The Flint, Mich., municipal water situation is so poorly explained that I see ignorant and plain stupid things stated daily. Two points:

First, the simple story of Flint’s water problems is that the city decided to save money by switching from buying Detroit’s finished water, then did not treat its new surface water properly with the standard steps, including adding anti-corrosion chemicals to the finished water. So the new water dissolved lead from the old feeder pipes and those in the old houses of Flint. The city made two simple technical mistakes, then the city and especially the state made the situation much worse by incredibly poor decisions about both fixing and explaining the problem.

Second, this does not prove or even support a problem with the structure, actions or existence of the Environmental Protection Agency — just the opposite. The “states’ rights” aspect codified in the Clean Water Act gives the state primary responsibility and obligation to issue permits and inspect municipal compliance. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality botched that, not the EPA. Thanks to the Clean Water Act and the EPA, such water health incidents are so very rare that the public takes its pure water for granted. When otherwise rational people start up about the U.S. succumbing to “socialism,” a key definitional point of which is that the government owns the means of production, I help them realize their blissful ignorance by turning on their kitchen tap, then remind them they pay about $2 per thousand gallons of purified and delivered water they rarely think twice about drinking.

David Paulson, Minnetonka

The writer is a consultant in water treatment technology.

NICOLLET MALL

Funding snag offers a chance to rethink. Be practical.

Sorry to read about the snag in funding for the Nicollet Mall (front page, Jan. 21). My first thought is: How could they begin the project before having the funds clearly promised? Immediately after that, I recalled two aspects of the renovation that I think deserve reconsideration.

While I am not an expert planner or developer, we do walk the mall several times each week, in all seasons, since our move here in 2006. This would be a tremendous opportunity to construct a true pedestrian mall — moving all wheeled traffic (except wheelchairs) to other streets. Then folks could enjoy the proposed new amenities to their fullest. Bus stops could still be within two or three blocks of all segments.

Please also reconsider the walking surfaces — whether the above transformation is adopted or not. The fancy concrete blocks that previously were used to “dress up the place” (before the current asphalt to cover the infrastructure work) were too slippery with rain or snow, making walking much riskier than it needed to be. Since we doubtless will have more precipitation, please thoroughly assess the slickness of the proposed pavers, etc., before they are purchased.

John T. (Jack) Garland, Minneapolis

• • •

Why use any pavers on the Nicollet Mall? How many times have the pavers around the Hennepin County Government Center been replaced? Pavers just don’t work in our climate. Use concrete for the street and the sidewalks, and spend the money on amenities that will make a difference — trees, seating, transit shelters and artwork.

Tim Bardell, St. Louis Park

• • •

Reading of the excessive bids for certain Nicollet Mall projects recalls the suggestion I had submitted to the Nicollet Mall working group: a suggestion that Nicollet be made into a necklace of small parks from the Gateway to Loring. No pavement, no vehicles. Just walkways, gardens, grass and trees with occasional plazas for gatherings, sculptures and fountains. Picture a stroll along those 10 blocks moving from one microenvironment to another. Sidewalk cafes undisturbed by the noise and fumes of buses. Truly a signature urban mall. It’s not too late.

Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park

 

RENTAL PROPERTIES

Inspections don’t intrude on tenants but rather protect them

One must give the far right credit for its uncanny ability to cloak base economic motives with the aura of protecting the Constitution and the downtrodden. In a fine example of Orwellian double-think, commentary writer Anthony Sanders (“Tenant’s privacy rights should be protected,” Jan. 19) would have us believe that his fight to prevent the inspection of rental housing is for the purpose of protecting tenants from illegal government searches. While there are few, if any, protections for renters in unsafe housing in most of Minnesota, the Institute for Justice apparently will not rest until it is impossible for any city or county to regulate rental housing in any meaningful way.

Sanders claims that inspectors in Golden Valley are proposing to go “nosing around your bathroom to make sure you’ve kept it clean.” Nonsense. Housing inspections — most often if not always done with prior notice — are the only way to ensure that a commercial enterprise (renting housing) is practiced in a manner that protects the health and safety of tenants. No one has ever been cited merely for keeping an unclean bathroom.

Although it is no doubt an inconvenience, most landlords know — and the U.S. Supreme Court agrees — that a reasonable inspection program is a proper regulation of commercial enterprise and not an illegal government search. Renters in substandard housing are there primarily because they cannot afford anything better. The same renters are not likely to rat out their landlords, because they know that they might end up homeless as a result. The Minnesota Supreme Court can take a stand for truly protecting the rights of tenants by agreeing with the U.S. Supreme Court that licensing and inspecting rental housing is not only legal but necessary in a world where the bottom line is too often the only consideration.

Tom Salkowski, Buffalo, Minn.

 

POLICE OFFICER’S APOLOGY

Um, was there a kinder way to have declared: ‘Run them over’?

Reading the Jan. 21 article “Cop says sorry for ‘run them over’ rant,” I must admit I was dumbfounded by St. Paul police Sgt. Jeff Rothecker’s apology for a Facebook comment about a march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Rothecker admits that his post was “insensitive,” “a poor choice of words” and “a message I did not intend.” I, for one, would be very interested in his intended choice of words, put more sensitively, for “run them over.”

Bill Scheel, Stillwater

• • •

During my time serving in the U.S. Army, I had a 1st sergeant in Germany whose three-day-weekend safety briefing to my artillery battery always included the usual things about drugs, drinking and driving, etc. Then, he added with the tone of a revival preacher, holding his hat over his heart and looking up to the sky, with his right arm fully extended horizontally: “And woe be unto the man who does something stupid.”

It seems that Rothecker could have benefited from such a briefing from Top Jones.

How sad and disappointing for all of us that one who is trusted to protect us — every one of us — would suggest taking such actions and further explain in the post how to avoid accountability. This kind of hate is like a loose garden hose fully on — you never know who will get hit with it next. Today it was “them.” Tomorrow it may be you. Ultimately, it is really about all of us.

M.H. Donahue, St. Paul