Readers Write: Climate Change, State Budget Surplus

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I hope Minnesotans paid attention to the article a few weeks ago about the 1,200-year drought happening in the West, because we are a big part of the problem (“The Drought in Western US Worst in 12 Centuries”, February 15).

Winter gets tough as you get older – something I hate to admit, but that’s the way it is. Last winter, I gave in to the lure of being a snowbird for a few weeks, and I loved it, hiking in the Arizona heat without any patches of ice on site. Glorious. But as a committed environmentalist and future grandmother of two soon-to-be-born baby girls who need a healthy planet to live on, I can’t help but cringe now. I stayed in a house with a pool and a sprinkler system and was surrounded by more of the same. We all had our cars, the traffic was heavy and the pollution was visible. New vacation home construction has clashed with state and national parks. Arizona is filled and watered with people fleeing the winter.

Of course, agriculture plays a huge role, but we can’t deny that our reluctance to deal with the inconveniences of winter puts the Southwest and the world at risk by tearing apart the desert ecosystem, using the water where we shouldn’t and exacerbating global warming in the process.

Lenore Kathleen Millibergity, Minneapolis

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I am writing in response to the article “Feds halt new drill in climate change battle” (February 21) and I am convinced that we must not overlook the cost of carbon on public land projects. Much more needs to be done to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions to at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and meet Biden’s goal of avoiding 1.5 degree warming. Celsius. Halting fossil fuel production on federal public lands — which accounts for 25% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — is a crucial part of achieving that goal.

Project Willow is a massive proposal that would have unprecedented effects on the state of US federal lands. It proposes the extraction of more than 590 million barrels of oil over 30 years, which would produce more CO2 than 56 million cars emit in one year. This project would be carried out on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the largest public land in the country. Not only would this proposal be devastating to the caribou, geese, loons, salmon, polar bears and wolves supported by this land, but it would also cause damage to several Alaska Native communities.

There is currently an open public comment period until March 9, so it is important to let our elected officials know that we cannot allow this proposal to proceed. Additionally, we must call on President Joe Biden to keep his climate promises and say no to approving Project Willow.

Ellie Krueger, Minneapolis

The writer is an intern at the Alaska Wilderness League.

BUDGETARY SURPLUS

One could argue that teachers are the frontline workers for our future. Many of our education workers are borderline stressed and resignations are commonplace. With teachers and support staff from two of Minnesota’s largest school districts set to strike, the legislature has an opportunity to initiate real change to improve that future. The billion dollars the Legislature intends to give in bonuses to “front-line workers” should be spent on this state’s public education system.

The federal government has released trillions of dollars to support individuals and the economy since the pandemic began. The madness of deciding fairly who deserves bonuses stymied the Legislative Assembly’s efforts last summer and fall. Quadrupling the then reputed $250 million for “hero pay” doesn’t solve the problem. In this election year, insisting on handing out these bonuses is vote buying. This largesse could be an important catalyst for change if spent on a system that could make this good state even better.

As the national and international response to COVID-19 has proven, now is the time to take bold action to improve the common good. Nothing benefits the common good more than improvements in our public education system. Seize this opportunity, legislators, and spend this taxpayer money wisely to improve Minnesota’s future.

Richard Cousins, Edina

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In the March 1 front-page story “Minnesota Projects $9.3 Billion Surplus,” GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller made the following comment regarding one-time payments to essential workers (legislation passed last session without a resolution): He doesn’t want to be “pitting one neighbor against another” by offering bonuses to front-line workers.

Thus, another example of the Republican Party’s negative mindset when it comes to promoting legislation to improve the lives of working families in Minnesota.

Whether it’s the party’s assault on masking, the vaccine, public education, policing, voting rights, or the LGBTQ community, division and fear always seem to dominate his conversation. Unwittingly, in the end, the GOP itself is effectively pitting “one neighbor against another.”

As a Minnesota taxpayer, I pay tribute to our frontline workers: teachers and assistants, cooks and cashiers, nurses and long-term care providers, bus drivers and transit workers who braved unprecedented conditions to keep our state running smoothly during the pandemic.

To not celebrate their accomplishments is to suggest that they weren’t even worth it.

Don Leathers, Austin, Minn.

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Every night, more than 6,000 young people in Minnesota are left homeless. It is a heartbreaking fact that youth experiencing homelessness are statistically more likely to experience poverty, abuse, racism and homophobia – destabilizing traumas that can last into adulthood.

Last year, Catholic Charities Hope Street Shelter for Youth supported 360 young people in Hennepin County seeking shelter. In addition to a safe place to sleep, we provide food, clothing and medical care while trying to defuse the current homelessness crisis, helping people find a more stable base. Although we only have a short time with them, we give them as much support as possible to prevent homelessness from becoming their future. Unfortunately, we are forced to turn away nearly 1,000 young people every year because we lack the resources to support them.

Minnesota needs to do better. The Youth Homelessness Act is a proven investment in addressing the state crisis of youth homelessness. It supports young people who would otherwise go to large single adult shelters or stay on the streets, and it gives providers like us the flexibility to tailor services to the unique needs of young people. Like other investments in the state’s shelter system, however, the funding has not matched the scale of the emergency.

With the budget surplus, Minnesota has an opportunity to make bold investments to disrupt homelessness trends. The Homeless Youth Act is one of them, and by supporting the most vulnerable in our community, we can all help create a future of stability and opportunity for thousands of homeless youth.

Keith Kozerski, Minneapolis

The author is senior director of the Children & Family Services division of the Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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