Letters to the Editor: September 11, 2013

To bomb or not to bomb?

We have a pres­id­ent who has painted him­self in­to a corner by talk­ing tough about his “Red Line,” con­cern­ing the al­leged use of pois­on gas by As­sad on the people of Syr­ia. However, this Red Line didn’t ap­ply to the use of heavy ar­til­lery or bombs dropped in res­id­en­tial areas from mil­it­ary air­craft, all of which the poorly armed rebels had no de­fense against. They still don’t have ad­equate fire­power to de­fend them­selves from heavy as­saults by the As­sad re­gime, merely be­cause Obama didn’t want to get in­volved in an­oth­er Middle East­ern con­flict. That is, un­til now, after two years of this slaughter and the pos­sible use of chem­ic­al weapons by As­sad, of which the ad­min­is­tra­tion was fully aware. Now, our fear­less lead­er wants to get in­volved.

Now that As­sad has evid­ently crossed “Ram­bama’s” Red Line is he ready to take ac­tion. Is this re­sponse go­ing to be im­me­di­ate de­ploy­ment of Toma­hawk  mis­siles to the air­strips from which these as­saults were made in Dam­as­cus? No, be­cause he wants to make sure that he has the sup­port of the al­lies. Eng­land is not on board with mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion, but he does have the sup­port of France, Tur­key, Jordan and the ma­jor­ity of the Ar­ab lead­ers who are also con­cerned about pois­on gas be­ing used against ci­vil­ians.

So, now is he ready to take ac­tion? No, be­cause he would rather wait to get the ap­prov­al of our totally in­de­cis­ive Con­gress. One ques­tion: Aside from your golf ex­cur­sions to Martha’s Vine­yard and Flor­ida with Ti­ger Woods, what have you and our so fre­quently va­ca­tion­ing con­gress­men been think­ing over the last two years, while As­sad was slaughter­ing his own people, only be­cause they dared to ask for a bet­ter gov­ern­ment?

Fi­nally, why now? What is dif­fer­ent now? The killing con­tin­ues. Only the rebel op­pos­i­tion has changed com­plex­ion. They are now en­hanced by the Taliban, Hamas, the Hezbol­lah and Al Qaida ter­ror­ists. So what dif­fer­ence are you go­ing to make now? Are you go­ing to help the ter­ror­ists take con­trol of Syr­ia, as they did in Palestine? The time for ac­tion was two years ago, and you dropped the ball, so just step back and cry, or pray.

Jim O’Keefe

Castor Gar­dens

Don’t close schools for re­li­gious hol­i­days

Why are pub­lic schools closed on Jew­ish hol­i­days? I have al­ways asked this ques­tion since I at­ten­ded a non-pub­lic school. I was once told it was be­cause, back in the early days, most of the teach­ers were Jew­ish. I am not sure if that is cor­rect or not, but I do know that most of the teach­ers today are not Jew­ish. 

My son at­tends a pub­licly fun­ded charter school and has off for Rosh Hasha­nah. Why is this? My son is not Jew­ish. He is a Chris­ti­an. He is off on Christ­mas, which is a Chris­ti­an hol­i­day and a na­tion­al hol­i­day. He has off for Labor Day and then goes to school for two days and has off for Rosh Hasha­nah. 

Colum­bus Day is a na­tion­al hol­i­day, and my son is man­dated to at­tend school when all city and gov­ern­ment agen­cies, banks, the post of­fice and most pub­lic schools are closed. More par­ents are off of work on Colum­bus Day than they are for Rosh Hasha­nah and have to make ar­range­ments for their chil­dren. Where is the sep­ar­a­tion of church and state? Most stu­dents have off dur­ing the Christ­mas and East­er sea­sons. However, they do not call these re­li­gious hol­i­days. They are con­sidered winter break and spring break. 

In ques­tion­ing my son’s school, I was told the board of trust­ees makes this de­cision. I have no prob­lem al­low­ing a stu­dent to have an ex­cused ab­sence for re­li­gious hol­i­days. However, I have a prob­lem with a pub­licly fun­ded school be­ing closed for a re­li­gious hol­i­day. If it is a na­tion­al hol­i­day, then close school. If it is a re­li­gious hol­i­day, then al­low an ex­cused ab­sence to ob­serve your be­liefs but it is your re­spons­ib­il­ity to make up for the missed work.

Steve Schmidt

Fox Chase

Term lim­its for all oliti­cians are vi­tal

As we all try to fig­ure out what’s wrong with Amer­ica, I think we for­get what the found­ing fath­ers had in mind when they cre­ated this gov­ern­ment. They didn’t ex­pect politi­cians for life with no chance of pa­role. They didn’t ex­pect politi­cians to spend more time on be­ing re-elec­ted than they do on the needs of the people. 

They didn’t ex­pect politi­cians con­stantly giv­ing them­selves pay raises and ad­di­tion­al perks none of the rest of us get. They didn’t ex­pect politi­cians to spend more time on va­ca­tion than ac­tu­ally work­ing. They didn’t ex­pect politi­cians who re­fused to com­prom­ise on ma­jor is­sues in or­der to get le­gis­la­tion passed. 

They didn’t ex­pect politi­cians to be­have in­ap­pro­pri­ately with mem­bers of the op­pos­ite sex and then try to jus­ti­fy their ac­tions, with no apo­lo­gies to any­one in­volved. They didn’t ex­pect politi­cians to have a total lack of any sense of re­spons­ib­il­ity to ac­tu­ally run the gov­ern­ment. 

No, they didn’t ex­pect any of these things. They did ex­pect a group of hard-work­ing, ded­ic­ated people to run the coun­try prop­erly so that the people could be prop­erly edu­cated and live their lives safely and in peace.

So I am call­ing for term lim­its for all politi­cians. No more than eight years in any of­fice. One term only. Do your job and go back to private life. 

I also call for the end of lob­by­ing on every level. These two evils cause most of the prob­lems in gov­ern­ment. Let us all do our best to change things be­fore we go com­pletely down the toi­let.

Joe Oren­stein


Ry­an HS foot­ball has a proud tra­di­tion

I take ex­cep­tion to sports ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone’s char­ac­ter­iz­ing the former Arch­bish­op Ry­an foot­ball pro­gram as a “messy pro­gram.” 

Read­ers should be re­minded that this is the same pro­gram that won nu­mer­ous Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ships, pro­duced many All-Cath­ol­ic play­ers and pre­pared stu­dent-ath­letes for suc­cess in col­lege. Un­for­tu­nately, a de­clin­ing school en­roll­ment de­prived the school of many tal­en­ted stu­dent-ath­letes. 

The dif­fer­ence between today’s pro­gram and that of the former is schedul­ing. Formerly, Ry­an com­peted against sub­urb­an powers such as Ne­sham­iny and Penns­bury. This is no longer the case.

Ray Pas­cali


Tax­a­tion of prop­er­ties

I have been com­mu­nic­at­ing with our elec­ted of­fi­cial for many years. The tax­a­tion of our prop­er­ties is without rep­res­ent­a­tion.

Fifty per­cent of Phil­adelphi­ans are not em­ployed, so where is all this dol­lar rev­en­ue com­ing from?

The schools need $50 mil­lion to con­tin­ue to ser­vice our school chil­dren. This is the same amount that is needed to com­plete Dilworth Plaza. What a co­in­cid­ence! 

Dr. Ack­er­man re­ceived a lump sum that cost al­most $1 mil­lion. 

If the school can­not provide ser­vices for our chil­dren, I de­mand a re­fund of my last three prop­erty tax in­creases.

Anna D. Kauff­man


Read­er po­etry

To my grand­daugh­ter Ju­lia Sak­son and her hus­band Greg Cruz on their wed­ding day:

I con­grat­u­late you

From all my heart!

You are so nice

And very smart

Lucky years to both of you,

Be al­ways happy, nice and true!

Carry your love

Over whole your life,

Re­spect each oth­er

Have al­ways kaif!

Emiliya Sak­son

Holme Circle

Corbett must act to fund Philly schools 

It ap­peared as if there was light at the end of the tun­nel.

Gov. Corbett, in light of an up­com­ing reelec­tion cam­paign, seemed to be reach­ing out to the people of Phil­adelphia and liv­ing up to the com­mit­ment of provid­ing Phil­adelphia stu­dents with a sound edu­ca­tion.

It is a trav­esty then that Gov. Corbett, and the most ex­treme mem­bers of the GOP caucus in the House, either don’t un­der­stand their job or have seen fit to neg­lect their re­spons­ib­il­it­ies and leave school fund­ing in limbo.

The Corbett edu­ca­tion cuts have crippled the Phil­adelphia school dis­trict, and what Gov. Corbett has pro­posed does little to make up for his shame­ful agenda. His agenda has been re­in­forced by a small group of ex­treme ideo­logues who are more loy­al to right-wing lob­by­ists and big busi­ness than the people of this com­mon­wealth.

Their in­terests lie with a Tea Party philo­sophy rather than com­mon-sense policies that serve as rem­ed­ies to the prob­lems our fam­il­ies are deal­ing with.

The fu­ture of our city hinges on the health of our K-12 pro­grams, but Gov. Corbett has kept it on life sup­port and de­prived it of needed as­sist­ance.

If we al­low our sys­tem to flounder, we will wit­ness a severe blow­back, in­clud­ing a de­cline in our eco­nomy and a po­ten­tial rise in crime throughout our com­munit­ies. The GOP le­gis­lature has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to a vari­ety of is­sues, but per­haps no more so than edu­ca­tion. Their agenda has caused loc­al taxes to rise while pro­grams are slashed.

Un­der Tom Corbett and his right-wing al­lies in the House, the cost of edu­ca­tion rises, and our fam­il­ies see less for their money. The sad truth is that if it were not for his his­tor­ic­ally low poll num­bers, the gov­ernor would call a spe­cial ses­sion in or­der to push through his ex­treme policies; policies that hurt work­ing fam­il­ies and seni­ors by elim­in­at­ing jobs and earned be­ne­fits, but we do not see the same haste to as­sist Phil­adelphia’s stu­dents.

This should have been ad­dressed soon­er rather than later. Wait­ing two weeks to call an­oth­er ses­sion and leav­ing our fam­il­ies in limbo is not good enough. It is time for our full-time le­gis­lature to get back to work.

We must re­verse the course the gov­ernor and the most ex­treme mem­bers of his party have put us on. They have placed the bur­den on work­ing and middle-class fam­il­ies, and are mak­ing the stu­dents of Phil­adelphia pay the dearest price.

Rep. Brendan Boyle

As dis­trict at­tor­ney, I will be open to a uni­on 

As dis­trict at­tor­ney, I will be open to a uni­on. When struc­tured ap­pro­pri­ately, uni­ons still per­form a pos­it­ive good for the coun­try. Al­though I am a Re­pub­lic­an, I sup­port the right of as­so­ci­ation, to in­clude work­ers’ rights to as­so­ci­ate in­to a uni­on.

In 2010, while I was still a pro­sec­utor at the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice, I took the lead in or­gan­iz­ing a uni­on (Phil­adelphia Dis­trict At­tor­neys As­so­ci­ation). I con­sul­ted with a loc­al labor at­tor­ney and had a small group of ADAs who were as­sist­ing. At the time, we wanted to change cer­tain as­pects of the way the Wil­li­ams ad­min­is­tra­tion was run­ning the of­fice. For ex­ample, we wanted a more com­pet­it­ive and trans­par­ent pro­cess for the pro­mo­tion of ADAs, based on mer­it rather on what we per­ceived to be the polit­ic­al pro­cess it had be­come.  

Un­for­tu­nately, around the time I began cir­cu­lat­ing uni­on cards for sig­na­tures, I was trans­ferred to a unit at a sep­ar­ate build­ing away from the main of­fice and away from about 98 per­cent of the oth­er ADAs. After my quick trans­fer, many who sup­por­ted uni­on­iz­a­tion were now afraid to sign uni­on cards.

When uni­ons are used wisely to pro­tect folks and make the terms of em­ploy­ment fair, they are an es­sen­tial ele­ment in the mod­ern Amer­ic­an eco­nomy. As dis­trict at­tor­ney, I would peace­fully dis­cuss the mer­its and/or de­mer­its of uni­on­iz­a­tion and al­low the pro­cess to pro­ceed based on the ideas, rather than trans­fer­ring those who would have the au­da­city to or­gan­ize. The right to or­gan­ize and as­so­ci­ate is not only an Amer­ic­an tra­di­tion, it is an Amer­ic­an right.

Daniel Al­varez, Es­quire


Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate for dis­trict at­tor­ney

Traffic cam­er­as help re­duce speed­ing

Those who speed ex­cess­ively are a danger to us all.

We’ve seen the cata­stroph­ic ef­fects all too of­ten in Phil­adelphia. Drive up and down Roosevelt Boulevard, which cuts straight through my sen­at­ori­al dis­trict, and road­side me­mori­als mark fatal ac­ci­dents and serve as stark re­mind­ers of what can hap­pen.

The most re­cent ac­ci­dent oc­curred in mid-Ju­ly, when a moth­er and her three chil­dren were killed while try­ing to cross U.S. Route 1. Last month, a ped­es­tri­an was ser­i­ously in­jured after be­ing hit by a car on Roosevelt Boulevard in Ox­ford Circle.

Over the years, a great deal has been done to en­hance safety along this busy stretch of high­way, which used to be known as the “kill zone.” Red-light cam­er­as, for ex­ample, have helped to pre­vent dan­ger­ous right-angle col­li­sions and re­duce the num­ber of red-light run­ning vi­ol­a­tions.

But there’s still more we can do, as these most re­cent ac­ci­dents prove.

Roosevelt Boulevard may not be among Amer­ica’s most dan­ger­ous road­ways any­more, but it is still a high­way of con­cern for mo­tor­ists trav­el­ing it and res­id­ents liv­ing around it.

Let’s face it. There’s no bet­ter en­force­ment tool than a strong po­lice pres­ence. And our po­lice do an ex­traordin­ary job patrolling this high­way and oth­ers all around the city. When speed­ing mo­tor­ists see a cop car on the side of the road, what do they do? They slow down. But these cops can’t mon­it­or every mile of every high­way.

Speed cam­er­as can help. When drivers know these devices are in use and they could face a fine for speed­ing, they slow down.

This isn’t some new, un­tested tech­no­logy. Speed cam­er­as have been used in the United States since 1987, first in Para­dise Val­ley, Ar­iz. Today, more than 125 Amer­ic­an cit­ies and towns use the tech­no­logy. In loc­a­tions with speed cam­er­as, fatal crashes have de­clined as much as 71 per­cent.

The res­ults shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing. Six months after en­force­ment us­ing speed cam­er­as com­menced in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., the city ex­per­i­enced an 82 per­cent de­crease in vehicles speed­ing and a 14 per­cent de­crease in av­er­age speeds at sev­en sites. In New Or­leans, speed cam­er­as re­duced speed­ing by 84 per­cent. In Mont­gomery County, Md., speed­ing 10 m.p.h. or more over the lim­it de­clined 70 per­cent.

Six speed cam­er­as loc­ated for about 14 months on a busy urb­an high­way in Scott­s­dale, Ar­iz., re­duced av­er­age speeds by nine m.p.h., re­duced the pro­por­tion of vehicles trav­el­ing 11 m.p.h. or more over the speed lim­it by 90 per­cent and lowered the num­ber of in­jury crashes by 28 to 48 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Academies’ 2011 re­port.

The evid­ence is ir­re­fut­able. These devices do ex­actly what they’re de­signed to do, which is change driver be­ha­vi­or and force mo­tor­ists to slow down. Un­for­tu­nately, our city doesn’t have the op­tion to con­sider these devices. That needs to change.

I want to be clear: In­tro­du­cing speed cam­er­as isn’t about crack­ing down on the daily com­muter who may go a few miles per hour faster every so of­ten to make a pass. This is about put­ting the brakes on reck­less drivers who treat our high­ways as drag strips and put the lives of oth­er mo­tor­ists and ped­es­tri­ans in jeop­ardy. It’s got to stop.

Some res­id­ents don’t like the idea of “big broth­er” watch­ing them. I un­der­stand their con­cern. Again, I much prefer of­ficers on the street, but that’s not truly achiev­able giv­en cur­rent re­sources and staff­ing.

We can and should use tech­no­logy to help us catch and cite the city’s most egre­gious of­fend­ers. I want to end the days when high­ways like Roosevelt Boulevard are a haven for speed­ing, reck­less drivers. With speed cam­er­as, we can re­duce the rate of crashes and the num­ber of cas­u­al­ties, and truly en­sure our road­ways are safer.

Sen. Mike Stack

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