Debt deal, mascot bans, gun reform, Columbia Heights City Council

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The U.S. House and Senate, heading toward a cataclysmic economic disaster that would reverberate worldwide, pull back at the brink (“House OKs debt ceiling package,” June 1). Other good news is that most members of Congress can, on a regular basis, put their shoes on the correct feet, recite the names of their children in birth order and explain precisely the consequences of not paying their own credit card bills in a timely manner. Democracy stumbles on.

Bob Norberg, Lake City, Minn.


When I first began reading Mark Beito’s commentary, “Mascot ban means removal for Chief Sleepy Eye” (Opinion Exchange, May 30), I was excited to learn that the recent legislative session enacted legislation that seeks to respect tribal nations’ names, cultures, decisionmaking power and images, such as portraiture. I am proud to live in a state where we are enacting change based on the vital work of racial and cultural reckoning. But then I realized that Beito was in fact using mockery, disrespect and sarcasm in his perspective about changing the names of schools, teams and mascots — even cities. Unfortunately, his dismissive attitude reflects the lack of empathy needed to repair harm and restore relations of mutual respect. One might think the former member of the ISD 84 school board would understand the educational importance of asking permission from the very people whose names, cultural identities and land has already been taken. Maybe I missed Beito’s sense of humor?

Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, Minneapolis


Now the Minnesota Legislature has banned the use of mascots derived from American Indian culture. Something similar happened in my hometown of Flint, Mich. There, I attended Pierce Elementary School, which was named after President Franklin Pierce. What passed for a yearbook was called “The Pierce Arrow.” What passed for sports teams were called the Pierce Arrows. A Pierce Arrow was a luxury automobile in the first third of the 20th century. The Roosevelts drove Pierce Arrows. So did actor Fatty Arbuckle. The company went out of business during the Great Depression.

Apparently, some thought the arrow is a symbol of American Indian custom and tradition. So the Pierce Arrows had to change their name. And this was the city that had the energy to change “offensive” school mascots but not much energy to produce clean drinking water. This should not play in Peoria. Oops, the word “Peoria” is derived from an Indian tribe in the Illinois confederation. Where will this stop?

David Wiljamaa, Minneapolis


Regarding gun control measures Gov. Tim Walz just signed: I’m a gun owner, and gun lobby groups think I should be infuriated. Honestly, I do get infuriated, but not because DFL lawmakers found a way to get these measures passed by attaching to a budget bill. My fury rises because it takes so long to get such commonsense measures passed, and such tactics must be employed. This is because leaders in my own party, the GOP, won’t affirm the need for, or collaborate on, crafting desperately needed gun legislation. Rather, they obstruct, seemingly unable to stand up to gun industry lobbyists nor find a way to quit pandering to the mindless nattering of extremists claiming to speak for the majority of gun owners.

Law enforcement should be empowered to take guns from people who are a verifiable threat to themselves or others. Sales at gun shows need more accountability. Hypothetically, such measures could be abused. But that’s fear-based speculation. Not hypothetical or speculative is what’s actually happening right now: Gun-rights provisions being abused, making it easier for people who shouldn’t have guns to get and keep them. As a gun owner I feel terrible about this. Organizations like the National Rifle Association that claim to represent gun owners’ opinions don’t represent me nor most people I know who possess guns for hunting or self-defense, and I know quite a few. It’s past time for responsible gun owners to speak up or wake up and start supporting these kinds of reasonable gun-control/gun-safety measures.

John Martin Connerton, White Bear Township


Regarding Minnesota’s new gun laws, a May 16 letter writer warned: “Law-abiding Minnesotans should realize that given the opportunity, Democrats will be back to create more gun laws until we realize that elections have consequences.”

In fact, that realization has already occurred. Minnesotans voted out enough of the do-nothing “thoughts and prayers” legislators to achieve what we now have: a legislative body willing to address the elephant in our public-safety room and do something about the gun violence that ends so many lives abruptly and prematurely and permanently scars many more. Survey after survey, for instance, including Star Tribune Minnesota Polls, have showed 80 to 90% public support for the background checks that are now Minnesota law.

The writer also repeats the oft-uttered gun-rights grievance that new gun laws “harm” only law-abiding gun owners, while criminals ignore them. This theoretical dichotomy of good guys vs. bad guys turns a blind eye to the fact that the presence of a gun has turned many formerly law-abiding people into criminals in a fit of impulsive rage. A gun has the last word in an argument.

Rich Cowles, Eagan


I agree with much of John Schafer’s op-ed (“Grain-fed or grass-fed, beef is a good choice,” Opinion Exchange, May 31) except that he glosses over the major downside of grain-finished beef, that producers use concentrated feedlots that often lead to pollution problems. As Dan Egan points out in his excellent new book “Phosphorus: The Devil’s Element,” feedlots need to get rid of a lot of manure and can’t afford to truck it very far. They spread it on fields that don’t actually need it, resulting in much of it washing downriver to cause massive algal blooms and dead zones in places like the Gulf of Mexico, Green Bay and Lake Erie. The landmark Clean Water Act of 1972 did a remarkable job of cleaning up our waterways, but the agricultural industry (both feedlots and farm fields) were given a pass as “non-point” sources that were just too difficult to regulate. It’s an advantage they still enjoy today, as point-source polluters like cities and industries are asked to invest more and more to reduce their shrinking part of the problem. It’s time to ask the ag industry to pay their fair share of an increasingly serious problem.

Douglas Meisner, Minneapolis


For democracy to thrive, elected officials must embody integrity. Unfortunately, when an official fails to meet these expectations, it can harm the entire democratic process.

As the mayor of Columbia Heights, I understand the importance of adhering to both a professional and personal code of conduct. However, there are two other essential principles that all elected officials must embody: speaking up and stepping down.

Leaders who speak up against injustice, inequality and unethical behavior are highly respected by the community. Conversely, when an official breaches the people’s trust, they must step down. Refusal to do so only serves to undermine the integrity of our democracy.

In Columbia Heights, an investigation recently revealed that City Council Member KT Jacobs has been dishonest and unethical and has repeatedly violated our code of conduct (“City votes again to dislodge official,” May 25). As mayor, I must speak up and denounce her belligerent, deceitful and racist behavior. These traits are not befitting of an elected official and have no place in government.

Twice our City Council has rightfully asked for Jacobs’ resignation. It is high time she does the right thing and steps down for the betterment of the city.

We must continue to exercise our First Amendment rights and speak up about any wrongdoing we observe. Likewise, we must demand that any officials who bring disgrace to their position step down. Our democracy is at stake.

Amáda Márquez Simula, Columbia Heights

The writer is mayor of Columbia Heights.

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