O’Brien has questions about city legal issue
I introduced a resolution calling for Council to investigate the city’s recent Request for Proposal seeking a single law firm to provide legal representation to all indigent clients when a conflict of interest requires appointment of outside counsel.
The right to counsel is a fundamental safeguard guaranteed under the Bill of Rights to all persons accused of crimes who are unable to afford a lawyer.
In Philadelphia, the Defender’s Association provides free legal services to criminal and juvenile clients who are financially unable to obtain counsel. In some cases, the Defender’s Association is precluded from providing that legal representation due to a conflict of interest. When this occurs, the courts appoint private attorneys to represent the accused. These attorneys are referred to as “conflict counsel” or “court-appointed counsel.”
In November 2012, the mayor’s office, intending to assume this appointment power from the courts, posted a Request for Proposal seeking a private entity to provide legal representation to indigent clients when the Defender’s Association is prohibited from providing representation due to a conflict of interest. It appears that a contract will soon be executed between the city and a private entity. And this gives me great concern. My staff and I have built our careers in the criminal justice conversation. Our shared goal in different venues has always been justice. We are collectively uncertain if justice will be served with this new court appointment process.
What will the quality of representation be for those accused of a crime who do not have the financial means to hire an attorney? This RFP calls for a one-year contract. What if the deal is not renewed? What happens to those clients? Where is the transparency in this process? Why is this a one-year contract with an option for three successive one-year contracts? Will this cost the city more money in hidden or unforeseen expenses? What is this new dynamic modeled after?
The questions are many, and the answers are few. I had no other choice but to put us on a path to find the answers.
Dennis M. O’Brien
A plea to cat caretakers to please foster animals
I hope everyone will take a minute to read this letter. It could save lives. Literally.
ACCT, or Animal Care and Control Team, receives countless cats and kittens every single day. The caring staff and volunteers do what they can, but with the numbers never dwindling from the public dropoffs of surrenders and found strays, not all the felines have a chance at a happy ending.
This is where you come in. Fostering saves lives. By opening your heart (and door) to a homeless soul, you give that life a chance at a new life.
ACCT covers spaying, neutering and medical care, all you need to do is give that fur-baby love and food. ACCT will also help and show you how to easily promote your foster for adoption via Petfinder and local adoption events.
Because the shelter is always full, all cats are urgent in adoption or foster. But the ones most urgent are: young kittens, kitties with colds (which the shelter provides free medicine) and shy felines who need that little extra love to come out of their furry shells.
For more information on fostering, please visit www.acctphilly.org or call 267-385-3800.
Please don’t wait. For now is the best time to save someone who has run out of time. Literally.
State is shortchanging Philadelphia schools
Jerry Perese’s letter shows he needs a little more math instruction than he received at Drexel U. He ignores that:
1. The state cut the per-student rate for aid to Philadelphia schools by $1,000.
2. Pennsylvania is the ninth-worst state in the nation for its contributions to education.
3. Since 2011, the school district cut its personnel by 28 percent, while enrollment was down only 18 percent.
4. Perese doesn’t like how the district spends its money, but does he know that one-third of its budget is spent on charter schools and debt costs?
5. Teachers are being asked to cut pay by more than 10 percent and benefits by more, yet make less than suburban teachers, for a job that is more challenging.
6. He argues Philadelphia’s district is failing, but neglects to note the many successful magnet schools, and the failures of many charter schools.
7. Every other school board in the state can levy taxes to meet its costs, but Philadelphia may not.
8. Philadelphia schools are run by the state, so the state bears responsibility for any of their failures, as well as for appropriate funding.
9. Philadelphia per-pupil spending is $2,000 to $3,000 less on average than surrounding districts.
10. As I understand it, Philadelphia pays more taxes to the state than it receives back in state aid, so the 18 percent of the education budget that he states goes to Philadelphia is irrelevant.
Edward S. Marks
It is time for tougher gun laws in America
Once again, our nation has been horrified by a gun massacre. The constitution indicates we have a right to arm. But, this right was written 200 years ago.
Who would ever think that a single weapon could have the capacity to shoot several hundred rounds of ammunition? Our legislators must enforce laws that would ban such weapons; enforce laws that restrict the number of weapons an individual can buy; and enforce strict background checks.
The reality is, this measure may not end gun violence. But, if nothing is done, these type of crimes will continue.
Obamacare is as bad as the Prohibition
It’s interesting how we’re having a fight over the “settled law” known as Obamacare. I suppose those who oppose the law are expected to lie down on their thermometers and give up. After all, even the Supreme Court has blessed it.
Not so fast.
Almost 100 years ago, the country had a battle over another issue critical to health and well-being.
A well-meaning legislative majority managed to get a “prohibition” on the manufacture and selling of alcohol written right into the U. S. Constitution (18th Amendment in 1919), despite many objections.
This surely became settled law. A law that led to deaths from bootlegged booze, the rise of organized crime and even the loosening of morals, as many felt forced into becoming lawbreakers. Funny, but we’re already seeing a sort of bootlegging of medical care for cash (concierge medicine) by those who can afford it.
For 14 years, the people fought back against Prohibition, and in 1933 (21st Amendment), the Constitution was changed again to end this heavy hand of government.
Obamacare was enacted without a true national debate, without citizen input, and without balance and fairness. We have no national consensus on this law that affects us all. Because of this, Obamacare will fail — just like Prohibition.
He feels no mercy for drunken driver
James R. Kenny, the brother of the victim of drunken driver Angel Roque, who pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle, asked the judge to have mercy on Roque, because Roque had “goodness inside.”
Gee, that’s swell. How sweet of Mr. Kenny. I hope the judge didn’t pay any attention to him.
Once again, all crimes are crimes against society, so we are all indirect victims of every crime.
Arrest, prosecution and punishment are not supposed to be up to the direct victim of a crime or the victim’s family. The criminal justice system is not the place for personal vengeance or personal forgiveness.
It’s not the role of victims or their families to have mercy or to mete out justice. We should get rid of these so-called “victim impact statements” altogether.
Howard J. Wilk
Homosexual parents can provide a stable childhood
Gee, Mr. George Tomezsko, you sure use a lot of big words to demonstrate your bigotry.
You state that the preservation of traditional human institutions overrides the Constitution. Traditional human values once included slavery, the inability of women to vote, a segregated Army, Navy and Marine Corps, segregated schools, the denial of civil rights and countless other discriminatory practices.
So in your mind, I suppose we should return to these practices because who cares about the Constitution.
Well, Mr. Tomezsko, I care about the Constitution, and so do the vast majority of Americans.
If you don’t like the politicians, then by all means vote against them.
But remember, the next group will probably enforce the Constitution as well, and you will be railing against them.
As I have asked before, what facts do you possess that show children of gay or lesbian parents have a less stable childhood than those from “traditional marriages?”
The fact is that children from single-parent households face a much bigger challenge. Loving, caring parents, no matter their sexual orientation, enable their children to live a much more stable existence.
Try to look past your prejudices, sir, and see life for what it really is, not what you think it is.
Two ways to help schools
The mayor wants to give the school district $50 million from the continuation of an extra 1 percent sales tax levy.
City Council wants to advance $50 million from the potential sales of old school buildings.
They continue to fight over which method is the best.
Because they are coming from different money streams and the school district needs all the money it can get, why not do both?
Obama should act like a president, not a dictator
When will America take off the blinders when it comes to President Obama? Don’t you ever watch the constant interruption of programs by your hero? He is constantly saying, “There is no way will I negotiate with Boehner and the Republicans,” and then says in the next sentence how he is willing to negotiate with everybody. I guess he thinks if he keeps bloviating on his bully pulpit and repeats the lies over and over with that smooth arrogant swag, they will become true. Stop falling for it.
As an independent, and listening to both sides of the coin, it seems all Mr. Boehner and the Republicans want and wanted from the beginning was fairness for the people. Not the Tea Party, not this group or that group, but for all American people. They want the people to choose for themselves what is best for them.
They don’t like the way “His Highness” is pushing this Obamacare down the people’s throats. Quite frankly, neither do I. The average American cannot afford this so-called “affordable health care act.” This seems to be the sticking point in this shutdown. Obama needs to stop thinking of his ego and his political party and start thinking of “We, the people.”
He also needs to stop trying to make a legacy for himself. It’s not going to happen. He wants the House to vote on ending the partial shutdown, then and only then, will he negotiate. Sounds like bullying to me. Yes, Mr. President, it is you who are holding the government hostage, and it needs to stop. The buck stops with the president, like it or not.
I also think it is time that Obama start taking responsibility for his actions and what comes out of this administration. Stop all the blaming, which I might add, he has done since he became president and is still doing. Forcing someone to do something beyond their comfort zone is highly unconstitutional. With too much government control, a country will fall.
It has been said over and over that Obama takes all this abuse. What “abuse” do you speak of? This man’s sins and scandals have been covered up by the media ad nauseam. Seriously, I think it’s time the truth about your “Superman” comes out and media cover-ups need to stop. Unless you are one of the entitlement people, who inhale all the free stuff this administration offers, which I might add, is being paid for by hard-working taxpayers.
I also love the way our president refers to the “other side.” What “other side” does he refer? This is not a football game, people. Obama is supposed to be the president for all Americans. Isn’t it funny how all presidents before him, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Bush the elder, etc., were all able to negotiate with this “other side.” Your “anointed one” is clueless about what it means to be president and how to govern from the middle. Rather, he would prefer to take on the role as “dictator-in-chief.”
Finally, a note to Mr. Obama. Sir, you wanted the job as president of the U.S.A. You got the job as president of the U.S.A. So don’t you think it is time you start doing the job of such a president? You knew what you were getting into, so stop your bellyaching. It is not about your way or the highway.
Again, as I write this letter, I see Obama is still suffering from delusions of grandeur. Since what comes out of his mouth is so far-fetched at times, perhaps he should not be president of the U.S.A., but become the president of the Land of Oz.
I thank America
The war has stolen me,
I lost my father, toys,
I earned a little fee
Using guns with boys.
Misfortune, hunger, ruins
Took away young years,
Malice encouraged foolishness
In the cap moved on ears.
Further difficult and harder,
Many jobs till dawn,
Life runs as a streamer
Changing winter, summer, fall.
Now I became older,
But can stay very proud,
For having a good holder
I thank AMERICA aloud.
I trust my fate
America’s accepted us
Becoming our home,
Without even asking us
What country we are from.
Without flattery and fun,
Embellishment and fears,
America, I am your son,
I will be loyal for years.
Without asking documents,
The names I didn’t know,
You’ve believed my arguments,
That I am not your foe.
I try to be faithful,
Being everybody a mate,
I will be very useful,
And trust my own fate.
(Translated from Russian by his wife, Marim Barash) Pennypack