“I forbid you to go to Southdale” is what my mother used to say to us. We were, after all, city kids, and our shopping trips involved quick trips downtown on the No. 1 bus rather than long car rides to the newly built first mall in America in Edina. If our trip wasn’t to Dayton’s or Woolworth’s or for a meal at Cafe di Napoli or the Asuka, it was to drop off a sibling at Watson’s Gymnastics School, nestled above the Gopher Theatre, where “Deep Throat” and “The Devil and Miss Jones” enjoyed a continuous run. Entering on 6th and Hennepin, climbing the well-worn, steep and narrow staircase, it was a surprise to come upon the parallel bars, vaults and mats where Twin Cities gymnasts young and old were honing their skills. In “Old Minneapolis,” this juxtaposition was not unusual, and despite our snickers at the X-rated sign on the Gopher’s marquee, the nearby presence of a Chinese restaurant, the Nankin Café, reassured us that all was well! In “Minneapolis ’60 going on ’16” (Variety, Jan. 23), Rick Nelson laments the loss of that same Minneapolis. In the early 1980s, city planners and developers, trying to compete with the conveniences and commonplace of the new American shopping mall, replaced that notorious and glorious block on 6th and Hennepin with the blight that we call City Center. Mistakes were to be made again and again: Riverplace, the Conservatory, parking lot after parking lot, Block E. Indeed, the streetscape has deteriorated, and though the influx of new development in old buildings in other parts of downtown is encouraging, the places that reflected the pulse of humanity — its hope, its shabbiness, its imperfection, its seediness — have been lost and continue to be lost (Nye’s!) forever. In Minneapolis, progress has always been about “cleansing,” and perhaps it is for this reason that we continue to struggle with our identity as a city.

Sarah Streitz, Minneapolis

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

Perhaps it’s high time we get rid of the profit motive

Regarding the high costs of prescriptions drugs (“Curb high cost of prescription drugs,” editorial, Jan. 23), here’s a thought. In 2014, the Minnesota Public Benefit Corporation Act was signed into law. Unlike regular corporations, which by law must act in the monetary interest of their shareholders (generally meaning to maximize profits), public benefit corporations can elect to pursue a specific public-benefit purpose, such as “to provide prescription drugs at an affordable cost.” They aren’t nonprofits, but the overall motivation is legally distinct from those of existing, publicly held drug companies. Granted, I don’t know much about the pharmaceutical industry, but if there ever was a clear niche for a public-benefit corporation, this would seem to be a good fit, and it might result in more affordable drugs.

Doug Norris, Brooklyn Park

• • •

Pharmaceutical companies should earn enough to finance research, development, product safety and a reasonable return on investment.

But as suggested by the editorial, what we have are some significant price-gouging, anti-competitive behavior, bans on importing and on price negotiation, and a Congress unwilling to address the problems.

Maybe it’s time for a difficult but different solution: Get government (or perhaps foundation-backed nonprofits) into the drug business. Probably not possible with the feds, but perhaps a state, a large city or a consortium of government units could become a drug company for some combination of manufacturing, wholesaling, mail-order retailing, importing — whatever works.

From mail to rail to broadband to hospitals and clinics, government has gotten into businesses when or where private enterprise was seen as unable, unwilling or untrustworthy. Nearly a century ago, for instance, North Dakota got into banking and grain milling to counteract corporate interests in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

For cancer patients and others fearing medical bankruptcy or death, providing affordable drugs has got to feel at least as important as such government functions as collecting waste, plowing snow or running liquor stores.

Robert Franklin, Medina

 

THE 2016 ELECTION

Ranked-choice voting would help; plus, who is Sanders’ VP?

Ranked-choice voting would have provided an ounce of prevention for “the ferocious ways the [Republican Party’s] mainstream candidates … are attacking one another” (“Republican leaders’ alarm grows as Trump, Cruz soar,” Jan. 27). In pursuit of a majority-rule endorsement, every competitor in such a crowded field needs to be the second- or third-choice candidate of the core supporters of other candidates. Ranked-choice voting thus incentivizes cooperation and consensus-seeking among candidates instead of food fights and bloodletting. Moreover, a ranked-choice ballot asking for one’s top five candidates would enable Republican voters to winnow a field of 14 at the ballot box. Our traditional, diversity-challenged voting system defers that function to pollsters, party pooh-bahs and PACs.

No one knows what the GOP’s “pound of cure” will be, but we can expect a less-democratic solution than ranked-choice voting.

Thomas L. Kuhlman, Eden Prairie

• • •

The Jan. 27 article “A Clinton-Castro ticket gets put to an early test in Iowa” raises an intriguing and crucial question. Who would Bernie Sanders possibly choose for his running mate? I wonder how many other people would like to have that question answered before casting “votes” at their caucus on March 1. Sanders is only a few months older than I am. My health is good, and his appears to be, but because of age we are vulnerable. A vice president for Sanders is important for that reason alone, plus the related possibility that Sanders would be a single-term president. A younger running mate would be a prime candidate for the subsequent presidency. That’s obviously important. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has considered all of this. What is the Sanders campaign waiting for?

Jim Bartos, Brooklyn Park

 

WOUNDED WARRIORS

Help the vets, not the execs

Praise for CBS, the Star Tribune, Fox News and any other media outlets that expose the dirty tactics the Wounded Warrior Project uses to prey on the elderly and anyone else they can entice to send them money using wounded veterans in ads to fill the pockets of top executives for their organization (“ ‘Wounded Warrior’ spent lavishly on itself, ex-staff say,” Jan. 29, and “Instead of criticizing expenses, look at how much good is done,” Readers Write, Jan. 30).

If you go online and look up the salaries of the top-tier people running it, no other organizations helping veterans to the tune they say they are make the salaries that they make.

I would suggest that anyone wanting to donate to help disabled veterans and families of disabled vets first research that organization, and really see how much is really going to help vets — and not into the pockets of that organization’s top executives.

Chuck Jones, Fridley