Letters to the Editor/ November 2018 Bugle  

Opposing NIMBY claim 

In reply to Mary Baker in the October issue of the Bugle: 

NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) is not the issue. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. We know this. From what we understand, Luther Seminary is no longer in dire need of money, according to a Michael Morrow. All the parcels they have sold have helped their situation. We are so grateful to have been able to enjoy the woods, thanks to the Seminary.

If Mary had read the first couple of pages on the savebreckwoods.com website, she would know that our concerns are about losing an historic green space. It’s a natural habitat full of birds, animals, dog walkers, families, students from the U of M and the Seminary taking a short walk to revitalize themselves.

The environmental impact of losing a small but significant corridor that connects the woods to the golf course, Gibbs Farm, the U of M fields, and the Bee Lab is not a small loss. We know there may be development, that was once the edge of the Mississippi and destroy more habitat when a sensitive developer could build near but not through this area.

This is from the Luther Seminary website on the environment. “Caring for God’s creation is an ever evolving topic in the world, especially with each new natural or human made disaster. As stewards of the world, we are called to examine our behavior toward creation. We need to be careful that we maintain good stewardship and do not exploit the wonderful things the earth provides.”

Wouldn’t it be a win-win for all of us if the Seminary would reduce the price or donate the woods? It could be a park for St Anthony Park, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale for the next generations of walkers and visitors to enjoy. It could be an educational experience for the Bell Museum or the U of M Forestry.

Thanks for the wonderful memories and comments on the website. Please keep them coming.

Ann Sisel

Lauderdale resident since 1970.

“Not an either/ or proposition”

I’d like to respond to Mary Baker’s letter “Not in my back forest?”

Like her, I strongly support the need for more affordable housing, as I imagine, do most of those seeking to protect Breck Woods. With more affordable housing and urban density come improved public transit and more local commerce, making for a better quality of life for ALL residents.

However, it is not an either/or proposition. Nor is it a matter of wealthy people trying to keep out people of lower income. Low-income people appreciate—and need—natural spaces just as much as wealthy people do, perhaps more so, because they are less able to travel far from home to find nature.  

The benefits of having a small forest in our midst are numerous. Not only do forests calm our minds and restore our souls, but they filter pollutants from our air and water, and cool the climate. Trees are increasingly important for mitigating the urban heat island effect.

As U of M professor of urban forestry, Gary Johnson, says, “A city without trees is not fit for a dog.” As important as our landscaped trees might be, forests do even more, because they support more complex ecosystems. The larger the forest, the more components of a complex ecosystem it is capable of supporting. Thus, the loss of Breck Woods would also degrade Lauderdale Woods (aka Trolley Woods). That’s why it is imperative that we work to preserve it.

I believe the parcel that Luther is planning to sell includes existing buildings that could be remodeled into affordable housing while keeping Breck Woods intact. As was stated in a Sept. 19 public meeting hosted by Luther Seminary, there would be tax benefits for a buyer who agrees to protect the forest through a deal with the Trust for Public Land, benefits that are not available to non-profits such as Luther. Let’s hope that a buyer comes forward who is willing and able to do that. We can protect Breck Woods and also develop more affordable housing. It’s called smart urban planning.

Lois Braun
Falcon Heights

Supporting Janice Rettman 

We support incumbent Janice Rettman for re-election to Ramsey County commissioner District 3 

As more women enter politics, they infuse fresh perspectives and new vigor into the system. But these new waves of energy do not necessitate washing out incumbent candidates for the sake of change alone. This coming generation must be able to look to seasoned and grounded public servants for not just guidance and leadership, but for some of the essential institutional knowledge that can get lost in the constant shuffle of offices. Tenacity and drive are not exclusive to youth but can be tempered and honed through years of successes and failures, wins and losses, and the tiny and immense labors of local office.

Janice Rettman has energetically served District 3 as our Ramsey County Board commissioner for 21 years. We consider the experience and perspective she’s gained during her tenure an incredible asset to the county and to our community. Prior to being elected to the Board she was a Saint Paul City Council member, the director of the Saint Paul Housing and Information Office, and a VISTA (the domestic version of the Peace Corps tasked with alleviating poverty) volunteer who served our country for several years. For her entire career she has been a public servant.

Janice isn’t your typical elected official. Like many of you, we’ve known her for several years and we each have stories of how she went above and beyond to help us solve problems in our communities. Janice actually listens to people and carefully weighs all sides before making decisions. She isn’t afraid to take unpopular positions, which frustrates some people. Going with the flow just for the sake of getting along is not something Janice will ever do—and we are better because of it. This is a rare quality in a person, it is even more rare in an elected official. She believes that government should be transparent and accessible and that without occasional disagreement and open dialogue there can be no progress.

Janice does not have a curated Instagram page or a robust Twitter following. She doesn’t have a Facebook account on which to post selfies or monologues on identity politics. What Janice has is thousands of personal interactions accumulated over years of service, a track record of successfully collaborating across boundaries for the benefit of her constituents; especially those who are most in need, and a relentless drive to improve people’s lives.

We hope you ask yourself what qualities you value in an elected official and like Janice always does, we hope that you do your homework before you go to the polls.

Patty Lammers
North End resident

Robert McClain
Frogtown resident 

Johnny Howard
Frogtown resident 

The preemption issue

We have an important election coming up on Nov. 6. Among the many issues before us is that of preemption. There have been bills in the Legislature to give the power to the State of Minnesota to nullify laws and ordinances passed by local governments. This particularly applies to ordinances regarding paid sick and family leave, and $15 per hour minimum wage. So far, a preemption law has not been passed.

Let’s not take away power from our local governments which are closest to the people on decisions that most affect their lives. Inquire of your candidates for state office their position regarding preemption. Making paid sick and family available, as well as increasing the minimum wage, will go a long way to reduce poverty in our society.

Ralph Baumgartner

St. Anthony Park

The Menthol ordinance 

In a couple of weeks, St. Paul’s menthol ordinance will kick in and it will save money, suffering and lives. Almost a year ago, the St. Paul City Council voted to restrict the sale of Ementhol tobacco products. This decision will prevent youth from starting to use tobacco, help current smokers quit and ultimately save lives.

Like Bio Freeze, menthol has a cooling sensation. It makes tobacco seem less harsh, which makes it easier to start smoking. It also makes it harder to quit smoking. The tobacco industry has targeted youth, women, African Americans and other minorities for decades with menthol tobacco. The difficulty in quitting has resulted in glaring health disparities in the targeted communities.

This is a big health win for our community. As a health advocate, I’m proud to live in a city that focuses on the health of its residents.

Madeline Bremel
St. Anthony Park

(Editor’s note: St. Paul new menthol ordinance, restricting the sale of menthol cigarettes, is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1 this year)

Supporting Trista MatasCastillo

I first came to know of Trista MatasCastillo’s commitment to community while we were neighbors near Brainerd Avenue in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of Saint Paul. I had heard of her tireless work on behalf of affordable housing efforts, veterans’ services and attempts to better the quality of Ramsey County mental health services.  

My civic work in those days was focused on service with the Saint Paul Long-Range Bonding Commission, Ramsey County Courts, and access to quality and affordable school lunch. Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of working a significant amount of time on any of the same efforts Trista was involved with.

Since then, I have been fortunate to continue my community work as a commission chair and city council member for the city of Falcon Heights. During this time, I have interacted with Trista more frequently and met numerous people who have spoken highly of her knowledge of Ramsey County, energy, and effective advocacy on behalf of Ramsey County residents. I have found her enthusiasm, integrity, optimism, and solid work ethic to be refreshing and inspiring. I am confident that Trista will bring her years of experience as a veteran, non-profit founder, children’s advocate, and Ramsey County legislative aide to better the quality of life for the residents of District 3 going forward. I will proudly cast my ballot for her on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and hope that you will too.

Mark Miazga
Falcon Heights

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