As a frequent pedestrian in downtown Minneapolis, I am very excited to have the Nicollet Mall reopened and construction barriers removed. However, I fear the $50 million of public money spent to improve the mall has been wasted, since one of the biggest problems has not been fixed. This problem is the vast number of private cars, taxis, delivery vans and trucks using this street every day, particularly during business hours.

For years, it has been faster to walk the length of the mall than ride the free bus from one end to the other during business hours, because these drivers park their vehicles illegally up and down the mall to make deliveries, completely disrupting the flow of bus traffic on this narrow, two-lane street. Unfortunately, it looks like this problem is now going to be as bad as ever. In a 15-minute walk along the mall on a recent morning, one day after the remodeled mall was “opened” but weeks before buses are even allowed back on it, we saw a courier van, a taxi and a floral delivery van freely driving and parking along the mall.

In order to make the mall an appealing destination, the city needs to stop all of these private drivers who flagrantly abuse this publicly financed pedestrian/bus street as an entitlement for their own purposes. Denver manages to keep all other traffic off its pedestrian/bus street; why not Minneapolis? If we are not going to restrict access of drivers to the mall, then stop pretending it is a perk to the walkability and livability of Minneapolis and open it up to all drivers, letting the people who actually paid for it use it.

Cheryl Quinn, Minneapolis

CHEMICAL EXPOSURE

Kudos to some retailers on product safety, but not to others

I was happy to read in the Nov. 18 article “Some retailers improve product-safety grades” that Minnesota-based retailers are leaders in detoxing their supply chains. With precarious support at the federal level for environmental and consumer protection laws relating to chemical exposure, it is more important than ever for retailers to create their own chemical policies.

While I applaud the leadership shown by companies such as Target and Best Buy, many others lag behind. Sally Beauty, among others, received an “F” score. As the mother of a tween daughter experimenting with nail polishes and other cosmetic/hair products, it is particularly important to me that retailers examine the toxicity of their cosmetic products, because current regulations are not enough.

Many chemicals used in cosmetics have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm and genetic mutation. The European Union bans 1,328 such chemicals. The USDA by comparison bans or restricts only 11. We need leadership to come from manufacturers and retailers.

Diana Spurgeon, St. Paul

ENTERTAINMENT

Dynamic pricing is just another way to say ‘price-gouging’

Dynamic pricing — what a nice-sounding term. Kind of like what Batman and Robin would use if they started charging for their services (“The new key to good seats: Good timing,” Nov. 19). But back to reality — in fact, dynamic pricing is just a euphemism for old-fashioned price gouging. The fact that more organizations are using it doesn’t make it any more appealing.

Let’s just project into the future a little and see what our marketplace would look like with more dynamic pricing. Say you go into a store for a winter jacket, and the ones in your size are selling well. The jacket you saw advertised in the paper at $99 is now $125. You need to fill your car during rush hour, and you notice that the $2.50 per gallon has “dynamically” been pushed up to $3.25 during the high-demand period of rush hour. After the first snowfall, snowblowers go from $750 to $995, only to be put “on sale” again in late February.

Well, you get the picture. Price-gouging is price-gouging, no matter how nice a name someone puts on it.

David Miller, Mendota Heights

ELDER ABUSE

That scenario could be mine; thanks for calling attention to it

The Star Tribune’s disturbing series on elder abuse (“Left to suffer,” Nov. 12-16) gives rise to the following:

As a 77-year-old, I face a 50 percent chance that I will be subject to the same abuse and neglect in an elder-care facility. Watching TV ads leaves regulators with the impression that seniors are slack-jawed, frail, non compos mentis and unable to provide witness.

The Minnesota Department of Health is known for its excellence in contagious disease containment but is an abject failure in responding to elder abuse. Regulatory authority should be removed and transferred to counties.

Currently, Minnesota counties arrange for the elder care for the 70 percent who cannot afford private pay and depend on Medicaid. Put the counties in charge of preventing elder abuse with funds for enforcement paid by the state. If there is abuse, it is a quick trip to your county seat, and you can come face to face with your county commissioner and county attorney. Most of the most serious abuses are criminal in nature, not health.

The use of trained volunteers could augment county inspectors to regulate elder care provided by all facilities. Currently, Minnesota real estate rules require a home seller to have a top-to-bottom inspection so the buyer is not paying for deficiencies. Certainly the “buyer” of elder care should be afforded the same transparency.

Finally, having a newspaper able to pay for a critical investigation is vital to a community. The owner, Glen Taylor, should hope his basketball team has the same prowess as his newspaper.

Robert Bonine, Mendota Heights

JAMES LILEKS

‘Old leaf for the holiday’ column was one of his best

James Lileks’ column “Turning over an old leaf for the holiday” (Nov. 20) was perhaps the most tender, understanding article he has ever written. I never miss his columns — always poignant, mostly humorous, commenting on the unusual or quirky foibles of people and circumstances. This one struck a chord. Melancholy and sweet, it describes thoughts I and many other dads and granddads have as another holiday again arrives. Memories of the past, anticipating the now, wondering about the future as we become empty-nesters and children develop obligations of their own that may or may not bring them home for a holiday.

This year, I will be able to add a leaf to our table as my son comes home for Christmas. Decorations everywhere like before, clamoring grandchildren, chatty daughter-in-law helping in the kitchen, my son and I helping the kids build a gingerbread house. Oh, the anticipation! And then, January comes and I will take the leaf out of the table and put it in the closet and once again the house will be silent, except for my memories. I am 80 years old now, my wife 79; 54 years of happy and grateful marriage. Lileks described my life to a T. Thank you, James Lileks! Well done.

Tim Hunt, Fergus Falls, Minn.