The Star Tribune Editorial Board’s Feb. 10 endorsement of Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau for another three-year term rests on some shaky logic. Yes, the chief is certainly a politically correct choice for the job, and, yes, she is instituting some novel police programs. But a police chief’s success is measured most by one critical statistic: Did crime rates rise or fall during the chief’s tenure? Rates of violent crime have been rising during almost half of Harteau’s term. And “nuisance” crimes and street harassment have reached levels that have caused affected business owners to band together and petition the chief and the mayor. The safety of Minneapolis citizens must be foremost, and Harteau must convince them that she has a viable plan to bring the rate of violent crime down in order to win a second term.
Don Piontek, Eden Prairie
Advocates of special prosecutor seem most to want a conviction
Commentary writers Jason Sole and Rachel Wannarka (“Stop turning to grand juries when cops kill,” Feb. 11) propose that police officers involved in the shootings of black citizens be deprived of their Fifth Amendment rights to a grand jury indictment and instead be subject to some sort of a special prosecutor hired specifically to convict police officers. Since juries have a much higher standard for conviction than does a grand jury, perhaps Sole and Wannarka are looking for specially appointed juries? Implicit in their commentary is that Minneapolis police officers Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg probably should be convicted in the shooting of Jamar Clark, despite the case’s not having yet gone to a grand jury nor Sole’s and Wannarka’s having seen the full evidence in the case. There is something to be said about knowing the facts before reaching a conclusion.
Michael Flannigan, Excelsior
MINNEAPOLIS COMMON AREAS
City of lakes, city of concrete: Will that be our reputation?
It’s official. Now, Minneapolis will have two half-baked attractions for people to visit when the city hosts the 2018 Super Bowl. East Commons Park and Nicollet Mall (“New Nicollet Mall plan swaps pavers for concrete,” Feb. 11). The designs for both projects far exceeded the funding available to actually build them. In the meantime, the “designers” walked away with millions and counting as they scale back the original designs and arrive at vanilla.
The Nicollet Mall redesign is especially outrageous. Removing beautiful and sustainable granite throughout the mall and replacing all of the sidewalk with different-colored concrete. Wow! That should look good in a couple of years. Most major cities in the world use pavers or natural stone in important urban areas for aesthetic and maintenance reasons. Not Minneapolis. A 12-block stretch of multicolored concrete. How creative. Might have been worth investing the money to maintain what we already had and spend the money on finishing East Commons. Where in the world is the leadership and vision?
Roger Grothe, Mendota Heights
• • •
In Santa Monica, Calif., they have the Third Street Promenade. In Boulder, Colo., it is Pearl Street. Pedestrian-only, walking-friendly, art-filled destinations with shopping, dining and entertainment. Yes, pedestrian-only in a city. In New York City, an area of Times Square was closed off so that people can enjoy the sights and sounds.
It is exciting news that Minneapolis is undertaking a $50 million Nicollet Mall renovation. I am so disappointed in the planners. What kind of design for a city center includes buses? Please review and redo; Minneapolis needs Nicollet Mall truly transformed, not just updated.
Christine Chambers, Shoreview
• • •
The change in pavement for the new Nicollet Mall may actually be better for merchants. Some years ago, I attended a short course at Harvard University for practicing professionals on the design of retail spaces. The instructors were national experts on the subject. They presented results of studies on retail pavements. Unit pavers tended to reduce window shopping. Shoppers walking on them looked at where they were stepping more than they did with concrete pavement. Window displays are important to attract people to come into stores. It takes only seconds for a pedestrian to walk past stores. Seconds taken to “watch your step” instead of looking in store windows are enough to make an important difference. These experts recommended flat concrete sidewalk pavements extending 12 to 15 feet out from storefronts to avoid this.
We like unit pavers because they are human-scale, warm in color and different from the plain concrete we see everywhere. In designing concrete pavement, the use of tooled patterns (grooves), varied panel sizes, panel patterns and integration of color pigments into the concrete can achieve distinctive results. These techniques work with the nature of concrete as a material and, with creative design, can be used to achieve some of the same results we like about unit pavers in a different way.
James Corner is one of the best urban-design landscape architects in America today. I am sure his firm will deliver something very good in keeping with this pavement change.
Robert D. Sykes, Edina
The writer is a retired associate professor of landscape architecture.
THE 2016 CAMPAIGN
Trump’s growing support, as explained by human behavior
Have we forgotten entirely about the bandwagon effect? The Feb. 11 commentary by Ramesh Ponnuru attempts to divine the reasons for Donald Trump’s continuing success, but some of it — some unknowable but significant amount — is due to the bandwagon effect: “the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others.” The reverse is also true: Look at what happened to Ben Carson. As soon as he fell from the top or near-top position, his decline snowballed. Few want to have to admit that they voted for the “loser,” in Trump’s parlance. They want to claim they were helpful kingmakers.
Some hefty chunk of people plan to say that they voted but don’t want to do the work of sorting out the candidates, or simply don’t have the personal convictions upon which to judge them; they want others to do that for them. Those that have, get; those that don’t, don’t.
What I want to see is the hard reporting of Trump’s bankruptcies, his relationships with partners and elected officials, ex-wives, etc. Those people might have opinions based upon actual facts and experiences. Then we may start to see some hard voting grounded in hard facts, not just demagoguery. And please, make Trump tell us exactly how he would deliver on his “yuge” promises.
Mary McLeod, St. Paul
• • •
In his despair over the choice of presidential candidates, a Feb. 11 letter writer harps on age: 68 … 74 … 69, and with a 70-plus-year-old lurking in the wings! Maybe the letter writer should do a short study of the ages of past U.S. presidents and other respected world leaders. Some people start losing mental capacity in their 50s; others are sharp into their 90s. This year’s presidential race is difficult enough without his throwing in ageism.
Jane Thomson, St. Paul