Letters to the editor

Counting cowboys

In your article “Mad Ripple planning first outdoor Hoot at Lake Harriet Band Shell,” singer/songwriter Terry Walsh is referred to as the leader of the “Belfast Cowboy.” There are in fact nine members of the Belfast Cowboys. They play the music of Van Morrison and are, in my opinion, the most entertaining live band in the Twin Cities.

Craig Planting
East Harriet

Clarifying context

I would like to clarify for readers my position on the voluntary registration system for the Republican National Convention. You reported last week that “Council Member Betsy Hodges  (13th Ward) said, however, that this isn’t an issue of free speech, it’s an issue of public policy. ‘It’s a matter of what tools we want in our toolbox to help things go well,’ she said.”

What I said in the meeting, and what I believe, is that the question of whether or not to have a voluntary registration system for the RNC is a public policy issue that has free speech implications, and we — the City Council — must be assured we aren’t violating people’s constitutional rights. Once we’ve done that, then we have to evaluate whether or not the permit system a policy that we want to adopt. At that point it becomes a question of which tools we would like in our toolbox.

I watched both public hearings and reviewed closely the findings of our City Attorney and the experience of other cities.  I am confident that no one’s rights are being abridged in any way by this policy. I also believe there will be significant utility to the city to have this process in place during the predictable and extraordinary event of the RNC, but that this doesn’t need to be an on-going policy of the city. I do believe, however that MPD protocols regarding protests need to be appropriate as well as clearly articulated for the RNC and beyond. I cast my votes accordingly.

Betsy Hodges
Council Member
City of Minneapolis, Ward 13

Letters to the editor

Check your lake

Summer is rapidly approaching, and with it come plans to explore the 10,000 spectacular lakes Minnesotans have at their disposal. But are all those lakes safe for swimming and fishing? To answer that question, Conservation Minnesota is providing a practical method for Minnesotans to find out how healthy their favorite lakes are — the website www.checkmylake.org.

The website is simple to navigate; by visiting www.checkmylake.org, the website’s users can either type in the name of a favorite lake or type in a county name and choose from among a list to find out whether lakes have been tested and what the results show. The website gives information, based on state government data, on whether or not the lake is clean enough to enjoy a nice swim or catch and eat a fish.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), nearly half of lakes tested are polluted. More troubling, for every lake MPCA has tested, there are four more that the agency hasn’t tested.

The website is a wonderful resource for people to use before heading up North for a weekend, or even to the lake across the street. Those 10,000 lakes are the source of pride and adoration for many Minnesotans, and the website provides the perfect opportunity for citizens to be more aware of the health of some of their favorite weekend destinations. Start spreading the word!

Caitlinrose Fisher
Kenwood/Lake of the Isles

A step backward for integration

I was very pleased to see Dylan Thomas’ article, “Community Schools, but Less Room for Anyone Else.” In it, Ms. Bernadeia Johnson, chief academic officer of the Minneapolis Public School District, asks if school districts alone are responsible for community integration. If school districts are not, then who is? By phasing out the Native Language Learning (NLL) program at Burroughs and cutting bus service for would-be NLL students, the district is effectively decreasing the minority population there and increasing the white majority.

Segregated schools may appear to serve the white majority just fine, but they work less well for minority students. A quick peek at the district’s statistics on the demographics and test scores of each of its schools clearly shows this. The Minneapolis Public School District would do well by not cutting programs which encourage diversity in its best performing schools. And long term, white parents may ask themselves if a homogeneous school experience really does serve their children’s best interests.

Autumn Baum
Linden Hills

Letters to the editor

Inspectors should think‘outside the box’

Minneapolis has started inspecting every rental unit in the city. The goal is to prevent buildings from deteriorating, eliminate substandard housing and keep Minneapolis neighborhoods safe and livable.

The city sent a notice that it was my turn for an inspector to visit my duplex for the first time in the 15 years since I have owned the property. I prepared by posting the mandatory 311 posters in each unit because I did not want to face the $200 fine. Otherwise, I thought the place was in order.

Of course, the inspector found issues, mostly small. The big one was the window sills. They should be 4 inches closer to the floor, and at the current height, they could pose an exit problem in a fire. It had been built that way, passed the original inspection that way, but now it is a hazard.

Don’t worry single-family homeowners, you are allowed to buy and sell houses with the high window clearance. I guess it is only renters that are vertically challenged. Since I want to keep my renters safe, I will build the required boxes that take up a large amount of floor space in relatively small bedrooms. My tenants already have plans for them. One will support a dresser and one will fit nicely under their bed. I do want to keep my tenants safe, but the problem really is not the window sills. The problem is the person who gets paid to come up with the city code needs to come up with better ideas that are outside of the box.

Patty Crews
Linden Hills

Teens who care

It is always a good thing seeing people helping others such as the poor or homeless. Yet it is a great thing when children and youth specifically, who are open-minded and well aware of such issues as homelessness around them, choose to act on it.

On the rainy cold night of April 18, as the Southwest Journal reported, more than 325 teenagers, ages 13–17, spent the night on the streets in cardboard boxes to help build awareness of the homeless in the area and to raise more than $42,000 in pledges in the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation’s (PCNF) fourth annual “night on the street.”

To have more than 300 teenagers raise more than $42,000 for those who unlike them, do not have a home, is amazing. Yes, teenagers — the age group in which they are usually more concerned with getting rid of reputation-ruining acne.

It is impressive to see that at such a young age, Minnesota youth see that there is more to the world than just themselves, their immediate family and friends. That one can do more for the community, more for their fellow Minnesotans who are having a tough time, and most of all, to do so at such a young and stereotypical “naïve” stage in their lives.

The most important aspect is that these teenagers were raising money for a night on the streets when the emphasis was, in fact, on homeless youth. Today’s homeless youth are more often than not on the street not by their own mistakes or vices, but through situations they should not have to deal with.

So kudos to those teens from PCNF, impressive to say the least.

Shane Kitzman
St. Paul

Take a harder look at “Fresh Start” initiatives

I’ve been following the “Fresh Start” that’s being implemented at Washburn and Edison High Schools for the 2008-–2009 school year.

What I’ve discovered is communication only between the principal of Washburn and the print media. I’ve also researched online, and I think if you did a little research, you will find that this process does nothing to enhance the academic advancement of students.

Where I’m disappointed with the media is that there has been no attempt to hear how the teachers feel. Why not talk to the teachers who are affected?

Why do teachers take the wrap? Why aren’t parents shouldering some of the responsibility for their own children’s education? Is it because there are more parent voters than teacher voters? Why haven’t the “powers-that-be,” the officials who plan and make decisions on the direction of education, been held to the same accountability as the teachers who always are working to support, encourage and motivate students; many of whom are not interested in learning.

Please get to the grass roots and put a little balance to your reporting.

Peter Denny
Golden Valley