Readers Write: Safety in Minneapolis, Hennepin County Attorney, abortion, rent control

Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.

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Here is an easy thing for a City Council member to do: Jump aboard a bandwagon criticizing a newer council member for his unfortunate depiction of a night of violence in Minneapolis’ Mill District (“Council member facing censure,” July 13).

Here is a difficult thing for a City Council member to do: Take the time to solve the issues at hand; that is, the heightened level of violence — real or perceived — in downtown Minneapolis, a seemingly ineffective and nonresponsive police force, a reduced number of downtown visitors, a diminished street life, and retail and restaurant closings.

But why spend time tackling the difficult matters when the easy ones are as alluring and distracting as a bottle rocket in the night?

Glenn Miller, Minneapolis

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The flap over Minneapolis City Council member Michael Rainville’s recent remarks attributing July 4 violence to Somali American youth raises the question: What role did those young people play in the mayhem? Newspapers typically don’t identify lawbreakers by race or ethnicity, and they shouldn’t. But this episode isn’t typical. A politician attributed trouble to Somali youth, Somali leaders responded publicly, and some other lawmakers jumped into the fray with righteous denouncements of racism — all of which makes details concerning the role of Somali youth a public issue. Were they largely responsible for the trouble, partly responsible or mostly uninvolved? Was the mayhem organized or spontaneous? More than a week after the trouble, we don’t have answers. The Star Tribune shouldn’t tiptoe around the underlying issue.

Pat Doyle, Minneapolis

The writer is a retired Star Tribune reporter.

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A woman from Orono wrote about being downtown and getting frightened by two panhandlers, then a man who was high getting in her son’s face (“Help,” Readers Write, July 7). There was not a policeman in sight to help. My question to her is: Who do you expect to be paying for an omnipresent police presence? I haven’t seen suburban and greater Minnesotan politicians step up at the state Legislature to help us with funds for when you visit.

Minneapolis hosts a high concentration of unhoused people who have migrated here and in that population are panhandlers. But the big city is also where the sports arenas, football stadiums and good restaurants are that people from all around want to go to.

As that letter from the woman from Orono illustrates, how Minneapolis is doing affects those who don’t live here but want to visit. I hope our neighbors in Orono and elsewhere ask their local representatives to help Minneapolis better manage to host both you and the poorest who come to live here. This situation is, in reality, everyone’s concern.

Paul Rozycki, Minneapolis

COUNTY ATTORNEY

The two main local concerns of Hennepin County voters are public safety and racial equity. Martha Holton Dimick is uniquely qualified to address both issues.

Martha’s professional experience as prosecutor for 10 years and as a judge for 10 years means that on day one she will be able to lead the County Attorney’s Office and partner with U.S. Attorney Andy Luger to bring down violent crime.

As an African-American woman who grew up in segregated Milwaukee in the 1960s, Martha has experienced racial inequities throughout her life. She knows how an unjust system can fail defendants, victims and minority communities.

I worked with Martha in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for 10 years and observed her to be a skilled trial attorney who took on tough cases. And I often appeared before her when she became a judge. She held violent criminals accountable, but gave lower level offenders opportunities for rehabilitation.

Martha is an experienced prosecutor who will deliver practical reforms to improve public safety and promote criminal justice reform.

John Halla, West St. Paul

The writer is a retired Hennepin County Attorney.

ABORTION

On July 11, a Minnesota district judge ruled that many of the laws restricting abortion access violate the Minnesota Constitution (“State abortion restrictions blocked,” front page, July 12). These laws included a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion and two-parent notification and an informed consent requirement for patients younger than 18, as well as the mandate that only physicians perform abortions and that any abortion completed after the first trimester would need to be performed in a hospital.

These laws restricting abortion access are a violation of a women’s right to confidentiality and access to basic health care. Every day, women across the state seek access to safe forms of abortion due to various reasons. Regardless of their reasons behind this decision, all women should be entitled access to safe abortion methods.

Since the ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973, women have been able to safely access abortions throughout the United States. There is no reason that nearly 50 years later, access to safe abortions should be criminalized. We will continue to fight for the basic rights of women and the right for women to control their own bodies.

Kendra Simon, Champlin

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While “Dems plot a strategy on abortion” (July 4) and Republicans dig in, a third way might be based on the following considerations. Laws making abortion illegal once a heartbeat can be detected are using an arbitrary criterion; even tadpoles have heartbeats. Conversely, at the end of life, whether due to old age, disease or traumatic injury, it is legal to “pull the plug” on a patient if there is irreversible loss of brain activity, even if the patient’s heart is beating. Thus, the law considers the presence of brain activity, not the presence of a heartbeat, to be definitive for human life. My understanding is that coordinated brain activity (vs. reflexes, as in a frog’s leg) does not develop in a fetus until 24 to 25 weeks of gestation. I suggest that a national law making abortion permissible before 20 weeks (to provide some leeway for miscalculation of gestation age) and illegal thereafter except to save the life of the mother could be a rational and legally consistent criterion. This would be better than remaining stuck between the opposing positions that “life begins at conception” or “when a heartbeat is detectable” and “abortion is a personal choice any time even through late pregnancy” that are leading us to a patchwork of laws varying from state to state, and a legal morass regarding interstate travel and mail-order drugs.

Bill Kaemmerer, Edina

RENT CONTROL

I’m proud to live in a city that voted for rent stabilization, where homeowners and renters alike used our precious vote to support a 3% cap on rent increases and renter protections, because this is a critical way we can keep our communities stable, vibrant and safe, and our neighbors’ families housed. This is so important because stable housing helps create the conditions for better educational outcomes for our students.

On Wednesday, the St. Paul working group on rent stabilization presented their recommendations to the City Council. They recommended keeping the 3% cap on rent, which reflects the will of the people who voted. And they recommended other renter protections.

I do have concerns about any form of vacancy decontrol because this can create incentive for property owners to find legal ways to evict tenants.

The St. Paul City Council should take the working group’s recommendation and enhance the ordinance while making sure that any changes to rent stabilization take into consideration all who have historically been and are currently marginalized and discriminated against in our housing system. Any changes should reflect the spirit of the will of the people who voted in support of rent stabilization.

Ginny DeLuca, St. Paul

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