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Letters: Phasing out diesel, the peril of rights without responsibilities, and Minneapolis’ Hennepin reconstruction plan

Our weekly roundup of letters from MinnPost readers.

Audi e-tron car
REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

How to combat climate change, improve public health and the economy

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding buses and trucks (medium and heavy duty vehicles —  MHDVs). We are part of a group encouraging Gov. Tim Walz to sign this MOU on behalf of the state of Minnesota. It is a non-binding resolution, unlike the Clean Cars initiative that was adopted last year by the Minnesota Pollution Control Board. The states involved in the MOU are a learning laboratory for how we can accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy with clean transportation. By learning from each other, these states are figuring out how to do this.

Medical research has shown that we reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular and respiratory illness as well as cancer when we reduce our exposure to the known toxicities of diesel exhaust. By using electric vehicles (EVs) when possible and using cleaner motors (e.g., CNG-compressed natural gas) when EVs are not possible, we reduce this risk. The most sensitive area for improvement is school buses, given that they carry school children [and bus drivers] for many hours. The riders on school buses are exposed to exhaust from traffic as well as their own bus — up to 15 times the ambient amount outside.

Like the Clean Cars initiative, cleaner more efficient trucks and buses will be less expensive over the lifetime of the vehicles when you factor in the savings in health care, etc. In the discussion last year of the Clean Cars rules, automobile dealers complained that they would be required to sell cars which no one would want to buy. This has not become true, as the waiting lines for EVs show (as well as substantial dealer markups above MSRP).

Interested parties can see for more information. Organizations and political leaders can also sign on at that site.

—Jeff Nelson, M.D. and Bruce Parker, M.D., Edina and Minneapolis

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Rights without responsibility hurt the Common Good

Rejection of the common good is at the center of the problem of people not getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Some people demand the right to refuse this medically proven life-saver, so they can maintain Life, Liberty, and a Pursuit of Happiness. While that phrase fit the mood of the patriots trying to throw off colonialism in our founding documents, it is most unfortunate those documents did not equally stress the “Common Good,” and what citizens might do to promote it.

There is a moral stance that suggests how to approach this dilemma. Gandhi and his son Arun talked about moral duties to avoid “Social Sins.” One of them was “Rights Without Responsibility.”  For example, the right to produce and sell guns, without any efforts to diminish the terrible side effect of many thousand murders by guns each year by sociopaths; or the right to do business in America, without paying a fair share of taxes that allow our country to have an economic environment that ensures profit; or in this case, the right to refuse nationally mandated behavior or vaccines simply because your freedom lets you.

Today, our collective common good requires virtually all of us to get a vaccination. Our hospitals are full; and wonderful health care workers are mercilessly forced to slave away to save us — especially the 90% of the dying who refused vaccination. To insist on a personal freedom to not give a damn about others is hurting the common good.

I propose, after a month to begin your vaccinations, if anyone has refused without a valid doctor exemption, that person should pay all hospital expenses if they need them. All of them! Now there is a responsibility that might capture your imagination and begin to finance your “Right” to refuse.

—Gary King, Fridley

Hennepin Avenue reconstruction

Our main thoroughfares are the lifeblood of this cold and dispersed city. They need to be free flowing and have parking for businesses and residents. Presently Hennepin Avenue South is an important thoroughfare for traffic going to and from downtown and the freeway. The four lanes are full of cars that would otherwise clog up side streets and the available parking serves many commercial purposes.

It seems that some want Hennepin to be a boutique street for the locals to enjoy with walking and bicycling. But residents will always want personal vehicles for viable transportation. The City Transportation Plan says that presently 43% of trips are in single occupant cars and that they want to reduce that to 20%. This is unrealistic and not representative of what people want.

Hennepin south of Lake to 36th St. was reconstructed and is unattractive and dysfunctional. The loss of parking for the sake of a few summertime bicyclists is a real detriment. The present construction of Hennepin north of Lake developed organically and should be preserved. Hopefully the new City Council is more democratic than the last.

—Gary Farland, Minneapolis

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