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Presidential debates, mental health, copper wire theft, Hennepin County Board, movies

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Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publications letters from readers online and in print every day. To contribute, click here.

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I agree wholeheartedly with the April 17 letter about a potential presidential debate titled, “It would be a clown show. Skip it.”

However, if a debate or debates do go forward, a mandatory drug test should be administered to both candidates immediately before they take the debate stage. If both elder gentleman believe they are currently up to the task of leading the country for the next four years, it should be public information what substance — if any — they feel they need to be on their game, and why.

This would preclude either candidate from claiming that his opponent’s demeanor was artificially up or down. Such a requirement, I suspect, would immediately end debate talk from one or both campaigns.

Gene Case, Andover

•••

Dana Summers’ political cartoon about presidential debates in the paper on April 18 gave me great pause. I am a 72-year-old snowbird in a 55-plus mobile home park in Palm Springs, California. Our primary home is in New Brighton. I enjoy and greatly appreciate several residents who are 80-plus in this park — many who are strong, smart, active, engaged and “with it” (no question about it). Seems like Summers was trying to depict President Joe Biden as frail and needing a nurse. (I am a retired nurse and have never thought he needed nursing care!) Is this ageism being expressed about our president by the cartoonist and the Star Tribune? The other person in the cartoon, Donald Trump, is close to being thrown into the slammer — a much more accurate picture of Trump’s circumstance.

Is Summers trying to get us to think about an inequality in this comparison (which I did)? Or is he trying to make this an equal comparison? If it is the latter, I not only feel great pause, I am furious. I hope Summers can explain this cartoon and apologize for it. The Star Tribune should provide an apology as well. Very disappointed.

Meri Hauge, New Brighton

MENTAL HEALTH

On the stigma of suicide

I will not waste your time nor mine with the prerequisite Minnesota niceties and so will begin simply by saying that this is a letter about mental health, stigma and suicide, so, dear reader, be advised.

What does it mean to live a purposeful life? This has been a question that has haunted me since the suicide of my younger sister on July 23, 2022. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there were 835 suicides in Minnesota in the year 2022 alone, and I can say with certainty that by July 2023, that figure would’ve increased at least by one. Counted among those figures would’ve been my then-23-year-old younger sister. Suicide is forbidden by Islam, and so to most Somalis, it can’t even be considered feasible. Consider the irony, then, that it is a common euphemism among the Somali community to refer to loved ones who died by suicide as having “passed away peacefully asleep,” otherwise, you end up being on the blunt end of social stigma and isolation in a community centered on conformity as prerequisite for belonging.

So I will leave you with the following: a dream of my sister in her hammock. She is a child of the diaspora — a cultural in-betweener, a nomad, a Somali with a taste for Americana and weed. She is engrossed in Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” her curiosity still unparalleled. With thoughts of seeking heretofore denied stability, belonging and acceptance in family and country. A haunting that could only be remedied by a collective removal of the barriers that keep us from knowing each other, and a willingness to confront that of which we are afraid.

Perhaps, people like my sister had felt that they belonged, or that it’s OK to admit that you need help, they could have found solace in the support that society can offer. I wish for others in such circumstances to know that there are willing listeners everywhere. And I implore those reading this to be willing to listen!

Mulki Nur, St. Paul

COPPER WIRE THEFT

Isn’t there a 21st-century solution?

Regarding “Walz joins fight against copper wire theft” (April 18): A simple and quick way to text or a number to call specifically for wire theft might help. Or perhaps a way to share a picture of the crime in progress where the time and GPS location could be gleaned. It seems like the cost of repairs would merit a technological cure that is hassle-free and would encourage public support, and a separate number wouldn’t overburden 911. (Variations of the camera feature could be used for other problems, from potholes and highway debris to dangerous animals, parking violations and unhealthy trash.)

John Crivits, St. Paul

•••

It’s time to start replacing wired streetlights with solar-powered lights. They would keep the thieves away or at least make them need a ladder. Also, they produce savings in the cost of power.

Jim Goudy, Austin, Minn.

•••

The Legislature is considering a copper wire theft bill. Whenever the copper street lighting wire is stolen, why not replace it with aluminum wire? The initial cost is far less, and the salvage value of aluminum wire is a fraction of that of copper wire.

Anybody can legally purchase copper wire for their own use. Yet they won’t be able to sell any remaining after a project without getting a special license. Sounds totally unreasonable to me.

Donald Jorgenson, Vadnais Heights

The writer is a retired electrician.

HEMPIN COUNTY BOARD

Westmoreland for the Sixth District

Jen Westmoreland would make a visionary and practical Hennepin County Commissioner. I endorse her for the vacant Sixth District seat in the special primary (April 30; early voting open now) and general (May 14) elections.

Hennepin County has probably as much — maybe more — to do with the day-to-day welfare of its residents than any other unit of government. Hennepin County’s budget is about $2.7 billion; it also provides an outsized share of income and sales tax revenue to the state’s general fund. The county’s health is important to the health of the entire state: for health care, for local government aid to greater Minnesota cities, education, roads, everything. Hennepin County is the second-largest unit of government in the state, after just the state itself.

The job of commissioner requires a serious person. Westmoreland is a serious person. She has been twice elected to the Hopkins school board (has served for seven years) and knows local taxation, governance and budgeting. She serves on the county’s Heading Home Hennepin Executive Committee that works on affordable housing and shelter system coordination. She’s a newly minted Ed.D. in educational leadership, specializing in community and data-driven system change. If you have a conversation with her about county issues, which I encourage you to do, you will find that she speaks easily and knowledgeably about them.

Steve Timmer, Edina

INCENTIVES

About time for a state film office

As a filmmaker who directed four feature films in the state in the 1980s, I think it’s way past time that the Legislature realized that film incentives are not “Hollywood welfare” but a job creator that puts far more money back into the local economy than is given out in a rebate (“Be a major player in film and TV game,” editorial, April 19).

I wish the Star Tribune Editorial Board had also created a list of the states Minnesota is in competition with and their respective annual rebate caps, especially for readers who don’t necessarily track the film business. I think they would then see what a great idea a state film office can be. I also wish that the board had mentioned what is happening in northern Minnesota with a rebate program that is much higher than the metro area and that Hollywood screenwriter Karl Gajdusek, now a Minnesota resident, is building a new sound stage up in Chisholm. I’m hoping to direct my fifth made-in-Minnesota film there this coming fall/winter. Knock on wood.

David Burton Morris, Wayzata