What population growth?
Your report, ”Loosen St. Paul zoning to allow more multi-family dwellings? Six views”, missed the most fundamental question: Why do we need to accommodate substantially more population growth?
Here is the reality. The United States stopped having enough babies to replace people who are dying somewhere around 2008. Currently, we are producing about 1.8 babies for every two people who die, and fertility rates have been declining since about 1950. Without immigration, we would be a cold Japan. It is unlikely we will see sizable changes in the rates of immigration into the future.
When people do come to the United States, they are choosing warmer, lower-tax states, like Texas or Arizona. Since 2010, Minnesota has ranked 30th in terms of growth, growing only 8% over the last 10+ years. During the same time period, Texas grew over 21%.
And when people do choose the Twin Cities, they can choose St. Paul, or they can choose a safer, lower-cost suburb with higher-ranked schools. The Met Council projects the Twin Cities seven-county region will grow 15% over the next 20 years while St Paul is projected to grow only 9%.
The real question is why do we need to make these changes at all if we are only going to grow 9% over the next 20 years? We have more than enough land under current zoning rules to accommodate that modest level of growth. So the question remains. Why do we need to do this? Who is driving this and who benefits? Because it isn’t driven by population growth.
Carol Becker, Minneapolis
A semblance of firearm responsibility
The Second Amendment that stalwarts espouse maintains the right to keep and bear arms. Fine. Give it to them to close the door on that argument.
Those steadfastly defending these rights believe they extend to all forms of weaponry that can be kept and borne somewhere on the human body. Not fine but OK. Don’t argue so they can’t litigate the issue.
We have become a country in fear of firearm advocates. Gun violence is becoming the norm for conflict resolution.
Congress or state legislators can and should do something or need to be replaced come the next election. They can pass legislation that requires firearm registration. Simple registration does not impose any restriction on the ability to keep or bear arms; no infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.
So the first logical step toward addressing this nation’s runaway gun problem appears to be a mandatory national firearm registration program. You own a firearm you must register it.
But as simple and innocuous as gun registration is, it would do little to impact gun violence. Something more is needed.
Mandatory gun tracking is needed. A chip inserted into the stock to allow monitoring of the weapon as we do with pets. Again, this does not impact the ability to keep and bear arms. You can keep as many as you want and bear them to your heart’s desire. But they will be trackable; nothing in the Second Amendment about monitoring those who have firearms. Although they are supposed to serve in the local militia (AKA National Guard).
Finally a national policy that committing a crime with an unregistered firearm or one without a chip doubles down on the crime automatically. Take away the get-out-of-jail-free option.
And on the U.S. Patent Office website are several patents dealing with remotely detectable ammunition. If achievable this would give law enforcement a tremendous tool to monitor concealed weapons and prevent their entry into sensitive locations.
These steps are painless to those adherents of the Second Amendment, but might move us toward some semblance of firearm responsibility.
If our leaders have the guts.
Mark Schreiber, St. Paul
A freedom issue
Gun violence has struck again, and it is now up to us to take action to protect ourselves and our families, regardless of our backgrounds or our zip codes.
Most Americans are in favor of common-sense gun laws.
A recent Fox News Poll shows that:
— 87% want criminal background checks.
— 81% support improving enforcement of existing laws.
— 81% favor raising the legal age to own a gun from 18 to 21 years.
— 80% want mental health background checks.
— 80% want Red Flag laws.
— 77% want a 30-day waiting period to buy a gun.
This is a freedom issue.
Our kids should be free to go to school without fear of being shot.
All of us should be free to go to the shopping mall without fear of being slaughtered.
All of us should be free to go to our church or synagogue without fear of being gunned down.
The Declaration of Independence guarantees us “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
But these mass shootings are denying us of life, and they are denying us of liberty, and they are denying us of happiness.
We must vote in in numbers too big to ignore to remove any legislator who stands in the way of common-sense gun laws.
Our freedom depends on it.
Susan Hansen, Shell Lake
Repair, repave, repaint
A recent attempt by a letter writer to frame the Summit Avenue bicycle plan as a class struggle (“Rich people on $4,000 bikes getting their way…the definition of privilege”) fails on two accounts. First, the relative cost of a hobby is in the eyes of the beholder. The amount some folks spend to enjoy their hobby (fishing, hunting, motorcycles, ATVs/UTVs, etc.) can be viewed as excessive by many. Second, we’re talking Summit Avenue here. Substitute “million dollar homes” for “$4,000 bikes” and you get what I mean.
I’m a cyclist who rides Summit Avenue on a regular basis. What has been done for the stretch between Lexington and Snelling should be done for the remainder of Summit Avenue. Repair, repave, repaint.
Denny Rue, St. Paul
Sweet and gentle adjudication?
Our new justice paradigm: sweet and gentle adjudication followed by “focused intervention.” That’s the route Ramsey County prosecutors, in tandem with Brooke Blakey’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, has taken to ensure, well, neighborhood safety.
It’s not working out so well.
Armed car-jackers are allowed back on the street in swift order. Judges are stymied by pre-arranged plea bargains and sentencing guidelines. The fear of “mass incarceration” of people of color overwhelms the community’s desire for neighborhood safety as people in charge simply say “No” to locking up dangerous offenders.
Ramsey County closed Boys Totem Town in 2019, poured the savings back into the county’s general fund, and left law enforcement with no place to put violent young criminals other than back home with their families, who are desperate to find a way to prevent them from committing new, ever-more-awful crimes.
In all that chaos, something has to give. As it turns out, the something in question is neighborhood safety. The victims of crime in St. Paul? They’re out of luck.
According to a Pioneer Press report, a 17-year-old charged a year ago last April with robbing a student in one of Harding High School’s notorious bathrooms, armed with what turned out to be a BB gun (did the victim know it was a BB gun?) was simply put on probation by the judge. His probation ended in January. His sweet and gentle adjudication would have deadly consequences.
St. Paul police arrested the same 17-year-old on Wednesday for the murder of Michael Brasel, a husband and father of two young sons. Michael Brasel was shot three times in his driveway in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood as he tried to prevent the theft of his wife’s car.
My question: Where was Brooke Blakey’s Office of Neighborhood Safety over the course of the last year, between the April 2022 crime committed in one of Harding High School’s use-at-your-own risk bathrooms and the May 2023 cold-blooded execution of Michael Brasel in his driveway?
Millions of taxpayer dollars have poured into the Office of Neighborhood Safety — to no apparent avail.
Sweet and gentle adjudication didn’t protect Michael Brasel. Neither did “focused intervention.” We’re all at risk.
Jean Wulterkens, St. Paul
In his opinion piece on the establishment clause of the First Amendment (April 30), Noah Feldman argues that the State shouldn’t be in the business of promoting any particular religion. This is an argument for school choice, because public schools are promoting the religion of Humanism.
In 1930, a book came out by a fallen away Unitarian, Charles Potter, titled Humanism: A New Religion. Here are a few quotes from that book:
“Humanism is a new type of religion.” P. 3
“The point upon which they (Humanists) are unanimous and most insistent is the rejection of belief in the supernatural.” P. 7
“It is just as inaccurate to say that religion without the supernatural is not religion as it is to say that philosophy without metaphysics is not philosophy.” P.8
“…faith in man is the central doctrine of Humanism.” P. 16
“Is Humanism a religion? It is both a religion and a philosophy of culture.” P. 114
“Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?” p. 128
If taxpayers want to fund public education, the best way would be for that money to go to the parents, so that their children could receive the kind of education they want for their child. That way, the government would not be “establishing” any particular religion.
Michael Bird, St. Anthony
Obsessed with control
As a person who has had two surgical procedures at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in the last six years I and my wife have nothing but gratitude and admiration for the level of care received and the respect and consideration shown to both of us at all employee levels. This applies to all aspects of my treatments, pre-surgical, in hospital, and post-surgical. We are proud and pleased that the Mayo is in our backyard and thankful that our access to it is unrestricted.
Correct us if we are wrong but our understanding is that the state of Minnesota, the one that doled out $250 million to a scam food service entity run out of a hole-in-the-wall operation on Lake Street, is now going to become involved in establishing protocols for the Mayo Clinic on how it should manage patient care. We cannot think of anything more ridiculous. If this is allowed to go forward can you imagine how long it will take to significantly degrade the quality care provided by and the reputation of this world-renowned medical institution?
The Mayo is right to oppose this example of a state Legislature overly obsessed with control.
Terry and Carole O’Brien, Lakeville
I can’t believe we have a governor who would expect a nurse at every patient’s hospital bedside. Where will the nurses come from? Family should take responsibility to be there. Gov. Tim Walz does not realize how fortunate we are to have the Mayo Clinic here. How extreme and unrealistic can our governor be?
Helene Houle, St. Paul
Why should hemp be different?
In a Sunday paper article about the hemp industry and the cannabis bills, an attorney was quoted as saying “This bill … disproportionately burdens (hemp farmers) with complex licensing and compliance structures, fees and taxes.”
So why should their business be treated differently than any other business, large or small, in Minnesota?
Don Jacobson, Shoreview
A mental-health system for mental-health crises
As the Legislature comes closer to funding the implementation of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, it is a good time to examine our entire mental health crisis system here in Minnesota to ensure that we’re taking the best approach to addressing mental health crisis in our communities.
988 is the new national number that people can call, text or chat if they (or someone they care about) are struggling with a mental health concern or are experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide. If the person in crisis needs an in-person response, 988 can connect them directly to a mobile mental health crisis team. This is a good and necessary alternative to calling 911, and comes closer to fulfilling our dream of having a mental health response to a mental health crisis. We need to fund it like we do 911 – with a telecom fee.
Many people aren’t aware that every county in Minnesota is covered by a crisis team 24/7 – and have been for over a decade. Mobile crisis teams offer services by phone, telehealth and in-person. They conduct an assessment, provide short-term intensive mental health services to help the person cope with immediate stressors, and connect them to resources. They can also provide longer-term crisis stabilization services, coordinate with social services and hospitals, and provide culturally specific services.
The teams include trained mental health professionals, mental health practitioners, and peer and family peer specialists. The records are considered health care records, governed by HIPAA and the Minnesota Health Records Act.
Mobile crisis teams also report data to the state to measure their impact. More than 13,000 people were served in 2020, and the rate at which they are able to divert people from use of emergency services and/or care in an ER or inpatient psychiatric care is high. More and more 911 dispatch centers are collaborating directly with both 988 and mobile crisis teams to ensure that a person experiencing a mental health crisis gets the best response to meet their needs.
Our mobile crisis system works, but it is underfunded. The main concern about crisis teams is that there may be a long wait time, especially in rural areas. The reason for this? Inadequate funding. Mobile crisis teams receive state funds, and some counties may add additional funds, but the funding for all mobile crisis teams across the state is less than the budget for the police department in Rochester alone. The Legislature should increase the funding for our mobile teams.
We need ONE seamless mental health crisis response that is built through the mental health system, not the criminal justice system … where people who call 988 are able to access the resources and mobile response they need … where if they call 911 during a mental health crisis, they will be connected to a crisis team or 988 … where regardless of what county you’re in, you know what to expect when reaching out in a crisis.
Sue Abderholden and Shannah Mulvihill
Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota. Mulvihill is executive director of Mental Health Minnesota