Story Archive October 10 2012

Editorial: The cost of free speech

There are a couple of things that could have prevented the mountain that arose from the molehill at the Port Richmond school where 16-year-old Samantha Pawlucy got in big trouble — trouble with a capital T — when she arrived at school wearing a T-shirt promoting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan:1. Samantha could have kept her political views at home, where they belong.2. Her teacher, Lynette Gaymon, could have kept her political views at home, where they belong.Neither of those things happened, however, and now America’s cradle of liberty is left with yet another “teachable moment” in history.Yes, Samantha was well within her First Amendment right to free speech by letting the world know she thinks Romney and Ryan are cool guys worthy of leading America, but was it really necessary to do it at school?Yes, Ms. Gaymon had the right to call Samantha out on it, but was it really necessary to embarrass the girl, compare her T-shirt to a KKK shirt, and make much ado about nothing at what she called a “Democratic” school?The School District of Philadelphia should learn a lesson from this completely unnecessary incident by immediately ending “dress down days” and getting back to strict enforcement of a school uniform policy for all students in all grades on all school days at all schools. Fridays are every bit as important as Mondays through Thursdays. Students should be free of all distractions every day.Anything less than a standard school uniform brings potential distraction to the classroom, particularly because kids will be kids — even those who yearn to vote.Send letters to the editor to:

Grudge match

— The George Washington Eagles vs. the Frankford Pioneers: A gridiron contest that withstands the test of time.

Could change be headed to the 177th Legislative District?

— The magic number is 28 in this House district. A 28-year-old incumbent vs. his 28-year-old challenger.

Letters to the editor: Oct. 10, 2012 edition

Trade agreements put the middle class in jeopardyRemember the slogan Buy American? This referred to products produced in the USA. Under this premise, we prospered until the second term of Bill Clinton. During his tenure, Congress implemented trade agreements like NAFTA. They were detrimental to the U.S. worker. This opened the floodgates to outsourcing of U.S.-made products. These agreements continued under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.In the presidential debates, both candidates promise more than they can fulfill. When voting for Congress, vote for individuals who will reverse these trade agreements. Unless these agreements are overturned, the middle class as we know it will continue to disappear!Walter BlowitskiSomertonHow dare the parents want the  best for their kid!Regarding last week’s cover story Tough Lesson: OMG!! The Garcias should be put in jail and the key thrown away for trying to get their daughter into a school when they were — gasp! — two blocks out of bounds. How much did it cost to hire a private investigator to place the Garcias under surveillance for four days? What a waste of time and money.Maybe I will consider moving to Lower Moreland since they seem to have all their major problems under control.Emma M. LeeFox ChaseRemoving median strips puts us at riskRecently, the median concrete strip on Castor Avenue north of Rhawn Street was removed and the road was flattened. It certainly looks nicer, but I think this policy of removing medians is a BIG mistake.Those concrete strips may be ugly, but they are an island of safety for pedestrians. My neighbor was recently hit by a van while standing in the flat median space on Cottman Avenue. A driver raced right down the median, and tossed him all the way to the sidewalk. (Fortunately, he survived.)Northeast Philly has turned into the “wild, wild west” when it comes to drivers — who turn on red lights right into pedestrians, who drift out of lanes while on cell phones, and who make illegal U-turns and run stop signs at will. Recently, a police official told me that cops can’t do much about this bad behavior, because it’s now an epidemic. I think turning the median strips into a roadway just gives drivers another way to go “pedestrian hunting.”So please save those ugly medians. In fact, please make the curbs higher, and redesign medians for pedestrian safety. You could save somebody’s life.Richard IaconelliRhawnhurstThe trash police strike againI recently received a ticket for putting my trash out too early. I put it out early simply because I do not feel safe to venture into the dimly lighted alleyway to set the trash out after dark.In the fall and winter, dark falls before 7 p.m., and my trash is accordingly set out before then. I have lived in Oxford Circle, on the same block, for the majority of my 31 years. I live in the house that my grandparents bought back in 1951, when Oxford Circle was “the place to be.” I have watched this neighborhood change from a pleasant place to raise a family, into a run-down, crime-ridden area where I triple check my locks and don’t go outside after dark, not even to put the trash out.I maintain the property well, my sidewalk and yard are free of overgrowth and debris, and I always shovel my snow. However, since my one trash can and three recycling bins were moved approximately 5 feet from my garage to the edge of my property in the alleyway at 4 p.m. rather than 7 p.m., I now owe the city $50. As a single mom, the amount of this fine is enough to cause a dent in my wallet, but not enough to warrant missing a day of work to appeal it. This neighborhood has changed a great deal over the last decade or so, and the city has not changed to keep up with it. The city that I call home needs to be concerned with the safety of its citizens before the location of its trash cans.Anne Marie CoughlinSection 8 is coming to an area near youI was getting a haircut at the neighborhood barber shop on Cottman Avenue. The barber owns a house in Mayfair and also has a son in real estate. The barber told me that she would sell her house if she could to get out of her dilapidated neighborhood, but at the moment she could not afford to do so. She adamantly felt that Section 8 housing has put her once cherished neighborhood in a permanent state of decline.The neighborhoods of Mayfair, Tacony and Oxford Circle are on the frontlines of this heated debate.For a family of four to qualify for Section 8 housing, they cannot exceed an annual income of $23,500. There is such a backlog in Philadelphia that the waiting list for new Section 8 applicants is closed, according to Because of the sheer numbers of people in need of voucher housing, Section 8 tenants will be coming to a neighborhood close to you.It’s a contentious debate that community advocates should secure the resources to further explore the impact Section 8 tenants have in hopes of putting stigmas and stereotypes to rest in order to bring the community together.And once and for all, the “There goes the neighborhood” comments can be substantiated or put to rest.Jason KayeBurholmeDon’t fall for the scare tactics from the Obama campaignWith the election a few weeks away, I have to say, Obama is good, but not in a good way. Using scare tactics as part of his campaign strategy is just plain cruel and deceitful. What is even more pitiful is how actually scared people are.This last week, I made a point talking to senior citizens. I was in awe listening to how scared they really were about this upcoming election. Obama should be ashamed of himself. He has them believing they will lose their Medicare if Romney is elected president or the big bad Republicans will push them off the cliff. Seriously? This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, it is Obama who took millions of dollars from Medicare to fund his Obamacare, which in turn, will not be going toward any senior’s needs.I would say just about everyone I talked to said they didn’t like Obama (I’m being nice here). However, all agreed they were scared to vote for Romney because of Obama scaring the “you know what” out of them. Thank God my husband set them all straight. Meanwhile, seniors really need to do their homework. I’m sure there are more out there like these clueless seniors.Another issue is this war on women. Hello! Last time I checked, I am a woman, and if I thought there was a war or women’s rights being jeopardized, I would be the first one out there protesting with one of those ridiculous signs. Sandra Fluke. Oh please!Please, please, please, people, keep in mind Romney is not against the middle class, just because he worked hard and fulfilled his American dream and is now a man of means. This is NOT a crime, like Obama would have you believe. In fact, if you do your homework, he is trying to help the middle class and all people who want to work hard and not sit back being entitled, or looking their whole life for handouts from the government.Romney is also for dedicated teachers. They don’t seem to get it, because again, Obama is using scare tactics. Obama only cares for the unions because, let’s face it, he promised them the moon for their votes.Obama’s administration is spending us out of our country, putting us further and further in debt. Our economy is in the toilet. We may be on the eve of World War III and Obama thinks it is more important to campaign, go on The View and Letterman, etc. His attitude is “It’s just another bump in the road.” He may be a smooth talker, but does anyone actually listen to him? Well, the rest of the world is listening, and the United States now looks very weak because of a weak administration.Folks, this is some serious stuff happening out there.  Stop worrying about voting for a particular party, race or creed, but do your homework on the actual person.Romney may not be the entire package, however, he at least is making an attempt to get us back on the right track. I believe he deserves a chance. I don’t think we, as a country, can afford four more years of the same old, same old. This is a scare tactic of its own.America! This upcoming election is NOT “just another bump in the road.” Sigh!Diane McDowellParkwoodDon’t blame the workers, says recent retireeRecently I was cleaning out my desk and found my pay stubs from 1999. My regular pay from the city of Philadelphia for a two-week period in 1999 was $1,367.85 before taxes. After 38 years, I retired in August 2012. From 1999 to 2012, my regular pay from the city of Philadelphia for a two-week period had jumped to $1,797.05 before taxes. That’s an increase of $429.20 over a 13-year period. That amounts to an increase of $35.83 per year or $1.37 more every two weeks in my check! Figure it out — that’s an increase of 68 cents a week in my check from 1999 to 2012.When I retired, I did not receive a severance package as generous as the $1 million package our former school superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, received. Also, my co-workers and myself had to be employed by the city for 10 years before we were considered vested and able to collect a pension — unlike one of our former city managing directors, Camille Barnett, who was able to buy into our pension fund after two years of service.Collecting her pension for two years, she will have recouped the money she paid into the pension fund in a lump sum, and she gets her pension for life! Paying into my pension fund for 34 years, I don’t get the monthly pension she does, and she only paid into it for two years!My co-workers and I had to work overtime, weekends, holidays and snowstorms, time away from our families, to make a decent salary.NONE of us in Fleet Management EVER earned $80,000 in a year, including overtime, working holidays and weekends and snowstorms, as Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr.’s “secretary” did without working weekends, holidays or snowstorms.NONE of us received a $68,000 raise, as did Police Commissioner Ramsey. No city employee receives a cost-of-living allowance every July as City Council does, and it’s automatically included in the Council members’ pay.By the way, City Council has the “summer recess” and Christmas break. How many days per year do Council members actually work? How many weekends, holidays or snowstorms are they working? I could go on about Mayor Nutter and his staff of thousands, their salaries, benefits, pensions and severance packages, but I won’t. How much do these cronies siphon from the city’s taxpayers?The news media and newspapers in this city would have you believe that it’s the employees of DC 33 and DC 47, along with the police and fire unions, who are the cause of the financial crisis in Philadelphia because of their wages, benefit packages and pension plans. Yes, city employees have good benefits. What people don’t realize, nor is it ever stated or reported, is the fact that the city’s unions gave up salary increases over the years in order to receive those benefits. Now Mayor Nutter is trying to take these negotiated benefits away with no increase in wages!Mayor Nutter is even taking a binding arbitration agreement with the firemen’s union, which cannot negotiate its contract, back to court again to try to take away some of those legally binding awarded benefits.What is the cost of this action to the taxpayers? Mayor Nutter won’t even negotiate a fair contract with DC 33 or DC 47! What are the mayor and Council members’ benefits, salaries and pensions and how much is being taken away from them? What are they giving back?If you still believe it’s the wages of the employees of DC 33, DC47, and the police and fire unions that are the cause of the city’s financial woes, read Paragraph 1 again. If you want to see where and to whom all the taxpayers’ money goes, read Paragraph 2 again. If you still believe it’s our benefits, read the above paragraph again. I believe it’s the top people who are making the money and receiving the benefits and collecting unjust and unfair pensions, not the employees of DC 33, DC 47, and the police and fire unions.Remember, city employees must live in the city. City employees pay the same taxes as everyone else; we get no discounts because we work for the city.The cost of living goes up for city employees as well as everyone else. Try and keep up with the cost of living having an additional 68 cents a week extra in your pay over a 13-year period!Mike LinahanModena Park