Letters to the editor

City’s cycling czar needs a helmet

I found the article ‘City’s Cycling Czar’ very informative. I appreciate that one of Shaun Murphy’s focuses is on finding way for motorists, cyclist and pedestrians to share transportation networks in harmony. Dissemination of information is a good first step.

Unfortunately, Shaun is shown as a reckless rider in the article. I just hope that is not how he rides in real life. In both of the pictures in the article Shaun Murphy is shown riding without a helmet, this is a terrible example to show other cyclists. As parents, it can be a struggle to teach our children to always ride with a helmet. I always ride with a helmet to set the proper example for my child. Our Legislature has mandated that we utilize seatbelts in our cars because it saves lives. Shaun Murphy could show the community that he is an advocate for cyclist safety by demonstrating that he himself wears a helmet. Shaun could take it a step further by pushing for the mandatory use of helmets on public bike paths and marked roadways where cyclists must co-exist with cars. 

As both a motorist and a cyclist I try to be very aware and courteous of cyclists. In the winter this is even more important as both cars and bikes cope with slippery conditions and narrower roadways. I am frustrated in these conditions when I see cyclists without helmets. They may feel it’s their own decision or right to assume this additional risk, but unfortunately the burden of taking caring of a rider after a traumatic head injury falls on all of us. Additionally, the pain of seriously injuring another person, even if one was not at fault, would last a lifetime.

Shaun, please let the community know where you stand on safe cycling and helmet use. I hope you’ll help promote the use of helmets so that 10 years from now it will become the norm and cyclists will think it’s reckless to ride without one.

Lee Jacobsohn
East Harriet


Stop spending tax dollars on cycling

I read the article “The City’s Cycling Czar” with great interest and frustration. I am an avid recreational biker, but I am very concerned with the direction and expense of the city’s bicycle program, regardless of where the funds come from. There should not be a use of property tax funds for this program as federal funds end. If you went to the December budget hearing, you would know while property taxes are out of control and programs such as women’s abuse shelters and minority assistance are slashed, we are nonetheless able to fund a salaried “bike” position as you covered in your article. We also do not know how we will pay for the millions of dollars needed for repainting bike lanes on streets stripped by plow work. Keep in mind that for 99 percent of Minneapolitans, biking is at best a six-month sport.

Additionally, despite the attempt of the green movement to get people to bike, the automobile is still the vehicle of choice and the infringement of bike lanes into city streets only increases frustration and commute times for taxpayers that work downtown. I suggest saving this money and giving property tax relief. As federal funds end, we should not budget for biking using local funds. And by the way, I’d rather the federal funding that has kept the program afloat thus far be used to reign in the runaway deficit that is not addressed by the current administration. We just can’t afford it.

Shawn Smith


More on lake paths

I just read Melissa Waskiewicz’s letter to the editor, “Stay on the right path.” I’m pretty sure that the Park Board has temporary signs posted all winter long that state that the outer path is, for winter months only, a “Shared Path” and that bikers are asked to yield to all pedestrians. 

The outer path is plowed and cared for all winter while the inner path is not. I am one of the runners who Melissa is so frustrated by when she is on her bike. We have not “taken over” the bike path. We are using the one assigned to all of us for the winter months.  A simple “On your left” is all that is needed for me to move to the right, giving her plenty of room to yield to me and others who are following the signs for the winter.

Kari Samuelson


A vote for Hornstein

With the new legislative district lines now in place, delegates to the newly formed 61A will have to choose between two great candidates to represent them in the Minnesota House next session. A difficult choice, to be sure, but Frank Hornstein has not only the experience and the seniority, but more importantly, the ability to build coalitions and to reach across the aisle to get things done.

I have known Frank to be a smart and dedicated voice for sound transportation policy and environmental protection issues, and a tireless advocate for social justice. I strongly encourage the delegates at the convention on March 24 to endorse Frank Hornstein for Representative of the new district 61A. Your friends and neighbors will love you for it.

Jean Johnson
Linden Hills


The runner’s perspective

I am writing in response to a letter written by a reader (Melissa Waskiewicz) who is frustrated by runners and walkers who use the bike path in the winter. I run daily all winter long in the very early hours when it is still dark. Unfortunately, the walking path at Lake Harriet is not lit nor plowed in the winter, as the bike path is. While we have not had much snow this winter, the walking path has many icy patches, which cannot be seen. I wear a headlamp, which helps some, but not enough to light the whole path.

My running mates and I are always on the lookout for bikers and appreciate a quick bell or warning — we always get out of the way. We look forward to warmer, lighter days when we can safely get back on our path. In the meantime, we ask for bikers’ understanding of the need to share the path in the winter.

Sarah Milligan-Toffler


Another perspective on the paths

This is in response to a recent letter to the editor entitled “Stay on the right path.” We live very close to Lake Harriet and use the upper and lower paths daily all year round. Contrary to the writer’s beliefs, during the winter months, the upper path is a SHARED path to be used by bikers, skaters and walkers. In fact, during the winter the sign on the upper path clearly states “CAUTION: Bicyclists & Skaters Must YIELD to Pedestrians.” Bikers, please share the path with everyone.

Bikers may not always see that the lower path is snow covered and icy, which is why walkers and runners are on the upper path. We appreciate the Park Board’s dedication to keeping the upper path cleared for runners, walkers and bikers during the winter, and both paths debris free the other months of the year. We are truly fortunate to have this resource available to all.

Jeff and Kate Dusek

Letters to the editor

Transformation takes time 

As a co-founder of Park Watch, I read with interest the February 20 article about employee criticisms of the the Park Board.  Yes, we have also been aware of  MPRB employee dissatisfaction; but, as quoted inSuperintendent Miller’s memo to employees, "many of the deficiencies and issues noted are not new but have been present for years."

In the years prior to Superintendent Miller’s arrival, there were many stories about long time employees who mysteriously disappeared from their positions at the Park Board.  There is the one story about an employee who simply went in on a weekend, emptied his/her desk and resigned.

The current administration inherited a dysfunctional organization that was known for its tactics of intimidation and retaliation.  As for Commissioner Bob Fine’s comment that Superintendent Miller’s memo "unfairly places the blame on former Superintendent Jon Gurban,"  I refer readers to a City Pages article entitled "Angry Management" that was extremely critical of the former superintendent.  

The March 3, 2010 article can be found on the Park Watch website   www.mplsparkwatch.org.  This is the first paragraph of the article:
"When the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted last month not to rehire its top employee, park superintendent Jon Gurban, it marked the beginning of the end for one of the city’s most controversial public officials.

For six years, Gurban has kept the park board in near-constant tumult, drawing fire from critics for an inexplicable inability to work with the public and a hair-trigger temper that has made him the first target of anyone hoping to see change in the park board."

Radical change does not happen overnight; we have observed recent staff hirings that indicate Superintendent Miller is serious about her role in transforming the Park Board.  

We believe that her contracting with a consulting firm to conduct an organizational analysis of the MPRB demonstrates her intention to foster positive changes within the Park Board and the community it serves by implementing a proactive strategy to address and resolve long-standing problems.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Language and Linden Corner

“What’s right is right, and I think what’s right will prevail here.” So said Mark Dwyer after the city Planning Commission voted in favor of his proposed $20 million development in the heart of Linden Hills.

It’s the kind of statement that should make skeptics of us all. To the extent that there is any content in the comment, the assumption is that the Linden Corner issue is a simple one: Mr. Dwyer and his backers are “right” and everyone else is wrong. That includes (in at least one poll) about 80 percent of his neighbors, the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council and dozens of residents who feel so strongly about being “wrong” that they have put up signs in their yards opposing the project.

“There will be change here and there will be a large building,” Mr. Dwyer predicted. He wants it to “look nice.” Well, maybe not. Certainly change happens. But the whole purpose of community councils, planning commissions, input from neighbors, area residents and local businesses is to manage change. It’s one thing to imagine “a large building” on the site. It’s another to push through multiple variances for a five-story, 90,000 square-foot monolith in the middle of what has been called a “village within the city.” A lot of people don’t think this will “look nice.”

Others also are getting tangled up in language on this issue. David Motzenbecker, president of the Planning Commission, commented: “…we have chosen to live in a city, and that is a dense environment.” Then he seemed to contradict his own logic by describing the Linden Corner project as “low density.”

Linden Hills residents have chosen to live in this particular part of this particular city because of many things, but a “dense environment” is not high on the list. And, while we have many multiple-unit structures here, not many of us consider a project that includes between 40 and 74 residential units as “low density.”

Mr. Dwyer seems very concerned about “financial feasibility.” That’s why he has resisted making changes to meet existing zoning rules. If we are the least bit skeptical of vague phrases we might want to know what this one means. There are a lot of businesses, apartments and homes in the area that have managed to be financially feasible for a long time. Maybe Mr. Dwyer and his associates require a different level of “financial feasibility.”

In his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell talked about political speech that was used in “the defense of the indefensible,” and noted that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” Rhetoric is not all, but it is important. When what is “right” is in dispute, when we are told that if high density is good so is low density, when a vague claim of “financial feasibility” trumps community objections, we need to do more than just look at who is making the case. We need to stand up and question them — early, often and continuously.

Mr. Dwyer and his backers need to find clarity about one thing: the Linden Hills community will fight them every step of the way — from signs in yards, to neighborhood gatherings, to commission meetings, to the courts, and, if necessary, to the voting booths. If they want “right” to prevail, they may wish to factor this into their notion of “financial feasibility.”

Doug Wilhide
Linden Hills



Clarification on Lake Harriet paths

I believe a correction is in order with respect to Melissa Waskiewicz’s letter to the editor “Stay on the right path” from your Feb. 20 issue.

During the winter months only the bicycle path is cleared of snow and ice; many of the bicycle logo signs are covered up with temporary bicycle/pedestrian symbols saying “Bicyclists and Skaters must Yield to Pedestrians.” Even during a mild winter such as this one, there is still ice and snow in sheltered parts of the paths (especially on the south end of Lake Harriet) — this ice lasts well past when most snow has melted.

I’m glad Ms. Waskiewicz has been enjoying the trails this winter, and I encourage all users (regardless of their method of locomotion) to be courteous and share the trail, but please be aware that pedestrians are allowed (in fact encouraged) to use the bicycle path during the winter until the pedestrian trails are completely free of snow and ice.

Colin Gardner-Springer
Linden Hills



Chains do more harm than good

In response to “At A Crossroads Over Chains” (Feb. 6 edition) the question we must ask is “do chains make good neighbors?” The answer appears to be no.

Chains have torn down our historic buildings: CB2, Apple and Gap to name a few. Contrary to the assertion that “people are excited there’s something on the corner rather than just an empty lot” let’s remember that just a few months ago there were two historic brick buildings where CB2 now stands. Isn’t it ironic that CB2 tore down the very brick-wall style they are trying to sell? Certainly those buildings could have been creatively reused. Apple knocked down the iconic Uptown Bar which drew me and many others into the neighborhood. And where is Gap today? Long gone from the neighborhood.

Our historic buildings are part of our collective heritage, built by local people using local architects and material. Not everyone can jet off to Brittany, France when they crave to be part of a historic landscape. Preserving historic architectural details contribute most to the character and success of a neighborhood.

My beef with Uptown development dates back to the 1975 when Ray Harris and Martha and Doug Head razed Calhoun Elementary and West High, which, ironically, were Doug Head’s alma mater. Let’s face it, Calhoun Square has never been a resounding success despite housing several chains and the historic buildings are gone.  

Chains are not good for the local economy. See Thatcher Imboden (Dec. 12 edition) who cites studies showing that shopping at local stores keeps more money in the local economy. When money is spent at chains, more money leaves the local economy. How is that a win? Chain restaurants in the neighborhood will likely have a negative impact on the local restaurants.

There are also many examples throughout the metro of chains moving in and then failing, with the neighborhood left to deal with the blight. By now we should know that Minneapolis cannot support that much retail.

Commercial growth needs to be more organic and sustainable. Chains are not good for the environment. Aside from the fact reusing our buildings is the most green, the chains appear to use more energy. Last summer, during our record breaking heat wave, a concerned citizen wrote a letter to the editor complaining that Apple in Uptown keep their doors propped open to lure people in despite running the air conditioner. This practice can increase electricity use by 20 to 25 percent. And is Apple as lit up as Times Square?  

If we are going to let national chains into our communities, let’s insist they be good neighbors. They can change their “business model” to accommodate us rather than the reverse. Dunn Bros Coffee and Punch Neapolitan Pizza are two good examples of this. Minneapolis needs to do a better job protecting the fabric of our neighborhoods.

Joyce Mellom