Letters to the Editor: August 28, 2013

Schools should teach kids, not par­ent them

Re­cently, in one of the loc­al news­pa­pers, an ed­it­or­i­al writer sug­ges­ted that we make the school year longer. The writer said that, “Schools are do­ing a bet­ter job of edu­cat­ing kids than they were 50 years ago.” And, “The prob­lem is that schools are not keep­ing pace with the de­mand for more skills.” 

If the schools today are do­ing a bet­ter job of edu­cat­ing than they were 50 years ago, why are so many gradu­at­ing high school who can’t read or write? Why are so many high school kids so de­fi­cient in ba­sic math that they can’t fig­ure out how to make change without a com­puter? This has noth­ing to do with keep­ing up with de­mand for more skills, this is ba­sic ma­ter­i­al that any­one should know by the time they gradu­ate high school. And many of today’s kids don’t.  

Kids go to school un­til 3 p.m. After that, it should be the par­ents’ re­spons­ib­il­ity to see to the needs of their chil­dren. Par­ents should be rais­ing their own kids and not hav­ing those re­spons­ib­il­it­ies taken over by in­sti­tu­tions. 

The day be­fore that, in the ed­it­or­i­al sec­tion of the same pa­per, it was sug­ges­ted we shorten the sum­mer re­cess be­cause kids are not get­ting meals dur­ing the sum­mer. I am well aware of the break­fast, din­ner and even week­end meal pro­grams provided by the schools. 

Since when did it be­come the school’s (the tax­pay­ers’) job to make sure kids get din­ners and meals on the week­ends as well as dur­ing the sum­mers? So I guess we can add to the writers’ rant, “We no longer have to feed our kids be­cause the schools will do it.”

Schools should be in­sti­tu­tions of learn­ing, peri­od. They should not and can not par­ent kids. And it seems that’s ex­actly where it’s headed by sug­gest­ing we keep schools open longer and shorten the sum­mer break. Six-and-a-half hours a day is plenty of time for school­ing. It’s the qual­ity of those hours that defines the edu­ca­tion a child will get. 

Peter Di­Gi­useppe


How do we handle the on­go­ing drug epi­dem­ic?

Once again, a po­lice­man, a North­east Phil­adelphia res­id­ent, has been shot by a sus­pect who has al­legedly pre­vi­ously pled guilty sev­er­al times to pos­ses­sion of drugs as well as selling them. He has al­legedly served time for pri­or of­fenses that did not de­ter him. Heroin was later al­legedly dis­covered in his car and house. He also may be a sus­pect in a killing over stolen drugs.

It costs the tax­pay­ers tens of thou­sands of dol­lars a year to in­car­cer­ate a per­son. Rather than tax cit­izens more to build new pris­ons, due to over­crowding, they are soon back on the street “ply­ing their trade.”

Some people spec­u­late as to wheth­er it would be more prac­tic­al to have the gov­ern­ment con­trol, tax and sell the drugs rather than have deaths from com­pet­ing deal­ers or des­per­ate people hold­ing up stores and shoot­ing the own­ers to get money to feed their habit. 

There is no simple an­swer. 

We tried un­suc­cess­fully some 80 years ago to “le­gis­late mor­al­ity” with Pro­hib­i­tion, which only led to vi­ol­ent crim­in­al com­pet­i­tion to sup­ply the pub­lic with what they seem to be un­able to do without. That law had to be over­turned. 

It makes one won­der wheth­er we are go­ing about deal­ing with the drug epi­dem­ic the wrong way.

Mel Flit­ter


A school lot­tery in needed in Phil­adelphia

We all know the city needs money for schools and pen­sions. We can‘t keep rais­ing prop­erty and wage taxes. The real es­tate trans­fer tax is out of this world. I have a solu­tion that will solve our prob­lems — a Phil­adelphia school lot­tery. It would be like the Pennsylvania lot­tery. I know people in Philly would buy tick­ets. I will. And per­haps in the fu­ture, the prop­erty tax will be elim­in­ated.

Jerry Foglia Sr.


Item found out­side North­east su­per­mar­ket

I found a valu­able item out­side of Acme on Red Li­on Road. I am wait­ing for the own­er to claim it so that I can re­turn it to them. 

If this lost item be­longs to you, con­tact the store, which has my in­form­a­tion, or the North­east Times.

Bar­bara J.

Far North­east

The may­or shouldn’t bur­den tax­pay­ers

I just heard that the may­or of Phil­adelphia wants $50 mil­lion from the cit­izens of the city. What kind of may­or do we have? He is will­ing to bur­den the city again with an­oth­er tax. One per­cent more for the city tax, he says. Did we not get taxed two years in a row for real es­tate tax or was it three times? 

The City Coun­cil pres­id­ent has the right pro­pos­al for the $50 mil­lion the schools want again: sell a few prop­er­ties that could net the city $200 mil­lion. Stop hit­ting the tax­pay­ers over the head every time there is a crisis. 

The may­or and his staff are mis­man­aging the city. Where are the de­lin­quent real es­tate taxes they prom­ised to pur­sue? What about the aban­doned houses that can be resold? There is a lot of waste out there. We need a may­or with vis­ion, not one who dumps on the cit­izens of Phil­adelphia. One note: Does the may­or have a time frame on the 1-per­cent raise, or is it forever?

Ron­ald Far­rell


Fox Chase Night Out was a great time

I wanted to take the op­por­tun­ity to thank state Reps. Kev­in and Brendan Boyle and the Fox Chase Town Watch for their in­volve­ment with this year’s Fox Chase Night Out.

Neither its ab­sence last year nor the threat of rain stopped hun­dreds of neigh­bors from Fox Chase and sur­round­ing com­munit­ies from at­tend­ing. 

This year’s event was noth­ing shy of a huge suc­cess, and it could not have happened without the role that they played.

Tons of vendors were on hand giv­ing out pizza, wa­ter ice and pret­zels. There was even Mickey and Min­nie Mouse, face paint­ing and bal­loons for my daugh­ters. 

I am so happy that someone stepped up and showed the ne­ces­sary lead­er­ship to make sure the fam­il­ies of the North­east have ac­cess to great events such as this. 

I hope this great tra­di­tion con­tin­ues.  

Jim Pearl


Dead­line nears for tax ex­emp­tion ap­plic­a­tion

The Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation wishes to re­mind every­one that ap­plic­a­tions for the Homestead Tax Ex­emp­tion are due by Sept. 13, and are ac­cep­ted over the phone at 215-686-9200 and on­line at www.phila.gov/opa

To qual­i­fy, you must own and reside with­in the prop­erty as your primary res­id­ence. Rent­al prop­er­ties are not in­cluded. Al­though many res­id­ents have already ap­plied, more than 10,000 eli­gible res­id­ents with­in the 6th Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict, where our civic is situ­ated, have not yet ap­plied for the dis­count. As a pub­lic ser­vice to those es­pe­cially in our area without In­ter­net ser­vice or trans­port­a­tion, ap­plic­a­tions may be picked up in per­son at the sites of two of our busi­ness mem­bers, Be­ne­fi­cial Mu­tu­al Sav­ings Bank, 2845 Holme Ave., and Lily Pads Frozen Yogurt, 3130 Wil­lits Road. As a cour­tesy to any of your eld­erly neigh­bors, you may wish to in­quire if they have com­pleted an ap­plic­a­tion.

Elsie Stevens 

Pres­id­ent, Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation

Corbett should drop lot­tery scheme 

Fo­cus is an ad­mir­able trait in an elec­ted of­fi­cial. Dis­trac­tions can up­turn even the most earn­est le­gis­lat­ive agenda. It is good to be de­term­ined. Gov. Corbett’s re­lent­less push to privat­ize the Pennsylvania Lot­tery has crossed the line from de­term­in­a­tion long ago and now reeks of stub­born­ness and in­eptitude, traits that will hurt him polit­ic­ally and harm the people of our state.

As you may know, earli­er this year, At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Kath­leen Kane re­jec­ted Corbett’s plan to al­low Eng­land-based Cam­elot Glob­al Ser­vices to take over the lot­tery on the grounds that it was un­con­sti­tu­tion­al. Since then, the Corbett ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­ques­ted and re­ceived a third ex­ten­sion of Cam­elot’s bid, in the hopes that he can push the con­tract through des­pite Kane’s de­cision. Corbett has been spend­ing con­sid­er­able time and re­sources — in­clud­ing tax dol­lars — in his ef­forts to sell off one of our state’s most prof­it­able as­sets. 

The con­tin­ued ne­go­ti­ations alone have cost tax­pay­ers around $3 mil­lion. If Corbett suc­ceeds, it is sure to cost tax­pay­ers even more — es­pe­cially seni­ors. In Phil­adelphia County alone, for the most re­cent year in which fig­ures are avail­able, the Pennsylvania Lot­tery paid out more than $210 mil­lion to be­ne­fi­ciar­ies. That money helps fund county aging pro­grams, long-term liv­ing ser­vices, prop­erty tax and rent re­bates and many oth­er vi­tal pro­grams that our seni­ors rely on.

Privat­iz­ing the lot­tery would be a sens­ible thing to do only if it were un­der­achiev­ing or poorly run, which it’s not. Re­cently, the De­part­ment of Rev­en­ue an­nounced that the Pennsylvania Lot­tery had an­oth­er re­cord-break­ing year with sales of $3.7 bil­lion for the 2012-13 fisc­al year. The lot­tery earned more than $1 bil­lion in profits, while keep­ing the total ad­min­is­trat­ive costs at just 2.07 per­cent of sales. These stat­ist­ics make the Pennsylvania Lot­tery the mod­el for all oth­er state-run lot­ter­ies. 

While Corbett fo­cuses on dis­mant­ling this well-run and im­port­ant pro­gram, our roads and bridges are crum­bling be­neath our feet, teach­ers are be­ing fired due to a lack of fund­ing, and our state is ranked 49th in job cre­ation. All of those is­sues de­serve ser­i­ous con­sid­er­a­tion and ef­fort from our gov­ernor, but I guess he is just too busy to be bothered. Corbett needs to move on from this polit­ic­al ob­ses­sion of his, and re­fo­cus his time and en­ergy onto the is­sues that ac­tu­ally mat­ter.

Rep. Ed Neilson

169th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict

Zi­m­mer­man was ac­quit­ted by jury 

The opin­ions and judg­ments are made by every­one in the George Zi­m­mer­man tri­al. However, only the jury of peers in the case heard the testi­mon­ies of all the wit­nesses, saw the pic­tures and listened to all the facts provided up close. These were wo­men who de­cided in a court of law, the Amer­ic­an way of justice.

Every­one out­side the courtroom who voices or voiced an opin­ion or judg­ment about the case is mak­ing mean­ing­less and some­times hurt­ful or in­flam­mat­ory noise across whatever me­dia they use. 

Joseph L. Caristo    


Can’t fight City Hall

I re­cycle everything.

I take plastic bags to the loc­al gro­cery store to de­pos­it prop­erly. I mulch-cut my lawn, so there are no clip­pings to put out. When I go to the Po­conos, I even haul all the re­cyc­lables back home to put out. 

It is only me who lives at my house. My ac­tu­al trash can fit in a small plastic bag you get when you buy a ho­agie from a con­veni­ence store.

What do I get for my ef­forts? A $50 fine for not sep­ar­at­ing my trash from re­cyc­lables. It’s just simply not true. And there is noth­ing I can do about it. To dis­pute it, I would have to take a day off from work to go to court. Who can af­ford that? 

The city has you, and they know it. Thanks for noth­ing, Phil­adelphia!

Ed Fabry


Op Ed: Is same-sex mar­riage un­con­sti­tu­tion­al?

In Ju­ly, Mont­gomery County Re­gister of Wills Bruce Hanes began is­su­ing mar­riage li­censes to same-sex couples. These li­censes would seem to be is­sued in con­tra­dic­tion to the Pennsylvania stat­ute that lim­its mar­riage to one man and one wo­man. Mr. Hanes says that he be­lieves that law is un­con­sti­tu­tion­al and there­fore not en­force­able.

Some have at­tacked Mr. Hanes for es­sen­tially go­ing rogue. They say he does not have the au­thor­ity to pick and choose which laws he wants to en­force and which ones he does not. They also point out that if a law is un­con­sti­tu­tion­al, it should be a judge who makes that de­term­in­a­tion, not a county row of­ficer. While these are reas­on­able points to make, they miss the true is­sues at stake. A more com­pre­hens­ive re­view of rel­ev­ant leg­al is­sues re­veals that the ac­tions taken by Mr. Hanes were, in fact, cor­rect. 

It is cer­tainly true that no ex­ec­ut­ive of­ficer can uni­lat­er­ally and ca­pri­ciously choose what laws to en­force. But it is also true that all ex­ec­ut­ives, in­clud­ing the Mont­gomery County Re­gister of Wills, are leg­ally re­quired to take an oath of of­fice, in which he swears to “en­force, obey and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States…” not the “Do­mest­ic Re­la­tions Code of Pennsylvania”. There­fore, when a state or loc­al law is clearly un­con­sti­tu­tion­al, Mr. Hanes has not only the right, but the sworn ob­lig­a­tion to not en­force it. 

An ex­ample re­moved from the con­text of mar­riage is il­lus­trat­ive. Vir­tu­ally every­one would agree that the right of free speech un­der the First Amend­ment re­quires that the state be con­tent-neut­ral in ap­ply­ing speech re­stric­tions. So sup­pose a state passed a law say­ing that news­pa­pers could only pub­lish ed­it­or­i­als in sup­port of Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates for of­fice and were pro­hib­ited from pub­lish­ing ed­it­or­i­als in sup­port of Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates. I think most people would say that is an ob­vi­ous and blatantly un­con­sti­tu­tion­al law. 

It would be dif­fi­cult to see how en­for­cing such a law would be con­sist­ent with an oath of of­fice wherein the of­ficer has sworn to “de­fend the United States Con­sti­tu­tion.” Would we really want loc­al au­thor­it­ies to ar­rest news­pa­per ed­it­ors for pub­lish­ing for­bid­den ed­it­or­i­als un­til a court in­ter­venes?

Fur­ther, there is ample Su­preme Court pre­ced­ent sup­port­ing the pro­pos­i­tion that ex­ec­ut­ive of­fi­cials are not re­quired, or even per­mit­ted, to en­force un­con­sti­tu­tion­al laws. The court has said that an un­con­sti­tu­tion­al law “is void for any pur­pose” and must be treated “as if it nev­er passed.” 

Giv­en the clear fact that Mr. Hanes can­not en­force un­con­sti­tu­tion­al laws, the ques­tion be­comes wheth­er he ac­ted reas­on­ably in de­term­in­ing that the spe­cif­ic mar­riage law that he dis­reg­arded was un­con­sti­tu­tion­al. It is im­port­ant to re­mem­ber that Mr. Hanes was elec­ted in 2007. He has been in of­fice for more than five years and nev­er once de­clined to en­force any Pennsylvania law, in­clud­ing the one that lim­its mar­riage to one man and one wo­man. For more than five years, he has is­sued mar­riage li­censes only to het­ero­sexu­al couples, re­gard­less of his per­son­al feel­ings about gay mar­riage (of which I do not know). However, something changed. 

The United States Su­preme Court is­sued its opin­ion in United States v. Wind­sor, strik­ing down the fed­er­al De­fense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA). While that opin­ion did not con­sider the Pennsylvania mar­riage law spe­cific­ally, it con­tained lan­guage that made it fairly clear that the court viewed dis­crim­in­a­tion against gay couples who wished to marry as very con­sti­tu­tion­ally prob­lem­at­ic. Writ­ing for the court, Justice Kennedy said laws that dis­crim­in­ate against mar­ried gay couples “have no le­git­im­ate pur­pose” and serve only to ex­press “an­im­us and dis­ap­prov­al” to­ward same-sex couples, which is not a con­sti­tu­tion­ally ap­pro­pri­ate reas­on to pass le­gis­la­tion. 

It is not only Bruce Hanes who be­lieves that Justice Kennedy’s opin­ion is in­con­sist­ent with mar­riage dis­crim­in­a­tion. Even Justice Scalia, the court’s most ar­dent op­pon­ent of gay mar­riage, wrote: “…the ma­jor­ity arms well every chal­lenger to a state law re­strict­ing mar­riage to its tra­di­tion­al defin­i­tion. How in­ev­it­able it is to reach the same con­clu­sion [of un­con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity] with re­gard to state laws deny­ing same-sex couples’ mar­it­al status.” 

When the Wind­sor opin­ion was is­sued, Bruce Hanes faced a di­lemma he did not ask for. Should he dis­reg­ard the clearly un­con­sti­tu­tion­al Pennsylvania mar­riage stat­ute? Or should he dis­reg­ard the oath he took to God and those who elec­ted him to “en­force, obey and de­fend” the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States? I, for one, am glad that Mr. Hanes chose to re­spect the Con­sti­tu­tion.

State Sen. Daylin Leach

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