I am employed by one of the 450 companies counted in the membership of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. It is frustrating to see my employer participate in a conservative issue advocacy campaign in the city where my family and I reside.
The issue, of course, is public safety. In his recent commentary "Why the defund amendment must be defeated" (July 28), Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Downtown Council, reminded us that his organization stands for the status quo in response to the Minneapolis Police Department's record of failure. City Council and community leaders are working toward transforming our public safety model, though Cramer engages this conversation only superficially in his article and dismisses such efforts as "bumper sticker philosophy."
In reality, the desire for progressive change through holistic public health and safety solutions is so strong that the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign collected and submitted signatures from more than 20,000 city voters earlier this year (in wintertime, during a pandemic no less), earning a spot on this year's ballot. I am proud to have signed this petition and, should the charter amendment pass, I look forward to our city investing its resources in better systems designed to actually keep us all safe.
If you're like me in this regard, and you work for a member organization of the Downtown Council, I encourage you to ask a decisionmaker in your office why — either passively through membership dues, or more actively behind closed doors — they support continued investment in a broken department.
Charlie Nejedly, Minneapolis
Cramer's commentary was spot-on. We need a reformed Police Department composed of more police officers, community crime prevention staff, and staff for violence prevention and mental health situations. Our focus should be reforming the Police Department, not reducing or eliminating it.
Jay Kiedrowski, Minneapolis
I have been a homeowner in north Minneapolis for four and a half years. I always hoped that my Jordan neighborhood would improve with time but no longer believe that it will.
A group of drug dealers and various people (approximately five to 10 people and two to four cars) sit on my block all day and night. They do not live here but have chosen to make the area across the street from my home their "hang-out" place. They bring chairs, sun umbrellas and coolers every day. They stop cars on the street to sell drugs and stolen merchandise. They drink alcohol, smoke pot, play loud music and litter. I contacted 911 when I saw crack changing hands and cars with no license plates, and when threatened by one of the women. The police came a few times but said unless they see a crime being committed, they cannot take action. My final call to 911 came when a police officer phoned me to say, "Sorry, we're not coming. We don't have enough officers to answer anything except emergency calls." I have written Council Member Jeremiah Ellison and Mayor Jacob Frey without response.
I have given up and am now placing my home for sale and moving outside of Minneapolis. The apathy and inaction in this city have taken their toll. I no longer believe in the Minneapolis I used to love. Good luck to all who remain.
Sheree Bochenek, Minneapolis
Protecting public lands takes constant public effort
In reading "Big spending fuels off-road boom" (July 23), one has to wonder what planet our governor, Legislature and Department of Natural Resources officials are residing on. After being bombarded with headlines regarding wildfires, smoke, drought, torrential rains and flooding, one learns that such officials have concluded that this would be a great time to enhance motorized all-terrain vehicle use in northeastern Minnesota. While the average person might question the wisdom of cutting down trees and expanding the use of carbon-emitting vehicles, apparently these officials have decided there is no reason for concern. They no doubt can take great comfort commiserating with those who feel that global warming is a hoax or even that it is God's will. Entrepreneurial plans to head for Mars might also provide the answer. Just think of the dust we could kick up on that baby with our new Polaris.
John Gaertner, Minneapolis
In the debate about off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails on public lands, motorized recreationalists have loudly claimed their "access rights."
Our public lands and wildlife are the domain of the public. Our right to access them for use and enjoyment are uniquely American, but a "right" to use is not a "right to abuse." We must remember that our rights to access public lands are temporary rights not property rights.
For more than 50 years I have been an enthusiastic deer hunter, grouse hunter, and user of our public lands and waterways. Citizens who cannot afford land still have the opportunity to take their kids camping in a wild setting, or a father can take his son into the North Woods deer hunting, whereas without these public lands, he couldn't.
Many decades ago, Minnesota established a vast state forest system of 4½ million acres. At the same time, Minnesota counties were given administration of another vast network of lands known as "county administered lands," often referred to as "tax forfeited lands." These lands, along with two national forests, are the goose that lays the golden egg. Besides providing opportunities for Minnesotans to experience the outdoors, they make our state unique with a diversity of wildlife, forest types and abundant and pristine waters not seen east of the Rockies.
But in 1998 the DNR went public with a statewide plan for OHV which for the vast amount of our public lands became a free-for-all for OHVs and triggered a quasi-rebellion by the people in north-central Minnesota known as the Jack Pine Coalition. The damage in our state forests to wetlands and soils and the displacement of traditional users was egregious, and the JPC worked with with two state senators on legislation in 2003 that resulted in tighter OHV restrictions.
Since then, powerful special interests, including Polaris, Arctic Cat, a plethora of OHV clubs and most northern politicians, have effectively chipped away at these protections, and now, again, we are witnessing our public lands being turned over to the motorized crowd. In the recent legislative session, $13 million was allocated for OHV trail extension.
Our public lands are what's best about our state! It is time to take them back. Access rights are not a right to damage our public lands or to degrade the pristine water sources that make us famous.
Barry W. Babcock, Bemidji, Minn.
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