Kids’ freedom to read, affordable housing, businesses taking political positions

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

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Regarding “Freedom to read under attack — again” (editorial, Aug. 20): I wonder why so many people have so much fear about their kids hearing and learning about an issue or idea that they don’t understand and might want clarity on. Some of the best conversations I have had with my children are ones where they had questions about things they heard at school, both from teachers and other students, many of which I agreed with and many of which I did not. I was never afraid my kids were going to suddenly become something they weren’t; it doesn’t work that way. It seems that conservatives in particular are very worried that if their kids are exposed to a “liberal” viewpoint, they will suddenly join antifa (whatever that means).

Let your kids be exposed to all kinds of viewpoints and help them figure it out on their own. It won’t hurt them; it will help them. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when they don’t have you standing next to them to tell them what to think. If they have questions, they will know where to find you. Like the time my son found out where babies come from in the locker room of his squirt hockey team. In the real world, that is how it works.

David McCuskey, Orono

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The editorial “Freedom to read under attack — again” suggests that Minnesota has minimal problems with book banning in public libraries, with up to 12 challenges per year. First, I don’t think that is minimal to the voices being erased. Second, I suspect there are challenges taking place under the radar. For example, in the Aug. 8 Carver County Library Board meeting, the board heard a challenge to the adult graphic novel “Gender Queer.” The board intends to discuss and potentially make a decision about banning that book during the Sept. 12 board meeting. Nobody was present to speak up in favor of the challenged book on Aug. 8, in part because the challenge was not on the board agenda. The agenda for the September meeting has not yet been published. Based on comments made during the meeting by board members, there is a good chance that this excellent adult book that tells an important story could be banned from the library.

I applaud the Star Tribune’s editorial and I encourage Minnesotans to be vigilant to protect their local libraries from those who would want to restrict your access to important voices and ideas.

Erica Klein, Richfield

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Thank you for the editorial supporting libraries and open access to books. The related article about the Georgia teacher who was fired for reading the storybook “My Shadow is Purple” is a frightening example of the political attempts to censor books that promote the acceptance of differences (“Georgia teacher fired after reading book on gender ID,” Aug. 20). In a recent PBS interview, an author named Ann Patchett identified a major problem in her comment: “The people who are banning books don’t care about books.” And I suspect that they also don’t read books.

Susan Everson, St. Paul

REAL ESTATE

In response to the Sunday, Aug. 13 front-page spread about downtown Minneapolis becoming the area’s fastest-growing neighborhood (“Downtown’s hope: Housing”), I’m compelled to comment that, while of course I’m happy to see our metro area grow and thrive, I’m concerned that stories like these perpetuate a cycle of exalting the shiny veneer of Class A real estate (the premium real estate often categorized as the highest-quality buildings available in a given market) at the expense of coverage on the urgent and mounting crisis facing those of us working in the affordable housing space. We’re nonprofit affordable housing developers leaning in on mission, operating on tight financial margins and, more often than not, housing the hardest to house. The fight to hold the line on preserving the housing we currently own (including many properties located downtown) and producing more housing is extremely difficult and challenging, to say the least.

This is not necessarily a critique of the reporter but rather a question to all of us: How do we give equal attention to that which isn’t as sparkly? Without a doubt, downtowns and their vitality are important in the urban economic development narrative of the region. To be sure, there has been prolific writing on the topic of affordable housing by this outlet and others; however, when I find myself daily in the fight to navigate the needs of residents, communities, lenders and lawmakers in the quest to preserve and develop affordable housing, which by the way is getting more difficult every day, it is difficult to share without some reservation the joy of a downtown residential boom when many cannot find a place to call home.

A recent Minneapolis Federal Reserve article speaks to the linkage of economic growth and housing affordability and the importance of keeping our eyes on the prize of producing and preserving affordable housing. The downtown core is a vital component of this in growing livable neighborhoods along with our thriving suburbs. What’s also important in this narrative is the recognition of the challenges nonprofit housing developers — as the backbone of affordable housing production — are facing and will continue to face as they work to stabilize their organizations post-pandemic while simultaneously working with stakeholders to ensure a sense of urgency on the issue to combat the forces of complacency that may not value affordable housing and its economic contribution to our region and state.

Eric Anthony Johnson, Minneapolis

The writer is president and CEO of Aeon.

BUSINESS

The commentary “Target finds waffling bad for business” (Opinion Exchange, Aug. 22) misses the point of how business should relate to social (and political) causes. The issue isn’t what it should do; it’s what it shouldn’t do. Rather than fawning over causes and politics, it should simply withdraw from the conversation. Business knows that causes and politics are using it for publicity and, of course, as a source of money.

Business needs a backbone to stop this nonsensical cycle. Business can (and should) treat all people with consideration, fairness and respect no matter the circumstances, beliefs or cause. Remember the Golden Rule. Business doesn’t have to agree with or support any cause in order to be a good corporate citizen. It should leave support for social and political causes to its employees, who can act on their own behalf as concerned and informed citizens.

The popular arguments for business being socially and politically active start off as fulfilling some expanded role for business but most often have to do with brand perception and “likability.” That perspective can be short-lived and is thus wrongheaded. Ask Target and Anheuser-Busch. It’s also an ever-shifting landscape as the enthusiasm for causes is very fluid. Ask Black Lives Matter.

So when will there be a major business that will develop enough of a backbone to stop getting tangled up in things that often hurt rather than enhance? Where is the CEO (and board) who will clearly say that their business will no longer donate its good name or resources to support any social cause or political movement — done, over, nada! They will state that their focus will be on running responsible, thriving businesses, as they know that’s the best way for them to make their contribution to all of us.

Charles Wanous, Bloomington

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