Letters to the editor for Feb. 22, 2013

Different view of world

To the Editor:

In response to Dr. Jeff Baumann’s letter of Jan.18, I would agree that we have both a very different view of the world and understanding of the relationship between our government and the citizenry.

Thomas Jefferson used the words “We the People” in 1776, not “I the Citizen” to express that what the Continental government was saying to the British King and Parliament was not just affecting him as an individual, or just the members of the Continental Congress, but was affecting all their former subjects living in these lands.

We Democrats believe that the nation -the people – not just the individual, must benefit from the government. Yes, Dr. Baumann, we do pay for the services delivered to others, because that is the essence of the government’s Constitutional responsibility of addressing the peoples’ general welfare.

Let me note however, that Dr. Baumann, who is also chair of the Senate District 36 Republicans, expressed the common Tea Party theme that “government” is our adversary (or as Dr. Baumann suggests, “a force” against certain people), without recognizing that through our voting for representatives and leaders, and through our right to free speech and free press, “we the people” are the government!

As President Obama stated in his recent Inaugural address, “The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great… (for) we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”

Democrats believe in freedom, Dr. Baumann. But we must have different interpretations of freedom. Freedom doesn’t mean we simply get to disrespect government regulations we dislike or find intrusive, whether it’s what we consider excessive paperwork and rules to practice medicine, or new environmental concerns that require different types of toilet flushes, or as you suggested, different light bulbs.

Freedom is our right to vote for new representation – and without one party changing the electoral vote process or gerrymandering a majority of districts to their advantage as Republicans have done in Texas, Virginia and perhaps in Wisconsin this winter.

Freedom is found in women’s reproductive rights. Freedom is the right of consenting adults to marry, no matter their gender. Freedom is the right of workers to unionize their workplace and to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

Government is our apparatus for setting rules and boundaries for the common good. And as these rules – or laws – prevent us from driving any speed we want, in order to keep our neighborhood roads and freeways safer for all, so, too, do they allow us only to hunt in limited seasons, or require certain businesses (or teachers and doctors) to be licensed for our common good, so we know that certain education or test standards have been met.

I take no exception to expecting doctors and clinics to follow Medicare or Medicaid (or ACA) rules and restrictions to provide our community’s health care. I take no exception to the state setting guidelines for school curriculum, or teacher and principal credentialing expectations, so that our communities can be assured that their public schools provide professional instruction that doesn’t allow each community to set inappropriate religion-based curriculum, for example.

Parents and the community do have a voice right now in how our children are educated, but I would remind Dr. Baumann that the classroom teachers, principals and administrators are the education professionals who should be making daily classroom decisions which follow the general direction set by their school board members.

I was surprised by Dr. Baumann’s complaints about not being able to choose how best to educate our children, as Dr. Baumann (whose own children are not in public school, but attending a charter school) recently sought appointment to the school board, where he would have had a significant voice about our schools.

Look at the ways government represents the people in the very same issue of the paper Dr. Baumann’s letter appears in. The state issues gun permits through the counties. Counties deal with their mentally ill citizens. MnDOT provides rail safety gates at dangerous crossings like Ferry Street in Anoka.

The Anoka County Library system provides reading programs for both adults and children. Andover will conduct a public hearing before reconstructing Nightingale Street. Oak Grove is appointing a representative to the Watershed Management Organization, which preserves the quality of local water sources. Ramsey approved a Highway 10 frontage road extension, which includes water and sewer connection changes.

Even if any of this government action “forces” changes on any specific individual, these are all ways the government works for our common good.

Again, as President Obama stated in his second Inaugural address, “Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”

Wes Volkenant

Northstar rail user pleased

To the Editor:

I have followed with interest the many editorial commentaries outlining the of benefits or concerns about the Northstar Commuter Rail line.

While I may choose to not weigh in on the debate, I can tell you that this system has many pleased users.

I have been a daily rider on the Northstar line since it started in November of 2009.

My ride from Fridley to downtown Minneapolis is short. Within only 15 minutes, I am taken from waiting on the platform in Fridley to walking the skyways in Minneapolis.

I avoid all weather-related concerns, which is a particular blessing in the winter months.

The cost of the ride is reasonable. I have avoided hundreds of dollars in parking fees and the headaches of downtown traffic congestion.

I’ve made many new friends during my rides. We share stories about family and work. We have built a unique bond. We refer to each other as our “train friends.”

I would welcome expanded Northstar travel options provided during the day, for the current schedule is limiting.

However, I recognize that without an expanded transit system more Northstar trains are unlikely.

I enjoy my daily commute on the train and would invite others to join me and my “train friends” in this transit option.

Marilyn Kordiak

Budget not balanced

To the Editor:

Gov. Dayton has released his budget proposal for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which calls for $37.9 billion in state spending and $3.7 billion in tax increases.

This is an 11.9 percent increase in tax revenue from the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the largest increase ever proposed by a Minnesota governor.

Gov. Dayton has promised to take a balanced approach to keeping our state budget in check, but his proposed budget calls for at least $14 in tax increases for every $1 in spending reductions, which is hardly a balanced approach.

The governor’s proposal calls for $2.1 billion of new sales taxes on goods and consumer services that all Minnesotans use.

His proposed sales tax increases are will affect all Minnesotans and will raise the price of items like over the counter drugs (Ibuprofen, etc), many clothing items, admissions and memberships (health clubs, YMCA, etc), personal care services (haircuts, etc), Internet shopping purchases, and legal and automobile services (lawyers, oil changes, etc).

These are all the things that will take money out of the pockets of Minnesota families.

Gov. Dayton’s plan also includes a 7.6 percent increase in spending from 2012-2013.

Instead of raising taxes to spend more money, we should be focused on efficient and effective government spending that eliminates waste and finding better ways to grow our economy.

Sen. Branden Petersen
Serving Andover, Coon Rapids, Ramsey, Anoka

Budget bold alternative

To the Editor:

Gov. Mark Dayton recently released his budget proposal for the 2014-15 biennium. The governor has presented a bold alternative to the current cycle of annual budget deficits that make it difficult for Minnesota to get ahead.

While I have only begun reviewing the proposal, the governor has emphasized long-term investments that will make Minnesota stronger over the long-run.

With an increasingly competitive global economy, education has taken on ever greater importance.

The governor’s proposal allocates additional resources for early childhood education, K-12 schools, and state colleges and universities to help ensure Minnesotans develop the skills for the economy of the future.

The budget that eventually comes out of the Legislature will be different than the one Gov. Dayton proposed.

However, this proposal provides an honest point of departure for the coming discussion about what Minnesotans expect from their state government and what our state needs to thrive in the future.

Throughout the session, please feel free to contact me with your ideas, questions, or concerns.

Over the next five months of this year’s legislative session, we will be working to create a state budget that works for all Minnesotans.

Please feel free to contact me by telephone 651-296- 4280, by email [email protected], or send me mail to 377 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Thank you.

Melissa Hortman
State representative

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