Letters to the Editor: April 11, 2012

Fire de­part­ment cap­tain ap­pre­ci­ates our sup­port
Thank you very much for your ed­it­or­i­al last week re­gard­ing the brown­outs in the Phil­adelphia Fire De­part­ment (Re­spect our fire­fight­ers).
As a mem­ber of the Phil­adelphia Fire De­part­ment for 35 years, it is ex­tremely rare to see any­thing in writ­ing from the me­dia here in Philly which de­picts us fire­fight­ers in a pos­it­ive light.
As far as I’m con­cerned, it seems very ob­vi­ous that the two ma­jor pa­pers (The Phil­adelphia In­quirer and Daily News) are pretty much con­trolled by City Hall, which I think is pathet­ic.
These brown­outs are no dif­fer­ent than Rus­si­an roul­ette. The city is tak­ing a chance that a fire does not oc­cur in a com­pany’s par­tic­u­lar loc­al area on any giv­en day.
Al­though nobody can say with ab­so­lute cer­tainty that some of the fire deaths that have oc­curred when brown­outs were in force would not have res­ul­ted with the same out­come, there have been a few where many of us fire­fight­ers feel there could have been a chance to save the lives of some of these people.
I be­lieve that the city of Phil­adelphia treats its fire­fight­ers like second-class cit­izens. I also be­lieve that the pub­lic, in gen­er­al, does not really care about us either. The one time I do know that they care about us is when they need us, wheth­er it’s for a med­ic­al emer­gency, fire in their home, nat­ur­al gas leak, or whatever the case may be.
Once again, thank you for your sup­port. It is ap­pre­ci­ated.
Robert Bow­man
Cap­tain, En­gine 58
Bustleton Av­en­ue and Hendrix Street

Award? What award?
Fire­fight­ers gave up the right to strike, thus de­priving them of a strong re­course which most oth­er work­ers can use. In­stead they de­pend on an in­de­pend­ent ar­bit­rat­or to give them a fair deal. The city then turned around and threw out the find­ings of the ar­bit­rat­or. Can someone ex­plain to this dumb blonde how that is al­lowed to hap­pen?
Emma M. Lee

Perzel foe is a hate­mon­ger
I had to write and ex­press my feel­ings about the let­ter from May­er Krain that was pub­lished in your March 28 edi­tion (What’s your cell num­ber, John?)
May­er lis­ted his res­id­ency area as Mod­ena Park, which is out of John Perzel’s gen­er­al area. I would like him to know of some things he may not be aware of.
I don’t agree with what John did, but did he do any­thing that any oth­er politi­cian doesn’t? How do they use our taxes? Do we have any say about that? Some things they do with our tax money are ab­so­lutely ri­dicu­lous. I’ve heard of them us­ing an ex­or­bit­ant amount of money to study the sex lives of squir­rels, for ex­ample. Bizarre!
John used to send people around knock­ing on doors a couple times a year to see if any­one in the com­munity had any con­cerns that he could help with. I nev­er knew any­one else to do that. He fin­anced trash cleanups us­ing ride-on va­cu­ums on Frank­ford Av­en­ue in May­fair, which im­proved the aes­thet­ics im­mensely.
Maybe these facts don’t mean any­thing to May­er, but they mean quite a lot to people in that im­me­di­ate and sur­round­ing com­munit­ies. And as for him hav­ing sev­er­al build­ings named for him, May­er, I only know of one. Also what was the “etc.” at the end of that sen­tence sup­posed to mean ex­actly?
And I guess the com­ment about the meals was sup­posed to be amus­ing. I don’t rev­el in the fact that a good man is spend­ing time be­hind bars.
I think May­er is a hate­mon­ger and should take a look at the facts be­fore con­demning someone. You know that say­ing about be­ing the first to throw stones. That ad­vice comes from a high­er au­thor­ity.
Lor­raine Kollock
Lex­ing­ton Park

City’s help line was no help
On Fri­day, March 23, I re­ceived an e-mail from our new 311 sys­tem con­cern­ing a com­plaint that I lodged. Now at first, one might think this is a good thing, but I made that com­plaint on Ju­ly 2, 2009!
While read­ing this re­sponse I was as­ton­ished at this timely re­sponse and I fol­lowed in­struc­tions on the e-mail about ques­tions con­cern­ing this de­cision. So I called the num­ber in the e-mail and the front line rep­res­ent­at­ive was say­ing that there has been a “glitch” in the sys­tem and more than 2,500 com­plaints were af­fected by this is­sue.
Her at­tempts at be­ing po­lite and pro­fes­sion­al were ad­mir­able, but she seemed to have her an­swer scrip­ted, so I asked for her su­per­visor. I might as well have had root canal without any No­vo­cain for this de­cision. This su­per­visor was rude and in her in­ab­il­ity to handle routine ques­tions she be­came agit­ated and began to speak over any­thing I tried to say.
This su­per­visor in­formed me that the prob­lem was ad­dressed and taken of, but I can as­sure you it wasn’t ad­dressed. The same prob­lems from my com­plaints still ex­ist, and frankly it’s get­ting worse.
What do we have to do to have ba­sic city ser­vices com­pleted prop­erly and in a timely man­ner?
Over the years I have tried re­peatedly to bring these prob­lems in our neigh­bor­hood to prop­er en­tit­ies and they have been use­less. Per­haps ex­pos­ing this let­ter to the ed­it­or will get some type of re­sponse.
Kev­in M. Cough­lin
Fox Chase

Where is our money go­ing?
May­or Nut­ter said there will be no tax in­creases in 2013. Two days later he states he will re-eval­u­ate your home’s worth, and the pro­jec­tion is the av­er­age house will go up 8 per­cent. I know he said, “This is NOT a back-door tax!” but if I pay more for my home tax (three years in a row), how is that not a tax in­crease?
Something else for you all to think about: When the city went to a 7 per­cent sales tax, that was tem­por­ary. We are now at 8 per­cent. Where did “Nut­bar” get $50 mil­lion for “Nut­ter­park” (City Hall, but don’t be sur­prised if that is what it will be called one day) and $20 mil­lion for Love Park?
It’s not hard to fig­ure out why we have 1 mil­lion less people here than we did 20 years ago.
John Snyder

Voter fraud does not ex­ist, law­maker says
Your ed­it­or­i­al, Smile for the cam­era, (March 14), talks about how to ob­tain free iden­ti­fic­a­tion to vote. It dis­cusses a pro­cess that is easy to nav­ig­ate, pain­less and costs little money. However, ob­tain­ing a voter ID is not al­ways so easy, nor is it free. Dif­fer­ent people will face dif­fer­ent obstacles and costs to ob­tain­ing an iden­ti­fic­a­tion to ad­dress a voter fraud prob­lem that does not ex­ist.
While it’s true that voters who do not have prop­er ID can re­ceive one for free from PennDOT, in­di­vidu­als across the city have left driver’s li­cense cen­ters frus­trated be­cause the staff would not hon­or their re­quest for a free ID. PennDOT em­ploy­ees need bet­ter train­ing on the new law. 
In ad­di­tion, many voters have to take pre­lim­in­ary steps to ob­tain an ID, in­clud­ing loc­at­ing their al­tern­at­ive forms of iden­ti­fic­a­tion like their birth cer­ti­fic­ate, which re­quires send­ing an ap­plic­a­tion to the state, pay­ing a $10 fee and wait­ing at least four to six weeks for the cer­ti­fic­ate to ar­rive.
Fi­nally, this new law will cost tax­pay­ers at least $4 mil­lion to im­ple­ment. Some es­tim­ates put that cost at $11 mil­lion.
This com­mon­wealth is op­er­at­ing at a de­fi­cit, and the gov­ernor has pro­posed an­oth­er year of pain­ful cuts to our pub­lic schools and pro­grams that help the eld­erly and in­di­vidu­als with in­tel­lec­tu­al dis­ab­il­it­ies, just to name a few.
It’s in­cred­u­lous that the gov­ernor could not find money to lower prop­erty tax in­creases or lim­it tu­ition in­creases at col­leges, but he can muster up mil­lions to al­le­vi­ate so-called voter fraud, an is­sue that is nearly non-ex­ist­ent in Pennsylvania.
The voter ID law will come at a cost to many voters and every tax­pay­ing cit­izen. Worst of all, it could de­ter or dis­en­fran­chise in­di­vidu­als who don’t have the prop­er iden­ti­fic­a­tion from ex­er­cising their right to vote.
State Sen. Mike Stack (D-5th dist.)

John Street is a big­ot, not a ra­cist
John Street, when may­or of our city, in­formed all of the cit­izens that his “broth­ers and sis­ters were run­ning our city.”
Now look at it. They are ru­in­ing our city. Killings, home in­va­sions, rapes and rob­ber­ies are all done by his broth­ers and sis­ters, at least 95 per­cent.
If a per­son oth­er than a black had made that state­ment, Jesse Jack­son, Al Sharpton, and the ra­cist black clergy would con­demn us as ra­cists. Of course, John Street is not a ra­cist. Let’s just say a big­ot.
Jerry Foglia

How Tweet it is for Jim Ken­ney to waste 29 grand
As I see it
John Scan­lon
Jm Ken­ney ad­mits it. The city coun­cil­man will tell you he wouldn’t know a “tweet” from a “poke,” an OMG! from an LMAO!, an app from an in­stant mes­sage. He’s a fossil who doesn’t have a clue about all this high-tech stuff.
“I, at fifty-three years old, do not have that fa­cil­ity,” he told the Daily News last week. “So I need con­sult­ant ad­vice to com­mu­nic­ate with a group of folks who are not ne­ces­sar­ily in my age group.”
Give Ken­ney props for re­cog­niz­ing this. It is in­deed im­port­ant for him to es­tab­lish a com­mu­nic­a­tions pipeline to that “group of folks” — those tech-savvy hip­sters who have shunned the Eng­lish lan­guage in fa­vor of short-burst sen­tences like “U R right,” check their e-mail just 15 seconds after check­ing their e-mail, and have a habit of nearly be­ing run over at in­ter­sec­tions while im­mersed in scrolling from screen to screen on their little smart­phones as they cross the street, ob­li­vi­ous to everything around them.
Ken­ney’s only prob­lem is he’s do­ing it all wrong. And, rightly so, he’s tak­ing some heat thanks to a Daily News story that noted how he’s spend­ing al­most $29,000 a year — in tax­pay­er money — to have a Cen­ter City tech com­pany called Chat­ter­Blast handle his so­cial-me­dia pro­gram and help type and post mes­sages from his Twit­ter ac­count.
I have em­pathy for Ken­ney and his in­sec­ur­ity in this brave new world. I know this feel­ing, of­ten mut­ter­ing to my­self, “Where’s Steve Jobs when I need him?” But pay­ing all that dough to Chat­ter­Blast … it’s sort of like Ken­ney’s a fron­ti­er guy who spent years send­ing smoke sig­nals and sud­denly he’s be­fuddled by Al­ex­an­der Gra­ham Bell’s new-fangled tele­phone, so he hires a com­pany to make calls for him.
Jim … you can do this!!
Even if the 16 oth­er City Coun­cil mem­bers handle so­cial me­dia on their own or with the help of staffers, I’m not ready to scoff that Ken­ney’s “just a typ­ic­al politi­cian” for squan­der­ing your hard-earned tax dol­lars on this Chat­ter­Blast con­tract. A typ­ic­al politi­cian would have hired a 15-year-old kid from Swen­son Arts & Tech­no­logy to over­see this so­cial-me­dia stuff and spent the 29 grand on a va­ca­tion to Ire­land, os­tens­ibly as a fact-find­ing busi­ness trip to de­term­ine how Philly’s com­munity garden­ers could grow more ro­bust pota­toes.
It’s fine that Chat­ter­Blast — as the com­pany puts it — over­sees an “ever-evolving di­git­al strategy” for Ken­ney that in­cludes Face­book and Twit­ter man­age­ment, audi­ence iden­ti­fic­a­tion and ana­lys­is, mon­it­or­ing key is­sues — even video pro­duc­tion and edit­ing for his “di­git­al on­line foot­print.”
Does Jim Ken­ney need all that glitz? Not really. His job is to fret over city budgets and un­happy neigh­bor­hoods; he’s not mount­ing a cam­paign to win a spot on Amer­ic­an Idol.
So it’s too bad that Ken­ney feels the need to spend a lot of money to have Chat­ter­Blast give him ad­vice on his Twit­ter tweets. That’s how a Chat­ter­Blast honcho put it: “We dis­cuss what we should talk about.”
Well, good luck get­ting a politi­cian to stay with­in the 140-char­ac­ter max­im­um of a Twit­ter mes­sage, but if Ken­ney feels the need for a con­sult­ant to coach him on the side­lines, this could get messy as he’s cruis­ing the city in his Coun­cilmobile, head­ing to ap­point­ments and stuff.
Coun­cil­man K: Maybe I should let con­stitu­ents know we lost our le­gis­la­tion. So I guess I’d tweet something like, “Not a good Coun­cil ses­sion for us today, LOL!!” Is that right?
Chat­ter­Blast coach: Ummm … not really, coun­cil­man. LOL means “laugh out loud.” There didn’t seem to be a lot of laughs when your le­gis­la­tion got shot down.
Coun­cil­man K: This tweet­ing is trick­i­er than I thought. Well how about rub­ber side­walks? … it has been a few years since I pushed for rub­ber side­walks. They have many en­vir­on­ment­al be­ne­fits, you know, plus they last longer than con­crete.
Chat­ter­Blast coach: With all due re­spect, coun­cil­man, your con­stitu­ents are fa­cing the pro­spect of  tax in­creases right now. I don’t think any­one gives a rat’s butt about rub­ber side­walks at the mo­ment.
Jim Ken­ney can fig­ure this out on his own, I know he can. There’s no need to spend nearly $29,000 to un­lock the secret of mes­saging on Twit­ter or Face­book. There is no secret. The coun­cil­man just needs to show he’s as bor­ing as the rest of us.
Aw, #$&* … head­ing to give a big speech and I just dripped taco sauce on my pants. Won­der how to clean. Any sug­ges­tions out there? Any­one?
Per­fect, coun­cil­man. Just per­fect.
John Scan­lon is ed­it­or of the North­east Times. He can be reached at js­can­lon@bsmphilly.com

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