The kindness of neighbors

Hands down, it’s been a rough couple of years. All of us could use a boost of positivity. Hopefully, the following acts of kindness will strengthen your belief that there is far more good out there than bad.

Highland Friendship Club (HFC) is extremely grateful for the $3,500 donation that resulted from the 2021 Highland Park Turkey Trot. Thanks to Christine Haider and Martha Paar, the race organizers, and to the many local business sponsors. This gift will support our fitness and wellness programs.

Highland Friendship Club offers people with disabilities the chance to make new friends, connect with the community and learn life skills. You’ve probably noticed that the Highland Village Lunds & Byerlys is committed to hiring and supporting people with disabilities, many of whom are HFC members. Our handmade greetings cards are sold at Lunds & Byerlys with proceeds benefitting our programs and members.

Christine, Martha and Highland Lunds & Byerlys manager Doug Loe are today’s “good people” who take the meaning of the word community seriously and inspire us to put aside our differences to help one another.

Pat Leseman and Rosemary Fagrelius, Co-Founders
Highland Friendship Club

Taxing Social Security benefits

While I do not disagree with the call to eliminate the Minnesota state income tax on Social Security benefits (“Stop taxing Social Security,” MyVillager Inbox, February 9), it is important to note who benefits from this change in taxation. Public Law 98-21, passed by Congress in 1983, provided that beginning in 1984 up to one half of Social Security benefits were to be included as taxable income for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income, combined with half their benefits and any tax-exempt interest they may have, exceeded $25,000 for a single taxpayer and $32,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. At higher income levels, 85 percent of Social Security benefits were to be included as taxable income.

The real issue is that the 1983 federal law did not provide for income levels to be adjusted for inflation. At 2022 income levels, those who are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level are already exempt from federal and Minnesota income taxes on their Social Security benefits. Those who do pay taxes on a portion of their Social Security benefits today are senior citizens with modest incomes and higher incomes. Is a permanent Minnesota state tax reduction for modest- and higher-income individuals the direction we want to go with a one-time state budget surplus?

Thomas Romens
Highland Park

Taking issue with vaccine data

I am dismayed that you did not add an editor’s note under the letter, “Cities’ quality of life is slipping” (MyVillager Inbox, February 9). The letter states, “The vaccinated are spreading the disease. The vaccinated are filling up the hospitals. And a plethora of research has proven that masks do not work.” The writer gives no references. You could have, and I believe you should have, briefly noted a Mayo clinic study or one of the others, thus avoiding possible issues some people seem to have with the CDC. Why is MyVillager instead choosing to add to the abounding misinformation and division that already exists?

Barbara McKernan
Highland Park

Nancy Hone’s letter to the editor (“Cities’ quality of life is slipping,” MyVillager Inbox, February 9) contains vaccine misinformation that should not have been published, or at least should have come with appropriate disclaimers stating as such. Ms. Hone is entitled to her opinion, but not her facts.

Alex Cook
Summit Hill

Editor’s note: According to the Minnesota Department of Health, more than half of the Minnesotans who tested positive for COVID-19 in December had been vaccinated and about a third of those who were hospitalized or died of COVID-19 during that month had been vaccinated. As for the efficacy of masks for controlling the spread of COVID-19, there are studies that back up the thinking on both sides of that debate.

Getting the lead out

Regarding the article on the Saint Paul Regional Water Services Board of Water Commissioners’ desire to replace lead water service lines to homes in Saint Paul (MyVillager, January 26): The Saint Paul water utility has prevented the leaching of lead from pipes by carefully controlling the pH of water that comes from the treatment plant. This mechanism has been employed successfully for decades. Now the Board of Water Commissioners wants to tear up everybody’s streets, lawns and boulevards for no good reason other than to siphon federal funding.

As the article pointed out, only 5 to 10 percent of property owners opt to replace the section of lead pipe extending onto their property in conjunction with road work. There is a reason for this. The replacement is unnecessary, destructive, disruptive and doesn’t solve the problem.

The problem is found in the water fixtures inside the home. Inexpensive fixtures contain lead and other materials you don’t want in your home. There are two possible solutions: Replace the cheap fixtures or simply run your water for about a minute. The water utility itself has promoted this simple, inexpensive and effective remedy for many years.

Homeowners should be allowed to opt out of the proposed replacement. I pay for the water I use; I don’t want to pay for repairs necessitated by this proposed mandate. My property values are my concern, and I reject the notion that this proposal will increase my property value.

H.H. Broner
Merriam Park

Patrick Shea, general manager of Saint Paul Regional Water Services, replies: SPRWS has been implementing treatment processes to reduce the leaching of lead into the water from pipes and fixtures for decades with great success. However, reducing exposure to lead in drinking water by mitigating the effects of lead pipes is not the same as removing the lead. The federal government, the state of Minnesota, the Board of Water Commissioners and SPRWS believe that the complete removal of lead service lines is the best option for removing lead from drinking water. While this is a large investment, SPRWS has been investing more than $2 million a year on the removal of publicly owned lead services.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will be implementing a new and more stringent Lead and Copper Rule in 2024. This will likely require many utilities, including SPRWS, to more aggressively remove lead service lines. This dovetails with the board’s desire to implement a bold and comprehensive 10-year plan to remove and replace lead service lines. The proposed 10-year program will be voluntary for homeowners. Staff is working with our state and federal partners to obtain funding and grant monies. This will reduce the costs of removing lead service lines for customers who choose to take advantage of the opportunity.

As the letter writer notes, customers can remove older fixtures that contain lead. And they are encouraged to run their water to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. For more information on lead in drinking water, visit our website at

Rebels with a cause

I believe the aggression we’re witnessing today is the result of being forced to comply with COVID restrictions that are anathema to the freedoms previously enjoyed. People who feel handcuffed and trapped rebel.

Elizabeth Ellis

MyVillager welcomes letters to the editor and longer guest editorials. All commentary must be signed, indicate the neighborhood in which the writer lives and include a phone number for verification purposes. Send your commentary to MyVillager, 241 S. Cleveland Ave., Suite V, Saint Paul, MN 55105, email it to or submit it via our website at The views expressed are not the views of MyVillager.


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