This idea that Ukrainian counteroffensives have been a disappointment is absurd. The Ukrainians have made gains on the northern, southern and eastern fronts, and the bombing they are doing in Crimea is what will eventually drive the Russians out. Just holding off one of the largest armies in the world and a country that has over three times its population is an incredible achievement. We cannot afford not to support them because Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop until he is stopped. Either we help the Ukrainians do the job now for what is essentially a minuscule part of our military budget, or we spend much more and expend American lives to do it later.
Sheila Hansen, Minneapolis
Regarding House Speaker Mike Johnson's remark that a border wall is a "hill to die on" ("Ukraine aid is hostage to border policy," Dec. 6): Nobody needs to "die" — Democrats should give Republicans what they want. As reported by the New York Times in October, the wall is being extended anyway. If Ukraine falls to Russia, we're going to have bigger problems to deal with than people crossing the border from Mexico.
Cynthia Sowden, Minneapolis
CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES
Amid failures, more resources are needed, not fewer
The Star Tribune reports on the failures of Minnesota's child protection systems mirror my 24 years of experience as a guardian ad litem (court appointed special advocate for neglected and abused children) in the Hennepin County court system ("Chance missed to save kids," Dec. 3). Those failures cry out for more resources devoted to protecting children. One of the most effective resources is the pool of unpaid, trained volunteer guardians ad litem who devote time and expertise to advocating for children.
Yet the Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board, a state agency, is attempting to end the volunteer program in favor of using only paid guardians ad litem who have less time to devote to each of their cases, and who cannot compare to the volunteers in their dedication to helping children.
Please write to the Legislative Task Force on Child Protection, the Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board and your legislators to recommend keeping volunteer guardians ad litem in the Minnesota courts.
Elaine Frankowski, Minneapolis
Regarding "Chance missed to save kids": These are preventable tragedies that typically begin way before the abused or neglected child is born. The immature, emotionally vulnerable and unprepared adult who becomes pregnant and has the baby is in a state of crisis that started back in elementary and middle school. These beginning years set the stage for either a bright and healthy adulthood or a life of poverty and misery.
It is imperative that Minnesota focuses on increasing the amount of school counselors that can handle the stresses and mental illnesses of their students. Sadly, Minnesota has one of the highest ratios of counselors to students in the nation. If low compensation is a deterrent to becoming a school counselor, then we need to rethink our current model. Plain and simple, communities and lawmakers owe it to Minnesota's children to raise the funding for more counselors.
Between the ages of 11 and 18, a student is observing the world around them more intensely, and if they see that their needs don't matter much and schoolteachers and administrators are overwhelmed, it becomes too easy for students to quietly quit caring about their academics. Unaddressed emotional pain evolves, becoming the driving force behind depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-medication, unintended pregnancies and so on.
This is not the time to treat kids as a cohort or a group of unruly children. These kids need our individual and undivided attention. Yes, it is costly, but there must be creative solutions to support an individual student who is struggling. A group mentality is dangerous at this stage of life.
Let's admit that it does take a village to raise a child. Beyond a busy or disengaged parent, neighbors, police and community officers, after-school clubs and even Bible studies can be inclusive and supportive. Being a teenager is one of the most difficult, unpredictable and stressful times of a human being's life. It's not pretty! We all remember those awful, awkward and painful years. Therefore, school systems ought to be mindful of the gravity of providing guardrails, counseling and attention to ensure a happy and productive child going forward. The magnitude of seriousness cannot be overstated.
Home life may not be ideal for many youth of today, so other more potent resources simply must be available. These kids are our future, after all!
Sharon E. Carlson, Andover
Closed access is the solution
The Star Tribune editorial report on light-rail safety concerns was excellent, and the answer to 90% of the safety concerns was embedded in several of the sections: Convert from the open-entry system like that the Twin Cities now uses to a closed one that requires a paid fare to access platforms and trains ("Systemic insecurity: Saving Twin Cities light rail," Nov. 19). I have traveled to New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago for business for 35 years. They have closed access, and they have efficient, clean, safe rail transit. I have taken Chicago's Orange Line from Midway airport to the downtown loop over 200 times in the past 35 years. It travels through a portion of the South Side that we read and hear about — an area with known problems. I have never felt unsafe riding through those areas to the downtown loop. Everyone who gets on has to have a ticket to get through the interlocking turnstiles or the security monitored three-bar turnstiles. The security is focused there, and it is effective.
We don't need hand-wringing and committees. Closed access is a proven solution. Bite the bullet and spend the money to enclose all light rail access or our entire investment to-date will be lost.
Robert Karls, St. Paul
A few points on the math on "Pay the fare or face a fine," about a Metro Transit fare compliance effort: 23 citations were written in 48 man hours of Community Service Officer time. That's a shade over two hours per citation. CSOs are also to free up full-time transit police officers from the burden of writing citations when those transit police officers only issued 59 citations in the last two years. Not much of a gain from that perspective.
It also hasn't taken shady individuals long to start scamming the new procedure. I've already witnessed riders holding train car doors open and indicating to their friends and others on the platforms which cars are free of CSOs so they can ride without fear of getting ticketed.
Let's see if this new plan from Metro Transit goes anywhere or if it is like its trains and buses, which cover the same old ground over and over and return to the same starting point. Fingers crossed.
Rob McCollough, St. Paul
Crime prevention starts at home
The Dec. 4 article "Solutions sought as brazen crimes rise" reminds me of the six blind men who each are touching a different part of an elephant trying to identify what it is they have in their grasp. We should be mindful of Barack Obama's famous Father's Day speech, in which he advised us that children raised in a single-parent household are five times more likely to be raised in poverty, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. I realize this is a supercharged issue, but until agencies of all manner are honest enough to at least study this condition, other efforts made to reduce crime are like spitting into a hurricane. Proof is on the street.
Earl Faulkner Sr., Edina