Letters to the Editor: August 7, 2013

Why we con­tin­ue to move back­ward

Watch­ing the City of Phil­adelphia con­tin­ue down the road of fisc­al ir­re­spons­ib­il­ity is not news. There have been count­less policy and fin­an­cial de­cisions made in the name of pro­gress over the last sev­er­al dec­ades that have had dis­astrous out­comes for our city and the people who call it home. The fail­ure to prop­erly fund and mon­it­or our school dis­trict and em­ploy­ee pen­sions are the most prom­in­ent and press­ing. 

So I have to ask, have we had enough? 

As a city, we find ourselves in try­ing times to say the least with single-party con­trol of City Hall. A lack of polit­ic­al and in­tel­lec­tu­al com­pet­i­tion has wreaked hav­oc on our neigh­bor­hoods. We must put an end to knee-jerk tax hikes. We can no longer af­ford to reel from crisis to crisis. Ac­count­ab­il­ity is key to ef­fect­ive, re­spons­ive gov­ern­ment. It’s an all-too-fa­mil­i­ar story. Ob­li­ging the status quo will send Phil­adelphia down a path that only leads to fisc­al ru­in, a path that will be al­most im­possible to re­turn from if we get too far down. If we don’t act now and com­mit to de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a new path for­ward that be­gins by put­ting our fisc­al house in or­der, but cer­tainly does not end there, we will even­tu­ally find that we can no longer avoid fin­an­cial and eco­nom­ic dev­ast­a­tion, just like De­troit. The les­son of De­troit is that there really is such a thing as too late.

Phil­adelphia, once called the “Work­shop of the World,” has shuttered jobs with severe im­plic­a­tions for work­ing-class fam­il­ies and failed to ad­apt our pub­lic edu­ca­tion sys­tem so our chil­dren can com­pete in the glob­al mar­ket place. The res­ult is that we are now the highest taxed, yet poorest large city in Amer­ica. I be­lieve most Phil­adelphi­ans share my im­pa­tience.  

As we are ex­per­i­en­cing now, it is a fail­ure of lead­er­ship and lack of ob­ject­ive over­sight that pre­vents us from reach­ing our po­ten­tial on the in­ter­na­tion­al stage. 

This year, on Nov. 5, we can re­place an­ti­quated, one-di­men­sion­al gov­ernance with new lead­er­ship that un­der­stands how to lever­age lim­ited re­sources, at­tract in­vest­ment and in­spire en­tre­pren­eurs. It is time for us to stand up and change the dir­ec­tion of our city be­cause a thriv­ing Phil­adelphia is in all of our best in­terests.

Terry Tracy 

Can­did­ate, Phil­adelphia City Con­trol­ler

An in­di­vidu­al’s race shouldn’t mat­ter

I saw an in­ter­view on CNN in which a man said that he agreed with the ver­dict in the George Zi­m­mer­man tri­al. He poin­ted out that when the coun­try dis­cusses race there is an in­ac­cur­ate as­sump­tion that white people are the only ra­cist ones. He went on to say that the me­dia give ra­cists a plat­form to vent ig­nor­ance. He ad­ded that every­one pro­tects their own tribe and that black people can be ra­cist, too, and just be­cause you don’t agree with a ver­dict you can’t change the rules.

The per­son be­ing in­ter­viewed was Charles Barkley, former 76ers bas­ket­ball play­er who is black. We can re­call that when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, some danced in the streets. The same ver­dict for Zi­m­mer­man eli­cited cries of, “No justice, no peace.”

In the Zi­m­mer­man tri­al, the wit­ness who was talk­ing to Trayvon Mar­tin on the phone dur­ing the in­cid­ent test­i­fied that he re­ferred to Zi­m­mer­man as a “creepy ass crack­er” and said that, “This n—-a is still fol­low­ing me.”

When Eagles play­er Ri­ley Cooper was taped us­ing a vari­ant of that same word, a word that ap­par­ently dare not be spoken or spelled out in print, cries for very severe pun­ish­ment flooded every writ­ten and tele­vised out­let.

Barkley is right. Ra­cism is ra­cism no mat­ter its ori­gin. Peri­od.

Mar­tin Luth­er King put it well when he asked that we judge an in­di­vidu­al by the con­tent of his char­ac­ter and not the col­or of his skin. We should work for a bet­ter so­ci­ety in which the crim­in­al is pun­ished and the sol­id cit­izen is re­war­ded, and nev­er let race or ir­rel­ev­ant is­sues enter in­to the mat­ter. 

I would hope that I not be judged by what you think of my group nor that you judge my group by what you think of me. Nev­er treat an in­di­vidu­al in a man­ner that you would not want to be treated your­self. These ideas are hardly new.

Mel Flit­ter


The be­ne­fit of dams

Most city cros­sov­er dams serve as sew­er­age grav­ity feed to the treat­ment plants as pub­lic util­ity ser­vice to avoid pump­ing sta­tions. Any rash dam re­mov­al will re­lease 80 years of silt im­pound­ment to de­grade stream beds, but if con­ver­ted in­to an un­der­flow dam, a slow re­lease will ac­com­plish most con­cerns and add a level fish­way. 

In the mean­time, all dams provide be­ne­fits, es­pe­cially good in the slow wa­ters of Pennypack Creek. When wa­ter falls over a dam, it cre­ates tur­bu­lence to re­lease nox­ious gases to puri­fy the wa­ter, and also aer­ate the stream with more dis­solved oxy­gen for fish. The dam cen­ter spill­way groves a chan­nel flow where trout gath­er and feed in pool edges.

Most vis­it­ors en­joy the sight and sound of fall­ing wa­ters as they do mu­sic with flash­ing lights, but the Pennypack does not have riffles sub­sti­tute. To re­move any ex­ist­ing scen­ic space will re­duce pub­lic user pleas­ures.

The im­pact of a dam con­ver­sion in the Ta­cony Creek pic­nic area re­duced sum­mer hol­i­day users of 500 by 92 per­cent. How sad to find one pic­nic and three walk­ers last Ju­ly 4.

I miss our old Pennypack Mill dam WPA swim­ming pond free­dom.

Fred Maurer


Re­move the dam

Hav­ing known Pennypack Park every square foot with Peter and Lisa Kur­tz, I feel the haz­ard­ous spill­way dam should be re­moved. Pub­lic safety is a ser­i­ous re­spons­ib­il­ity. 

If you want a fun­drais­ing cam­paign to raise money for the needed de­moli­tion, count on me to donate.

Paul Ri­ley


Po­lice should tick­et Boulevard speed­ers

Fifty years ago, there were Fair­mount Park guards poli­cing Roosevelt Boulevard. When May­or Nut­ter came in­to of­fice, he asked for sug­ges­tions or ideas. My idea then and now is bring back po­lice­men who could mon­it­or the Boulevard and give tick­ets to speed­ers. It would keep the road safer for all. 

The speed lim­it signs have got­ten big­ger but still no one pays at­ten­tion. Also, last year they made in­dents on the side of the road where the po­lice could park their car and watch the traffic. They are not be­ing put to use. The city could make lots of money from speed­ers, and there would prob­ably be few­er ac­ci­dents.

Maria N. Formi­c­ola


Stop the bark­ing dogs in Ta­cony

We live on a small street here in Ta­cony. The homes are close to­geth­er. The street is one way, small, with houses on both sides of the street. We have a very big front lawn with dog own­ers who al­low their dogs to bark non­stop in the house. The sound car­ries. It ac­tu­ally sounds like the dog or dogs are in our house. Then we have the non­stop bark­ers on the porch and also the back­yard. It is a con­stant, loud, very an­noy­ing sound, and the own­ers are home. It is a qual­ity-of-life is­sue. There are a lot of beau­ti­ful sounds in world. The con­stant bark­ing of poorly- or not-trained-at-all dogs is cer­tainly not one of them. 

There is far too much bullcrap about dog rights. I am for people’s rights. I don’t want someone’s dog wak­ing my fam­ily up at 4:30 a.m. or even 2 a.m. on a work night or any night. We have found an­im­al care to be pretty use­less with this on­go­ing prob­lem.

Joan Dahl­berg


Happy re­tire­ment

Mr. Jeff Garber was a great teach­er. I had him in ’72, the year I gradu­ated from Clara Bar­ton in eighth grade.

The school dis­trict has lost a really caring and tal­en­ted edu­cat­or, and the teach­ers lost a lead­er in the build­ing.

Good luck in your re­tire­ment, Mr. Garber, and thank you for all the years you spent teach­ing and touch­ing the lives of the thou­sands of stu­dents who had the pleas­ure of your wis­dom.

Dan Haney


Learn­ing about aut­ism

I vis­ited Rose­mont, Ill., this past Me­mori­al Day Week­end for the “Aut­ism One Con­fer­ence.” People from all walks of life at­ten­ded, in­clud­ing par­ents, grand­par­ents, doc­tors, at­tor­neys and teach­ers. Also present were Jenny Mc­Carthy, Bobby Kennedy Jr. and mem­bers of Con­gress. The “com­radery” was something I’ll nev­er for­get.

The biggest im­pact, for my­self, took place dur­ing the “Visu­al Stim­ming” class, hos­ted by Jef­frey Beck­er, OD. He spoke of how dif­fer­ently chil­dren with aut­ism see their world. He had a pair of glasses that he al­lowed us to try.  For the first time I saw my son’s world through my eyes. Such an awaken­ing! So many of my son’s sens­ory is­sues make sense now.  Al­though he’s 12, his fear is very real as he grabs on to my arm as we enter a fa­cil­ity with high ceil­ings such as a mall or Home De­pot.

We, as par­ents, played by the rules and made sure our chil­dren fol­lowed the vac­cin­a­tion sched­ule. I be­lieve that is what led to my son’s aut­ism, and harmed oth­er chil­dren, too. Please edu­cate be­fore you vac­cin­ate!

Kath­leen Seravalli

Delran, N.J.

The NFL has big­ger prob­lems than Cooper 

When I heard about the Eagles’ Ri­ley Cooper on the even­ing news, I wondered whom he had murdered. Then I found out he used the n-word to no one in par­tic­u­lar while at a con­cert. Well, he needs to watch his “beer muscles.” (Yet I won­der how many black en­ter­tain­ers use the n-word at con­certs, without cri­ti­cism.)

Cooper was im­me­di­ately fined by his team, forced to apo­lo­gize and blas­ted by the loc­al me­dia. Funny, when team­mate Shady Mc­Coy al­legedly threw a wo­man off a bus on the New Jer­sey Turn­pike, there was very little out­rage, even among me­dia fem­in­ists. 

The NFL has a dirty little secret. There is wide­spread ab­use of wo­men and chil­dren by NFL play­ers, and it is treated as nobody else’s busi­ness. So why is Ri­ley Cooper my busi­ness?

A prime ex­ample is NFL play­er Ant­o­nio Cro­martie. He has nine chil­dren by eight wo­men in six states. (He’s a busy little fella.) Many play­ers have ser­i­ous is­sues with the fin­an­cial sup­port of their out-of-wed­lock chil­dren. In fact, these are crimes.

At a time when urb­an Amer­ica has ser­i­ous is­sues with mar­riage and male lead­er­ship, we have the hor­rible ex­ample of NFL play­ers fath­er­ing and abandon­ing chil­dren. Where’s the me­dia “heat” on this is­sue? In­stead, we get si­lence. Why?

Richard Iac­on­elli


Keep ra­cist words out of movies 

Is ra­cism alive in Amer­ica? Of course it is. Will it ever dis­ap­pear? Prob­ably not. Should we try to live with it? Yes.

The prob­lem is, in­stead of deal­ing with real­ity, we de­cide to pick and choose when to be ra­cist or not.

If we are hon­est, we know that Trayvon Mar­tin was not a ra­cial in­cid­ent. It was about an overzeal­ous per­son who thought he was help­ing to pro­tect his com­munity that was be­ing robbed by un­known people. It had noth­ing to do with col­or. Why are we mak­ing it so.

Now we come across a white foot­ball play­er us­ing a dis­gust­ing word in a fit of an­ger. Yes, it is a dis­gust­ing word. No one should say these words that are so de­grad­ing and ill-in­ten­tioned. My prob­lem is listen­ing to some people say­ing these words as if it’s a funny word. I have seen black com­ics on TV say­ing these words along with oth­er dis­gust­ing words like “MFr,” which has no place in our world. The crazy thing is, when these so-called comedi­ans said these dis­gust­ing words, the audi­ence laughed. I couldn’t be­lieve it. I watched for a couple of minutes and it kept hap­pen­ing. I had to turn it off. To me, as a 73-year-old white man, I found it dis­gust­ing. I hope you would, too.

If we are go­ing to do any­thing about ra­cism, we have to avoid pick­ing and choos­ing when we want to claim ra­cism.

Oth­er­wise, we must stop feed­ing it to each oth­er. I want to know how many people have laughed when someone has said that in your pres­ence or you just ig­nored it. You are a hy­po­crite. If it is such a bad word, why do you ac­cept it from any­one? I re­mem­ber years ago, Spike Lee say­ing white men can’t make movies about black people and that he can make movies about his broth­ers on the corners of Har­lem be­cause he’s been there. Have you ever heard some of his nasty movies and the words they use? He even made Janet Jack­son, a per­son I ad­mire, sound like someone I didn’t like. Please, people, if we want to erase ra­cism, we have to start with our own house. Oth­er­wise, it’s mean­ing­less.

Rus Slaw­ter


Don’t worry about law-abid­ing gun own­ers

The let­ter by state Rep. Kev­in Boyle (“Stop ex­pand­ing gun rights” in the Ju­ly 24 is­sue) be­moans “the grow­ing trend of state gov­ern­ments ex­pand­ing the leg­al rights of cit­izens to use their guns.” However, many years of ex­per­i­ence and moun­tains of data con­firm the em­pir­ic­al truth that more guns in the hands of law-abid­ing cit­izens mean less crime. 

In fact, laws per­mit­ting the car­ry­ing of con­cealed weapons ac­tu­ally lead to a drop in crime in the jur­is­dic­tions that en­act them. It is not true that ex­pand­ing leg­al Second Amend­ment rights of cit­izens res­ults in “more un­ne­ces­sary and deadly con­sequences.” 

It is the law-abid­ing cit­izens, not crim­in­als, who obey gun bans. The mur­der­er who com­mit­ted the mass shoot­ings in Au­rora, Colo. had a choice of sev­en theat­ers who were show­ing “Bat­man” with­in 20 minutes of his res­id­ence. It is no co­in­cid­ence that he did not choose the closest or the largest theat­er, but picked the only one that had a gun ban. Politi­cians should be con­cerned, not about the law-abid­ing cit­izens, but about mak­ing crim­in­als pay for their crimes in­stead of let­ting them roam freely.

Leo Iwaskiw


Zi­m­mer­man ra­cially pro­filed Trayvon

“F—-ing punks,” pro­sec­utor John Guy said in open court, quot­ing George Zi­m­mer­man’s own words to a none­mer­gency po­lice dis­patch­er. “These a—holes, they al­ways get away.”

I don’t see how any­one can deny that this re­mark by George Zi­m­mer­man is ra­cial pro­fil­ing. He used plur­al pro­nouns —— “these” and “they.”  What cat­egory of people did he have in mind? Young black teen­agers in hood­ies? Would he have said the same thing if he saw a young white teen­ager in a Miami Dol­phins sweat­shirt walk­ing home with some tea and candy? Who else would be in­cluded in that cat­egory of hu­man be­ings who roused such an­ger in George Zi­m­mer­man? Old men, old wo­men, teen­age girls, young men, all young men or only young black men?

Zi­m­mer­man was look­ing at one young man, mind­ing his own busi­ness, walk­ing home, and he de­fied the po­lice dis­patch­er by pur­su­ing Trayvon Mar­tin, be­cause he felt this young 17-year-old be­longed to a group of a—holes who al­ways get away.  What was it about Trayvon if not for skin col­or that clas­si­fied him, in Zi­m­mer­man’s mind, as a punk? I’d just like to hear an ex­plan­a­tion, so I’m hop­ing this goes fur­ther to the De­part­ment of Justice in a civil rights tri­al. To be­lieve there was no ra­cism in that re­mark is na­ive at best, and it em­an­ates from deeply held ra­cism at worst.

People say Zi­m­mer­man was be­ing beaten. Who struck whom first? Zi­m­mer­man could just have got­ten back in­to his truck — a truck he was nev­er sup­posed to have got­ten out of to be­gin with. He was the pur­suer. He was not sup­posed to be car­ry­ing a gun. Why is Trayvon por­trayed as the ag­gressor when he most likely was fight­ing Zi­m­mer­man in self-de­fense? Who threw the first punch? Doesn’t Trayvon get a self-de­fense plea too? Oh, that would be no. He’s dead. He can’t tell his side of the story.

Zi­m­mer­man may have got­ten a not-guilty ver­dict, but for quite some time, the six-per­son jury was split 3 and 3 for con­vic­tion, one of them say­ing openly that, “Zi­m­mer­man got away with murder.” He might not be able to be tried with murder again, but I’d like to be in that civil rights courtroom where he has to open his mouth and define what char­ac­ter­ist­ics people have to have to fit his per­cep­tion of punks and a—holes.

Miri­am Lev­in­son


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