A Feb. 9, 2017, story in the Star Tribune reported the consequences of a 2016 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that St. Paul officials could no longer charge churches, colleges, hospitals and other nonprofits for their assessed share of street maintenance fees.
According to the article: "St. Paul officials are looking at using property taxes and even voluntary payments to cover street maintenance costs after a court ruling forced the city to look for a substitute for right of way assessments."
The article also said: "Council members also suggested the city try to get nonprofits to make a payment in lieu of taxes."
Jack Hoeschler, the attorney who represented the churches that sued the city, said in the article he talked to a number of nonprofits that would be on board with such a program. "I think the nonprofits are willing to belly up to the bar," he was quoted as saying.
At a community meeting a few months ago, I proposed to Mayor Melvin Carter that St. Paul approach nonprofits about voluntary contributions. Mayor Carter poo-pooed the idea.
Before St. Paul seeks voter approval for a 1% sales tax for road maintenance ("St. Paul City Council sends two tax referendums to voters," July 19), the city should approach all nonprofits with a request that they voluntarily contribute a percentage of their annual road maintenance bill to help with these costs. The city would then publish an annual list of all nonprofits and what their contribution (if any) was. It would be interesting for taxpayers to review the annual list to see which churches, universities, hospitals, etc., were willing to help out (and how much) against those wishing to freeload.
Voluntary contributions won't solve the whole problem of street maintenance costs, but it would help out and demonstrate that city leaders are interested in having nonprofits "belly up to the bar."
If St. Paul isn't willing to take the above action to help out taxpayers, there should be a "no" vote on the 1% sales tax increase and a thorough turnover of elected city politicians who seem to find it easier to raise taxes than seek creative ways to raise street maintenance revenue.
Bruce Clark, St. Paul
Someone should start over
The article on the front page of the July 12 Star Tribune covers the dispute between the Office of the Legislative Auditor and the contractor for the grossly overspent Southwest light rail project, not due for completion until 2027 ("Light rail builder, auditor at odds").
What is not covered is that the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority and the Metropolitan Council failed to recognize that stuffing light rail and freight into the narrow Kenilworth corridor was a bad idea. They overstated the ridership, including usage by Kenwood residents and future commuters from north Minneapolis to Eden Prairie; this trip would take over an hour and involve a bus transfer at the Van White (Bassett Creek Valley) station.
Furthermore, it included a loop around the Minneapolis incinerator to connect to St. Paul, while an alternative route would serve more residents in Uptown and businesses in downtown Minneapolis. And last, there is no assurance that water leakage into the SWLRT tunnel from the aquifer connecting Cedar Lake to Bde Maka Ska will not require continuous pumping or undermine the foundation of the Calhoun Condominium towers.
As previous president of the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association and an owner in the Cedar Lake Shores Townhouse Association, I worked tirelessly to get this project done right, to no avail. I have relocated to Northfield to avoid having my real estate value — and Minneapolis tax receipts — plummet. Someone should have the courage to start over.
Arthur E. Higinbotham, Northfield
LICENSES FOR ALL
What comes next?
"Driver's license for all coming Oct. 1" (July 17) was informative but puzzling concerning the estimated 80,000 unauthorized people, according to the article, who reside or work in Minnesota and are now eligible for a driver's license.
The Star Tribune, as well as many mainstream publications, has for years referred to unauthorized immigrants as "undocumented." Yet this article reports "DVS wants license applicants to prepare their documents and start studying." The article goes on, "Examples of approved documents include an unexpired passport, birth certificate or permanent resident card."
If people who have illegally entered our country are "undocumented," how can they have documents that will enable them to acquire a Minnesota driver's license? Were these "unauthorized" people, or some of them "documented"? Was "undocumented" a euphemism? What is true? Good journalism is not about euphemisms but about facts, which readers deserve.
I'm relieved at the assurance that the licenses are marked "not for federal identification," and cannot be used for voting, but how will it be determined documents presented are authentic, and what other documents can be gained by those who will now have a Minnesota driver's license?
Richard Schmitt, St. Paul
ISRAELI PRESIDENT'S VISIT
Practicing apartheid is racist
In "Phillips rebukes caucus on Israel" (July 19), U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota's Third District is quoted as saying: "To call an entire country racist is beyond the pale." In fact, his refusal to acknowledge reality is beyond the pale.
As noted by Amnesty International, "the crime against humanity of apartheid under the Apartheid Convention, the Rome Statute and customary international law is committed when any inhuman or inhumane act (essentially a serious human rights violation) is perpetrated in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another, with the intention to maintain that system."
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have concluded that Israel is an apartheid state by this definition.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of racism is "the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another."
Practicing apartheid is racist. Successive Israeli governments have chosen settlement expansion, land confiscation and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian population, society and economy over justice and compromise. The 2018 Nation State Law passed by the Knesset as a "Basic Law" states: "The realization of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is exclusive to the Jewish People." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to have said Israel "needs to crush [the Palestinian] ambition" for an independent state.
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan spoke honestly and movingly to Congress about her experiences as a Palestinian American and her family's experience of living under the Israeli occupation of Palestine. If Rep. Phillips is committed to the causes of human rights and justice as he claims, then he would do well to join his Minnesota colleagues, U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar, in holding Israel to the same human rights standards we expect of ourselves and of other nations.
Enabling a racist, violent and unaccountable Israeli government that acts with impunity is not in anyone's interest — not the Americans', not the Israelis' and not the Palestinians'. We hope Rep. Phillips (and Rep. Angie Craig who joined him in his stance) will act on the values they purport to support.
Fred Rogers and Jenny Hartley, Northfield
The writers are associated with Northfielders for Justice in Palestine/Israel.