Northeast Times

Letters to the Editor: April 4, 2012

The Perzel case was polit­ic­ally mo­tiv­ated
In the con­clu­sion of the film Judg­ment at Nurem­berg, Ernst Jan­ning, played by Burt Lan­caster, is a former judge un­der the Nazi re­gime who ad­mits he made his “life ex­cre­ment” be­cause he fol­lowed the powers of Nazi Ger­many. He states “that he nev­er knew it would come to that,” mean­ing, of course, the at­ro­cit­ies.
Spen­cer Tracy, in a mem­or­able re­tort, re­sponds that he knew “it would come to that, the first time he sen­tenced a man whom he knew to be in­no­cent.”
Dauph­in County Com­mon Pleas Court “Judge” Richard Lewis should watch this com­pel­ling film and heed its warn­ing.
I have known, watched and ad­mired all John Perzel did for the com­munity and noted how well he was liked by our seni­or cit­izens. The plea he made I am sure came with much con­sid­er­a­tion for not only him­self but his wife and chil­dren.
I have al­ways be­lieved these charges were polit­ic­ally ori­ented, but now sen­tence has been passed by this wretched, cheap, char­lat­an and lackey who is no more than a sy­co­phant­ic lap­dog seek­ing crumbs from the table of a false idol. This de­test­able cret­in is not qual­i­fied to sen­tence a 5-year-old to a “time out.” He too will be judged one day. We can only hope that sen­tence will be most severe.
Le­onard T. Roberts
May­fair

Law to get the lead out fails to pro­tect renters
Now that the new lead-based paint or­din­ance (Bill 100011) has been signed in­to law by May­or Nut­ter and will take ef­fect on Dec. 21, a ques­tion must be answered by the bill’s au­thor, Coun­cil­wo­man Blondell Reyn­olds Brown.
The main ques­tion is why are all Phil­adelphia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity (PHA) and Hous­ing Choice Vouch­ers (Sec­tion 8) units ex­empt from this le­gis­la­tion?
The law states that land­lords of tar­geted hous­ing, res­id­en­tial prop­er­ties built be­fore March 1978, where chil­dren age 6 and young­er will reside, must provide the ten­ant with a val­id cer­ti­fic­a­tion, pre­pared by a cer­ti­fied lead in­spect­or, that the prop­erty is either lead free or lead safe.
Dwell­ing units owned or sub­sid­ized by the Phil­adelphia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity or its sub­si­di­ar­ies, or privately owned but cur­rently leased un­der the Hous­ing Choice Vouch­er Pro­gram, and there­fore sub­ject to fed­er­al re­quire­ments ad­min­is­trated by HUD, are ex­empt, along with dwell­ing units in which chil­dren age 6 and un­der do not and will not reside dur­ing the lease term.
PHA units are prob­ably some of the most high-risk units (prop­er­ties built be­fore 1950) in the city of Phil­adelphia for paint.
PHA does not do a cer­ti­fied test per the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) reg­u­la­tions — it only does a visu­al in­spec­tion done by in-house PHA in­spect­ors, for de­teri­or­ated paint sur­faces, dur­ing their Hous­ing Qual­ity Stand­ards in­spec­tion (HQS) per HUD guidelines. This in­spec­tion is drastic­ally dif­fer­ent from what the private sec­tor is now leg­ally bound to pro­duce, the res­ults of a com­pre­hens­ive lead in­spec­tion and risk as­sess­ment by a cer­ti­fied lead in­spect­or.
There are two meth­ods re­cog­nized by the EPA for test­ing paint: Port­able X-Ray Fluor­es­cence (KRF) ana­lyz­ers and paint chip sampling, fol­lowed by ana­lys­is by a re­cog­nized EPA labor­at­ory.
The bill should have been writ­ten to pro­tect all chil­dren un­der age 6 in all rent­al units, even all units un­der the um­brella of PHA. This would be a fair and level play­ing field.
Here are some oth­er im­port­ant is­sues:
Is a prop­erty defined as the build­ing along with any de­tached gar­ages or struc­tures, fen­cing and hand­rails and all soil with­in the bound­ary lines of the prop­erty that must be lead free and safe?
If you have a 10-unit apart­ment build­ing on mul­tiple floors with one unit oc­cu­pied by a child un­der age 6, does the en­tire prop­erty, in­clud­ing the nine oth­er units and all the hall­ways, have to be lead safe and free? Lead dust can be air­borne any­where in that prop­erty.
On a lease re­new­al where a test is done, if lead is found, the land­lord must move the ten­ant out and pay for their tem­por­ary hous­ing costs (motel), be­fore re­mov­ing the de­fec­ted paint and retest­ing. Is the law ap­plic­able to a wo­man who is six weeks preg­nant?
What does the word “reside” mean? In the com­mon case of shared cus­tody, what about a child who sleeps over every oth­er week­end at either par­ent’s house and that fact is not known to the land­lord?
Land­lords will still have un­lim­ited civil li­ab­il­ity, even if they abide by the law. Fair hous­ing law­suits will be filed when a pro­spect­ive ap­plic­ant for a rent­al, who has a child un­der 6, is turned down for cred­it or in­come and not age re­lated. With all the chaos in many house­holds today, can a land­lord know with ab­so­lute cer­tainly who is ac­tu­ally resid­ing in a prop­erty?
Is this the first piece of le­gis­la­tion in this city that is based on the trig­ger point of a child un­der the age of 6 that will have dra­mat­ic fin­an­cial, as well as, leg­al im­plic­a­tions?
If the HUD re­quire­ments, HQS, are so well de­signed to pro­tect chil­dren from lead-based paint throughout this coun­try, why wer­en’t those guidelines im­ple­men­ted for all land­lords to use in our city?
I be­lieve this poorly con­ceived law will nev­er with­stand a court chal­lenge be­cause it does not provide equal pro­tec­tion for all rent­al units and would be ruled un­con­sti­tu­tion­al.
With all the leg­al schol­ars who have worked on the writ­ing of this le­gis­la­tion and all the groups in sup­port and op­pos­i­tion of lead-based paint over the last couple of years, why has no one brought up or fought to amend the ma­jor ob­jec­tion I ex­posed?
What was the jus­ti­fic­a­tion to ex­clude all PHA units?
Chris­toph­er Ar­tur
Re­altor

We must pro­tect Medi­care’s prom­ise to seni­ors
Guest Opin­ion
By Allyson Schwartz
Medi­care is a prom­ise we made to Amer­ica’s seni­ors, en­sur­ing they will not be left alone to man­age the bur­den of health care costs in their most vul­ner­able years.
Every day 2.3 mil­lion eld­erly and dis­abled Pennsylvani­ans count on Medi­care for their life-sav­ing med­ic­a­tions, doc­tor vis­its, and emer­gency care. The prom­ise of guar­an­teed health be­ne­fits is even more press­ing in Pennsylvania, which has the second highest pop­u­la­tion of people over the age of 65.
Un­for­tu­nately, the House Re­pub­lic­ans’ fisc­al year 2013 budget breaks that prom­ise and risks the health and eco­nom­ic se­cur­ity of our seni­ors. The Re­pub­lic­an budget pro­pos­al would change Medi­care from a sys­tem of guar­an­teed be­ne­fits and as­sur­ance of cov­er­age for all Amer­ic­ans to a vouch­er sys­tem.
In a re­cent sur­vey I con­duc­ted with my con­stitu­ents, more than 80 per­cent said we should pro­tect Medi­care’s guar­an­teed be­ne­fits in­stead of turn­ing it in­to a vouch­er pro­gram.
This is not a sur­prise giv­en that the Re­pub­lic­an budget pro­pos­al would end the wide ar­ray of choices cur­rently avail­able un­der Medi­care, and would leave seni­ors on their own to find in­sur­ance cov­er­age on the in­di­vidu­al mar­ket. This means high­er premi­ums for less cov­er­age; dis­crim­in­a­tion based on age, ill­ness or in­come; and more un­cer­tainty if ser­i­ous ill­ness or need for long-term care oc­curs.
The vouch­er offered by House Re­pub­lic­ans is not only lim­ited in value — thereby lim­it­ing choices for seni­ors de­pend­ing on their abil­ity to pay — but it also makes no guar­an­tee they can keep their cur­rent be­ne­fits or their own doc­tor.
The Re­pub­lic­an budget pro­pos­al — like last year’s — does noth­ing to ad­dress the causes of grow­ing health care costs. So, as costs rise, it is seni­ors alone who will bear the fin­an­cial bur­den. Last year’s Re­pub­lic­an budget pro­pos­al would have in­creased health care costs for a typ­ic­al 65-year-old by more than $6,000. And yet, they are pro­pos­ing the same agenda again.
We can mod­ern­ize and strengthen Medi­care, and we must start and end with a com­mit­ment to guar­an­teed health be­ne­fits for our seni­ors.
As al­ways, my loc­al of­fice is avail­able to as­sist with any ques­tions or con­cerns seni­ors may have about Medi­care. I work hard to en­sure seni­ors have im­port­ant in­form­a­tion re­gard­ing Medi­care, in­clud­ing hold­ing des­ig­nated of­fice hours dur­ing open en­roll­ment peri­od, sem­inars to help pro­tect seni­ors against fraud and ab­use, and work­shops about free pre­vent­ive care ser­vices. In ad­di­tion, last year alone, my dis­trict of­fice helped hun­dreds of seni­ors with ques­tions re­gard­ing Medi­care —  in­clud­ing ap­ply­ing for be­ne­fits, help choos­ing a plan, and help nav­ig­at­ing the sys­tem.
As the budget de­bate con­tin­ues in Con­gress, I will fight to en­sure that seni­ors — both now and in­to the fu­ture — con­tin­ue to get the health cov­er­age they need and de­serve.
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz is serving her fourth term rep­res­ent­ing Pennsylvania’s 13th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict and is a seni­or mem­ber of the House Budget Com­mit­tee.

Gov­ernor is blind to the plight of the dis­abled
Guest Opin­ion
State Sen. Christine M. Tartagli­one
The bar­ri­cades and the ex­tra po­lice at the end of a Cap­it­ol hall­way tell you everything you need to know about the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov. Tom Corbett.
From day one, the gov­ernor, who cam­paigned bravely about or­din­ary cit­izens re­claim­ing their gov­ern­ment, has shown curi­ous fear of those same cit­izens.
Feel­ing safer with a small audi­ence of un­ques­tion­ing sup­port­ers, the once-cour­ageous re­former has re­cently taken to us­ing his massive se­cur­ity ap­par­at­us to turn away the un­washed masses.
When a group of cit­izens in wheel­chairs vis­ited the Cap­it­ol in Feb­ru­ary, the former crim­in­al pro­sec­utor who spent a dozen years as a Na­tion­al Guard in­fan­try­man took no chances.
Cap­it­ol po­lice were de­ployed and bar­ri­cades were erec­ted to keep the dan­ger­ous wheel­chair people at bay. This wasn’t too dif­fi­cult. The se­cur­ity de­tail ex­plained that they were told to not to let people in wheel­chairs on the el­ev­at­ors. Block­ing the el­ev­at­ors was all it took to keep them on the ground floor, a safe dis­tance from the gov­ernor’s lair.  
Mean­while, lob­by­ists, pages, pizza drivers and politi­cians con­tin­ued to en­joy ac­cess as usu­al.
It was a breath­tak­ing meta­phor for the Corbett ad­min­is­tra­tion, a policy-as-per­form­ance-art mo­ment that wrapped the Corbett fear and loath­ing in a tidy pack­age.
It might be il­leg­al. Does that mat­ter?
It should at least mat­ter to the tough, law-and-or­der pro­sec­utor who boldly took on the en­trenched Har­ris­burg power­brokers be­fore run­ning off to his Cap­it­ol of­fice and block­ing the el­ev­at­ors.
And it should mat­ter to the mil­lions of Pennsylvani­ans that don’t have lob­by­ist cre­den­tials and Cap­it­ol se­cur­ity badges.
As the new se­cur­ity policy was ex­plained by un­der­lings in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, you can­not only be banned from the build­ing for caus­ing a ruck­us, but you can be banned if the ad­min­is­tra­tion thinks you might cause a ruck­us. Or if some­body who looks like you has caused a ruck­us.
It’s scary where this leads. Any jus­ti­fic­a­tion that can be mustered for a people-in-wheel­chairs policy can be rolled out again for race, re­li­gion, shoe-size, hairdo or lack of prop­er man­i­cure. But there is no jus­ti­fic­a­tion for the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s uni­lat­er­al se­cur­ity ac­tions — no leg­al jus­ti­fic­a­tion, any­way.
If the gov­ernor thinks that the wheel­chair people will quietly roll away in de­fer­ence to his show of force, he doesn’t know what the view of the world looks like from this seat.
On the oc­ca­sions that I have been asked about how my ac­ci­dent changed my life, I of­ten say: “It took my legs, but it opened my eyes.”
More than 1 mil­lion Pennsylvani­ans use wheel­chairs for one reas­on or an­oth­er, and I’ve met a lot of them. The weak­est and most vul­ner­able among them have shown me more cour­age than this gov­ernor.
Sure, there’s a tend­ency when you’re faced with ad­versity to lock your­self in a dark room, sur­round your­self with friends and block out the world. But one day you real­ize that whatever the ad­versity, it must be faced dir­ectly. Boldly. Cour­ageously.
When the gov­ernor sent his se­cur­ity team to stop the wheel­chairs, it wasn’t just a cow­ardly over­reach of ex­ec­ut­ive au­thor­ity. It was also a missed a chance to over­come his own dis­ab­il­ity: a blind­ness to the plight of or­din­ary people.
Ms. Tartagli­one, a Demo­crat, rep­res­ents the 2nd Sen­at­ori­al Dis­trict.

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