Letters to the editor: Jan. 2, 2013 edition

 City’s treat­ment of fire­fight­ers is baff­ling
At the end of Decem­ber I had a chance to view some of the pub­lic meet­ings of City Coun­cil on the gov­ern­ment ac­cess chan­nel and listen to the ques­tions of some elec­ted coun­cil­men and the re­sponses of our cur­rent city ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­sign­ees as it danced around the re­fus­al to hon­or the ar­bit­rat­or’s de­cision in re­gard to our fire­fight­er/para­med­ics con­tract.
As a Phil­adelphia School Dis­trict teach­er and wife and moth­er of fire­fight­ers, I found it disin­genu­ous and dis­respect­ful that the city is dis­miss­ing the agreed upon ar­bit­ra­tion in re­gard to a fair con­tract for our fire­fight­ers.
There are many ded­ic­ated pub­lic ser­vants that hon­or­ably and pro­fes­sion­ally serve our city in vari­ous ca­pa­cit­ies each day. For this ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­ceed to settle con­tracts with some of our pub­lic ser­vants and then dis­miss fair bar­gain­ing with oth­er city em­ploy­ees is baff­ling. Such treat­ment is caus­ing many to won­der if these ac­tions are re­tali­at­ory for the free­dom of uni­ons to en­dorse or re­com­mend can­did­ates for elec­tion.
We all real­ize that dur­ing this peri­od of fisc­al troubles all city de­part­ments must look for re­spons­ible spend­ing and cost- cut­ting meas­ures, but the bur­den of this should not be put on the backs of those city em­ploy­ees who each day put their lives on the line fight­ing fires, re­spond­ing to the in­firmed, provid­ing and pro­tect­ing pub­lic safety or as we have just wit­nessed yet again, edu­cat­ing our na­tion’s youth.
Maur­een M. Reb­stock
Fox Chase

Hol­i­day toy drive was a suc­cess
My dear friends: Since 2011 my of­fice has co­ordin­ated with vari­ous churches and oth­er char­it­able or­gan­iz­a­tions in North­east Phil­adelphia to col­lect and dis­trib­ute toys to North­east fam­il­ies in need.
I ex­tend my sin­cerest thanks to our com­munity res­id­ents for the over­whelm­ing pos­it­ive re­sponse and gen­er­ous dona­tions my of­fice re­ceived dur­ing our an­nu­al toy drive.
My of­fices col­lec­ted hun­dreds of toys for boys and girls of all ages, mak­ing Christ­mas a real­ity for hun­dreds of fam­il­ies in and around the 170th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict. Be­cause of your gen­er­os­ity, our mis­sion to bet­ter the lives of chil­dren and keep alive the hol­i­day spir­it has been a suc­cess.
For those who have fallen on hard times, a small leg up from oth­ers can be the dif­fer­ence between hav­ing a few items un­der a tree or none at all. With as many people in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances as there are in the North­east, this need has nev­er been more ur­gent.
The char­ac­ter of our com­munity was once again on dis­play this hol­i­day sea­son. I wish you and your fam­ily a safe and happy new year!
State Rep. Brendan F. Boyle

Ac­tu­al value = real es­tate tax rip-off
Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive (AVI) is a new city pro­gram that will as­sess our prop­er­ties at 100 per­cent of fair mar­ket value.
Dave Glan­cey, former chair­man of the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes, said the change would be made be­cause cit­izens were con­fused about their bills. It was sup­posed to be rev­en­ue neut­ral.
Any­one in City Coun­cil who sup­ports this bill can stop by my to­mato garden and drop a load of you-know-what, start­ing im­me­di­ately, for next sea­son’s fer­til­izer. This pro­gram was cre­ated to over­tax homeown­ers, rip us off and fin­ance the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia, which thinks it has em­in­ent do­main rights on our wal­lets and pock­et­books.
Every budget sea­son they march down to City Coun­cil, bring along some par­ents and cry and whine that “the poor kids” won’t have fund­ing. They tell tales about a lack of books and com­puters, etc. Yet, the school dis­trict re­cently raised the pay of many of­fi­cials. How could they af­ford that?
North­east Phil­adelphia cit­izens should call, fax and e-mail every coun­cilp­er­son RIGHT NOW if they op­pose Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive (100 per­cent as­sess­ments). The spring budget hear­ings will be here soon. Last year I con­tac­ted all 17 Coun­cil mem­bers stat­ing I op­posed all real es­tate and oth­er tax in­creases. Let’s start earli­er this year.
Myles Gor­don

It’s time to give Lloyd Ay­ers the air
Every fire­man in Phil­adelphia knows how Com­mis­sion­er Lloyd Ay­ers keeps his job; I would like to know how he got the job. He’s not a com­mand­er; he doesn’t even have a com­mand of the lan­guage.Would any­one bet money on him passing a qual­i­fy­ing test for this job if the situ­ation should arise this year, let alone scor­ing high­er than oth­er Fire De­part­ment can­did­ates?
He keeps the job be­cause May­or Nut­ter loves him for be­ing the good little “yes  man.” He com­plies with whatever whim Nut­ter wants, such as fight­ing the en­tire force on the court ap­proved and well de­served in­crease in pay and be­ne­fits, and these forced trans­fers, which amount to no less than the may­or’s pun­ish­ment for them not buck­ling to his heavy-handed and op­press­ive dic­tates.
Coun­cil­man Jim Ken­ney sum­mar­ized the situ­ation very elo­quently at a hear­ing by stat­ing, “How dis­grace­ful it is to be treat­ing people who are will­ing to die for you, like this.” We have here the same per­son who bent over back­ward for “Queen Ar­lene” Ack­er­man — who was a com­plete dis­aster for the school dis­trict — now dump­ing on the fire­fight­ers of the city, who put their lives on the line for all of us. They are the ac­tu­al her­oes; not the politi­cians.
Nut­ter made it abund­antly clear to the pres­id­ent and to all of us that he was pan­der­ing for a job with the ad­min­is­tra­tion in Wash­ing­ton re­cently, and we are not ad­verse to that, sir; we pray that it comes through for you so we may be free of you and hope­fully Ay­ers as well.
Jim O’Keefe

A few ways to avoid an­oth­er slaughter
In or­der to pre­vent an­oth­er tragedy res­ult­ing from either men­tally un­bal­anced gun­men or ter­ror­ists, I sug­gest the fol­low­ing:
Set up a com­mis­sion to or­gan­ize and im­ple­ment hav­ing vo­lun­teer armed guards in all schools and pub­lic build­ings/places. The guards should be thor­oughly screened re­tired po­lice­men, mil­it­ary vet­er­ans and oth­ers who de­sire to give back to so­ci­ety. A small com­pens­a­tion should be offered  to en­tice them to vo­lun­teer, such as a tax break or an­nu­al  parade to hon­or them, etc. Much pub­li­city should be made to make so­ci­ety view them as her­oes.
In every school and pub­lic area en­trance or gath­er­ing place, there should be a bul­let­proof shield (and when deemed ne­ces­sary, a mo­bile shield on a golf cart type vehicle) with a gun port from which the guard can safely de­fend the pub­lic.
Also, I be­lieve that this com­mis­sion must help en­act re­stric­tions on vi­ol­ence as dis­played in the many me­dia and games to which the pub­lic is ex­posed. This step will serve to pre­vent the pub­lic’s de­sens­it­iz­a­tion to vi­ol­ence and re­store  per­ceived value to hu­man life.
The im­ple­ment­a­tion of this plan could save many lives and pre­vent many of the tra­gedies we have been wit­ness­ing with in­creas­ing fre­quency. It will also make people feel more se­cure and in­crease pride in our coun­try.
Ken Patkin

Tak­ing aim at NRA’s track re­cord
The NRA’s re­sponse to gun con­trol after the Sandy Hook Ele­ment­ary School mas­sacre is busi­ness as usu­al — more guns.
When Gov. Ed Rendell was in of­fice he wanted to pass a law that banned as­sault weapons in Pennsylvania. With a 90 per­cent ap­prov­al rate from the cit­izens of Pennsylvania, and des­pite that high ap­prov­al, what pre­ven­ted the bill from be­com­ing law is the NRA.
When Bill Clin­ton was pres­id­ent he signed a bill in­to law ban­ning as­sault type weapons. The law was set to ex­pire in 2004. Rather than al­low­ing the law to be ex­ten­ded, the NRA made ab­so­lutely sure that the law did ex­pire, 12 times over.
The NRA made a state­ment after the Sandy Hook School tragedy that they in­tend to make mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions to en­sure that what happened at Sandy Hook School nev­er hap­pens again. In truth­ful real­ity, the NRA in­tends to con­tin­ue mak­ing mon­et­ary con­tri­bu­tions to polit­ic­al elec­tion cam­paign funds of politi­cians to en­sure that it does hap­pen again.
When Obama was run­ning for pres­id­ent in 2008, he said he would ad­dress the as­sault weapons is­sue as pres­id­ent dur­ing his first term. That ad­dress was post­poned un­til after the Sandy Hook School tragedy. The reas­on for the post­pone­ment? Con­tri­bu­tions from the NRA.
The people in Wash­ing­ton and the pres­id­ent have been put in the sew­er on this one by the NRA.
The as­sault weapons tick­ing time bomb has ex­ploded in their faces. Sim­il­ar in­cid­ences have happened 37 times since 1974. Now the NRA is in the spot­light and feel­ing their feet to the fire and feel­ing loss of power and in­flu­ence
The NRA and the politi­cians who have been ac­cept­ing NRA con­tri­bu­tions are at­tempt­ing to say in a quiet way to the rest of us, thank you for al­low­ing this to hap­pen.
Grief is a long and pain­ful jour­ney. If the tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook Ele­ment­ary School is what it takes to unite we the people to make a dif­fer­ence and to be heard, it only adds to the sad state of af­fairs and the sor­row.
Larry Il­aria

Ban rifles for the good of the people
The re­cent hor­rendous school shoot­ing in Con­necti­c­ut where 27 people lost their lives once again shows the dire prob­lem of the spread of weapons in this coun­try.
The sale to the pub­lic of all as­sault and semi­auto­mat­ic weapons should be made il­leg­al. It is an ab­so­lute dis­grace how easy it is to buy a gun in this coun­try. In some states, it is as easy as buy­ing a candy bar across the counter.
European coun­tries have one-tenth the deaths we have due to gun vi­ol­ence be­cause they are not saddled with the al­batross around their necks of a mis­in­ter­preted 2nd Amend­ment that ap­plied to mi­li­tias at a time when our young coun­try was strug­gling for sur­viv­al against the European powers.
It was not in­ten­ded to cre­ate a pub­lic with every­one armed to the teeth and a law onto them­selves.
Wal­ter M. Desh­er

For blame game, go  to the guy at the top
Need­less to say, the killing of in­no­cent people is heart­felt throughout this coun­try. However, those who want to point fin­gers at the NRA and Con­gress for­get the one per­son who is in con­trol, the pres­id­ent.
On Ju­ly 20, 2012, a gun­man killed 12 and in­jured 58 people at a Bat­man movie in Col­or­ado.
Where was our pres­id­ent? Why didn’t he bring up gun con­trol and men­tal health is­sues then? Was it be­cause of the up­com­ing elec­tion and con­cern that it would cost him votes?
Maybe if he had ac­ted back then we would nev­er have heard of a school called Sandy Hook.
So let’s start from the top on down with the blame game.
Jerry De Pan­ther

What Amer­ica needs is some good old-fash­ioned mu­tu­al re­spect
In this sea­son of peace on Earth and good will to­ward men, per­haps we should take a mo­ment to re­flect on the need for mu­tu­al re­spect with re­gard to our dif­fer­ences.
Ar­gu­ably, re­li­gious faith is a be­lief or a per­son­al opin­ion much like pre­fer­ring vanilla over chocol­ate ice cream.
Most of us be­lieve in free­dom of re­li­gion but few con­sider free­dom from re­li­gion, or per­haps bet­ter said, free­dom from the im­posed re­li­gious be­liefs of oth­ers.
When it was re­quired to read the Bible daily in ad­vis­ory in high school, the sug­ges­ted por­tion was al­ways from the Old Test­a­ment, which was part of the tra­di­tions of both Juda­ism and Chris­tian­ity. Read­ing from the Kor­an or the Gos­pels did not hap­pen, and all of it would have been ir­rel­ev­ant to a Buddhist, a Hindu or an athe­ist.
Pray­er was not, as claimed, banned in pub­lic schools, but neither was it re­quired or or­gan­ized. I am sure some stu­dents chose to pray be­fore a ma­jor test and no one would in­ter­fere.
I would hope that sens­ible people are not in­sul­ted or hos­tile to dis­plays such as a Ha­nukkah men­orah, a Christ­mas tree or manger scene on pub­lic prop­erty as long as it is paid for out of private funds and re­moved in a timely man­ner at the ex­pense of the group dis­play­ing it.
Su­preme Court Justice Oliv­er Wendell Holmes Jr. said a cen­tury ago, “The right to swing my fist ends where the oth­er man’s nose be­gins.”
Only when it af­fects you do you have the right to  in­ter­fere. It is ar­gu­ably a sens­ible policy. Why should an in­di­vidu­al’s per­son­al be­liefs as de­scribed in the books they hold holy be im­posed on oth­ers?
Re­gard­less of our own feel­ings about same-sex mar­riage, ho­mo­sexu­al­ity, birth con­trol and more, is it right to im­pose them on oth­ers? If you think a be­ha­vi­or is wrong to do, don’t do it.
Should a wo­man who gets preg­nant after be­ing raped, let’s say, by a man of an­oth­er race, be forced to carry the child to term and raise it when every day look­ing at the child’s mixed fea­tures be re­minded of the hor­rible trauma, simply be­cause of the re­li­gious be­liefs of oth­ers?
Should two people of the same sex who love each oth­er and who have been to­geth­er for dec­ades be denied of­fi­cial re­cog­ni­tion of their re­la­tion­ship or their right to hap­pi­ness? How does their re­la­tion­ship af­fect an­oth­er per­son’s mar­riage? What if one of the same-sex part­ners is hos­pit­al­ized in grave con­di­tion? Should the oth­er part­ner be denied vis­it­a­tion rights or the right to make life-and-death de­cisions be­cause they are not fam­ily?
Is Holmes right that be­ha­vi­or that does not af­fect the life and hap­pi­ness of oth­ers is not their busi­ness? This mat­ter of lov­ing, kind­ness and mu­tu­al con­sid­er­a­tion is surely worthy of de­bate, es­pe­cially at this time of year.
Mel Flit­ter

Speak your mind  …
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