Dear Santa Claus:
It’s been quite a while since Virginia first wrote to you. Thanks to her, we know you exist, as reaffirmed by almost all newspaper editors every year at this time. But Virginia forgot to include her wish list, so here it is, albeit a bit late.
For the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press
A literate daily newspaper is vital to a functioning democracy and to uniting our communities. Recently, newspapers have suffered a decline in advertising revenues, in part due to the Internet and in part due to changing reading habits. Study after study has shown that regular newspaper reading has become the habit of an increasingly older demographic. It’s gotten so bad that newspaper obituary columns are frequently the list of former readers. Soon, editors will be sending representatives to funerals, and in the place of flags in veterans’ obituary notices, years of readership service will appear. Both of our daily newspapers have gotten physically smaller, and if this trend is not arrested soon, I am sure the motto of our favorite daily paper will be “all the news that fits.” So please, Santa, for the benefit of our First Amendment and all of us who treasure literacy, please give both papers a 25 percent increase in readership—avid readers under the age of 39 with individual disposable incomes in excess of $100,000 annually. And while you’re at it, double the advertising revenue.
For Northwest Airlines
Hub airports and the major airlines that make them possible create a business climate that couldn’t exist in their absence. Minnesota has a disproportionate number of corporate headquarters. Minnesota also has a disproportionate number of days below freezing; you would generally be warmer in this state if you chose to sit in your refrigerator. Fast and efficient global transportation is essential to our quality of economic life. Santa, please give Northwest Airlines a 50 percent increase in last-minute, full-fare business travelers.
Also, give the machinists their jobs back. And please make sure that Northwest’s extra revenue is enough so that when the company merges with Delta Airlines, their combined headquarters is in a new facility in the Twin Cities. We can rely upon you for transportation only one night a year. For the rest of the year, we depend on Northwest.
For the people of Minnesota
The people of Minnesota are hard working and, at least until now, have emphasized the importance of education to a degree not found among our neighbor states. But we have leaders who are not the equals of their followers. Last summer, to everyone’s embarrassment, the government had to stop operating, because our elected leaders could not trust one another and get their jobs done on time. This is not the first time we have had dysfunction in our government beyond the usual “time out” period surrounding an election. Dysfunctional government was the order of the day in the preceding administration, and we ask that it not be so in the next administration. Santa, please give our state intelligent, hard-working, pragmatic, and effective leaders who can once again unite this state. These will probably have to be people who have no further or higher political ambitions, leaders who will do what they feel is right while leveling with the public about fiscal realities—leaders like Arne Carlson (but, please, if you send us another Arne, give him a sense of humor).
For the elected leaders of Minnesota
In a democracy, over time, you tend to get the government you deserve. Part of the blame for the state of our elected leadership lies with the expectations of the electorate. Santa, please give our political leaders a better electorate. Those leaders deserve an electorate that does not believe that we can have lower tuition, better transit, free prescription drugs, better health care, better schools, sports stadia, cheaper gasoline, lower taxes, and property tax relief. Clearly, Santa, our elected leaders deserve better. We all do.
Some of my little friends claim there is no Santa, but we know that you can deliver on all of the above.
Taxpayer and Descendent of Virginia,
Vance K. Opperman