Eleven years ago, my husband and I purchased a one-bedroom condo at East Bay Suites in Grand Marais, Minn. We were thrilled to be property owners in the community we had been visiting for over 20 years.
Like thousands of cabin and condo owners in Minnesota, we are part of a great state tradition that says you don't have to be wealthy to own a vacation spot. I am a retired librarian and my husband worked for Minneapolis Public Schools. We can afford our condo because we rent it when we aren't visiting, and we carefully manage our expenses.
That's why I am deeply troubled that the Minnesota Department of Revenue is directing assessors to reclassify family cabins and condos that are sometimes used as short-term rentals as full-time businesses ("Inhibiting cabin rentals will hurt communities," Opinion Exchange, March 9). This would double property taxes for many vacation homeowners and devastate tourist communities like Grand Marais.
Many cabin and condo owners would be forced to pull their properties from the rental market or sell. That means fewer lodging options for tourists and fewer visitors for communities that depend on tourism.
It's fair to ask owners like us to pay a little more in property taxes because we earn some rental income. But we aren't running a big business, either.
Please encourage state lawmakers to support legislation (HF 3826 and SF 3931) that would create a new tax classification for condos and cabins available for rental.
Let's work together to help keep Minnesota's tourist communities vibrant.
JoEllen Haugo, Minneapolis
Student resources aren't just 'laudable.' They're necessary.
As a St. Paul teacher of 20 years, I agree that the strike is "regrettable" ("A regrettable strike," editorial, March 11). However, our primary goal in striking is more than just "laudable." St. Paul educators (because it's not just teachers who are striking) are the ones who know our students best. We know that we lose excessive amounts of teaching time to deal with the effects of housing and food insecurity, disruptive home lives and undiagnosed mental illnesses. We do this because not addressing these effects is untenable.
Justifiably, there is much talk and hand-wringing about Minnesota's achievement gap. I believe that the achievement gap will persist for as long as we have children who are arriving at school less than ready to learn. St. Paul educators are advocating for concrete solutions to tackle the problem head-on.
Sherry Kuhn, St. Paul
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I am a longtime supporter of St. Paul Public Schools, with children (past) and a grandchild (current) enrolled. I applaud the teachers and educators who are striking for improvements in the system, especially the need for increased mental health professionals in the schools ("St. Paul teachers strike, and sides dig in," front page, March 11).
However, the financial burden of providing mental health services for our young people requires a community-level response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 5 children will experience a mental/behavioral disorder in any given year, and many of these young people are not identified or do not receive help. Closer to home, Minnesota Student Survey data report high percentages of students who experience mental health distress, such as depression and anxiety, on a regular basis.
Community policymakers and stakeholders need to come forward and assist the schools as educators cannot and should not be asked to take on this financial burden alone. What can be done: First, increase funding for school counselors. Minnesota ranks 47th in the U.S. on the ratio of students to school counselors (nearly 700 to 1). National average is around 450 to 1, and the recommended ratio is 250 to 1. Second, receive financial commitments from county and city officials to support the mental health and emotional needs of our children and youth, from pre-K to grade 12.
Schools are asked to do a lot besides classroom teaching, and while I support the broad goals of the strike, the mental health needs of our young people require a much greater systemic intervention across the community.
John L. Romano, St. Paul
Here's my to-do list for Biden
It now seems likely that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. I am a lifelong Democrat, and while he wasn't my first choice to be the nominee, I'll vote for him enthusiastically. Having said that, there are three key issues that I and the rest of America need him to address for him to win this election:
1. Clear the air about Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma. I watched a recent Axios interview, and Biden was vague and inconclusive about the details, at one point stating he didn't know what Hunter's responsibilities were. That's not good enough. He may think there's no "there" there, but any ambiguity around this will lead to four years of political investigations that will gum up his presidency. Do an extensive interview dedicated solely to this topic and address every open question honestly.
2. Be forthright with health records. I've been a big fan of Biden for years, but he seems off his game when he speaks in public. This could be tied to his stutter, his age or a health issue. The public deserves to know how healthy and mentally competent he is. Get tests done and share the results.
3. Choose a running mate who is substantially younger and can broaden the party coalition. There are rumblings Biden wants to be a one-term president, so set the party up for future success.
I look forward to a Biden administration and will work hard to make it so.
Dan Moore, Minneapolis
All that glitters is not yours
"The rocks have a story to tell; you just have to know how to read it." So goes a quote from Stephen Allard, geologist at Winona State University, commenting on a project to extract gold from the Black Hills. Again. ("They are going for the gold," March 9.) I think that perhaps the Lakota might have a very different story to tell. The article goes on to state that "coinciding with the increased demand are corporations increasing awareness of their own environmental, social and good-governance responsibilities." However, neither Allard nor the young men eager to exploit the mineral resources seem to be aware of these responsibilities vis-à-vis the people who consider these lands sacred. And when the mine/s are played out, as they inevitably will be? We will all be left with desecrated forests, polluted water and fouled earth.
Cynthia Wetzell, Columbia Heights
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Did I honestly just read an entire article about two entrepreneurs planning to mine for gold in the Black Hills without a single reference to the historical trauma of gold miners into the sacred land of the Lakota? I am not sure what is more shocking — that two white men could obliviously talk about mining this country as if there is no history to those assumptions of entitlement or that the Star Tribune editors could not think to query or reference the concern.
Annika Fjelstad, Minneapolis
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