Villager Inbox

Nearing the point of no return

We need a lockdown before we reach the point of no return. While we’re well beyond the point where, as a nation, we should have taken this pandemic seriously, listened to the experts and been highly suspicious of those without the proper credentials giving advice, perhaps now that everything is unraveling before our eyes we can buckle down and get serious.

Perhaps doing what is necessary to overcome this pandemic is too inconvenient. Is it possible that we’re so used to getting everything we want, we’re literally incapable of conceiving a reality where we must make sacrifices? I know some of us can’t handle the thought of being alone, isolated and forced to stay away from our friends and family. There are those who hate being told what to do, those who are struggling to behave like adults and refuse to take advice much less direction from those who know better how to overcome this disease. We’d better grow up quick and start taking direction from those who have dedicated their lives to understanding and combating pandemics.

If we refuse to accept the reality of the situation we face today, that fear of being alone, isolated from friends and family, it won’t be merely a temporary reality but a reality we’ll live with for the rest our lives. I, for one, don’t look forward to burying anyone I love because some people can’t get it together and face reality. And I earnestly hope many of you feel the same.

Daniel Carbone
Highland Park

Reconsider redevelopment plans

I truly appreciate the depth of coverage that a publication like the Villager provides on such a wide array of topics. I hope others who appreciate these things will support its continued existence with their subscriptions.

The November 11 issue of the Villager reminded me of the dangers of political and civic inertia. Two articles in particular come to mind—on the city’s reaffirmation of tax increment financing (TIF) for Midway Center’s redevelopment and the proposed Riverview Corridor project.

While a Midway TIF district remains merely a technical possibility, experience indicates the probability of its ultimate approval. Aside from my usual concerns about the use of TIF (e.g., the diversion of tax revenue that would otherwise flow to the city, county and school district), the plan for the Midway redevelopment is based on pre-COVID perceptions.

Many now believe that the already-moribund retail environment will be forever changed by our experiences during the pandemic. So, too, the market for office space, as many companies recognize the bottom-line benefits of employees working from home. The city should bear these changes in mind when the inevitable request for TIF comes. It might also consider that the former Herberger’s remains empty two years after that department store closed.

The Riverview Corridor project seems similarly blind to likely changes in transportation needs resulting from changes in work places. I was opposed to the adoption of streetcars and preferred bus rapid transit because the latter is far more flexible and less expensive than the chosen option. I suggest planners re-run their projections based on likely post-COVID conditions before we commit any further to streetcars.

Conditions change. We must be prepared to change our decisions as they do.

James M. Hamilton
Macalester-Groveland

City has strayed from its purpose

Phew! One contentious election down. Now we can start getting ready for the next one when we dump our budgeting-challenged mayor in Saint Paul and elect a new one. Then we can get rid of his public relations staffer, the three intermediaries communicating between him and his seven-member City Council, and the chief resilience officer he appointed right after his election, for a total savings of half a million dollars.

Additionally, we can dump the city’s trash collection scheme. The present plan is to raise trash collection fees by an average of $7 per year (Villager, November 11) and citizens have no say. That is exactly why the matter should have been left as private business between residents and haulers. Then people could choose another hauler with better rates.

We simply have got to have wiser management of this city, which seems to think citizens have endlessly deep pockets. Some of us at the lower end of the income scale are being squeezed between a rock and a hard place.

Before mandated city garbage collection began, I left my trash cart at the front door of City Hall, and I mailed a month’s garbage by first-class mail to my council member at a far cheaper rate. I’ve never had trash collected at my house, still sharing with a neighbor, and I’ve never paid for what I don’t use. So now the fee is being added with penalties to my property tax.

The city has no business sticking its nose in this matter. All it had to do was allocate percentages of the city to the various private haulers and let them redistribute their carts, not spend $4 million for city-owned carts. That was nuts. Carts are a cost of the haulers doing business. The whole plan is a money grab.

I’ve planted my own trees on the boulevard because the city, which hasn’t resurfaced my street in the 50 years I’ve been at this address, won’t be getting around to the necessities any time soon. We’ve got to get the city out of spending and dealings it has no business doing and into tending to our monstrously neglected infrastructure.

Kathleen Deming
Macalester-Groveland

Medicare plan has advantages

Senior citizens are about to make their Medicare choice for 2021. Everyone knows that once a plan is selected during the open enrollment period, October 15 to December 7, no switching of plans can be made. And everyone would be wrong.

The handbook “Medicare & You 2021” states on pages 67 and 68 that as far as Medicare Advantage Plans are concerned, a switch is possible between January 1 and March 31, 2021. Page 68 also refers to the so-called 5-star Special Enrollment Period, December 8 to November 30, when a switch can be made into a plan with a top five-star rating. However, while Minnesota has about 50 Medicare Advantage Plans, none has this top 5-star rating.

In case you are wondering why all the fuss about plan switching: One plan may have high monthly premiums and low costs for treatments while another plan may have low monthly premiums and high costs for treatments. Consequently, if you foresee good health for the immediate future, choose the latter for the first couple of months and then switch just to be safe.

Paul Alper
Macalester-Groveland

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