It’s awkward and uncomfortable for me to find myself on the same side of an issue as state Rep. Pat Garofalo. But this is exactly where the University of Minnesota’s tawdry decision to shift the burden for added expenses to its students puts me (“U president to propose new fee refund,” April 2). It’s on these same skinny financial shoulders that the university has in the last 20 years balanced its need for exorbitant salaries with the Legislature’s diminishing allocations.

How on earth can university administrators justify returning less than half of what the students paid for room and board they now won’t receive? Well, according to President Joan Gabel, this was based on “guidance from internal and external experts and peer institutions.” I believe these are the same sources that support million-dollar retirement packages for past presidents.

Before they make tone-deaf decisions like this one to shift the burden of extra COVID-19 expenses to students, do university administrators ever consult with taxpayers, parents and students, legislators or regents?

I do believe that the regents, exercising their legal and fiduciary authority, should overturn this outrageous decision. And when awake, I pray that they also do away with the concept that university administrators can be made unavailable for comment. This is a public university, isn’t it?

David M. Flannery, Minneapolis

• • •

I see that Gabel is offering slim recompense to students affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. I guess it’s something, but in my opinion, not enough. I would like the president to consider lowering tuition for the fall 2020 term. Think about all the layoffs that have occurred, and the lost wealth that has happened on Wall Street. It might be very difficult for people to help send their kids to school by years’ end. I would recommend that the U review the data of what’s happened to 529s during the outbreak. Value in those accounts alone have shot downward significantly. A reasonable approach to lower tuition for the fall is in order.

Michael Austin, Minneapolis


We’ve been hit by coronavirus, and other disasters are coming

Our business, like many across Minnesota, has been hit hard by COVID-19. Supply lines cut, concerns for employee safety, and a declining end market means our future is uncertain. While the immediate threat of COVID-19 will pass, it’s a reminder of the devastating impact natural disasters have on our communities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released its forecast indicating that 200 million Americans in 23 states, including Minnesota, could be impacted by spring flooding. Every year our state is faced with catastrophic floods that destroy businesses, public infrastructure and personal property and in some cases cost lives. In fact, flooding is now the costliest and most common natural disaster we face.

With all natural disasters, planning and resilience are critical in mitigating the damage. Research funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency has found that every $1 spent to prepare for a natural disaster saves $6.

Because we know severe weather and flooding will strike again, Congress should address repeatedly flooded properties, discourage building in risky areas and create a nationwide disclosure law so anyone buying or renting a new home is given the flood-risk information they deserve.

Minnesota’s entire congressional delegation should support these proposals, especially Reps. Dean Phillips, Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber, who hold relevant committee assignments. If they take action then businesses, homeowners and local communities will be safer the next time floodwaters rise.

Matt Steinrueck, Minneapolis

The writer is manager of operations for a medical device distributor.


Looking ahead to Earth in 2070

My copy of National Geographic just arrived in the mail. Their Earth Day 50th anniversary special issue has two covers. One side is titled “How We Lost the Planet: A Pessimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070.” The other side is titled, “How We Saved the World: An Optimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070.”

One half paints a bleak picture of our future with rising temps, vanishing species and ongoing catastrophes worldwide. The other half is hopeful in that there have been 50 years since the first Earth Day and many changes for the better.

We have a clear choice going forward. National Geographic states quite clearly, “In a sense, climate change is an opportunity for us to step up — to grow up — as a species.” Amen.

Michael McDonald, St. Paul

• • •

As we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I note with dismay that President Donald Trump’s administration is now rolling back auto emissions standards enacted to fight climate change by the previous administration (“Trump to roll back auto pollution rules,” March 31). Those standards were arguably the most powerful step yet taken to address greenhouse gases here in the United States.

Climate change is the next wolf at our door, more dangerous and harder to overcome than COVID-19, in all likelihood. My question is: How does this latest action reflect on whether this president can learn from past mistakes?

David Day, Anoka


I need to know if my neighbor is sick

For you to get a COVID-19 test, doctors want to know, among other things, if you’ve traveled or been in contact with an infected person. The first question is easy to answer. The second, not so. I understand the basic HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements, but why can’t the government create an accessible database that at least provides enough information so that an individual might be able to determine if they had been in contact with an infected person?

William Jungheim, Woodbury


Focus on testing, not shutting down

Regarding “Make room or lose it” (front page, April 2) regarding park access: Really? I’m already watching my fitness and sanity deteriorate because the gyms are closed. At 66, of course, I get the AARP magazine. Yesterday I flipped it open to see an article that recommends exercise as one of the best ways to stay healthy during this pandemic. How ironic. Now a threat is issued that the parks might close? Not very deep within my soul, a note of defiance has sounded. I feel the drumbeat of millions of others in the U.S. who feel the same way I do. I want a choice in these matters.

If we had enough test kits, we could be granular about restrictions. Let’s focus on that instead of calling 911 to report that kids are playing in the park field.

Jane E. Tyler, Forest Lake

• • •

The closure of parkways seems to be a success — many people are using the areas closed to traffic and getting some stress relief. Please consider adding additional closures to help spread out the public trying to get relief outdoors and enjoy the wonderful park system in the Twin Cities. West River Road could easily be closed from Lock and Dam No. 1 near the Ford Bridge to Franklin Avenue or even up to near the Stone Arch Bridge. This would help spread people out and make us all safer.

Michael Bjornberg, Minneapolis


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