Readers Write: UMore Park, old streetcars, government spending, photographers – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The history of UMore Park deserves attention for more than its location as a site for manufacturing gunpowder (“Neglected local history must be preserved,” Opinion Exchange, Nov. 7).
In 2008 the University of Minnesota administration decided to transform UMore Park into a unique combination of a commercial gravel pit and a utopian residential community.
The gravel pit is now located on land that was used for agricultural research essential to the state economy. Professors from the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources described the value of large tracts of land near the campus for research that requires decades for development and analysis. They explained that not all soil is the same. No one in the administration heeded their warnings until 2015 when the administration finally recognized that the present value of the loss of the land for research was more than $71 million over the term of the 40-year mining lease. In 2016 the administration mitigated the amount of the loss by amending the lease to delay mining on certain portions of the land.
The plan for the residential community was quietly dropped after the administration spent more than $12 million on the project. This history teaches us (once again) how easy it is to spend other people’s money.
Each biennium the citizens of our state invest more than $1 billion in the U in general appropriations. With that much at stake, the Legislature should appoint a qualified person to monitor the operations of the university and the use of state appropriations on a continuing basis. This legislative liaison (or watchdog) should have the responsibility to review information produced by the administration, to collect additional information through independent research and to meet with all groups at the university so that the perspectives of other well-informed and thoughtful members of the university community are presented to the Legislature.
Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville

The article about the streetcar fraud and Fred Ossanna rang a loud bell for me (“Was organized crime behind streetcars’ demise, buses’ rise?” Nov. 7). In 1957, my parents were approached by Fred Ossanna to be the restaurant and kitchen managers at his hotel, the Park Plaza, on Hennepin Avenue around 13th Street. It was a surprise when I came home from school one day to see this big white Cadillac parked in the driveway. In the house was this slick-looking businessman in discussion with my parents. They accepted the proposal and in a month were in charge of the kitchens and dining rooms at the hotel.
But after a couple of years we were forced into opening our own restaurant when Ossanna was indicted. The feds came one morning and put padlocks on the doors of the hotel. All the elderly permanent residents of the hotel had to move out. We were shut down. When my parents arrived at the hotel that morning they couldn’t get in. The FBI was there monitoring the situation and fortunately did let my parents in to get their record books and tools. But, we were left blowing in the wind.
Nothing like being part of history …
Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park

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Maybe it was preordained that Twin Cities streetcars would have vanished even if criminals hadn’t interfered, but some streetcar cities, like San Francisco, avoided the purge. How did they do that?
Perhaps with more intelligent and forceful leadership, we also could have had a quality transportation system and a much more livable urban environment, but instead, the Twin Cities was known for decades as a major American metro area with no mass transit other than buses.
Even with the light rail added in the last 20 or so years, we still lag.
Frederic J. Anderson, Minneapolis

A Nov. 7 headline reads: “Breaking down where $1T goes.” It purports to give us the detail of where the spending in the recently passed infrastructure bill will be going. However, in the end it is a classic example of why the U.S. population has such a deep distrust of the media when it comes to reporting on the government and a deep distrust of the government when it comes to spending. First of all, the bill is for $1.2 trillion, but I am willing to give room for making the bill easy to understand by rounding it to $1 trillion.
The problem is that by going through the various areas that the article claims to break down, the spending total comes nowhere near $1 trillion, much less $1.2 trillion. Some of the dollar items in the article seem to overlap, but to err on the side of what is quoted, I have added up every item. The total is $502.5 billion. Where is the other $700 billion going? How can an article that purports to inform us where the spending goes only account for less than 50% of that spending? My guess is that the balance of the spending goes to a large swath of pork barrel projects that were handed out to various legislators for their district/state to grease the passage of the bill. I would further speculate that most of these projects have nothing to do with “critical” infrastructure (or, as the president calls it, “once in a generation” infrastructure investment). The press apparently has no interest in reporting on this.
This is a complete disservice to the American public in that not long ago $700 billion would have been considered an outrageous amount for any spending bill above the normal budget. Once again, the American taxpayer is soaked for an inflated bill that largely has nothing to do with the purpose for which it was sold, and the press is absent in telling us what is in it.
Mark Plooster, Plymouth

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A Nov. 7 letter writer says that “the idea that the federal government ‘borrows’ the money it spends is pure fraud.” That’s what the proponents of Modern Monetary Theory believe. That isn’t what the U.S. government believes, nor is it what most economists believe. It is, at this point, a fringe theory that is cited by far-left politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to justify unlimited government spending.
Governments cannot simply print however much money they want. The amount of money circulating in the economy has to be correlated to the amount of work that is being done. In the past, when governments have printed excessive amounts of money, the currency has been devalued, resulting in high inflation. In some cases, inflation has been so high that the currency has become worthless.
It is not a fraud to say the governments must borrow money that they spend if it isn’t covered by tax revenue. That is the mainstream view among economists. The alternative view is Modern Monetary Theory, which is an unproven, academic theory.
James Brandt, New Brighton

Cheers to your photographer, David Joles, for providing such great photos, particularly the one featured in last Sunday’s paper titled “Coming in for a landing.” What a wonderful sight depicting one of the many natural delights we have to enjoy in our amazing state. We spend time in Florida, but this piece reminded us of why we always come back to Minnesota, just like the birds.
Lisa Hoeper, South Pasadena, Fla.

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