Letters to the Editor (February 27, 2013)

Dump pat­ron­age jobs to keep taxes low 

While wait­ing nervously for my new es­tim­ated tax un­der the city’s pro­posed AVI (after three straight years of prop­erty tax in­creases), I got a whole dif­fer­ent sur­prise in the mail.

The Wa­ter De­part­ment is rais­ing rates be­cause it say it needs “ad­equate rev­en­ues” for in­fra­struc­ture. Well, who knows. Giv­en how this city runs, maybe they plan to drill for wa­ter, off­shore.

The av­er­age wa­ter bill is now $700 a year. It seems to me that used to be what our prop­erty taxes av­er­aged. Between them, the typ­ic­al North­east homeown­er must be pay­ing close to $3,000 a year. That’s just too much money. You see, I need “ad­equate rev­en­ues” too.

The In­quirer re­cently re­por­ted that an as­sist­ant man­aging dir­ect­or got a newly cre­ated job at the air­port with the help of May­or Nut­ter. The City is so broke it paid him $87,100 for a job that didn’t ex­ist be­fore.

This em­ploy­ee did have a unique re­sume. He was forced to resign from the Street ad­min­is­tra­tion for City Charter vi­ol­a­tions. He was also sus­pec­ted of steal­ing $13,000 from a non­profit. He was also re­cently dis­cip­lined for mess­ing with a city coun­cil­wo­man’s cam­paign fund. For this, the may­or thinks he de­serves $87,000 a year? (Ed­it­or’s note: The ap­pointee has since been fired from the job.) 

My ques­tion is, how many more sim­il­ar pat­ron­age em­ploy­ees are on the city payroll? When you write that check to the city, think about the $87,000 salary you helped pay for … and please de­mand the may­or clean out the pat­ron­age rolls be­fore ask­ing Phil­adelphi­ans to pay one more penny in fees and taxes.

Richard Iac­on­elli


City has no right to man­date sick time 

I am not sure where City Coun­cil has the au­thor­ity to dic­tate a be­ne­fit pack­age to a private en­ter­prise and force them to provide paid sick time to its em­ploy­ees.

The call for sick time is really for more va­ca­tion time, be­cause it is al­ways ab­used, and the idea that a county gov­ern­ment can im­pose these be­ne­fits to any private or­gan­iz­a­tion, I be­lieve, is bey­ond the role of any gov­ern­ment body. The next thing will be to re­quire com­pan­ies to pay for the 15 to 20 hol­i­days that are paid to many gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees, or maybe a two- to three-month va­ca­tion like our elec­ted of­fi­cials en­joy.

It is time for all em­ploy­ers to no­ti­fy Coun­cil to stay out of their busi­ness, and if they per­sist, move the com­pan­ies out of the city and make Phil­adelphia just an­oth­er ghost town be­cause of too much gov­ern­ment.

James Stew­art


A C&B kid misses the good ol’ days 

I read the art­icle Blast from the Past (Feb. 13 is­sue) and when I saw Castor & Ben­ner, I couldn’t be­lieve it.

I grew up three houses from the corner of C&B at 6014 Castor Ave., and as a mem­ber of the C&B gang in the late 1970s and ’80s, I was im­me­di­ately trans­por­ted back in time. I totally re­mem­ber my mom send­ing me down to New Fath­er & Sons Shoe Ser­vice with my dad’s work boots to get new soles put on. Back when you fixed what you had and go­ing out to buy a new pair was un­heard of!

Our neigh­bor­hood was so tight- knit every­one knew each oth­er. You knew your neigh­bors.

It was a time when you didn’t have to listen to just your par­ents, you had to listen to your friends’ par­ents as well. Be­cause, if your mom got a call that you didn’t be­have, well, need I say more?

Wow, thank you for the walk down memory lane. I really miss that corner and my old house. It was some of the best times of my life.

Colleen Katen


Help her get rid of il­leg­al squat­ters 

I am an 83-year-old wid­ow. Twenty-five years ago, I pur­chased a du­plex hop­ing to add to my So­cial Se­cur­ity and pay my own way. Re­cently, a dis­rep­ut­able six-month ten­ant il­leg­ally sub­let his apart­ment to two known con artists whom I can­not get to va­cate.

Who will help me? Not our 8th dis­trict. Not the Mu­ni­cip­al Court.

An­swer: A law­yer de­mand­ing $1,200 to start, and maybe six months time be­fore the sher­iff puts them out.

These il­leg­al squat­ters have more rights than I do.

Is our May­or Nut­ter go­ing to in­crease my taxes this year?

Is there no help against pro­fes­sion­al con artists? Someone should re­vise our laws to pro­tect the in­no­cent. I know I am not the only one caught in this scam.

I do feel like my blood pres­sure will cause a stroke or worse.

Mary B. Strautins

Mor­rell Park

The Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive is wrong 

I think the city’s Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive is a very wrong meth­od. Ac­tu­al value is for an in­sur­ance com­pany to raise premi­ums.

Per­haps a bet­ter meth­od would be to cal­cu­late taxes based on the size of the lot’s square foot­age. Nev­er on value, be­cause it’s nobody’s busi­ness how much the prop­erty is worth. 

A well-kept neigh­bor­hood should be re­war­ded by pay­ing less taxes, not more. If the city has em­in­ent do­main, then it should take over those prop­er­ties that don’t pay taxes, or have zero tol­er­ance. Every year, the city raises taxes, and seni­or cit­izens suf­fer more. Can the Times find out how much money the city re­ceives and fol­low the money if it is wasted?

Gino Pad­ula


The edu­ca­tion de­bate: pub­lic vs. charter


The re­la­tion­ship between pub­lic and charter schools has been the top­ic of much dis­cus­sion in Phil­adelphia and across the na­tion. A mat­ter that does not need much dis­cus­sion is the fact that our edu­ca­tion sys­tem is in crisis. Our na­tion­al stand­ings are dip­ping every year. Edu­cat­ors, com­munit­ies and polit­ic­al fig­ures are all scram­bling for a sus­tain­able solu­tion. While some may agree charter schools provide the an­swer to how to fix Amer­ica’s schools, oth­ers re­main strong pro­ponents of pub­lic schools. This raises a ser­i­ous ques­tion: Who is right?

There’s no deny­ing that charter schools provide an es­sen­tial choice. In light of the fact that many of our pub­lic schools are not per­form­ing up to par, par­ents have the abil­ity to provide their chil­dren with al­tern­at­ive edu­ca­tion­al op­por­tun­it­ies.

Charter schools tend to of­fer  unique learn­ing en­vir­on­ments with in­nov­at­ive learn­ing meth­od­o­lo­gies. Some charters may fo­cus on lit­er­acy, while oth­ers may fo­cus on tech­no­logy, sci­ence, math or the arts. Such schools have more au­thor­ity and flex­ib­il­ity to make de­cisions that can strengthen the com­munity at large.

Fur­ther­more, re­search in­dic­ates that stu­dents learn bet­ter in small group set­tings.

Charter schools tend to provide smal­ler class sizes. From a struc­tur­al stand­point, charter schools en­joy great­er autonomy in re­turn for high­er stu­dent achieve­ment.

Non­ethe­less, a com­mon push­back against charters is the fact that they re­ceive pub­lic fund­ing, which many right­fully ar­gue take much-needed re­sources away from pub­lic schools. This has caused a rift in some edu­ca­tion­al and aca­dem­ic circles.

How can we as a so­ci­ety ex­pect to have thriv­ing pub­lic schools, while they are be­ing de­fun­ded? This dis­cus­sion would not be a bal­anced one if it were not men­tioned that pub­lic schools wel­come and try to edu­cate ALL stu­dents. They of­fer so­cial ser­vices and spe­cial edu­ca­tion pro­gram­ming that many charters simply do not have the ca­pa­city to provide. As a na­tion of im­mig­rants, pub­lic schools play a sig­ni­fic­ant role in bring­ing di­verse groups to­geth­er, which many would agree pre­pares them for a bet­ter life in our coun­try.

The de­bate about which edu­ca­tion­al frame­work is most ef­fect­ive, charter or pub­lic, presents a philo­soph­ic­al ex­er­cise that we must per­mit to take its course. However, it’s im­port­ant as stake­hold­ers that we keep in mind what’s best for the chil­dren be­cause they are the ones who truly mat­ter.

Numa F. St. Louis


Too many stu­dents be­com­ing in­debted 

Go­ing to a four-year col­lege has be­come syn­onym­ous with the Amer­ic­an Dream. For many of us, to be able to af­ford the tu­ition at a uni­versity, we have no oth­er choice but to take out col­lege loans, which on av­er­age add up to gradu­at­ing with a prin­cip­al bal­ance of $25,000 strapped onto our backs.

Time magazine re­ports only 58 per­cent of un­der­gradu­ates fin­ish their four-year de­gree on time, which means the ma­jor­ity of middle-class col­lege stu­dents are dish­ing out even more money on top of their already skyrock­et­ing tu­ition rates to pay for ex­tra semesters of col­lege. This re­cent de­vel­op­ment is a con­trib­ut­ing factor to why stu­dent debt has in­creased al­most 50 per­cent just from four years ago.

Once you sign on the dot­ted line to bor­row the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars to fund your high­er edu­ca­tion, keep in mind un­til you pay back every dime, plus in­terest, that Uncle Sam will be look­ing over your shoulder. There is no es­cap­ing him, no mat­ter how clev­er you think you are. 

Wall Street banks got a bail­out but you are still on the hook. Bank­ruptcy can­not save you. The only op­tion you have is to tem­por­ar­ily delay pay­ments, but the in­terest will keep on ac­cru­ing and your moun­tain of debt rises even high­er. 

Uncle Sam doesn’t want to hear your sob story that the coun­try is re­cov­er­ing from the worst re­ces­sion since the Great De­pres­sion. If you took out col­lege loans, the gov­ern­ment be­lieves it is not their prob­lem that you can­not land a job that pays a liv­ing wage salary so you can af­ford to send them a monthly pay­ment, which is typ­ic­ally a few hun­dred dol­lars.

I con­sider my­self to be for­tu­nate to have nev­er missed a col­lege loan pay­ment and I was able to pay off all my loans, eight years after I had gradu­ated from col­lege. Sac­ri­fices were cer­tainly made. I al­ways bought used cars and I ended up liv­ing at home for a few years be­fore fi­nally be­ing able to af­ford to move out on my own.

The Bur­eau of Labor Stat­ist­ics’ most re­cent re­port states that out of the 10 fast­est-grow­ing jobs, only one of them, bio­med­ic­al en­gin­eers, pays an av­er­age an­nu­al base salary more than $55,000. The two fast­est-grow­ing jobs are per­son­al care aides, whose av­er­age salary is $19,640, and home health aides, whose typ­ic­al salary is $20,560.

If you are a col­lege stu­dent who has taken out loans, you might want to start get­ting cozy to the idea of liv­ing with mom and dad much longer than you had an­ti­cip­ated be­cause when the col­lege loan bubble im­plodes, you are go­ing to want to be liv­ing at home. 

Out­stand­ing stu­dent loan debt has reached $1 tril­lion and has now even sur­passed our coun­try’s con­sumer cred­it card debt.

Jason Kaye


We fi­nally have an at­tor­ney gen­er­al in Pa.

Up un­til now, this bully in our gov­ernor’s man­sion was pre­pared to have his way with us.

Now, he must an­swer to the new chief law en­force­ment of­ficer in the state, who, ap­par­ently, re­fuses to be pushed around.

We wel­come you with all our heart, Kath­leen Kane, and we wish you “God­speed.” I nev­er thought that my hero would be a “heroine.”

He was ready to scuttle the state lot­tery sys­tem, which is pro­du­cing a bil­lion-dol­lar profit for the com­mon­wealth, es­sen­tially fund­ing all the pro­grams for the seni­ors, and like­wise the Pennsylvania Li­quor Con­trol Board, which em­ploys over 5,000 people here in Pennsylvania and brings in over a half-bil­lion dol­lars.

He re­fuses to tax the oil and gas drillers pro­por­tion­ately for the sake of edu­ca­tion and aid pro­grams for the ill and dis­tressed people of our state. He prefers to aban­don and short­change them, so the drillers will think of him as their sa­vior, as they ap­par­ently do.

Ac­cord­ing to stat­ist­ics col­lec­ted by state Sen. Mike Stack, three states equi­val­ent in size to ours out west — Wyom­ing, Ok­lahoma and New Mex­ico — col­lect an av­er­age of $700 mil­lion each from the nat­ur­al gas drillers an­nu­ally.

So, we know that they can well af­ford to pay, but this gov­ernor of ours is more con­cerned with his pledge to some idi­ot named Grover Nor­quist not to raise taxes. My only ques­tion here is, who are the 20 per­cent who ap­prove of the gov­ernor’s per­form­ance thus far?

We have a quandary in­volving our schools here in Phil­adelphia, thanks to a bevy of fools who are totally en­grossed in chas­ing their tails, try­ing to bal­ance an in­sur­mount­able budget that nev­er should ex­ist, and wouldn’t, if we had lead­er­ship from Har­ris­burg.

The School Re­form Com­mis­sion is a gift from Har­ris­burg. Thomas Knud­sen, who is try­ing to con­vince us to close about 40 of our schools to save $30 mil­lion, is a gift from Har­ris­burg. And the un­der­ly­ing fact that we don’t have the ne­ces­sary fund­ing for the sys­tem is also a gift from Har­ris­burg.

Once more, who are these 20 per­cent who ap­prove of the gov­ernor’s per­form­ance thus far?

In­cid­ent­ally, that $30 mil­lion that this ex­pert from Har­ris­burg (Knud­sen) claims that we can save by scut­tling all these schools could have been sup­plied by the gov­ernor, if he chose to re­dir­ect the $30 mil­lion that he gave to Delta Air Lines to help them pur­chase the Train­er oil re­finery, so they can pro­duce their own jet fuel and save money. Un­for­tu­nately, there is no be­ne­fit to the tax­pay­ers, from whom this al­loc­a­tion came, be­cause Delta doesn’t even have a hub in Pennsylvania. Who the hell are these 20 per­cent?

Go get ’em, Kath­leen Kane.

Jim O’Keefe

Castor Gar­dens

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