About five years ago I signed up for Nick Coleman’s “Opinion Writing” class offered by the Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis (“Nick Coleman, 1950-2018: A fierce champion of the underdog,” May 17). I’d enjoyed Nick’s column for many years in both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press. By then Nick was gone from both papers, not because he was a lousy reporter who didn’t know his job but because he was a good reporter who insisted on doing his job. He was a watchdog, truth-teller and voice of the voiceless; his journalistic motto was: “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

When we threw out good, tough, straight-shooting, suffer-no-fools reporters and opinion writers like Coleman, we often replaced them with partisan hacks who had not been trained as journalists and operated under no such existential do-good mottoes, writers who offered their opinions based on their narrow and limited experiences and were hired for their conservative credentials alone. Writers whose mottoes might be closer to the things Ayn Rand wrote, like: “I am a man (woman) who does not exist for others” or “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?”

Now we watch as the president openly vilifies the free press and sends out his minions to stuff countless lies into the ears of hapless reporters. What I wouldn’t give to see Nick Coleman take on this White House. And I can imagine him thinking aloud to an imaginary Ayn Rand and all the rest of her comfortable companions — “Who’s going to stop you? — people like me.”

David Leussler, Minneapolis

SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL

Don’t spend that money; future is upon us, and it looks like this

So the Metropolitan Council is again planning for more clankity-clank light-rail expansion despite rising cost projections (“Southwest light rail cost rises to $2 billion,” May 16). If light rail made sense when the first leg of it was built in the Twin Cities almost 20 years ago, it doesn’t make any sense now. Everything I’ve read says that self-driving electric cars will be here and available to summon in five years — about when the new Southwest leg is done. New-car sales will fall off a cliff. Solar power is heading toward a dollar a watt — almost free. New houses will be built with no garages, and there will be no need for parking ramps.

This is not pie-in-the-sky baloney; it’s real, and it’s closer than the Met Council apparently thinks. Uber is cheap now, but wait until there are no driver costs and fuel is nearly free.

Gregg Anderson, Minnetonka

• • •

Hennepin County taxpayers will be on the hook for the $145 million increase in the cost of the Southwest light-rail project. Let’s break this down.

Using official population estimates, that’s about $117 per person for a project that is expected to provide benefits for 50 years, or $2.34 per person per year, or the cost of a tank of gas at today’s prices every 18 years. I call that a good deal.

Richard Adair, Minneapolis

IMMIGRATION

Trump calls people ‘animals,’ and it is, sadly, emblematic

What have we become as Americans when immigrants are called animals? (“Trump defends ‘animals’ remark, says he’ll always use it,” StarTribune.com, May 17).

Where is our heart? Where is our soul? The hatred heaped on immigrants in this time is far beyond the bounds of human decency, and it grieves me. Children are separated from parents; families are split as a father or mother is deported; businesses are examined to find illegal workers; private entities are exploring opening more facilities to lock up more people. No longer are we doing this to criminals; we are doing it to law-abiding and working people.

I want to be proud of my country, but what we are doing is not making us great again. It is the destruction of everything we stand for. It is shameful, and I believe God is crying over what America has become.

Linda J. House, Minnetonka

FARM BILL

Here’s what people with disabilities have at stake in vote

The connection between people with disabilities and a U.S. House vote on the farm bill might not seem obvious, but for me that connection is very clear. Approving the current House bill could cause many Minnesotans to lose their food support, including some people with disabilities.

The House bill calls for cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that could affect 2 million Americans, according to advocacy groups like the Arc of the United States. This program helps hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans buy the food they need; like me, about 100,000 of those SNAP recipients have a disability.

As a single parent, I was able to get through tough times because of SNAP, when I didn’t have anything else to feed my two children. Now, as an adult with a brain injury living on limited income, I still rely on SNAP to help me put healthy food on my table. A number of friends of mine are veterans and have disabilities, and they rely on SNAP, too. The SNAP cuts proposed in the House farm bill could jeopardize their food support, because they might not be able to get the necessary certification from the Social Security Administration to qualify for exemptions to the cuts.

A vote is scheduled for Friday. I urge all of Minnesota’s U.S. representatives to vote “no.” We can and should do better as a country.

Mary Ann Padua, Bloomington

• • •

I recently called the D.C. office of my U.S. representative, Erik Paulsen, to express my opinion about cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the farm bill. I identified myself and my ZIP code and proceeded to register my objections to SNAP cuts, citing the problem of hunger in Minnesota for adults and children.

The staffer listened until I said “in light of Mr. Paulsen’s votes on tax reductions, we will be watching his vote to restrict food programs for the hungry.” The phone clicked: I was hung up on! I immediately dialed back and asked why. The staffer said he did not hang up on me; we had said our goodbyes. I said that was not true and asked his name. No response. I stated my right to express my opinion and asked his name. Again, no response. We were still connected, but there was no sound coming from his end. I suspect he muted the line and set the phone down.

At no point did I raise my voice or say anything disrespectful to him or about Paulsen.

Mr. Paulsen is not truly my representative in Congress if he and his staff will not listen to my opinions. Sad to say, but my treatment on the phone from his staff is consistent with Paulsen’s avoidance of constituent town halls. The citizens of the Third Congressional District deserve better.

Rebecca Monson, Plymouth

PRESIDENTIAL PREROGATIVES

Nontreaty agreements are, yes, susceptible to change

On May 17, editorial cartoonist Steve Sack published a list of three things with expiration dates: milk, a credit card and an accord with the United States government — an executive agreement. The underlying nature of an executive agreement is in the title: executive. It is the duty of the executive to carry out the duty of the agreement, which is not a treaty.

If President Barack Obama wanted the U.S. to remain in the Iran nuclear deal, he should’ve gone through the U.S. Senate to ratify it as a treaty. That avenue is open for presidents who don’t want to see an executive agreement fizzle upon arrival of a new administration. Just like NAFTA, another executive agreement, it is the prerogative of the president to execute it.

The U.S. doesn’t diminish its international reputation by scrapping an executive order, especially one that hasn’t been enforced by more than one administration. In fact, it is a function of American democracy: The voters get to decide if they think the U.S. should remain in these agreements. It just so happens the people’s will was withdrawal from the Iran agreement.

Nathan Dull, St. Peter, Minn.

ROYAL WEDDING

Solo walk would be admirable

With the kerfuffle surrounding who is going to walk Meghan Markle down the aisle, it occurs to me this would have been a great time to challenge the tradition of a bride needing to have someone walk her down the aisle and, much worse, “give her away” (“Meghan’s father may be a no show,” May 16). Ms. Markle is a strong, independent woman. How wonderful if she would make this walk by herself to meet her groom.

Darlene M. Olson, Golden Valley