Letters to the editor, July 7, 2011 edition

More red tape from the city 

For months I have called the city san­it­a­tion de­part­ment for tak­ing away the wire bas­ket from the south­bound lane as trash is all over the grounds at the bus stop at Ashton Road and Nor­cross Lane. The city put one on the north side, which was al­ways over­flow­ing.

Once, the people who are sup­posed to take care of this prob­lem even turned the can up­side down so trash could not be put in. I called again and about a week later they put it up­right. Then it was not be­ing emp­tied again. I called the san­it­a­tion de­part­ment yet again, so they came out and took away the one on the north side, too. I am out of op­tions, since every de­part­ment I call gives me an­oth­er num­ber to call. It ap­pears no one is as­signed to this mat­ter.

The corner of Ashton and Nor­cross is a bus stop for the Routes 19 and 50, which goes to the casino. There is al­ways trash all over my lawn and I can­not keep up with this eye­sore. No won­der we are rated the second dirti­est city in the United States. Can’t someone see to it that this prob­lem gets solved?

Also, ce­ment was nev­er cleaned up from a car that had hit the street sign a year and a half ago, nor was debris from a fireplug that was hit a year ago.

I am 71 years old and can­not clean up ce­ment left on and off the curb. I have tried over a dozen city phone num­bers for months, maybe a year. This must be someone’s job.

Jack­olyn Cahill


Coun­cil­man en­titled to take DROP

Bill Ru­bin’s let­ter to the ed­it­or last week (Coun­cil hope­ful calls for in­de­pend­ence) was very self-serving since he is run­ning against Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill.

He be­lieves that the only reas­on you should vote for him is be­cause Bri­an is eli­gible to take what he is leg­ally en­titled to, a DROP pay­ment.

Since Ru­bin is point­ing fin­gers, let’s look at the his­tory of DROP. Demo­crat­ic May­or Ed Rendell brought this en­tire fin­an­cial mess to Phil­adelphia. Demo­crats Joan Kra­jew­ski, Anna Ver­na, John Street and Frank Di­Cicco are tak­ing or have taken ad­vant­age of their right, which is the same right that Bri­an has, to DROP money.

I don’t seem to re­mem­ber in pre­vi­ous years when Demo­crat Ru­bin went against his party and told us to get rid of the DROP pro­gram. If it ex­ists, Mr. Ru­bin, could you please show us that doc­u­ment­a­tion?

Bri­an is only one of three Re­pub­lic­ans (two at-large) of the 17 Coun­cil mem­bers and his 10th Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict, in my opin­ion, is the only one worth liv­ing in. Could that be the reas­on he has been re-elec­ted for three dec­ades?

May­er Krain

Mod­ena Park

Ed­it­or’s note: Coun­cil­man O’Neill told the North­east Times last week that he is “nev­er go­ing to en­roll in DROP.”

Coun­cil­wo­man, staff praised for ser­vice

The board of Ox­ford Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation wants to ex­press our  ap­pre­ci­ation to 6th dis­trict City Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski for the many years of ser­vice we have re­ceived from her and her great staff.

There have been so many is­sues we re­quired ser­vices for over the years. The CLIP and anti-graf­fiti pro­grams have been lifesav­ing for our com­munity. With so many rent­als and ab­sent­ee land­lords, without this ser­vice Ox­ford Circle would be hard to ima­gine without the pro­gram.

We thank Joan Kra­jew­ski and Deputy Man­aging Dir­ect­or Tom Con­way for help­ing us main­tain a qual­ity of life that many of us have had for many years. We thank you and your staff for the years of ser­vice. Of­ten times we for­get to let the staff know how we ap­pre­ci­ate their time.

Nancy Hampson

Pres­id­ent, Ox­ford Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation

Tax rate’s go­ing in the wrong dir­ec­tion

I wasn’t happy at all when our City Coun­cil voted to raise our prop­erty taxes to put more fin­an­cial bur­den on us. Since they have raised our taxes so many times I lost count, but I won­der:

When did our City Coun­cil ever vote to RE­DUCE our prop­erty taxes? How about put­ting names of those City Coun­cil mem­bers who voted yes and when elec­tion time comes, VOTE THEM OUT OF OF­FICE. Shame on them.

P.S. I found an old prop­erty tax bill from 1975. The bill was $575. Now it’s al­most $2,000.

Robert F. Schaf­fer


A trashy way for the city to make money

Dear May­or Nut­ter,

The city has the po­ten­tial to make a lot of money in the trash busi­ness. Private haulers and Dump­sters are avail­able to every­one on a fee-based op­tion. Con­tract­ors and homeown­ers could take ad­vant­age of a city ini­ti­at­ive that ac­cepts con­struc­tion debris and yard waste.

Port­able vehicle weight scales like those that are used by po­lice truck en­force­ment could weigh in vehicles that take ad­vant­age of a re­duced rate to dump.

In­stead of rent­ing a Dump­ster and hav­ing it sit there for days, debris could be loaded and taken to the city dump site on the same day.

Mark A. Evans


Stu­dents may still say their pray­ers

Mr. John F. Rauchut writes in a let­ter to the ed­it­or in the June 23 edi­tion of the North­east Times that in 1962 Mada­lyn Mur­ray O’Hair got the Su­preme Court to ban pray­er in pub­lic schools.

[Our neigh­bor] Abing­ton School Dis­trict  v. Schempp, with which her law­suit was con­sol­id­ated, was de­cided in 1963, and the Su­preme Court did no such thing.

Mr. Rauchut con­tin­ues that “Maybe they should let the pub­lic schools have the free­dom to let the stu­dents say their own pray­ers.”

Stu­dents already have that right and have al­ways had that right, and it has nev­er been pro­hib­ited by the Su­preme Court. They may now and have al­ways been per­mit­ted to pray aloud in school or at school, be­fore school, after school, at re­cess, at lunch, between classes, and dur­ing class “free time.” They may pray si­lently at any time at all.

The en­tire text of the de­cision is eas­ily found on the In­ter­net. Go to the Abing­ton School Dis­trict v. Schempp Wiki­pe­dia art­icle and it’s just a click away — so I’ll just quote a small part of it: “No state law or school board may re­quire that pas­sages from the Bible be read or that the Lord’s Pray­er be re­cited in the pub­lic schools.”

Howard J. Wilk


Is col­lege edu­ca­tion really worth it?

As i See It

By John Scan­lon

I see all these newly min­ted col­lege grads, hope in their hearts and a wad of loan IOUs in their wal­lets, and I feel blessed that my par­ents had me long be­fore 1989.

I wouldn’t want to be a 22-year-old col­lege grad eager to set the world on fire. These days, chances are good I’d be burned.

There’s a lot to be said for the old days. Be­fore iPads and net­work­ing and post­ing re­sumes on Mon­ster.com. You had your no­tion of a dream ca­reer and you hit the side­walk to go after it, and if you showed an em­ploy­er any prom­ise at all, the dream was yours. 

I didn’t stick around long enough to get my col­lege de­gree. But I’ve been en­joy­ing my dream ca­reer for 37 years, ever since that for­tu­it­ous day in Feb­ru­ary 1974 when I made a cold call to a South Jer­sey news­pa­per, tot­ing a leath­er bind­er with a few pub­lished stor­ies I’d writ­ten as a night news clerk at the In­quirer, and shock­ingly was offered an im­me­di­ate in­ter­view with the ed­it­or and, about an hour later, a full-time re­port­ing job.

Not be­cause I was Hem­ing­way, mind you. There’s a lot to be said for be­ing in the right place at the right time. Two hours earli­er a re­port­er had been canned. Then I showed up with my little leath­er bind­er. I didn’t feel bad that the guy lost his job. I felt ec­stat­ic that it be­came mine. Roughly four seconds, that’s what it took me to pon­der the of­fer, and best of all was that I could drop out of col­lege halfway through it all, freed of bore­dom, freed of wor­ries about be­ing weighed down for years by tu­ition loan re­pay­ments, con­vinced that I’d just fin­ish those classes if I ever needed that de­gree.

I was damn lucky. So were many oth­ers in those days. Job searches haven’t worked that way in a long time, and it’s down­right out of the ques­tion for the Class of 2011, whose mem­bers have just tossed those com­mence­ment caps in­to the winds of an ugly eco­nomy and job mar­ket that have been get­ting ugli­er for five, six years now, with no signs of turn­ing pretty.

I tend to re­flect on this as I routinely open en­vel­opes that hold the re­sumes of young grads with ca­reer dreams, many of them young grads with prom­ise. And, sadly, there’s not a thing I can do for them.

There’s not even a right place at the right time that much any­more.

I hope all those com­mence­ment speak­ers in May and June didn’t re­sur­rect that tripe about “the sky’s the lim­it” and “be whatever you want to be.” It’s not that easy. The sky is fall­ing.

A few weeks back, I was idly listen­ing to a cer­ti­fied pub­lic ac­count­ant from Down­ing­town who was of­fer­ing her two cents on a KYW ra­dio story giv­ing ad­vice to col­lege grads fa­cing a real-world shock­er: Their school loans. And no real job pro­spects. More pre­cisely, how to start pay­ing off those school loans with no real job pro­spects.

I ex­pec­ted a more ma­gic­al solu­tion from an ac­count­ant, es­pe­cially one that’s cer­ti­fied. But she didn’t have one. Get a job, she urged the grads, get ANY job at this point. The goal is to start re­pay­ing the piper and avoid de­faults that’ll kill your cred­it.

It’s easy to un­der­stand a grad’s be­wil­der­ment that the de­gree — and all that dough — were sup­posed to land them more than min­im­um-wage work in a bur­ger joint. It was sup­posed to de­liv­er a life of re­l­at­ive com­fort and a sense of self-worth, not a stress­ful ex­ist­ence of long­time debt and un­in­spir­ing jobs, an ex­ist­ence com­poun­ded by a dead eco­nomy that eli­cits stat­ist­ic­al com­par­is­ons to the Great De­pres­sion eight dec­ades ago.

So it has be­come fash­ion­able to ask a ba­sic ques­tion: Is col­lege worth it?

As far as I’m con­cerned, at this very mo­ment, no, I don’t think it is. And it’s not simply be­cause of a job mar­ket that of­fers very little op­tim­ism or hope. It’s also be­cause of the mes­sage sent by politi­cians — the gov­ernors of Pennsylvania and New Jer­sey are good ex­amples — who are will­ing to sac­ri­fice edu­ca­tion to neut­ral­ize a budget crisis, which, in turn, is the per­fect ex­cuse for schools to im­pose an­oth­er tu­ition hike, as we saw last week with the an­nounce­ment of a 7.5 per­cent tu­ition in­crease at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned uni­versit­ies for the up­com­ing aca­dem­ic year.

As a par­ent, and like so many oth­er par­ents these days, I think about that ques­tion a lot — wheth­er col­lege is worth it.

Ten years ago my wife and I helped put our daugh­ter through col­lege. She emerged with a man­age­able $10,000 loan debt, and she’s do­ing just fine in her dream job, teach­ing.

My 21-year-old son, I’m not so sure about. He’s col­lege age at a lousy time in his­tory. Tu­ition has doubled over the past dec­ade. It doesn’t help that he’s already had a couple of false starts in col­lege, each one si­phon­ing good money just tossed out the win­dow, be­cause he’d de­cided his dream ca­reers wer­en’t dream ca­reers after all, and he’s still un­sure what is, so for now he’s selling stuff at Best Buy.

I can’t quibble when he asks why he should re­turn to school right now, come out of it thou­sands and thou­sands in debt, and pos­sibly end up de­liv­er­ing piz­zas to start pay­ing it off. The truth is, I have the same fear.

This fear was par­tic­u­larly for­ti­fied by a New York Times story in May that as­sessed labor and edu­ca­tion data, as well as re­lated stud­ies, to bring fo­cus to the na­tion­al em­ploy­ment pic­ture for col­lege grads.

It’s not en­cour­aging. Em­ploy­ment rates for new col­lege gradu­ates have fallen sharply in the last two years, ac­cord­ing to a na­tion­al study by the John J. Heldrich Cen­ter for Work­force De­vel­op­ment at Rut­gers Uni­versity, and so have start­ing salar­ies for new grads who have found jobs. Just as dis­turb­ing, only half of the jobs landed by the grads even re­quired a col­lege de­gree.

The study, which ana­lyzed the Class of 2010, con­cluded that just 56 per­cent of the col­lege grads had a job as of this spring — a re­sump­tion of the de­cline from the 90 per­cent of em­ployed grads in the Class of 2006.

As it stands today, roughly two-thirds of grads are leav­ing col­lege with some debt — the na­tion­al av­er­age is close to $23,000. The U.S. De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion also just re­leased a stat­ist­ic­al over­view of rising loan-de­fault rates.

The is­sue in all this isn’t the per­son­al value of the de­gree, or the ne­ces­sity of one in this ever-chan­ging world. The is­sue, as a Pew Re­search Cen­ter study found this spring, is that 57 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans think our high­er-edu­ca­tion sys­tem fails to provide stu­dents with good value for the money that fam­il­ies must spend. The is­sue is that 75 per­cent of the re­spond­ents to the Pew sur­vey say that col­lege has be­come too ex­pens­ive for most Amer­ic­ans to af­ford.

In this chal­len­ging cli­mate, they have every reas­on to won­der if col­lege will de­liv­er a good re­turn on their in­vest­ment. 

John Scan­lon is ed­it­or of the North­east Times. He can be reached at js­can­lon@bsmphilly.com

Speak up …

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