Many thanks to the Star Tribune’s Lee Schafer for his excellent columns on the future of housing. From the impact of market forces to the reality of simple math, he deftly illuminated the huge and complicated challenges we face as a community in making housing affordable and attainable for all.

In his Sept. 2 column (“Housing crisis tied to income stagnation”), Schafer pegs a $52,000 cash down payment on a median-priced Twin Cities home as “a big reach for a lot of Minnesota families.” Happily, for many of those on the longer side of this reach, there are options available to lessen the upfront nature of this burden. The Minnesota Homeownership Center, the nonprofit that I lead, coordinates home buyer advising, education and process navigation available to all Minnesotans.

As part of this process, individuals and families often learn they may qualify for progressive loan programs requiring lower down payments — sometimes as low as 3.5 percent. This would reduce that $52,000 upfront cost burden to $9,100 — still a significant amount of money, but one that is potentially much more attainable with sufficient planning and saving. Equally important, these programs are aimed at facilitating sustainable homeownership and helping potential home buyers see the full picture of what it will require financially to stay in their new home for years to come.

For more information on home buyer education, advising and down payment assistance offered by nonprofit organizations doing great work all over our region, go to

JULIE GUGIN, Mendota Heights

Julie Gugin is executive director of the Minnesota Homeownership Center based in St Paul.


The question isn’t who wrote the piece, but where’s Congress?

I am troubled by the Op-Ed in the New York Times, but not by who wrote it or why, or whether the author should have signed his/her name. I am troubled by the fact this is not the first time we have heard these kinds of allegations. Instead of focusing on who wrote the Op-Ed, maybe we should be looking at why Congress continues to abdicate its job of being the check and balance on the executive branch.

They discuss concerns about the fitness of the president in the halls of Congress or behind closed doors but do nothing. What if these allegations are true? We, the people, need to know whether our president is competent. This is not a party issue, this is an American issue. Who is looking out for this country? Congress, it is time for you to do your job.


• • •

Which is gutless — an anonymous Op-Ed, or firing someone by tweet?

BOB NELSON, Pequot Lakes


Straw-man premises contributed to mischaracterization of ideas

Peter Leschak’s commentary, “Two cheers for the mixed economy” (Sept. 2), is a good example of the use of a “straw man.” He says that “large segments of the population … desire an unregulated economy.” I haven’t heard anyone arguing in favor of having no regulations at all. A free market doesn’t mean that there is no regulation.

He says that “capitalists also assumed no limits to growth.” Really? I hadn’t heard that. That would be an unrealistic assumption, but I doubt anyone actually made it. However, what people have discovered is that market-based economies provide more growth than other types of economies.

And he says that “capitalism would not recognize the ‘commons.’ ” I seriously doubt that any libertarians would advocate that businesses should be allowed to dump poisonous chemicals into the environment. I think everyone agrees that regulations are necessary. The issue is how much regulation. Libertarians want less regulation than progressives.

There are important differences in philosophy between libertarians, conservatives and progressives. It would be better to present a fair comparison of the different ideas rather than mischaracterizing and disparaging libertarian ideas.

JAMES BRANDT, New Brighton

Minnesota mining

Editorial Board, why not take a stand? A few ideas for you

The Star Tribune Editorial Board sure took the easy way out in “New mining studies help inform Minnesota governor’s race” (Sept. 2). It is true that the two studies identified in the editorial came to different conclusions about the benefits or downsides of sulfide mining in northern Minnesota.

You state that the issue is too complex to let candidates paint themselves or their opponents as either pro- or anti-mining. Which political candidates during the primary or upcoming general election are stating that they are anti-mining? Candidates for Congress in the primary who were opposed to sulfide mining never declared that they are anti-mining. The candidates in the governor’s race never stated that they were anti-mining; they essentially said what you asked — consider each project on a case-by-case basis after scientific reviews.

How about the Star Tribune taking a stand? You certainly do on other difficult issues.

What you could say is that our pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, as well as countless streams, wetlands, scores of rivers, including the St. Louis River and Lake Superior will be in jeopardy if PolyMet and Twin Metals are allowed to mine copper and nickel from sulfide-rich ore deposits. You could explain why sulfide mining is so dangerous. What you could say is that sulfide mining is not worth the risk of 360 projected jobs vs. the threat to tens of thousands of jobs that already exist in the region that rely on tourism.

Maybe you could help voters by explaining the track records of the parent companies of PolyMet and Twin Metals (Swiss conglomerate Glencore and Chilean conglomerate Antofagasta, respectively) and remind candidates from both political parties that most Minnesotans oppose copper-nickel mining.


The writer served in the Minnesota House for 18 years representing St. Paul and served on the Duluth City Council for eight years.


Much depends on what Mueller finds, or doesn’t find

The Sept. 2 D.J. Tice column had it right (“Sleazy, dishonest, unworthy, but ...”). Ignorance, sloth, adultery, vulgarity, bigotry, petulant behavior and daily lies about items big and small are not impeachable offenses. Treason is. If Robert Mueller’s investigators reveal that private citizen Donald Trump’s money laundering rendered him subservient to Russian authority, which led to his campaign conspiring to defraud the voting public and when elected, directed his undermining United States international alliances, then that’s treason.

If Mueller finds that President Donald Trump, as he claims, is free of any involvement, connection or collusion with the Russians, then the country will just have to wait until the 2020 election to rid itself of this sleazy president.

TOM SHEA, Owatonna, Minn.

The writer served in the Minnesota House for four years representing Owatonna and was a Steele County commissioner for 20 years.