Letters to the Editor: October 16, 2013

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.

Gina De­N­ofa


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

Winchester Park

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. 

Mar­ie Pat­ton 

Fox Chase

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.

Richard Iac­on­elli


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

Pine Val­ley

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.

Joe Oren­stein


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?

May­er Krain

Mod­ena Park

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.

Di­ane Mc­Dow­ell


Read­er Po­etry

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.

Moy­sey Barash

(Trans­lated from Rus­si­an by his wife, Mar­im Barash) Pennypack

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