Astronomical light rail costs, teacher shortage, Joe Biden, Vivek Ramaswamy, photography

Astronomical light rail costs, teacher shortage, Joe Biden, Vivek Ramaswamy, photography

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


The front-page article in the Aug. 22 edition “Deal struck to cover light-rail shortfall” stirred boyhood memories of watching President John F. Kennedy address Congress in May 1961 to propose landing a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth before the decade was out. Slightly more than eight years later, I watched Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong step onto the moon’s surface in July 1969.

The Metropolitan Council’s version of Project Apollo, the Southwest light-rail line, seeks to transport persons safely between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, a distance of 14.5 miles. That is a much less daunting prospect than the average distance between the Earth and the moon of approximately 239,000 miles.

The line is now supposed to begin service in 2027, some 17 years after the Met Council assumed control of the project and twice as long as it took America to land a man on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission cost $355 million, which equates to an inflation-adjusted $2.95 billion. The latest cost estimate for the Southwest light rail project (a number which seems to be in a constant state of flux) is $2.7 billion.

Am I the only person who finds all of this remarkable?

Thomas Moore, Eden Prairie


With an extension of the Blue Line light rail in early planning stages, now is the time to do what should have been done with the Green Line — elevate the tracks for the majority of the route. An “L” would have several advantages — the most important would be improved safety for pedestrians, bikes and cars. Also, shops along the route would benefit from street parking at near-current levels, and pedestrians able to get to the store without multi-block detours to the nearest sanctioned crossing. Light-rail drivers would be freed from having to stop for traffic lights or slow down for errant drivers and walkers, so the trains would be able to put on more speed between stops. If the “L” turns out to be the fastest way to get from A to B more people will ride it. Isn’t that sort of the point?

Rich Brown, Minneapolis


I wish Mike Thompson had talked with a teacher before creating his political cartoon in Wednesday’s paper. He missed the point completely of why many teachers are leaving the profession. Certainly teachers are concerned about their students’ mental health and would like more support for disruptive students. But students are the reason teachers remain, not why they leave. Teachers have worked hard to gain knowledge in their subject matter and in methodology to teach all types of learners. The disrespect from politicians and others who think they are qualified to micromanage curriculum make the job nearly impossible. To top it off, teacher pay remains low while the bureaucracy expands and expands. Talk with teachers, please. They need community support.

Ruth Thorstad, Dresser, Wis.

The writer is a retired teacher.


Regarding Ryan Winkler’s commentary “Skeptics like Phillips should count on Biden” (Opinion Exchange, Aug. 11), President Joe Biden certainly has had many accomplishments. But for some to dismiss or ignore the voices of others within the party at this point calling for alternate ideas, views, etc., is reckless.

Debate and competition during a primary season should be welcomed. Fresh voices and perspectives help us evolve and grow as a party. As Rep. Dean Phillips so clearly stated, it should be a competition, not a coronation.

But once the convention is held and the nomination completed next summer, we must turn out and support whoever the candidate is. Democrats should have learned in 2016 that unifying behind their candidate after nomination is crucial to victory.

Jeff Isaacson, Lino Lakes


In the commentary “The 2024 primaries and your call to duty” the writer argues that Republicans “need to do the right thing” and vote what’s best for the country. That means not supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump.

I agree.

What’s confusing, however, is the writer goes on to say that Biden is too old to run again. That he plans to vote for a yet unnamed younger Democratic primary candidate without identifying their credentials.

Despite his age, Biden has had an extraordinarily successful first term with regard to the economy, civil rights and the environment. He is a kind and decent human being. Yes, he misspeaks. Stuttering has been a lifelong issue for him.

So far his Democratic primary opponents — authors Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — have never won elected office anywhere. Who does this author intend to vote for exactly who is capable of beating either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis in 2024? Running for president is extremely expensive. It would be extremely difficult for another Democrat to jump in at this point and run a national presidential campaign.

If Biden chose not to run, his logical successor would be Vice President Kamala Harris, whose national approval rating sits at 32%, according to a recent NBC News poll, and who polls well behind both Trump and DeSantis.

So the alternatives to Biden are an unpopular vice president and two authors whose far-left positions have limited national appeal. The hard reality is Biden is the strongest candidate for the Democratic Party in 2024.

I suggest the writer do the right thing and support him.

Jim Piga, Mendota Heights


The youthful voters whom Vivek Ramaswamy, the self-proclaimed leader of a “new generation,” attempted to reach out to at the Republican presidential candidate debate the other night probably are not aware that voting for him might be the last opportunity they get to cast a ballot for a while.

The 38-year-old wealthy entrepreneur, the youngest candidate, has proposed raising the voting age to 25 unless an individual volunteers for military service or passes some sort of civics test that he has described as the same as one given for naturalization for citizenship; in other words, treating them as mercenaries or immigrants.

Ramaswamy’s proposition is not an outlier. A few months ago, a Republican operative unveiled to party leaders and donors a multipronged strategy to curtail access to voting by younger people, particularly college students.

That approach, fleshed out by Ramaswamy, is part and parcel of the GOP’s voter suppression campaign, which has so far primarily been directed to Black people, other ethnic minorities and poorer people.

Now, Ramaswamy is making that concept a cornerstone of his party.

So, if younger voters are attracted to his fresh face and anti-politician rhetoric, they ought to be aware that voting for him may lead to their disenfranchisement.

Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis


A newspaper does many things but on Wednesday the Star Tribune did the impossible with its front-page picture: It made me 17 again, if only for a few minutes.

The picture of two young teenagers sitting on a downed tree limb over a cool stream has stayed with me more than any other newspaper image in a long time.

The portrayal of a respite of cool water on a scorching day was also a symbol of our need for a respite — if only for a moment — from the steady drumbeat of war, politics and crime, which dominate the daily paper.

A news organization’s job is to provide a snapshot of a day in the life of our collective existence: good, bad and ugly.

On Wednesday, the Star Tribune, thanks to photographer Renée Jones Schneider, did that magnificently.

Bob Collins, Woodbury