I applaud the city manager’s proposal to increase parking fees because, contrary to the opinions stressed in the article, higher parking rates are good for business (“Portland merchants cry foul over parking fees,” May 9).

Retail spending is often higher in walkable areas. This fact is borne out by looking at retail rents in Portland. The location of the highest rents — those at the intersection of Exchange and Fore streets — has not only the least amount of on-street parking but the least vehicular access of just about anywhere in the city.

What downtown does have is a dense mix of residential, retail, office, cultural offerings, good architecture and public transport within walking distance. Businesses like Otto’s Pizza, Paul’s Food Center and Material Objects are all successful because they rely on the good quality of life that fosters foot traffic — and is undermined by car traffic.

Parking garages are expensive to build and in recent years have been placed in prime locations at the expense of new residential and other, more pleasant, development.

Taxpayers have been subsidizing the existence of cheap parking and automobile-dependent planning for far too long, so it has become status quo. Sadly, public transit does not seem to be part of the discussion about either parking relief or economic development.

What’s more, there is ample on-street parking downtown for those willing to walk the approximate distance one might expect to hoof it through a parking lot at the mall.

Zachary Barowitz

Open Streets Portland

Portland

Raising parking fees — in some cases, doubling them in a time when businesses are struggling to stay afloat — is really dumb. And it goes against the trends of other municipalities, which are eliminating parking fees altogether in order to facilitate shopping.

Rationalizing the increase, citing visitors to the city of Portland, looks like nothing more than finding yet another way to gouge tourists who are here when? Hey, Portland. We live here. All the time. We would like to be able to park our cars and shop in the city rather than going to the mall.

The elderly or disabled find it difficult to walk long distances from what will now be the cheapest place to park in order to reach their destinations.

Some people lack the funds to pay the increase. It’s no secret that on-street parking in Portland is difficut if not impossible at times. The increased parking lot fees place a very unwelcome burden on everyone.

Do we want our businesses to flourish? The best way to accomplish this is to make them accessible. Ideally, once you have found a place to put your car, there are many opportunites to not only complete your errand, but to see what other businesses have to offer.

Portland is a big promoter of “shop local.” This move is a big step backward. We have a user-friendly city, or we give it up in favor of the malls. Your choice.

Rachel Schwartz

South Portland

Mail carriers’ effort offers easy way to help hungry

Once again, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the U.S. Postal Service are hosting Stamp Out Hunger, the nation’s largest single-day food drive.

AARP and AARP Foundation will sponsor this amazing opportunity. Together, we can make a big difference by donating nonperishable food items that will help many of our friends and neighbors. The truth is that one person going hungry in Maine is one person too many.

Last year, an AARP Foundation report revealed that hunger among older Americans has jumped nearly 80 percent in just 10 years.

Here in Maine, the news is no better. In each of the categories measured in the report, Maine fared very poorly when compared to other New England states. In some cases, Maine had the worst statistics of the entire Northeast region.

I hope everyone will participate in Stamp Out Hunger today. Here’s how it works: Today, letter carriers across the country will collect nonperishable food donations from their postal customers at the same time as they deliver the mail. (You can also drop off food at your local post office.)

The letter carriers — in some cases, with the help of volunteers — will then deliver these donations to a local food bank or pantry.

This is a terrific and easy way to help those in need in every community across the state. Together, we can stamp out hunger in Maine.

Dr. Erica Magnus

AARP outreach volunteer

Windham

Rise in Anthem premium sadly comes as no surprise

I recently received my annual letter from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield notifying me of next year’s premium increase.

I expected an increase, just as I expect spring to follow winter, and as usual, I was not disappointed. Thankfully for me, my premium will increase only 16.8 percent, from $351.10 to $410.20 per month. Not too bad for a $10,000-deductible plan.

In my letter of notice, Anthem thanked me for choosing them as a provider for my individual health insurance (like I have a lot of choices).

They also told me that they “are committed to working with providers, legislators, hospitals and others to find ways to help control rising costs.” Good thing for me they are working diligently on this issue. Can you imagine what a premium increase I would receive if they weren’t helping to control costs?

I expect now that the governor and Legislature have relinquished health insurance premium rate increase control to the insurance providers, any chance of my premium increase being reduced is, as they say, “Ain’t gonna happen.”

Fred Conti

Freeport