Shutting down river road

So the Union Park District Council is considering a proposal to convert the southbound traffic lane of Mississippi River Boulevard to a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian trail. Wonderful. Bicycles already enjoy a shared path with pedestrians and a dedicated southbound bike lane. Why not give them the whole river road?

Of course, the cars will have to go somewhere. You’ll be forcing all of the southbound motorized traffic on River Boulevard onto adjoining residential streets where they can compete with the 7,000 additional residents soon to be crowding in at the Ford site development. Either that or adding to the traffic on already-busy Cleveland and Cretin avenues. Just what we need.

For those of us who live in Desnoyer Park, shutting down the southbound lane of River Boulevard will cut off one of our neighborhood’s few access routes into Saint Paul. And for disabled and senior citizens like my wife and me, it will seriously reduce our opportunities to enjoy the spectacular river gorge by car. We drive River Boulevard in both directions every day. Remember, not everyone in this area is young enough to wear spandex.

But who can deny the merits of displacing ordinary, everyday citizen motorists with righteous bicyclists—for the eight months of the year when bikes are practical? As for the winter, when snow, ice and freezing temperatures make bicycles all but vanish from River Boulevard, perhaps you can convert it to a cross-country ski trail. Or a parking lot.

Sharing precious public resources is so tedious. It requires compromises and tolerance and recognition of everyone’s rights. It’s so much easier to close out the majority and award exclusive access to one elite group of users.

Jack Maloney
Merriam Park

Plastics are poisoning us

Target is back up and running on East Lake Street with a newly remodeled store. It looks pretty fancy. Target does a lot for the community, but does it really care about our health and the health of the planet? I think the answer is “no.” If Target cared about the community, why is it poisoning us with all of the single-use plastic items that it sells?

Target sells millions of plastic bottles in just one day. Every day, 1.5 billion plastic bottles are sold worldwide, and over 90 percent of them end up in fields, rivers, lakes, landfills and oceans. Only 9 percent are recycled. We’re in a catastrophic situation that’s getting worse by the day.

The New York Times recently reported that small plastic particles are now in the air, water, sand, soil and food we eat. Plastics take thousands of years to fully break down. Every day 8 million pieces of plastic enter the oceans. All sea turtles have plastic in them. It gets to the point where you have to ask what’s truly important. Greed and the desire to make more and more profit is poisoning us.

We can’t recycle our way out of this. There’s just too much plastic. Five hundred years from now, people will still be cursing us for the plastic we’re dumping on the earth today.

Frank Erickson
Standish, Minneapolis

Why clear-cut city’s ash trees?

Scores of ash trees along Cretin Avenue are now bearing the dreaded green paint. Soon they will be “trimmed at the base” (that is, cut down). The city’s clear-cutting of ash trees has occurred previously over the past several years—along Saint Paul Avenue, down Mount Curve Boulevard and elsewhere. Woodlawn Avenue was spared when residents got wind of the city’s plan and slowed down the chain saws.

The vast majority of residents oppose these tree removals. The work involved in taking them down is substantial and comes at substantial taxpayer expense. Our City Council understands this, but nonetheless marches forward with its clear-cutting policy.

Why? There is no need for it, nobody likes it, and we have better things to do with our tax dollars.

Mark Sexton
Macalester-Groveland

A good word for grammar

During the press conference Governor Walz held on January 25 regarding excellence of education in Minnesota, two prominent educational leaders spoke. I was appalled. Surely they spoke from written notes that had been edited for broadcast, yet their speeches were each grammatically incorrect in places—the sort of errors I’d never have gotten away with during my K-12 years when I was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in the 1950s and early ’60s.

In high school we used grammar books that were three-quarters of an inch thick, along with the book Word Power, from which we were expected to learn five new words each day. A study a few years ago determined that high school students have a vocabulary of about 800 words (and I think if “like” and “f—” were struck from the list, they’d be rendered speechless).

How can high-level educational specialists know if their teachers are doing a good job teaching writing and speech if they don’t know the rules of grammar themselves? And how can teachers teach what they were never taught?

In the mid-1980s, a twentysomething friend who was a high school English teacher said something grammatically incorrect, and I corrected his usage. His response was, “What’s the difference? People know what I mean.” That’s the problem. Mark Twain said there is a vast difference between lightning and a lightning bug. And that’s the point: exact communication.

English has the largest vocabulary of any language. It enables us to speak with exactitude and subtlety, but only if we know how to hyphenate, how to use the subjunctive case (which seems to have disappeared among writers under the age of 30) and the fact that “like” is not a proper substitute for “as” or “as if.”

People under about the age of 55, including popular writers and educators, don’t know the proper past tenses of common verbs, such as (note I didn’t say “like”) “dived” and “awakened,” nor the fact that “fraught” by itself means nothing. (It means “full of” or “characterized by” and is always followed by “with” and a noun, in a phrase such as “fraught with anxiety.”) Young publishing house editors don’t know these rules either.

If the teachers can’t teach, someone has to be putting correct English out there, for if we can’t properly communicate, we’ll never understand each other.

Kathleen Deming
Macalester-Groveland

Put a price on carbon emissions

Thanks for the article on Solar United Neighbors helping people install solar power (Villager, January 6). Solar power is now as cheap, and in some places cheaper, than energy produced by burning oil or gas. We need to speed up the transition away from polluting energy sources. 

The most effective first step is to put a price on carbon. In simple terms, the government would collect a fee on all sources of carbon dioxide pollution (oil, gas and coal) and give that money back to individual households as a dividend. The higher price of polluting fuels would push all of us to conserve, and it would foster investment in alternative energy like solar and wind power. The household dividend would ease the transition to cleaner energy sources for people who can least afford it, and that money will improve the economy.  

U.S. Representatives Angie Craig and Dean Phillips are already cosponsors of a carbon fee and dividend bill. U.S. Representative Betty McCollum isn’t yet. So let’s encourage her to support a price on pollution. 

Cathy Ruther
Macalester-Groveland

Give Walz your support

I’m grateful for Governor Walz’s proposed state budget that reflects Minnesota values. We should put the needs of those hardest hit by the current situation above the wealthiest individuals and corporations. I’m glad that the governor wants to help small business from child care to broadband.

The governor has handled the pandemic very well, and I believe he’ll handle the economy and educational inequities well, too. He just needs the Minnesota Senate to stop its pattern of blocking progress, and he needs all of us to let our legislators know we support him.

Gaye Sorenson
Battle Creek

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