For years, kids walked to school without government help
Tom Steward, investigative director for the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, points out the spending involved in government programs that aim to manage the experience of walking to school.
"Remember the safety patrol volunteers who got out of class early to stand guard at school crosswalks? ... It's instructive to keep that model in mind as we fast-forward to a federal government program called Safe Routes to School (SRTS). Safe Routes is itself a throwback, with a goal of returning to the schooldays of the '60s, when four of every 10 elementary students walked or biked to class. That number today is closer to one in 10.
"Today, it takes a billion-dollar federal program, replete with government bureaucracy, regulations and red tape, to get those school kids to class. You may not realize how complicated going to school the old-fashioned way has become, but you will after reading the state's 24-page handbook with helpful guidelines and strategies for more than 200 participating schools statewide. There are politically correct options that take walking or biking to school a step further. The menu includes walking school buses, international walk/bike to school day, bicycle rodeos and trains. ...
"Since the inception of SRTS in 2005, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has handed out more than $11 million to scores of schools and communities statewide, including $768,000 just last month. While most federal transportation programs require at least 15-20 percent in local matching funds, Safe Routes to School grants are a blank check from the U.S. Treasury."
"Interesting articles today — contrast this with the Strib editorial calling for safety improvements on Hwy. 101 in Eden Prairie and Chanhassen. While this program is observed to be an insidious growth of government by Mr. Steward, it in fact targets the very safety risks that led to the death of a young girl riding her bike. Yes, establishing transportation facilities that are safe for all users costs money, but that doesn't mean that this issue can be ignored." -- Paul M, Minneapolis
"The problem with Mr. Steward's piece is there is not a single piece of evidence on whether the safe route to schools is working. If more children are walking or biking to school in cities where the money was spent, I would say that is a successful program. But there is no way to know from this piece." -- Chuck Laszewski, St. Paul
After Wisconsin, a movement to get money out of politics
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., explains the reasoning behind a constitutional amendment he is offering to limit corporate spending in campaigns.
"Last Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker kept his job, but with a high price tag. In a state of only 6 million people, $60 million was poured into the race, $50 million of which went to Walker. And almost half of that was spent by outside groups — most of them not based in Wisconsin.
"This was no isolated event. Since 2010, super PACs and corporations have spent record amounts of money in elections nationwide. Corporate spending soared during the 2010 election cycle to more than $290 million, four times the amount spent in the previous midterm elections in 2006. Most of this spending would not have been possible without the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission. Before Citizens United, individuals could not contribute more than $10,000 to Wisconsin candidates and political action committees (PACs) — corporate entities or groups of people that contribute to political campaigns. But this all changed when the Supreme Court allowed anyone to spend an unlimited amount on PACs and let corporations and wealthy individuals spend unlimited money on political campaign advertisements. ...
"Several members of Congress have introduced constitutional amendments to overturn Citizens United. While protecting the freedom of the press, my own Get Corporate Money out of Politics Amendment clearly states that corporations are not people. They do not vote, they do not serve in office, and they should not be able to buy our elections."
"You want to put the power back in the hands of the people? Introduce a bill in Congress that says, 'No candidate for any elective office in the United States shall solicit, accept, or use in any manner any funds or other valuable consideration from any source other than individual citizens who can actually cast a vote in the election for said candidate.' ... If you are for getting the corporations out of politics, but leaving the unions in, you are saying that you are nothing more than an ordinary Democrat Party hack, interested merely in using the government to further the desires of your party at the expense of the people." -- Terry Franklin, Minnesota
"How should Republicans or conservatives who now seem to benefit the most, or at least have the edge in the new money game, respond to limiting or getting money out of politics? Why should they give up their newly acquired weapon? Why wouldn't the rich and powerful want a firm grip on power? Why should anyone care? Or why shouldn't everyone be concerned? Because if history is a guide, it means we are now treading on dangerous ground. We are setting the stage for a new revolution." -- Fred Williams, Brooklyn Park
Happy marriages can flourish where they once were discouraged, or even banned
Lori Young-Williams, a Twin Cities writer and University of Minnesota employee, shares the story of her parents' mixed marriage and suggests a parallel to a modern controversy.
"They got married Sept. 1, 1958. Their wedding picture that sits on my desk is in black and white. They hold hands; their smiles are big and proud. Mom wears a tea-length dress, with a boat neck line, and sheer three-quarters sleeves, holding a Bible wrapped in ribbons in her left hand. Dad is dressed in a white dinner jacket with black slacks and bow tie, looking very Sidney Poitier in 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.' They stand in front of the church steps, with one of the church doors open, leading you in.
"Mom tells me what I don't see in the picture. Off to the right, a group of white people have gathered on the boulevard across the street. A group of men, women, girls and boys watch my parents' wedding party as friends and family leave the church. No harsh words are said, just the typical Minnesota gawking, looking. This is 1958 in Minnesota. It may not be against the law but it is rare to see an interracial couple getting married.
"But someone must have minded, because the windows of the church, which is no longer there, north of Interstate Hwy. 94, were broken out that night. ...
"I write this story now because the debate over same-sex marriage is the same, though not exactly the same, as it was for interracial marriages. State laws banning interracial marriage were struck down 45 years ago this week. Same-sex marriage may not be legal in certain states now, but it will be legal -- a choice for all gay couples in future. It will take time, but it will happen."
"I loved your story Lori, thank you for sharing it. I also agree with you regarding same-sex marriage. I hope Minnesotans are smart enough NOT to vote discrimination into our state Constitution." -- Patricia Roth, Minneapolis
"You are absolutely correct that laws banning inter-racial marriage and laws banning same-sex marriage are equally reprehensible. There is no objective reason to prevent them. The only 'justifications' are religious faith, which can run counter to the principles of the Constitution depending on one's interpretation of teachings, and personal prejudices that, again, have absolutely no justification." -- Jake Osborne, Santa Barbara, Calif.
"What a wonderful story, and so applicable to our time. You are right Lori, legal marriage will be a right for ALL people, in all states — just as it is in so many other countries already. Hatred is strong, but love is stronger." -- Kirk Van Dorn, Mahnomen, Minn.
Texts on the take: How crammers used her phone to get into her wallet
Kate Smith, senior editor for Minnesota Public Radio News, recounts her experience with crammers who tried to put unauthorized charges on her phone bill.
"I came to find out that I'd been 'crammed' — and I've learned a lot in a few weeks. According to the FCC, cramming is what happens when unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges appear on a telephone bill. Crammers try to trick you into paying for something you don't want and didn't order. ...
"Ultimately I was told that I'd signed up for the product in question on a particular date at a particular time. It was a time when I'm rarely awake. ...
"For me the lesson is simple. Look at your bill, and say something when the total is more than you anticipate or when there are charges you don't understand."
The important conversations with Dad always happened in the car
Kevin Kling, writer, performer and storyteller, observes Father's Day with a reflection on communication between fathers and sons.
"Whenever my father had something of great importance to tell me, he did it in the car. The facts of life, in a '67 Mustang. Moving to the country, white Mercury Comet station wagon. Divorce from my mom, metallic blue Chevy on the way home from a fishing trip. And although most of these talks were planned, sometimes he would simply take his eyes off the road and look directly at me and say:
"Listen to me now, if you ever get a chance to be an astronaut, grab it."
"OK, Dad," I said. "I will." ...
"Now, I knew where this came from. My dad grew up on a farm, milking cows, slopping hogs, driving a tractor, never going anywhere except over to the next row. ... And when Dad turned 17, he lied about his age so he could join the Navy. He wanted to fly, and the Navy was still accepting pilots.
"Unfortunately, Dad put on his application that he could type 60 words per minute. The war had already ended in Europe and the soldiers were returning home in droves and needed to be processed. So Dad spent the duration of the war behind the controls of a Smith Corona. 'Kev,' he said, 'never learn to do something you don't want to be saddled to for the rest of your life.'"
As everything else changes, the human voice holds its note
Eric Friesen, a former classical music host for Minnesota Public Radio, surveys the state of choral music in the age of Twitter.
"Change happens, whether bad or good. The Internet and social media have transformed our lives and our professions profoundly. We in the arts have to be in the marketplace, and we have to communicate with people where we can reach them. ...
"And yet, as this river of time thunders on, there are at least several human pleasures that haven't changed much at all. Singing, we know, is as ancient as life itself. The First Art, it's sometimes called, as old as the cave paintings at Lascaux. As Daniel Levitin has speculated, we may have had music before we had a word for it. Fashions have changed, and tastes and trends. From plain chant in Hildegaard's time to polyphony in the Renaissance. The 20th century saw new ways to use the human voice: Sprechgesang — half singing, half speaking. There's whispering. Choral recitation, humming, glissando and shouting. But it's still the same voice, the same vocal musculature. ...
"Our world hurtles on, inventing, discarding. In the midst of all this, the human singing voice is — to borrow from T S Eliot — the still point in the turning world. Singing in groups, singing in parts, some paid, some not paid, some trained, some not trained ... the human voice is enchanting us, moving us to stop for just a moment to catch a glimpse of heaven."