Readers Write: Presidential race, criminal justice, Mary Moriarty, mental health, City Hall bells

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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I’m disappointed by U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips’ exploration of a potential challenge to President Joe Biden (“Phillips is being urged to run for president,” July 29). I’ve been a supporter of Phillips’ moderate positions and focus on legislative solutions rather than performative politics. His foray into challenging a seated president of his own party, however, indicates a level of naiveté and hubris that we supporters may have previously missed. Every single representative and senator in Washington can surround themselves with individuals who are quick to say to them, “You would make a great president.” Seasoned, mature politicians, however, should be able to discern between reality and false flattery. We can only hope the Democratic fundraisers and contributors Phillips is reportedly meeting with in New York City this week deliver a firm “no.”

Glenn Miller, Minneapolis

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

I read with sadness the commentary written by Cory Franklin regarding the parole granted to 73-year-old Leslie Van Houten (“Victims forgotten as Manson family killer goes free,” Opinion Exchange, July 31). I feel sorry for him. As a teenager under the influence of a master manipulator, she committed a horrific act. We can think of many leaders who have caused their followers to commit terrible acts, thinking they were doing right. She was properly convicted of her crime, barely escaped the death penalty and has been incarcerated for 53 years. Isn’t that enough? As a citizen, I believe that the state’s acts should be better than the worst acts of troubled individuals. For that reason, I am against the death penalty in all cases. As a Christian, I believe in the possibility of change and the ability to reform one’s life, much as Saul changed to St. Paul. Van Houten did not just “check boxes.” She had to work to get a degree, and she worked to help others. She has expressed remorse for those vile actions on countless occasions.

No one will forget the Manson murders. The victims are not forgotten. But what good is there in keeping an elderly person in jail who for decades has worked hard to atone for her sins? When we lose our sense of compassion, we lose our soul as a country.

Dan Solarz, Minneapolis

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My condolences go out to the family of Steven Markey, and I back them 100% on their outrage for the comments and the outcome of the punishment or lack thereof that Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty has planned for Husayn Braveheart for his involvement in this young man’s death (“‘It’s an insult to my son’: Family decries plea deal,” Aug. 1).

Moriarty states, “My job as county attorney is to look at where Braveheart is right now.” Ah, sorry, I don’t think so. Your job is to make sure the criminal is punished and pays the consequences for his crime.

She also stated that the focus needs to be on rehabilitation, not punishment.

Really, the kid needs to serve his time for taking an innocent person’s life and work on rehabilitation during that time, not be out walking free with society hoping he changes his ways.

How would you feel, Ms. Moriarty, if this was your relative who had been shot down with a semiautomatic?

I read that Braveheart didn’t have a great upbringing, but that doesn’t give anyone a pass to not pay for their crime.

Prayers to the Markey family for healing and justice.

Deb Schaefgen, Maple Grove

STATE PATROL SHOOTING

The State Patrol shooting of Ricky Cobb II on July 31 left me with questions (“Man, 33, shot dead by State Patrol on I-94,” Aug. 1). Was there any evidence of a weapon in this encounter? Is it protocol for the State Patrol to shoot everyone who flees from a stop? Death is not the penalty for fleeing from officers. Every officer-involved shooting that results in death tears at the fabric of the community and decreases trust in police. The public needs to know that shooting a citizen was the only option available to the officer. That’s what I want to know.

Robert D. Berger, St. Louis Park

MENTAL HEALTH

I was surprised to see recent articles that talked about Minneapolis’ mental health crisis response team without acknowledgment that mental health crisis response teams are not a new intervention or a unique pilot program, but rather an existing (and critical) part of our existing mental health system.

Contracting with a private provider connected to just one city may be a new approach, but every county in Minnesota maintains a 24/7 mobile crisis team (and have for years). In fact, Hennepin County’s team, called COPE (which covers the city of Minneapolis along with the rest of the county), has been providing mobile crisis services since 2006 and responds to thousands of calls every year.

Unfortunately, these services are notoriously underfunded. However, with the right resources (such as those the city of Minneapolis has set aside) and connections to the 911 dispatch system, they can play a critical role in providing mental health crisis services.

Mobile crisis response is a difficult service to provide and staff, so it’s not surprising to hear about the struggles the Minneapolis team has experienced over the last two years.

As we continue to build out our mental health system to meet growing needs, we must build upon the existing crisis system, not create new layers that cause confusion. In the future, let’s ensure that we leverage experienced crisis teams, provide adequate funding to them and, at the very least, acknowledge the mobile crisis response system that existed long before the new Minneapolis team got started.

Shannah Mulvihill, St. Paul

The writer is executive director, Mental Health Minnesota.

BELLS

People who make our communities better places to live often go unheralded. One of them recently died.

Tony Hill was 57. He was the driving force behind the bell concerts that ring from the clock tower in Minneapolis City Hall. He helped create and organize the free concerts performed by volunteers nearly every Friday lunch hour every summer and on occasional Sundays, holidays and memorable occasions like the deaths of famous locals such as Kirby Puckett and Prince — scores of bell concerts every year.

He often played the bells himself, including midnight performances every New Year’s Eve.

He was meticulous about researching which famous songwriters had birthdays on the dates of bell concerts and then building his programs around their compositions. He was fussy about keeping track of when particular tunes were no longer covered by copyright laws and could enter the public domain — although I expect most composers would be delighted to have their works played on the bells anytime, copyrights or not. He built a library of sheet music that bellplayers could use for their own programs.

He dreamed of raising enough money to have the 15 bells tuned and to add more to broaden the playable repertoire and to make Minneapolis known internationally for its bellplaying capabilities.

He also discouraged volunteers from playing certain tunes, such as some by famous American composer Stephen Foster, because their lyrics contained Black dialects considered demeaning generations later. That revived the issue of whether melodies should be judged on their own merits regardless of lyrics or the backgrounds of their composers.

Tony, a political scientist, spent years earning his Ph.D. from MIT and was proud to add “doctor” to his credentials. A scheduled bell concert at noon on Aug. 11 at City Hall will be dedicated to Tony Hill for championing the chimes that will ring out over downtown Minneapolis long beyond his passing.

Dan Wascoe, Golden Valley

The writer is a retired Star Tribune reporter/columnist and a volunteer bellplayer at Minneapolis City Hall.

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