December 6, 2022

As a small-business owner, I’ve been pleased to read about the necessity of state and federal aid to small businesses in the Star Tribune’s editorial section. However, while I firmly believe that government aid is a critical piece of the puzzle as the pandemic continues, I would like to remind readers that they themselves are the best help for our local businesses.

There are hundreds of small businesses in Minneapolis that need our support. As COVID continues to alter how customers shop and interact with businesses, we must remember to uplift our community. This means making simple changes in our routine, like checking out the local corner store before heading to big online retailers.

If you aren’t comfortable with in-person shopping yet, most small businesses have transformed to include online shopping as well. Many have personal websites and still more have social media profiles. As a small-business owner myself, I truly love interacting with my customers at my brick-and-mortar store. But, as the pandemic continues, seeing customers share my Instagram Reels featuring products, leave positive reviews on my social media pages or make purchases from my online shop is the next best thing. Sharing businesses’ social profiles with your friends is another great way to support local businesses if you’re not ready to make a purchase quite yet.

Please consider taking the extra step to shop local. Our neighbors need our support more than huge online retailers do.

Roseline Friedrich, Minneapolis

CRIME

In 2021, the number of homicides in Minneapolis doubled compared to 2019, and armed carjackings skyrocketed. We all feel unnerved by this rise in crime and are grasping for ways to feel safe in our communities. Minnesota Senate Republicans are proposing “tough on crime” legislation. While it’s tempting to revert to traditional approaches for tackling the crime problem, these approaches landed us where we are today. Evidence shows that time spent behind bars increases the likelihood that an offender will commit another crime. Furthermore, the cost to the public of keeping people in prison needs to be weighed against more cost-effective ways of decreasing repeat offenses — such as offender treatment programs that deal with substance-use issues, mental health and behavior change. Even a small increase in imprisonment can drain resources away from important education and health programs.

In the short-term, we can make our communities safer by developing closer connections with our neighbors. People in safe communities thrive because their basic housing, education and health needs are met — including access to substance-use treatment. In the Twin Cities, we need more programs that bring together health and social service agencies to work with activists and community leaders to directly confront the minority of individuals responsible for the majority of violence. Restorative justice programs that support victims of violent crime and bring the offender face to face with the people harmed are also important. Rather than reverting to the costly, failed approach of locking people up, let’s use evidence-based approaches that lead to the outcome we are seeking: a safer city where everyone thrives.

Lisa Franchett, Minneapolis

MENTAL HEALTH TEAM

As I walked my dog around downtown’s Gold Medal Park on a recent night, I saw a young woman sobbing against a tree. She had no mittens or hat despite a minus 15 windchill. I stopped to ask if I could help. She was reticent but eventually took my mittens and agreed to walk with me and warm up in the lobby of our building. We talked along the way. I learned that she was my daughter’s age, employed, owned a home, was abused by her boyfriend and had filed a restraining order. Once in our lobby, I called 911 as a nonemergency call. Within 10 minutes, two members of the Minneapolis behavioral crisis response team arrived. They were professional, courteous and, most important, caring and nonjudgmental. Both exuded exceptional competence and compassion. She agreed to work with them to find a safe place for that night and to seek future potential resources. We walked together to their van, marked only as “Canopy.” Who knows what may happen to her but when I waved them away, my gratitude was overwhelming … to the city of Minneapolis, this stellar crisis team and much-needed hope in our world.

Cindy Case, Minneapolis

CONGRESS

Patting oneself on the back inevitably results in an awkward stance, and D.J. Tice puts himself in that position at the outset in his Jan. 24 essay, “Breaking through gridlock: a brief history.” As he predicted seven months ago, he writes, less of President Joe Biden’s sweeping agenda has been enacted than “all the sound and fury” might have led us to expect. OK. Score one for Tice. Any factual history in Opinion Exchange, however “brief,” is welcome.

But his main point about the predictability of gridlock when a president has only a slender congressional majority looks rather different with more careful scrutiny of the numbers. For example, Tice reminds us that Lyndon B. Johnson passed Medicare in 1965 when the Senate included 68 Democrats; Biden, of course, has only 50 Democratic senators — plus Vice President Kamala Harris to cast a tiebreaking vote. In 1965 that same Congress, it’s worth noting, also passed the Voting Rights Act.

These legislative triumphs were not achieved because Congress was dominated by one party, as a reader might infer from the thrust of Tice’s piece. The Voting Rights Act, for example, passed with majority support from both parties — 112 Republicans joining 221 Democrats to support the bill in the House; 30 Republicans voting “aye” along with 47 Democrats in the Senate. The large majority supporting LBJ was not a partisan monolith; it was truly bipartisan.

A similar bipartisanship was evident in the previous year when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. That historic legislation passed the Senate 73-27 and the House 290-130. Of those 27 “no” votes in the Senate, 21 were cast by Democrats, only six by Republicans. The 290 “aye” votes in the House included 138 Republicans. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts constitute a giant stride forward for American democracy. These laws were not passed with incidental, grudging Republican support; they were passed with Republican champions. Different party, different time. To borrow the title from Dave Durenberger and Lori Sturdevant’s recent book, it was an era “When Republicans Were Progressive.”

The hardening of partisanship in both parties occurred after LBJ, in large part because of the Republican “Southern strategy” of picking off the “Dixiecrats” in the Democratic Party—with a boost in the 1990s from the politics-as-warfare tactician, Newt Gingrich. Look, for example, at the votes on the 2021 infrastructure bill that Tice considers the nuts-and-bolts legislation most achievable with a narrow, partisan majority. It barely squeaked into law by a 228-206 margin in the House, with 200 Republicans voting against it and only 13 for. There was no bipartisanship at home: All four Minnesota Republicans voted “no.”

One may conclude that the current Republican obduracy constitutes a noble defense against Democratic overreach. Some accuse the Republican monolith of caring only about power with no underlying principles. Those are opinions. They need to be based on historical fact.

David Miller, Minneapolis

PHOTOGRAPHY

Thank you for the collection of photographs from your talented staff. I lived in the Minneapolis area for almost 20 years but now live in the state of Virginia. Seeing how images powerfully convey more than words sometimes, I could not help but compare the Star Tribune to my local paper. Its few staff photographers are greatly talented but stretched so thin trying to cover this huge area. The Twin Cities are fortunate to have such a talented group of photographers, and I look forward to seeing more of their work.

Penny A. Parrish, Fredericksburg, Va.

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