly assess and repair harm, we can better collaborate to make better choices to promote positive outcomes for kids and families.

When the JPA was made public and unanimously supported by county, city and school officials last spring, communities suffered multiple affronts. As widely covered, residents loudly opposed the application of big data technologies to “flag” children predicted of future delinquency. In addition to concerns about creating a cradle-to-prison algorithm, residents were also troubled by the ways in which two previous intensive community engagement processes generated concrete recommendations that were never implemented. Yet those same processes were used to justify the JPA and predictive analytics that in reality had never been vetted.

When community members take the time to show up and open their hearts, minds and hopes to institutions, their wisdom should be heard, and their suggestestion should be actualized. Before we launch into yet another round of listening sessions, how will communities trust in follow-through?

The path forward may actually be outlined in the themes from the two previous engagement sessions that led to this moment. Among those outlined in both a community-based process through Marnita’s Table, as well as a later six-month task force on school safety chaired by County Attorney John Choi, is a model for restorative justice.

With the dissolving of the JPA, we are ready to work together to repair harm. But the first step in repairing harm is to take responsibility and acknowledge the harm done. The second is accountability; that means being accountable to community and respecting the time required to participate in the process. This particular harm has been at least five years in the making.

Marika Pfefferkorn, Brooklyn Park


Walking, biking and transit are needs of statewide interest

Whether you drive, bus, walk, wheel or bike to work, drive for a living, or are at home most of the time, our transportation system touches you daily. Unfortunately, we have underinvested in every aspect of that system for far too long.

One of Gov. Tim Walz’s strong campaign messages was the need to raise the gas tax to fix our roads and bridges. I agree, but, our transportation system is multidimensional and multimodal. Therefore, we also need to include other funding strategies for walking, biking and transit. In a 2017 statewide poll, it was reported that 68 percent of Minnesotans support investments in safe bike and pedestrian routes. Another statewide poll from 2018 found that nearly 3 in 4 Minnesotans support investments in transit options, even if they have higher fares or taxes.

Being from a small town myself, I certainly understand the need to invest in both greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area to ensure that communities and businesses statewide are thriving. I find the greater-Minnesota-vs.-metro politics frustrating, and, while the needs may be different, the polls show what is needed is quite evident. Walking, biking and transit are not just metro issues, road and bridge needs are statewide, and transportation options are desired by all.

I hope that legislators and our governor from greater Minnesota can put politics and the greater Minnesota-metro debate aside and agree on long-term funding solutions for all the modes of our transportation system, not just roads and bridges.

Dorian Grilley, Mahtomedi

The writer is executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.


Cargill made a promise to end it, and clearly has the wherewithal …

Cargill’s $200 million expansion in Pakistan (Business, Jan. 19) clearly shows that the company has the resources to meet its 2014 U.N. Climate Summit promises — so why isn’t it?

At that summit, Cargill promised to end deforestation in its supply chain by 2020. However, in 2017, Cargill deforested 12,622 hectares of land for soy in Brazil alone. That’s more than 20,000 football fields’ worth of deforestation! In contrast, the Chinese company COFCO (that country’s largest food processor, manufacturer and trader) just announced recently that it wants to expand an anti-deforestation program that began in the Amazon to other parts of South America due to its success. These achievements in deforestation show that the goal Cargill set for itself in 2014 is attainable if Cargill puts resources toward it.

Cargill is a multinational company, but has roots right here in Minnesota. As a Minnesotan, I want Cargill to stand behind what it has promised to do in reducing deforestation. This company is a representative of what our state stands for, and I’d like to think that Minnesotans stand by following through with our commitments.

Britta Dornfeld, Minneapolis


Too many secrets

Now that President Donald Trump has backed out of the historic Reagan-Gorbachev nuclear arms treaty, it is essential for America to find out exactly what was agreed upon at the private meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Congress, do not temporize. America’s safety is at stake. Do your job and subpoena the translators immediately.

Ned Kantar, Minneapolis