Letters to the Editor (March 27, 2013)

Thank you for your sup­port, Coun­cil­man

We would like to sin­cerely thank Coun­cil­man Den­nis O’Bri­en for spon­sor­ing a child.

Den­nis O’Bri­en took some time out of his busy sched­ule to come to the Toast of Read­ing be­ne­fit.

My daugh­ter Meghan was the re­cip­i­ent of his gen­er­ous dona­tion.

Meghan is a beau­ti­ful young lady who at­tends Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School, and she is dys­lex­ic.

Meghan and her sis­ter Jenna both at­tend the Chil­dren’s Dys­lex­ia Cen­ter of Phil­adelphia. The cen­ter has done so much for my girls.

Meghan struggled in school since the first grade. She star­ted at the cen­ter when she was go­ing in­to the sev­enth grade. She was able to get hon­ors in her first semester at Ry­an.

The mis­sion of the cen­ter is to provide treat­ment, without charge, to chil­dren who have dys­lex­ia. We are truly blessed to be able to get the help that our girls need.

The cen­ter has ac­cred­ited edu­cat­ors to provide train­ing.

Did you know that 25 per­cent of chil­dren have some form of dys­lex­ia?

Please con­sider giv­ing a tax-de­duct­ible dona­tion to sup­port the cen­ter.

Please send dona­tions to the Chil­dren’s Dys­lex­ia Cen­ter of Phil­adelphia, 1700 Tom­lin­son Road, Phil­adelphia, PA 19116.

If you are in­ter­ested in spon­sor­ing a child, please call 215-673-1972.

Colleen Clar­ency


Nut­ter and Coun­cil are laugh­ing at us 

Con­grat­u­la­tions, May­or Nut­ter and City Coun­cil. You did it again. You suckered us in­to an­oth­er tax in­crease. This time, it’s the ill-con­ceived ac­tu­al value ini­ti­at­ive/100-per­cent real es­tate as­sess­ments.

I know they’re sup­posed to be fair and trans­par­ent. Well they are not. What they are is a Robin Hood tax sys­tem to take more money away from middle- and up­per-in­come Phil­adelphia cit­izens. But, you all knew that. Bravo for the act­ing per­form­ance.

With the ex­cep­tion of Coun­cil­men Green and Squilla, there was little vo­cal op­pos­i­tion in Coun­cil. They can’t help it. They’re taxahol­ics. But now the cit­izens in Phil­adelphia are ir­ate, and all should file ap­peals and con­sider leg­al ac­tion even if you think that you are un­scathed. Guess again.

That is be­cause even if the mil­lage is set low for 2014, it will con­tin­ue to rise and each year it does, your taxes will go up. Once you ac­cept the re­cently mailed as­sess­ments, it will be more dif­fi­cult to ap­peal them in the fu­ture, be­cause the city will say you didn’t ap­peal in year one and the real es­tate mar­ket will im­prove and prices will go up. Also, as­sess­ments are like auto stick­er prices. Would you buy a car for the stick­er price? No, of course not. The more ap­peals, the more likely City Coun­cil will no­tice.

So, keep laugh­ing Mr. May­or and hon­or­able Coun­cil mem­bers, be­cause the 2015 primary elec­tion isn’t that far away and I sus­pect this time the tax­pay­ers of Phil­adelphia will levy a new DROP pro­gram on you.

Myles Gor­don

Krewstown Road Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation

Please fix the fence 

Dear Mr. May­or and Coun­cil­man O’Neill, on Feb. 19 of this year I sub­mit­ted three sep­ar­ate ser­vice re­quests un­der the Philly 311 web­site. They are:

Broken Safety Fence (#2763695)

Il­leg­al Dump­ing (#2763692)

Tree Limbs Down (#2763870)

As of today, none have been ad­dressed. It is un­der­stand­able that the il­leg­al dump­ing and down tree limbs can be per­ceived as a low pri­or­ity. However, as for the broken safety fence along a side­walk that is less than 100 feet from the Steph­en Dec­atur Ele­ment­ary School, I have to ques­tion why this has not been ad­dressed.

Thank you for your con­sid­er­a­tion of these con­cerns.

Patrick Hall


2 kids for wel­fare fam­il­ies, that’s it 

I was think­ing lately why wel­fare moms have so many chil­dren. So I de­cided it was free, paid by the tax­pay­ers.

There should be a law that lim­its wel­fare fam­il­ies to just two chil­dren, and ad­di­tion­als would be up to the fam­ily to pay. 

Wel­fare pays per child, plus free med­ic­al, dent­al and eye care. Not too bad. Also, free pren­at­al care when hav­ing a baby.

Wel­fare people get sub­sid­ized for rent in hous­ing, and many are de­lin­quent in their pay­ments. A wo­man once said to me that it’s God’s will for them to have ba­bies. But God does not pay the bills, it’s the tax­pay­ers who pay and pay.

There are people who are in need of wel­fare, and also many who should not be, es­pe­cially young girls who dropped out of school to have ba­bies. 

Someone told me lately that Sug­ar­House Casino is loaded with wel­fare re­cip­i­ents. I guess they need some re­cre­ation, but not at my ex­pense.

Jerry Foglia Sr.


What have they done to Castor Ave? 

I don’t un­der­stand why, when they re­did Castor Av­en­ue above Cottman Av­en­ue and re­moved the is­lands, they put in their place left turn lanes, and in most cases a small is­land with a pole and traffic light right where you would ex­pect to make the turn.

This was a waste of money and is a safely haz­ard. 

Wil­li­am Charles Jam­ieson

Castor Gar­dens

Send your kids to sum­mer arts camp

Many par­ents are con­sid­er­ing what pro­grams to have their kids at­tend this sum­mer.

I have one re­com­mend­a­tion, Port­side Sum­mer Arts Camp, at 2531 E. Le­high Ave.

I wanted to let your read­ers know that the pro­gram is price­less. My daugh­ters Brenna (10) and Denni (8) have at­ten­ded the last two years. Dur­ing a time of bore­dom for most kids, this pro­gram has filled the void. Each year my kids can’t wait to go back.

The pro­gram is set up with a great cur­riculum. We have done many oth­er sum­mer pro­grams throughout the years, and they do not even come close. 

The skills they are learn­ing are so well roun­ded, learn­ing dif­fer­ent art tech­niques to deal­ing with bul­lies. I know the pro­gram is called Sum­mer Arts Camp, but to me it’s help­ing my kids be­come amaz­ing people. I would re­com­mend that any­one with chil­dren send them to Port­side Sum­mer Arts Camp. The staff be­comes like fam­ily and great role mod­els for our kids.

Here is the web­site: ht­tp://www.port­sidearts­cen­ter.org

Thank you.

Brent West

Port Rich­mond

A col­lege edu­ca­tion goes a long way, too

A re­cent let­ter offered a val­id cri­ti­cism of em­ploy­ers who de­mand col­lege de­grees for jobs that tra­di­tion­ally have not in­cluded such re­quire­ments.

However, in the course of fash­ion­ing his ar­gu­ment, the writer painted such a dis­tor­ted pic­ture of the col­lege ex­per­i­ence that I was moved to dis­ab­use him of his mis­char­ac­ter­iz­a­tions.

In May 2008, I gradu­ated from the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania; rather than an easy stroll, my jour­ney to the gradu­ation stage was an ar­du­ous climb. 

In the course of com­plet­ing my pro­gram of stud­ies, I was en­gaged in a per­petu­al ex­er­cise of read­ing, writ­ing and study­ing. I typed in­nu­mer­able es­says and wit­nessed more sun­rises than I care to re­mem­ber in the hope that my ef­forts would be re­war­ded in the fu­ture. In ad­di­tion to my full course load, I worked 30 hours per week to as­sist in the pay­ment of my tu­ition. After gradu­ation, I was saddled with a five-fig­ure debt.   

While my ex­per­i­ence is ad­mit­tedly an­ec­dot­al, it is not unique. The Na­tion­al Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion Stat­ist­ics re­ports that 45 per­cent of un­der­gradu­ates work while en­rolled. 

Moreover, col­lege stu­dents are bor­row­ing an av­er­age of $24,000 to fund their edu­ca­tions. Far from as­sum­ing no re­spons­ib­il­ity, many col­lege stu­dents have taken on a tre­mend­ous fin­an­cial bur­den. 

These am­bi­tious young people ac­cept this onus be­cause they real­ize the value of a col­lege de­gree in a coun­try that con­tin­ues its trans­ition from an in­dus­tri­al to a ser­vices-ori­ented eco­nomy. 

The post-in­dus­tri­al Amer­ica re­quires a skilled and edu­cated work­force; thus, it comes as no sur­prise that the na­tion­al un­em­ploy­ment rate for col­lege gradu­ates sits at 3.8 per­cent, where­as the rate for in­di­vidu­als with a high school dip­loma re­gisters at 7.9 per­cent. 

If the writer truly ag­on­izes over the de­cline of the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy, he ought to be en­cour­aging more, not few­er, people to pur­sue high­er edu­ca­tion.

Tim Re­illy Jr.


Ar­tur: AVI is not fair or ac­cur­ate

Try­ing to use my 37 years of ex­per­i­ence in selling real es­tate in North­east Phil­adelphia, I can’t fig­ure out how the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ments (OPA) after many years de­veloped a new valu­ation meth­od that may be worse than the cur­rent sys­tem.

The homepage on OPA’s web­site shows two street signs cross­ing, one say­ing “FAIR” and the oth­er “AC­CUR­ATE” with a cap­tion stat­ing, “IT’S ALL ABOUT FAIR­NESS.” They should take this page down. I have stud­ied hun­dreds of real es­tate par­cels and found out that the new as­sess­ments are neither fair nor ac­cur­ate.

The AVI num­bers are simply wrong. What I am ques­tion­ing is OPA’s meth­od­o­logy in de­term­in­ing land and build­ing val­ues.

Did they phys­ic­ally in­spect every build­ing and, do they have any re­cords as to the im­prove­ment in the 575,000 units in the city? NO.

They re­lied on an ex­ter­i­or drive-by along with pic­tures taken from the sky.

I then think they used a dart board or the spin­ning wheel from the Wheel of For­tune on which they spun the wheel to see what the valu­ation of any giv­en prop­erty will be.

Sounds plaus­ible based on the amount of re­search I have un­covered.

We have a right to know how the pro­cess was done. We are owed trans­par­ency.

Prices on row home blocks can vary by 0 per­cent to 40 per­cent, de­pend­ing on con­di­tion, up­grades, num­ber of bed­rooms, fin­ished base­ments, etc. AVI has seemed to use a one-size-fits-all meth­od on each in­di­vidu­al row home block. Land val­ues, I have found, are all over the spec­trum.

Fair mar­ket value in my busi­ness is de­term­ined by ob­ject­ive facts, in­clud­ing which sim­il­ar prop­er­ties have been sold in the re­cent past in an arms-length trans­ac­tion, where buy­ers and sellers have agreed on price. Com­puter mod­els, which are what I think AVI used, are just that, mod­els that are sub­ject­ive, like a weath­er fore­cast  

While there are very few res­id­en­tial lot sales in the lower North­east, the value for res­id­en­tial ground can be de­term­ined by com­pet­ent ap­praisers.

The val­ues for lots for any giv­en area will be in a very tight range. Un­for­tu­nately, AVI has a huge range that OPA can’t doc­u­ment on single par­cels of land. A single row home lot, by it­self, has very little value. I have the lot sales in the North­east for 2011 and 2012. What do they have?

But, the biggest con­cern I have is the small com­mer­cial build­ings in the North­east. For all the talk of shop­ping cen­ters and big Cen­ter City of­fice build­ings get­ting a tax break un­der AVI, just the op­pos­ite is true for com­mer­cial prop­erty in neigh­bor­hoods. 

A case in point is Gene Carelli, the own­er of San­tucci’s Pizzer­ia, with two stores in the North­east. One is at 4010 Cottman Ave., near Frank­ford Av­en­ue, which was as­sessed in 2013 for $250,000, with real es­tate taxes of $7,800. Un­der AVI, the value goes up for 2014 to $827,100, with taxes of ap­prox­im­ately $11,000. That’s a 40-per­cent tax in­crease. Is that rev­en­ue neut­ral for Gene? AVI is sup­posed to be that for the total rev­en­ue col­lec­ted by the city for 2014. At his oth­er shop at 901 Tyson Ave., his as­sess­ment is go­ing up to $461,500, even though the store at the end of his strip, which is big­ger, sold last year for $135,000! These ex­amples demon­strate why this city through AVI is giv­ing small busi­nesses yet an­oth­er reas­on to leave. 

To ap­peal small com­mer­cial real es­tate, the own­er is go­ing to have to spend a min­im­um of $2,000 to $5,000. Big­ger par­cels will be much more ex­pens­ive. That’s go­ing to be the last ray of hope, ex­pens­ive as it may be, that com­mer­cial prop­erty own­ers will have un­der this un­just fiasco.

The city is try­ing to play stall ball in let­ting the clock run out on the ap­peal pro­cess. AVI must be delayed again to al­low time to do the as­sess­ments prop­erly and pro­fes­sion­ally. That would also level the play­ing field for ap­peals. The sys­tem must be fair and ac­cur­ate with an easy, un­der­stand­able meth­od­o­logy, coupled with a fair rate. If a cor­rec­tion is not made by OPA, then a class ac­tion suit will be in or­der. Un­for­tu­nately, at this point, the say­ing, “Garbage in, garbage out,” seems to ap­ply to AVI.

Chris­toph­er Ar­tur

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