Northeast Times

Letters to the Editor: December 11, 2013

Blight will spread 

Most neigh­bor­hood act­iv­ists will tell you the longer a va­cant prop­erty sits un­oc­cu­pied, the more vul­ner­able it be­comes to van­dal­ism and de­cay – and the more likely sur­round­ing prop­er­ties will ex­per­i­ence sim­il­ar de­cay and de­struc­tion. It’s a known fact that left un­checked, blight will spread block by block un­til the whole neigh­bor­hood is en­gulfed and even­tu­ally des­troyed.

Long-term un­col­lec­ted prop­erty tax de­lin­quen­cies are a ma­jor factor in cre­at­ing blight that leads to prop­erty aban­don­ment – nev­er mind the im­pact on the city’s fin­ances when an es­tim­ated $300 mil­lion in de­lin­quent taxes re­main un­col­lec­ted for the last five years.

Phil­adelphia is of­ten cited as a bad ex­ample of what hap­pens when a loc­al gov­ern­ment fails to im­ple­ment ef­fect­ive and fair prop­erty tax col­lec­tion. A num­ber of one-time stable neigh­bor­hoods have been des­troyed be­cause Phil­adelphia does not ad­equately col­lect de­lin­quent prop­erty taxes, nor does the city move quickly to sell tax de­lin­quent prop­er­ties at sher­iff’s sale.

With new le­gis­lat­ive tools avail­able, we can be­gin to fight blight and re­claim some of our lost neigh­bor­hoods and put these prop­er­ties back on the tax rolls. Un­der my le­gis­la­tion, Act 153 of 2013, Phil­adelphia can now cre­ate a land bank, which is a gov­ern­ment­al or non­profit en­tity that ac­quires, holds and man­ages tax fore­closed, aban­doned prop­er­ties. The main pur­pose of a land bank is to re­turn va­cant, aban­doned and tax de­lin­quent prop­er­ties to pro­duct­ive re-use in ac­cord­ance with loc­al and re­gion­al plans for smart growth and de­vel­op­ment. Ad­di­tion­ally, I am work­ing with Rep. Chris Ross, a Re­pub­lic­an from Chester County, to en­act HB 1409, which will mod­ern­ize and stream­line col­lec­tion of de­lin­quent prop­erty taxes, by cent­ral­iz­ing all five state laws cur­rently used to col­lect de­lin­quent due taxes, in one loc­a­tion. We know times are tough and good people can’t al­ways pay their taxes on time. We’ve taken that in­to ac­count by bal­an­cing the rights of timely tax­pay­ers with con­sid­er­a­tion for folks who have run in­to hard times.The goal is to en­sure that ac­counts are paid and paid on time, but with op­tions for hard­ship cases to enter in­to monthly pay­ment agree­ments. While it is not the easi­est of prob­lems to fix, mod­ern­iz­ing the way Phil­adelphia deals with blighted, va­cant, tax de­lin­quent prop­er­ties will be­ne­fit all of us and im­prove the over­all qual­ity of life for thou­sands of Phil­adelphi­ans.

State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.)

Happy an­niversary to the Turk­ish cit­izens

There is just a little up­dat­ing that should be ad­ded to the glow­ing vis­ion that was Tur­key, provided by let­ter writer Semiha Gordes­li­gil.

Since the death of Ata­turk and the rise in power of Is­lam, Tur­key has been mov­ing stead­ily back­wards from a free and open so­ci­ety to­ward be­com­ing just an­oth­er op­press­ive Is­lam­ic-ruled fail­ure of a na­tion. 

Re­cently, the head of Tur­key’s in­tel­li­gence agency gave the names of 10 op­er­at­ives in Ir­an who were work­ing with Is­rael to stop Ir­an from get­ting nuc­le­ar weapons.

All 10 have been ex­ecuted. Tur­key’s pres­id­ent, who is spear­head­ing Tur­key’s des­cent in­to the dark ages of Is­lam­ic rule, stated he stands be­hind the head of the Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence agency. As res­ult, the world is in more danger, and the NATO al­lies are won­der­ing more and more if they can still trust Tur­key.

Re­cently, the U.S. de­cided not to sell Pred­at­or drones to Tur­key for fear that our tech­no­logy might be giv­en to our en­emies.

Pres­id­ent Er­dogan has worked di­li­gently to un­ravel the mu­tu­ally be­ne­fi­cial ties that Ata­turk forged with Tur­key and Is­rael. Tur­key is now be­com­ing just an­oth­er threat to Is­rael and West­ern civil­iz­a­tion.

Turk­ish wo­men, who were lib­er­ated and able to con­trib­ute to Turk­ish so­ci­ety, are now be­ing forced to walk around in hijabs and are be­ing mar­gin­al­ized like wo­men are in Is­lam­ic-ruled so­ci­et­ies

Tur­key was in­stru­ment­al in send­ing ships against Is­rael’s block­ade of Ga­za, which is in place to stop weapons from get­ting to Ga­za. Is­raeli au­thor­it­ies asked Tur­key to dock in an Is­raeli port first so the ships could be searched for weapons, and Tur­key re­fused. The ships were boarded at sea and people died.

So happy an­niversary to Tur­key. It’s a shame that Turk­ish-Amer­ic­ans couldn’t have done more to pre­vent their be­loved Ata­turk’s Tur­key from be­com­ing just an­oth­er failed and op­press­ive Is­lam­ic re­gime.

Ron­ald Kall

Bustleton

An up­date on AVI

I’m here to re­port on four first level re­views that the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ments has just com­pleted un­der the ac­tu­al value ini­ti­at­ive pro­gram. All four prop­er­ties are loc­ated in North­east Phil­adelphia. I am a real es­tate broker with 37 years of ex­per­i­ence and my ad­versar­ies at OPA are con­sidered the ex­perts with the fi­nal say. They have cre­ated a mar­ket value for­mula and they are the only ones who have the keys to un­lock the meth­od­o­logy.

Case 1: 3100 block of Levick Street which is a 3-bed­room row home in need of total re­hib­il­it­a­tion. OPA’s value is $112,000, my opin­ion is $65,000. An in­spect­or from OPA viewed the prop­erty and told me they will not change the value even though I had grounds for a sub­stan­tial price ad­just­ment. I re­ceived a let­ter from OPA after that in­spec­tion and it stated upon fur­ther re­view and ana­lys­is, the value is ap­pro­pri­ate and should not be changed.

Case 2: 6200 block of Frank­ford Av­en­ue. A small ob­sol­ete com­mer­cial of­fice/store build­ing ap­praised by a state cer­ti­fied ap­praiser with a value of $90,000 as of the date of Decem­ber 2011. OPA’s value is $150,000. Again, I re­ceived a let­ter stat­ing that they re­viewed the file and aren’t chan­ging their as­sess­ment. I called OPA to voice my dis­pleas­ure and was told they nev­er re­viewed the doc­u­ments I provided nor made a phys­ic­al in­spec­tion and will not re­open the file.

Case 3: 900 block of Tyson Av­en­ue which is a strip of small stores. OPA says $461,500 even though the last store that sold on the block last year was $135,000. OPA did ad­just the value to $182,100, an 153 per­cent de­crease.

Case 4: Cottman and Frank­ford. Com­mer­ic­al build­ing, with a park­ing lot. OPA’s value is $827,100. Upon fur­ther re­view, the city did lower the value to $626,900 which is a 32 per­cent de­crease. These cases are an in­dic­a­tion of a ran­dom flaw but a ma­jor de­fect on how the sys­tem was im­ple­men­ted. The pro­cess must be deemed fair and ac­cur­ate for all prop­erty own­ers in the city of Phil­adelphia re­gard­less of any ap­peal pro­cess. The bur­den to get it right lies with the city, not the prop­erty own­er. These four cases demon­strated that OPA may have over in­flated many of their 2014 prop­erty as­sess­ments due to a math­em­at­ic­al equa­tion with six years of time-ad­jus­ted data. OPA has dis­closed that they were 100 per­cent  right on 87 per­cent (24,693 re­views, 21,529 with no change) of the first level re­views they com­pleted. No com­prom­ise at all, that is im­possible to com­pre­hend. Re­cent past sales is the meth­od the ap­prais­al in­dustry uses to de­term­ine fair mar­ket value in most cases and that will be the meth­od the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes will use. This will be a level play­ing field for all parties in­volved.

Chris­toph­er Ar­tur

Why sell the ships?

Our whine about strappe-for-cash gov­ern­ment sold the USS For­re­s­tal, the Navy’s first su­per­car­ri­er, for 1 cent. Yes, a penny; you read it right. The ship is 1067 feet long with a dis­place­ment of 60,000 tons. Cur­rent price for scrap steel? Five to 10 cents a pound.

The Navy sold her to a Texas com­pany, All Star Metals to be dis­mantled and scrapped. The com­pany plans to tow her from the shipyard here in Philly to Browns­ville, Texas. All Star paid this pit­tance based on the cost of mov­ing and dis­mant­ling it, and the value of scrap it will yield. I guess selling her to a scrap com­pany at mar­ket value in the area nev­er oc­curred to the feds. For the sake of ar­gu­ment, let’s say they get 40,000 tons of us­able scrap and sell it at the lower price. They make 4 mil­lion dol­lars gross. If it costs half of that to tow and tear it down then they still make 2 mil­lion. Don’t for­get that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion with its shrewd busi­ness sense made that whole penny. At that rate, the Feds can clear out all the de­com­mis­sioned ships and prob­ably make at least five bucks. We owe China hun­dreds of bil­lions and this ad­min­is­tra­tion is selling ships for a buck to scrap yards? China is one of the biggest buy­ers of scrap metals in the world today and the Amer­ic­an gov­ern­ment is sit­ting on bil­lions of tons of out­dated, de­crep­it and de­com­mis­sioned ships, planes, tanks, and oth­er junk mil­it­ary equip­ment. No, let’s just raise the debt ceil­ing and bor­row more from China.

Heza­ki­ah Lev­in­son

Rhawn­hurst

Stop down­grad­ing May­fair, please

A Re­altor is quoted in a re­cent philly.com art­icle telling pro­spect­ive home  buy­ers that Ben­s­alem was “a step up from May­fair” and that Ben­s­alem as a whole “is an im­prove­ment over Phil­adelphia.”

We feel that opin­ion is a des­per­ate at­tempt at scare tac­tics to boost sales in a down mar­ket. 

We do un­der­stand the reas­ons people move out of Phil­adelphia; we are not blind to the changes in our neigh­bor­hood and our city as a whole, however many of us choose to stay to work to im­prove the neigh­bor­hood where we have fam­ily his­tory, strong ties and a sense of civic re­spons­ib­il­ity. We do not dis­par­age those cit­izens who have chosen to leave an area for their own per­son­al reas­ons. It would not be fair to judge dif­fer­ent situ­ations, just as we ask you not judge why we stay. 

A seasoned Re­altor wouldn’t feel the need to stoop to neg­at­ive tac­tics, and, in­stead, high­light the pos­it­ives in whatever neigh­bor­hood or town he or she is try­ing to sell prop­er­ties. Why men­tion May­fair spe­cific­ally if not to per­son­ally tar­get the area?

Here is a list of pos­it­ives about May­fair:

• May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation

• May­fair Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation

•May­fair Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion 

• May­fair Town Watch

• May­fair Clean-up Com­mit­tee

• May­fair Fallen Her­oes Run

• May­fair May Fair

• May­fair Farm­ers Mar­kets

•May­fair/Holmes­burg Thanks­giv­ing Parade (37th year)

•May­fair Me­mori­al Play­ground re­build

• May­fair East­er Egg Hunt

• May­fair Hal­loween Spook­tacu­lar

• May­fair Hal­loween Dec­or­a­tion Con­test

• May­fair Christ­mas Dec­or­a­tion Con­test

• May­fair Christ­mas Vil­lage

• May­fair Christ­mas Tree Light­ing

• Pennypack Mu­sic Fest­iv­al

May­fair and Phil­adelphia have many pos­it­ives and we at the May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation, May­fair Town Watch, May­fair Clean-up Com­mit­tee and the May­fair CDC are work­ing hard as a com­munity to con­tin­ue to im­prove our neigh­bor­hood.  We would ap­pre­ci­ate it that, when com­par­ing May­fair to any oth­er com­munity, all real es­tate agents in the fu­ture would men­tion the pos­it­ive things go­ing on in May­fair and shine a pos­it­ive light on our neigh­bor­hood in­stead of try­ing to bring it down. 

Donny Smith

May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation, Pres­id­ent

Thank you, Rep. Brendan Boyle 

The fam­ous Janet Jack­son once said, “What have you done for me lately?” We are stu­dents from Ju­lia R. Mas­ter­man and we had an identic­al mind­set when re­search­ing our state rep­res­ent­at­ive, Brendan Boyle of the 170th dis­trict of Pennsylvania. We would like to ac­know­ledge Rep­res­ent­at­ive Brendan Boyle in his ef­forts for and un­der­stand­ing of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem with­in our dis­trict and the state. We have ex­per­i­enced firsthand a lot of the prob­lems our city faces and be­lieve that he is a bold fight­er for us. The top­ic of edu­ca­tion seems to be a very im­port­ant is­sue Rep­res­ent­at­ive Boyle. To pass a bill to cre­ate the Re­li­able Edu­ca­tion­al As­sist­ance for Col­lege Hope­fuls (R.E.A.C.H.) Schol­ar­ship, which provides an op­por­tun­ity to all Pennsylvania high school gradu­ates to re­ceive a fin­an­cial schol­ar­ship based on mer­it and com­munity ser­vice to help com­bat the fin­an­cial bur­den of col­lege. We agree with his sup­port of ap­pro­pri­ate fund­ing for spe­cial edu­ca­tion. School dis­tricts should provide ad­equate fund­ing for stu­dents with spe­cial needs to meet whatever needs they have so they can re­ceive an equal edu­ca­tion An­oth­er im­port­ant bill that was sup­por­ted by Brendan Boyle that we sup­port was the re­quire­ment that all schools in Pennsylvania in­clude edu­ca­tion about the  Holo­caust and oth­er gen­o­cides to sixth to twelfth graders. We agree that it is cru­cial for young people to have an un­der­stand­ing of the im­plic­a­tions of the Holo­caust and re­cog­nize the hor­rors of gen­o­cide. Boyle re­leased a state­ment sup­port­ing the $45 mil­lion that Gov­ernor Tom Corbett re­leased for the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia which shows his sup­port on the is­sue of edu­ca­tion. He has been heav­ily lob­by­ing Gov­ernor Corbett and his ad­min­is­tra­tion for the last five months to in­crease aid for edu­ca­tion and with this money for the school dis­trict, though it is not a fix to the budget cuts and de­cisions made by Gov­ernor Corbett, it is a step in the right dir­ec­tion. Mr. Boyle’s views on the val­ues of the work­ing fam­ily and his ef­forts to rep­res­ent them are well re­ceived by us. The value of hard work and ded­ic­a­tion learned from his par­ents and the middle class have helped him gain so much sup­port from labor or­gan­iz­a­tions. He knows that many people in the na­tion are still strug­gling with fin­an­cial dif­fi­culties and he will do his best to help fight for the work­ing fam­ily. We sup­port his spon­sor­ship of House Bill 180 dur­ing the 2013-2014 ses­sion which pro­hib­its the dis­crim­in­a­tion against per­sons based on un­em­ploy­ment. Oth­er­wise known as the Pennsylvania Fair Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tun­ity Act, it provides a fair op­por­tun­ity for every­one in ap­ply­ing for jobs and we agree that it is an ap­pro­pri­ate act. No dis­crim­in­a­tion should ex­ist in the work­place or even out­side of the work­place. 

We hope that he will con­tin­ue his sup­port for edu­ca­tion and the work­ing class in our fin­an­cial crisis. We hope that he will be the lead­er in the re­pair of the school dis­trict from Gov­ernor Corbett’s edu­ca­tion cuts and con­tin­ue rep­res­ent the work­ing middle class. In the fu­ture, we sug­gest that a fo­cus on the fund­ing for edu­ca­tion will come which will help be­ne­fit edu­ca­tion in the state and the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia.  A fo­cus on fund­ing for school sup­plies, util­it­ies, and staff­ing would be more suit­able for the situ­ation now. We wish him luck in all of his polit­ic­al en­deavors.

Chris­toph­er Long, Marc Shuler and Huey Tsang

Ju­lia R. Mas­ter­man High School

Sup­port fam­il­ies in need this sea­son 

This hol­i­day sea­son, I will be con­duct­ing a food drive to sup­port our loc­al food cup­boards. Many fam­il­ies in our com­munity struggle fin­an­cially and use dis­creetly our loc­al food cup­boards to sup­ple­ment their meals. Any or­gan­iz­a­tion or in­di­vidu­al who would like to donate any non-per­ish­able food items can do so in my dis­trict of­fice at 19 S. York Road in Hat­boro. If your or­gan­iz­a­tion has an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of items, I can ar­range for a pick-up. Just call my of­fice at (215) 674-3755 and I will gladly ar­range a col­lec­tion time. Thank you in ad­vance for your kind­ness to our needy fam­il­ies.

Thomas P. Murt

State Rep­res­ent­at­ive, 152nd Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict

Stay safe dur­ing the hol­i­days 

This is the time of year for pan­hand­lers and people look­ing for drug money, and they’re on the move. I re­cently had three en­coun­ters and once, al­most got in­to a fight. They want your money, and they don’t care how they get it. I have found three places where the hang out and hit the hard­est. One is at the Wal-Mart at Grant and the Boulevard where they come up to your car and watch you come out of the store. The second is the Sun­oco at Cottman and the Boulevard, and the third is the Wawa at Tyson and the Boulevard. They wait between the gas pumps and at the door­ways. I saw one wo­man who was too scared to get out of her car. I didn’t know I had to pay to get in­to the store just to make a pur­chase. I think Wawa and these oth­er places should be held re­spons­ible for the har­ass­ment to the pub­lic at their stores. Something has to be done be­fore someone gets hurt. The po­lice in that area should be no­ti­fied and patrol these areas. Stay safe, look around you, and again, be­ware. 

Harry A.

May­fair

Traffic changes im­pede move­ment

I note with con­sterna­tion the changes the streets de­part­ment has re­cently made in North­east Phil­adelphia.  One is the left turn ar­row on north­bound Bustleton Av­en­ue at Nor­walk Road.  In or­der to in­stall this ar­row which ac­co­mod­ates about 12 cars an hour they have made south­bound Bustleton Av­en­ue at Nor­walk Road a “no right turn on red” light, stop­ping about 60-100 cars from turn­ing.    I have lived in this area for over 50 years and in that time I have seen an ac­ci­dent at that in­ter­sec­tion.  The oth­er light is south­bound on Hal­de­man Av­en­ue at Red Li­on Road where they have in­stalled a “no turn on red “ sign.  Really?  This backs traffic down Hal­de­man Av­en­ue about 25 cars un­til the light changes.  I thought the job of the streets de­part­ment was to help traffic flow smoothly and safely.  I’m not sure they meet either of these cri­ter­ia in these areas. 

Joe Oren­stein

Bustleton

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