Like many other Twin Cities residents, I am finding it hard to come to grips with the closing of downtown Minneapolis' Macy's, aka Dayton's. No matter what you say about changing shopping patterns, especially online shopping, the loss of Dayton's downtown — as anyone over a certain age will forever call it — represents the loss of both an anchor and a flagship for downtown, which in turn represents a center for the metro area.
Recall the time some years back when a special session of the Legislature was called in response to the prospect of an out-of-state takeover of Dayton's. Would downtown Minneapolis and Nicollet Mall be facing what they do now if Dayton's had remained under local control? (Would the Minnesota Orchestra have had its recent painful lockout if its financial backers had been led by a Dayton?) No one can say, really.
Some of our Minneapolis cultural icons do remain, perhaps stronger than ever, like the orchestra and the Guthrie Theater. But that doesn't make it any less sad that others, like Dayton's, have gone by the boards. It shows that Minneapolis, despite a lot of new office towers and a hulking subsidized stadium, may not be the Oz it claims to be.
Winston Kaehler, St. Paul
Repeal fails; fingers are pointed; what's needed is collaboration
So now it's the Democrats' fault that the Republicans' health care replacement bill didn't get enough support. But what I have not yet heard from the Republican leadership or President Trump is an acknowledgment that if they would have worked with the Democrats to find a more palatable compromise, they could have easily passed a decent replacement bill without any buy-in whatsoever from the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus.
It is irresponsible of our elected officials to now wipe their hands of this issue and say "we tried" and let health care for the poor in this country crash and burn.
Jane Friedmann, Minneapolis
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To say President Trump and the GOP suffered a massive political defeat by not passing a new health care plan is absurd. No one with any sense truly expected they would get anything accomplished, because it's a complicated issue that will never be fair to everyone. Some things just don't work.
I believe most Americans would welcome a sensible plan that works for the majority of people, regardless of what party sponsors it. However, that has proved to be far easier said than done.
Jay Gabbert, Plymouth
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I am grateful to the many Minnesota legislators and those constituents who helped to hold off the push to scrap the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps this will create an opportunity for an initiative by our representatives to mediate discussions on potential improvements to the ACA between key policy advocacy organizations such as those representing hospitals, doctors, patients, insurance companies and the Congressional Budget Office. I know that this is not a new idea. (It worked seven years ago.) It makes sense to me that a similar mediation effort would be the best way to generate improvements.
Peter Truitt, St. Paul
What can we do to make road maintenance burdens truly fair?
About the electric vehicle fee being discussed: A March 24 letter writer said that a gas vehicle requires, on average, $172 on road taxes each year. I drive a 2013 Prius, and last year I spent around $200 for my tabs. I still fill up every week. The fee may be appropriate for electric vehicles, but why are we lumping hybrids into the mix? I am more than willing to pay my fair share to maintain the roads I drive on, but I don't think I should have to pay more than that for driving a car that's better for the environment. There has to be a more balanced answer than a flat fee based on the car you drive.
Jeff White, St. Paul
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The recent discussion of a possible surcharge on electric vehicles has caused me to revive an idea that would overhaul the gasoline tax concept by introducing a fairer revenue producer than our current, outmoded method. Let's move toward a vehicle use tax based on the weight of vehicles rather than on fuel purchased for them. Certainly a Ford F-series truck (and its competitors) wear out our highways at a much greater rate than vehicles half (or less) their size. Minnesota could phase in this system over a period of years, maintaining a fuel tax in place while fine-tuning this new approach. Would it also be possible to factor in annual miles driven as well, providing an incentive to those who find ways to use their vehicles less?
Chuck Piehl, Mankato
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A March 23 letter writer is on the right track about having the fossil-fuel industry pay for the pollution it imposes on us all. But instead of a tax, consider an idea that's been getting the attention of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle: Called "carbon fee and dividend," it assesses a carbon fee on the fossil-fuel industry, 100 percent of which is returned to households as a monthly dividend. Economists have demonstrated that this simple market-based approach would create 2.8 million jobs, stimulate the economy, manage climate and energy risks associated with CO2, all while helping businesses and consumers safely make the transition to less damaging energy sources.
Suzannah Y. Ciernia, Northfield
Industry says facts don't support ban, but how about observation?
On Friday as I drove north out of Minneapolis on Interstate 35W, I was sad to see waste plastic bags hanging from fences and decorating plants and trees. I thought of the recent counterpoint by the executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance telling us how wonderful the product is ("Facts don't support column's call for ban on plastic retail bags," March 18).
We all observe many bags with purchases leaving our stores, but a small percentage are recycled. Plastic poses a serious threat to our wildlife that eat and become tangled in this trash. Plastic takes many years to decompose and releases toxins into our soil and water during this long process.
The Minnesota Legislature is trying to ban Minneapolis' effort to reduce plastic bag use, which goes into effect later this year. Gov. Mark Dayton should veto this silly legislation, and all Minnesotans should take personal responsibility to recycle clean plastic bags at grocery stores, and reduce their use of this harmful litter.
Rebecca Wardell Gaertner, Minneapolis
Yeah, but there's this ...
The writer of a March 24 commentary, an American who now lives in Norway, points out the many reasons why Norwegians are so happy, and I fully concur. It is strange, however, that in just a few days Norway will start an annual event condemned by most of the civilized world.
Norway will start a horrific annual tradition — the ruthless slaughter of hundreds of whales.
Whales are awe-inspiring, beautiful beings. We now know they communicate with one another in song, and experience humanlike emotions. But in Norway, every year these amazing creatures are hunted down and killed, then hacked apart to become animal feed and ingredients in beauty products.
Consider this when you are feeling all warm and fuzzy about "happy" Norway.