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Presidential politics still hot, but urban issues draw strong comment, too

Once again, not surprisingly, politics was the hottest topic prompting MinnPost reader comments, but folks also weighed in recently on such stories and posts as a new transit plan, ending poverty, Macy’s impending pullout and an inspiring story about young Jewish and Muslim students finding common ground.

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Stephen Gross appreciated Steve Berg’s Wednesday Cityscape post, “Bell’s transit plan is superb (except somebody forgot to include money)”:

Your analysis is keen. Let’s be honest: high-quality, usable transit systems cost real money. And because transportation networks are network goods, they deliver return-on-investment only when fully deployed. That means you don’t get real value out of such a system unless you put up serious cash for it.

I’m not sure what it’ll take to convince voters it’s time for a big-time investment in a real metro-wide transit network. Some of the factors are starting to come together: concern for the environment, rising gas prices and a demographic shift in favor of urbanism. These are shaky trends, however. Gas prices could always go down (unlikely, but possible). Concern for the environment could turn out to be a fad. Baby boomers and yuppies may want to live in cities, but in 15 years that trend may shift yet again.

Maybe we just need good ol’-fashioned political advocacy.

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Nick Malec commented on a Jan. 31 MinnPost Partners piece from Twin Cities Daily Planet, “Ending poverty in Minnesota,” by Matthew Little of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder:

This sounds like a good plan, but I’m wondering about logistics. First of all, how do they define poverty? And if they raise the level of those in poverty, won’t those people still be the lowest class? I’m all for making improvements in people’s lives. But at the state level, I’m not sure they can make the fundamental changes necessary to end poverty.

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John Olson added this to Steve Berg’s Thursday post, “Macy’s takes a hike and our identity crises worsens”:

Is this painful? Yes — especially for those located downtown who will lose their jobs. Was this inevitable for this company?

It seems to me that answer is “yes.”

When Macy’s purchased Marshall Field’s, which had purchased Dayton/Hudson, which had merged Dayton’s and Hudson Department Stores some years earlier, the writing was on the wall. Traditional “department stores” had become a fond memory for many of us. Somehow, the idea of a department store synonymous with New York City tolerating the land of Santa Bear, Frango chocolates and wild -rice soup in the restaurant for an extended period of time in flyover land was not going to work.

Having recently visited the Macy’s in downtown St. Paul, it is not hard to see that the end of the line is approaching. The realities are that the traditional department store is in a world of hurt, trying to cope with the likes of Target (spun off from Dayton/Hudson), Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, to name a few. The only one of the bunch that has a chance of survival is Nordstrom, and that is largely due, in my opinion, to the fact that they chose to locate in the Mall of America instead of trying to compete at one of the Dales or downtown. One has to wonder if Dayton/Hudson had chosen to anchor one of the corners of the MOA when it opened in the early 1990s, could things have played out differently?

The larger question for the two downtowns is how they try to rebuild retail. If the day comes that the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s disappears, it will be a milestone…and not a good one.

And Mark Weber noted: Nice article, Mr. Berg. Prior to reading it, I was merely “blue.” Now I’m suffering from major depression.

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Ann Carter wrote in praise of Beth Hawkins’ Thursday post, “Jewish-Muslim students’ get-togethers helping to find common ground”:

All of the statistics that you have provided follow a common theme. Those without adequate health care insurance, those living in poverty and those that have frequent negative contacts with the police are most often unemployed or underemployed.

The biggest indicator of one’s ability to secure a good-paying, secure job is the level of education that one brings to the employment marketplace. The fact, as you point out, that minority populations make up a disproportionate number of people suffering the consequences of our failing public school system makes me wonder why these same populations are such a reliable source of votes for the same people that are perpetuating the status quo of failure.

Here in Minnesota, the largest special-interest political action group is the teachers union “EDMN.” This labor union’s best interests seldom coincide with the best interests of kids, and yet the Democratic Party that is tied at the hip to it depends upon their ability to recruit minority populations, through obfuscation and outright lies, to sustain its domination of this state’s government.

When will people learn that their children’s futures have been hijacked to further the economic and political agenda of this unholy alliance of political zealots, old-school union bosses and public school educators?

As long as they allow a blue-collar trade union to dominate their working lives, teachers will never attain the level of excellence and prestige of the teaching professionals that came before them.

And it is the kids of those who are unable to pay for a private education while supporting the failing public system at the same time who will continue to pay the price.

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Rich Croce had this to say about Steve Berg’s Wednesday story, “Why are Americans so gloomy about our society and its future?”:

Disgruntlement point No. 1: the economy. I’ve gotten meager raises the past three years that don’t keep up with inflation, and my health insurance costs have more than doubled for less insurance — that’s a pay cut. Meanwhile, my CEO is rewarded with millions for giving me a pay cut and making me work more.

Disgruntlement point No. 2: Iraq. The government had a chance to do right and it did wrong. Iraq is a sewer, and like a sewer, what you put into it is what you are going to get out of it. Quit flushing! My town can’t get $10 million to pay for teachers yet we spend that much in Iraq in 10 minutes. My children’s future depends on it.

Disgruntlement point No. 3: Empowerment. Even though the middle class makes up more than 80 percent of the U.S. population, they have no say in what laws are enacted in Washington. K Street and corporations push their agendas down our throats and tell us it is good for us. Privatization of Social Security for banks, health care for the benefit of the insurance and drug companies, unwanted wars to feed the military-industrial complex and oil companies. What about pollution in my lakes and air? We’re told, shut up and feed the pump.

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New Yorker Stuart Braman lauded Doug Grow’s Wednesday story, “All three DFL Senate candidates claim victory, but insiders see Franken advantage”:

As a New York member of the Minnesota Diaspora, I woke up this morning curious to see what happened with Al Franken. I searched the Internet and the Star Tribune and came up empty. When I read your story, I can see why others were reluctant to tackle the confusion, but your efforts were greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Bernice Vetsch also commented on Doug’s story:

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer wows audiences any time he speaks or debates his opponents. At one recent candidates’ forum in Minneapolis, for example, a member of the audience came up to Jack afterwards, removed the opponent’s campaign button from his shirt, and wrote Jack a $2,000 check.

St. Paul voters, unfortunately, have not yet been graced with a debate or forum. Although two debates were scheduled, they had to be canceled when another candidate developed scheduling conflicts and had to back out. Makes me wonder how many delegates will have a chance to hear him in person before the Senate District convention. I would encourage them to attend a house party or other event if there is no debate.

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Kristina Gronquist had these words for Eric Black’s Monday post, “Caucuses 101: What you need to know about Minnesota’s vote Tuesday”:

In this year of truly competitive contests for presidential nominations, the Star Tribune’s taking an early pass is unforgivable. My recollection of ancient history — when I was the paper’s editorial page editor — tells me that we rarely endorsed before general elections at any level: local, state or national. The rarities were occasions when the outcome of a primary would be of exceptional importance. Like now. If I were running the page, which, thank heaven, I’m not, I would be embarrassed.

Brad Lundell also commented on David’s post:

I actually thought the Vote and Stay/Leave Option was a fairly good one.

I’m way old, so I … remember the days when you had to get on the phone at the last minute because you knew you had 25 delegate slots and there was going to be a cliffhanger episode of ‘The A-Team’ on and you weren’t sure how many people would attend. This year, 322 people voted in our precinct and about 75 stuck around for the modern version of the Athenian assembly (without ostracism, of course). That is a big, big, big improvement, and I hope that it quelled the fears of some who believe caucuses are a waste of time.

Times have changed, and I think the balance put forward by the DFL was a good one.

BUT — note to Brian Melendez and DFL staff: We had all of our precincts at Roseville High School, so I’m guessing 2,500 were lining the hallways to vote, and it was darn near impassable, and a lot of folks were ticked off. There weren’t enough ballots (I’m sure you’ve heard all of this ad nauseum) and there were problems with parking. I would suggest splitting up some of the suburbs with larger DFL populations and have precinct caucuses within their precinct rather than at a central location. It might be tough getting dates and I am sure there would be other logistical problems, but it would make for a more pleasant experience.

These are minor complaints. I think we should all get some perspective and realize that throughout the world, there are people who risk death trying to participate in a democracy. I think the least we can do is put up with a bit of discomfort and count our blessings.

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Paul Brandon commented on Eric Black’s Thursday post, “Ellison didn’t grill Mukasey about Paulose”:

What was he doing instead? Probably something more productive.

Mukasey has made it clear that the Justice Department will not investigate itself, and (unlike his predecessor) he’s much too good a lawyer to be pinned down in the time that he has left. The point has been made — time to move on.

Paulose was small beer — now she’s gone.

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On Thursday, before Mitt Romney’s withdrawal announcement, John Reinan opined on Steve Scott’s story, “Romney candidacy puts spotlight on little-understood Mormon faith, and church is happy to explain its views”:

I’m damned sick of the modern American mix of religion and politics. We’re voting for a president, not a pastor.

David Stoker seconded that view: Amen brother! (I couldn’t resist.)

Thought this was a good article. I think Republicans specifically should be embarrassed how strongly religion has been an issue in determining their candidates, both with Bush and the candidates running this year. They are shooting themselves in the foot.

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