Get rid of the morons on City CouncilAre you kidding me? To Councilman Dennis O’Brien, who is quoted in last week’s cover story on property taxes as saying, “There are no free rides. I believe every property owner has to pay in” in regard to the blatant robbery of its citizens in the form of a major property tax hike:You, sir, are an idiot. We are paying way too much taxes as it is, due to the incompetent and wasteful fools in City Hall. With the recent federal tax hike causing people to struggle even more, you believe we need to pay more. How in the hell is our economy supposed to improve if the citizens have less to spend? Looks like another 1776 is in order, but the government and greedy corporations are working us so hard for little pay, who has the time and energy to do anything? This country and especially this city are going to hell fast.All of City Council must go! They are overpaid, clueless morons that do not really care for the people they are supposed to serve. If they stopped playing politics and stopped being so wasteful, there would be no need to raise our already too high taxes.Tim RogersTaconyTax reform is the great equalizerYou made some very cogent points in your editorial last week about the city needing to be more efficient in collecting taxes and running its departments (A message for City Hall). However, the negative tone gave the impression you were against the property tax reform the city is initiating.I think this is one of the most refreshing things this city has ever done. For the first time, property taxes will be based on the actual value of real estate. Yes, some who have been under-assessed will have to pay much more, but that is only fair, and the city is making efforts (even in the state legislature) to make that transition easier. If your interest is mainly Northeast Philadelphia, I understand that taxes may actually be lower for some sections.It is time to applaud the mayor and those forward-thinking Council people for coming up with the first fair method of assessing property.Edward S. MarksWinchester ParkEngine 38’s reopening was long overdueIn what should have been a red-letter day for the residents of Tacony, the Mayor Nutter/Fire Commissioner Ayers regime proved once again their cold and callous downgrading of fire/EMS protection to the public.At a neighborhood meeting with the community in early 2006 attended by the captain of Engine 38, myself and many off-duty members of the company, the newly appointed deputy commissioner of staff services told the residents of Tacony that they would not lose a day of protection from the closing of Engine 38’s firehouse.Surprise! In all the many months (and years) that PennDOT made it clear to the city that the I-95 improvement project required the ground that the station sat on, the city leaders should have started construction of the new firehouse to assure a seamless line of fire/EMS coverage to that neighborhood. But, no! Not these two omnipotent personalities.So in February 2009, the station on Longshore Avenue was shut down and the company relocated to Bridesburg, rendering them totally useless to protecting their local district.About 18 months later and realizing that their existence at a remote site was senseless, the company was deactivated until just recently.On Jan. 8 this year, Michael Nutter and Lloyd Ayers put on their bright faces and pretty clothes and took full advantage of the photo opportunity to “bring this brand new firehouse to the people of Tacony.”This city “leadership” (if you care to call them that) knew all along that they were shutting this company down and now act as if we “owe” them something. In my opinion, what they fully deserve is nothing but contempt from the community that they stabbed in the back with their broken promise.Many members of my family live in Tacony and Mayfair and I’m furious that this administration went almost four years without proper coverage in this area.I’m sure that they are immune to criticism, as they’ve already proved, but the taxpaying public should exercise their right to blast this city administration for failing us once again.To the newly assigned personnel of Engine 38: Welcome back. You’ve been gone too long!Larry ShellenbergerLieutenant (Retired)Philadelphia Fire DepartmentDisturbing cartoon excluded IsraelI am appalled at the disgusting political cartoon on your opinion page in the Jan. 9 edition. Why do you identify the West Bank, and ignore the country of Israel? Don’t give me the excuse that Israel is a very small country and that there wasn’t any room to identify it.Don’t stoop to the level of the Middle Eastern countries that refuse to recognize Israel as a legitimate country, the Jewish homeland, and a great, reliable ally to the USA!Gail SchwartzBustletonEditor’s note: Tom Stiglich’s cartoon included the Israeli cities of Haifa and Jerusalem.The unkindest cuts of allThis letter is addressed to the individual who has been littering some streets in the 19115 ZIP code area.This person goes to a lot of trouble to cut pages of the Northeast Times into small pieces. They then place these into an open plastic bag onto the street and allow the wind and the traffic to distribute thousands of the pieces in every direction, making it almost impossible to clean up.I’m assuming this person reads the Times before shredding it and will realize that what they are doing is a little weird.I hope you get the treatment and therapy you need and funnel your energy into something more constructive. Good luck.John MurphyBustletonA sizzling, simmering gun control debate:A pundit’s predictions1) The Congress will not pass the president’s bill to mitigate gun violence.2) The president likely will use the executive order to implement all or some of the bill’s provisions.3) The NRA and the radical right will call for the president’s impeachment, revolution and other nut-job tactics.4) Most or all Republican House members and a few gutless Democrats will continue to pimp for the NRA and the gun industry in the name of everything but saving lives.4) Consequently, in reaction to the public outrage it precipitates, specifically in an attempt to avoid a Democratic landslide in 2014 and its control of both the House and Senate, Republican-controlled state legislatures will pass election laws further strengthening the current effects of gerrymandering as a way to guarantee Republican wins EVEN WHEN THEY LOSE THE POPULAR VOTES.5) A public firestorm will ensue, making Occupy Wall Street look like a candlelight dinner for two.6) The Republican Party as presently configured will cease to exist.7) Republicans who castigate Chris Christie for his “speaking truth to (their abuse of) power” will result in his bolting from the party and becoming an independent, thus enabling a bipartisan ticket of Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie to win the White House in 2016.Arthur GurmankinBustletonKeep an eye on our rightsTo comment on the recent atrocities and the outrage against certain firearms, I must remind the readers that the U.S. is one of the leading arms dealers in the world and therefore responsible for the deaths and maiming of more children than you want to see.A close view of a homicide is repulsive. The politicians will blow smoke for expediency over this issue. They can legislate, but you have to face the fact we live in a dangerous world.Remember the Machiavellians whose lies led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and these traitors were not held accountable? Where is the outrage?The National Defense Authorization Act allows the U.S. military to arrest anyone without due process and remain indefinitely incarcerated.What happened to the Constitution? If we ignore our rights, one by one they may go away.John McHughModena ParkGun rights are God’s willIt seems to me that most of the writers of letters to the editors forgot what gun rights means.Rights come from God and can’t be taken away except by force. The Pennsylvania Constitution is more favorable of gun rights, as Section 21 states: “The rights of citizens to use guns in defense of themselves or the commonwealth shall not be questioned.”It seems most citizens of the commonwealth forgot this. As Thomas Jefferson stated, “The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”George Washington never tried to ban guns after the Whiskey Rebellion. He actually pardoned the rebels.Please remember all federal gun laws violate the 2nd amendment and all state gun laws violate Section 21.Jason HencoreBridesburgHis national nightmareAfter this year’s election and all the gun violence going on I am more certain than ever that we have way too much government.All I hear about are gun laws (we have about 20,000 now). Have we stopped illegal drugs and illegal aliens? Was prohibition successful? This is a snow job to make it seem like they’re doing something.While government officials are protected by heavily armed security, will we be left helpless. This is the first step toward socialism. All the while, our politicians get pay raise after pay raise and all of them point the finger at the other guy.My God, they cannot balance a checkbook, but we must. All that time to fix the fiscal cliff fiasco. Four years of service in politics, a pension, free medical and they stuff Obamacare down our nose. Those is harm’s way in the service of our country after 20 years get 50 percent pension.I hope this is a bad dream and I will wake soon.John McCallRhawnhurstThe madness just goes onWe continue our angst about guns, and politicians run to the cameras with new proposals to ban rifles, clips or ammunition. But we don’t talk about the other “ammunition.” I noticed last week that ultra-violent movies such as Django Unchained and Texas Chainsaw in 3-D, continue to pack in the audiences. Pop music continues its assault on the ears with violent music blasted from our boom boxes on wheels. Our pro football playoff stars are still preening and posturing after hard hits — and rubbing the opponents’ noses in the dirt after touchdowns. Our weekly TV shows continue to mock and ridicule people who are fat or just can’t sing in tune. The media laugh at religious people, push gay-marriage, and mock male-led families, as even manliness is seen as a problem.We continually push female achievement, at the expense of boys, and we feed boys violent video games to satisfy them in their cocoons of resentment. All this is ammunition, too. And our babbling politicians think there is no consequence?The culture we have made is our problem. Yet, we continue to light the fuse — and wonder why we have explosions.Richard IaconelliRhawnhurstSpeak your mind …Letters should be 300 words or less. Short letters have a better chance of getting published. All letters are subject to editing and MUST include the writer’s full name along with daytime and evening phone numbers for verification purposes. Anonymous or illegible letters will NOT be published. Mail to: Letters to the Editor, Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053. E-mail: email@example.com
It was soaring rhetoric, but can it fly in the real world — you know, the world where congressional Republicans say no to everything?
So many reasons to be proud to be a MayfairianGuest OpinionBy Joe DeFeliceMayfair isn’t as bad as Mayfair residents say it isOur neighborhood should reach back to that infamous Philadelphia billboard of the 1970s and adopt it as our own slogan. For the last three or so years, many neighborhood volunteers have spent time away from their families to make our community a better place to live.Usually when I pick up a copy of the Northeast Times or go on social media, the person badmouthing our neighborhood is usually one of our own residents, and this is disheartening, to say the least. How do we expect other people to respect our neighborhood if our own people dishonor it?Let’s be honest, Mayfair isn’t what it was in 1980, it isn’t what is was in 1990 and it isn’t even what it was in 2000; but then again, what neighborhood is? Some neighborhoods change for the good, some change for the bad and some just change, but that is OK. Different doesn’t have to mean bad.Have we seen a decline in mom-and-pop shops on the avenue? Sure we have. Have we seen an increase in pajama pants in the afternoon? You bet. But that is OK, because 2020 isn’t going to be like 2010, and 2030 isn’t going to be like 2020.I’m sure 2013 Fishtown and Bella Vista wouldn’t recognize their 1990 ancestor, but that is what life in the big city is all about. Now, you can sit back and watch others enact change on your neighborhood, or you can get into the fabric of the community and change it yourself, from within.Since we restarted the Mayfair Civic Association just over three years ago, we have seen some changes in our neighborhood, but rather than focus on the negatives, let’s look at the positives:• In 2009 there was a dirt and gravel patch on the east side of Lincoln High School. It is now a state-of-the-art, handicapped-accessible $80,000 playground built with the sweat equity of the neighborhood residents.• We took a little-used block of half-vacant storefronts on the 3500 block of Ryan Ave. and turned it into a one-of-a-kind farmers market that will be held biweekly starting this spring and will continue to include fresh vegetables, craft beer, local wine and neighborhood residents and merchants selling the wares, all the while, doing so with acoustic music floating in the background.• We took tragedies that struck our city in the form of police and fire deaths and turned them into positives with the Mayfair Fallen Heroes Run and have raised more than $20,000 for the families of police officers and firefighters and an additional $10,000 for scholarships, plaques, etc.• We took a parade that derailed off the avenue due to a “budget crunch” in the city and infused it with citizen activists and neighborhood talent and put it back on the avenue, bigger and better than ever.• We took neighborhood negatives like a proposed methadone clinic and turned it into a positive by engaging more than 800 residents at community meetings to stand up and fight to stop it, and we won the first round.• We took a dilapidated, boarded-up, vacant property that stood as an eyesore at Frankford and Sheffield and forced the owner to gut the place, fix the interior and install new windows and make it safe and habitable for a future family to call their first home.• Lastly, we’ve given the neighborhood events that, in the past, residents would have gone elsewhere for, such as an Easter Egg Hunt, our Spring Mayfair May Fair, Fall Festival, Halloween Spooktacular and Christmas Village and heck, we’ve even made it a lot easier for the over-30 (maybe over-40) crowd to tolerate the Shamrock Shuttle by working with the Mayfair Town Watch and the 15th Police District and, yes, the tavern owners, to make sure that there was adequate police presence, portable toilets and residents on hand to assist our out-of-town visitors and make Mayfair, whether we like it or not, a regional destination.So, with that, let me be the first to say that I am proud of our neighborhood and you should be, too. Let’s start 2013 off on a positive foot and work to better our community so that the next time someone asks you if you still live in Mayfair (and hangs on the word still), you can say “yes,” — proudly.Joe DeFeliceChairman, Mayfair Community Development CorporationPresident, Mayfair Civic Association
Beware, dear long-suffering property owners in Philadelphia, the city taxman is coming to get you. Well, some of you, anyway.As you may have noticed from this week’s Page 1 story, the days of reckoning for city officials and residents alike are fast approaching. A massive, citywide reassessment of property values is nearly complete.Mayor Michael “The Reformer” Nutter and City Council are going to have to work with state lawmakers in Harrisburg to cushion what is likely to be a huge blow to residents in up-and-coming neighborhoods whose property values have soared since the city last undertook an accurate survey of the worth of homes and businesses in the City of Brotherly Love. The last such survey was conducted seemingly when Ben Franklin was in diapers.Gentle readers, anybody who tries to tell you the city can’t afford to give a break to property owners who face a doubling or tripling of their tax bill is lying. The city treasury is not exactly swimming in cash, but the city’s financial straits are not as dire as Mr. Nutter would have you believe.When the city cuts all of its fat, waste and inefficiency and tackles the underproductivity of many of the folks who “work” in City Hall, the Municipal Services Building and other city offices — when Mr. Nutter finally gets around to collecting the hundreds of millions of dollars in delinquent taxes from local and out-of-state deadbeats, and when the mayor and Council finally get around to slicing the city bureaucracy, including a few at-large Council seats — then, and only then, should the city be audacious enough to ask denizens of Philadelphia to pay more. Until then, City Hall, put up or shut up.Send letters to the editor to: firstname.lastname@example.org
A new year brings more fond memoriesWith every new year, we hope for improvement, fulfilled promises from our politicians, kinder weather and less violence. For me, the main thing is keeping my health stable and adjusting to life in Pottsville, Pa. I am living near family in an assisted living facility trying hard not to miss Philadelphia, the city I love.On New Year’s Day, we don’t see the Mummers Day Parade, and I’ve met people who have never made the long trek going 90 miles to Philly! It seems incredible to me. There probably are Philadelphians who have never seen the Liberty Bell.Last night I spoke with an elderly resident who lived most of her life in Philadelphia in the Fox Chase neighborhood. Her four children graduated from Northeast High School. As we reminisced about the Country Club Diner cheesecake, the regional rail and Knowlton Mansion, the conversation brought vivid images. We laughed about Horn & Hardart’s, the light show at Wanamaker’s and the Gimbels department store at Cottman and Bustleton.I certainly didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone here that knew my neighborhood. She agreed with me that Philadelphia and especially the Northeast had so much to offer. Everything was at our fingertips.Even though I can’t go home again, the love of the Northeast will always remain. Have a happy new year and enjoy a cheesesteak!Janice Jakubowitcz
Question: When is a contract not a contract?Answer: When Mayor Michael Nutter doesn’t like it.Members of the city firefighters union, Local 22, were supposed to get a new contract following binding arbitration in 2010, but Philadelphia’s mayor has thus far refused to honor the new deal. His reason, that the city can’t afford the new contract, is a poor excuse and just doesn’t hold water. The city can find ways — i.e., by trimming its fiscal fat — to pay the firefighters what they deserve. In fact, the city can’t afford not to pay them more.While firefighter demonstrators were a bit rude when they heckled the mayor at Tuesday morning’s grand opening of a state-of-the-art firehouse in Tacony, their anger is understandable. They’re taking Mr. Nutter’s nasty attitude personally, as well they should. After all, these brave men and women put their lives on the line every day.Considering that so many of them call Northeast Philly home, every single person who lives or works in the Northeast should bombard Mayor Nutter’s office with phone calls, letters and e-mails instructing the city’s top leader to stop appealing the contact in court and make it happen for Local 22. Without our firefighters, the City of Brotherly Love would become the City of Smothered Love.Even Mr. Nutter’s fellow Democratic politicians are urging the mayor to stop sticking it to the firefighters.“It’s wrong and the mayor’s continuous efforts to fight the contract award must end,” said state Sen. Mike Stack.“The more time that goes by,” said state Sen. Tina Tartaglione, “the harder it will be to restore the trust between these dedicated professionals and the city administration.”Send letters to the editor to: email@example.com
City’s treatment of firefighters is bafflingAt 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. RebstockFox ChaseHoliday toy drive was a successMy 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. BoyleActual value = real estate tax rip-offActual 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 GordonBustletonIt’s time to give Lloyd Ayers the airEvery 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’KeefeBurholmeA 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 Rhawnhurst
It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year. Yes, gentle readers, it’s time to reveal what we think are (or should be) the new year’s resolutions of our local and national celebrities. Here are a few:Mayor Michael Nutter: I will abandon all efforts to raise property taxes until the city collects every dollar owed by tax deadbeats.Councilwoman Marian Tasco: I resolve to return to the city treasury the $478,000 in the fake-retirement DROP money I collected a year ago.Teva pharmaceutical company: We resolve to change our minds yet again and build our huge plant at the old Budd company in Somerton.Gov. Tom Corbett: I promise not to lose any sleep worrying that Allyson Schwartz will beat me in 2014.New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie: I will lose a few hundred pounds in my quest to become physically fit so I can fill the White House in four years.Soon-to-be ex-Eagles head coach Andy Reid: I will lose a hundred pounds before I take the helm of another team.Eagles owner Jeff Lurie: I will apologize to everyone who loves Man’s Best Friend for bringing Michael Vick to Philadelphia.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: I will resign in disgrace after blocking much of President Obama’s agenda but failing to block his re-election.Willard Mitt Romney: I resolve to shock the tea party by admitting that I am a moderate at heart. Newton Leroy Gingrich: I resolve to remain faithful to Callista.William Jefferson Clinton: I resolve to remain faithful to whatshername.Lindsay Lohan: I will stay out of trouble and stay out of the limelight.
But everything’s quite legal, you sayIt’s so sad that so many children and others lost their lives in Newtown, Conn., by such a senseless violent act via guns. They won’t be celebrating Christmas this year or any other year. But guns are legal, you say. What is also sad and rips a hole in my heart every day is all the little cherubs who are murdered by way of abortion on a daily basis. They will never, ever get to experience a Christmas or a holiday. Ever. But abortion is legal, you say. Sad are the families and friends at the holidays whose loved ones were killed by someone who thought they were better than you and got behind a wheel of a car drunk as a skunk. But alcohol is legal, you say. Now let us add to all the future Christmases without loved ones who will be killed by some pothead who was high as a kite and did something unspeakable (yet to be determined, but soon will be coming to a neighborhood near you). But yet again, marijuana is legal or will be legal in your state. I guess it all comes down to the irresponsible person who has no regard for his/her or anyone else’s life and how he/she chooses to commit murder.Murder is murder. Case closed.Diane McDowellParkwood
Questions about officer’s real estate dealsA female police officer was linked to several properties that allegedly were transferred to her without her paying city and state transfer taxes.The reasons for exemption given were that those previous owners were either her mother, father or sister.Police Commissioner Ramsey is correct to order a hearing for her, because the taxes that she failed to pay were due her employer (the city). I would hope there were not other “oaths” (written or verbal) she took and decided not to adhere to.Mayer KrainModena ParkTax the exiles, ease up on the localsAll our politicians are trying to figure out who should be taxed. We should look at what started this terrible unemployment problem. It started years ago when American companies left to go to other countries where they got people to work for slave wages. Then they send their products back here to sell at our prices.I suggest that our politicians tax these companies and any investments in them, and any companies that stayed here should get tax breaks.John F. RauchutMayfairFor Christ’s sake, it’s still our holidayChristmas has never been taken away from Christians, John O’Neill (Give Christmas back to us Christians, Dec. 12 letter).Let’s ignore the fact that “Christmas” is a holiday taken from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, and that the evergreen wreaths and trees are yet another Christian adoption of ancient pagan ritual. So perhaps they should be called Christmas trees. Christians stole the idea fair and square. Let us even forgo mentioning the biblical verse Jeremiah 10:2 admonishing Christians against the decoration of evergreen trees (i.e. these holiday trees you speak of).Even most biblical historians will tell you that the birth of this Jesus character would not have been in December. No. This perceived Christmas war that is proclaimed by Christians is more about the government not endorsing ANY religion. It is Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state.It is government property decorating with a nativity scene, cross, Star of David, menorah, star and crescent, etc. that is at issue, but it is only the Christians that seem to be insistent that the government do endorse their religion. I can’t walk down the street without bumping into an inflatable Santa, robotic reindeer, plastic snowmen or blinding lights. I have yet to see a nativity scene or cross in the Irish-Catholic neighborhood in which I reside. But THEY are free to do so if they wish. Even companies are free to do so (perhaps at risk of offending non-Christian customers). But if it is a public piece of property, maintained with citizens’ tax dollars, then no, religious icons should not be displayed.Christmas shopping this year has even extended to Thanksgiving Day! As Mr. Jon Stewart has said, “Christmas is so big, it’s starting to eat other holidays. Watch out Halloween!”Now, to the problem with your idea. Come this time of the year, all one would have to do is lay claim to this religion in order to stay home from work. The majority of people would not come to work then, since the majority of the population is some denomination of Christian. I can hear some saying to themselves, “Since the majority of the population of the country are Christians, why do we have to kneel to the minority?” Majority does not equate to right is the answer.Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. — Mark Twain. Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it. — Leo TolstoyIn matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. — Mahatma GhandiIt does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds. — Samuel AdamsSo to you, I say Merry Christmas. To others, Happy Hanukkah. Still to others, Happy Kwanzaa. To everyone, Happy New Year. You know what? Happy Holidays to all. Mike Alexander HolmesburgTurned off by the trash that’s on TVAm I starting to get old or is everything on TV lame? We have this crazy cool HD, 3D, LED, giant flat screen that everyone says “Wow!” when they see it. You know what? It’s just the same crap. Reality TV? C’mon, man. TMZ’s version of magazine news on steroids. American Idol and the rest of that karaoke junk where most of the time they stand around talking about absolutely nothing. Network comedies? I’m lucky if I even chuckle at that dumbed-down lameness.News is constantly baiting me to wait until after the commercial to view some video of a car crash or something else. I am actually embarrassed for the anchors because their profession was reduced to this. However, I love The Walking Dead.The simple answer is I don’t have to watch it. Maybe I’ll take the lead from Steve Schmidt of Olney, who sponsored a gift program with his sister Marylou for underprivileged kids last week, and get out of the house and volunteer for something in 2013. Way to go, Steve, good for you! Merry Christmas! It’s not like I’m going to miss something good on TV.Steve MaddenLoganVigil for the angels on Sat.As the nation mourns the victims of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, let us all come together from the West Coast to the East Coast.As part of a national effort called Candles Across America, this Saturday at 8 p.m., stand outside wherever you are, or organize a gathering at your local park, a street corner, etc., with candles, and let’s connect everyone together and show our support and love for one another.Show the families and friends that have been tormented by this incident that the nation is mourning with them and that we will all come together on this day to show our love. I am organizing a vigil at the Franklin Mills mall parking lot on Saturday. We hope for a big turnout in our neighborhood for the angels that we have lost and the ones that need our help. Please bring a candle and join us.Rosemary SantangeloBensalemTragedy in America, againSince 1964 there have been mass murders and multiple injuries at 11 schools, killing scores of innocent children and injuring countless others. Most of the carnage has occurred in the United States. The worst massacre of all time took place at the Beslan School in Europe, where 386 were killed and 700 children injured. Before 1964 there is no documentation of killings of the magnitude listed here.Before speaking to the latest massacre in Connecticut, allow me to provide you with a compilation of these events in numerical order.1) Beslan School in Russia: 386 dead, 700 injured, 9/15/20042) Bath School disaster in Michigan: 45 dead, 58 injured, 5/18/19273) Virginia Tech: 32 dead, many injured, 4/16/20074) Ma’alot massacre in Israel: 26 dead, 60 injured, 5/15/19745) Erfurt massacre in Germany: 17 dead, seven injured, 4/26/20026) Dunblane School massacre in Scotland: 18 dead, 3/13/19967) University of Texas Tower: 18 dead, 31 injured, 4/01/19668) Columbine: 15 dead, 24 injured, 4/20/19999) Ecole Polytech in Montreal: 15 dead, 14 injured, 12/6/198910) Cologne School in Germany: 11 dead, 22 injured, 6/11/196411) Red Lake High School in Minnesota, 10 dead, 12 injured, 3/31/2005Several hours before the Connecticut massacre, a 36-year-old man attacked 22 children in China. No one was killed. The assailant used a knife. We live in a world where children are exposed to violence via TV news, Xbox and prime- time TV shows, such as The Family Guy, which is off the charts. Yet, grade school kids watch.Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Meet the Press Sunday, “We have heard from gun supporters after Columbine who said, ‘It’s too soon to discuss it!’ After Virginia Tech, ditto. President Obama spoke to the issue when running for his first term in 2008. He decried AF-48s and other semiautomatic weapons as problematic. I will have them banned, said the president. Mayor Bloomberg continued, “For every day we wait, 34 more people will be killed by guns.”If we continue with the status quo, by the end of President Obama’s term, 48,000 more people will be dead, in part, because of the NRA and politicians they have in their back pocket. This insidious number is higher than all of our military killed in Vietnam.John T. FritzParkwoodBlame the NRA and cowards in CongressThe NRA pushed hard to prevent the reinstatement of the ban on the sale of assault weapons when the bill was before Congress in 2004. Many cowardly congressmen, fearing the wrath of the NRA, bowed to their demands and voted against reinstating the ban. Because of that, the ban was not reinstated. Had that ban been enacted, there would not have been an assault rifle available for the murderer to massacre those children at Sandy Hook School.So it is fair to conclude that the blood of those innocent children is on the hands of the NRA and those cowards in Congress who lacked the courage to stand up to the NRA.When will we have representatives in Congress who will show the courage to stand up to special interest groups like the NRA and vote in a way that protects American citizens instead of protecting their own seats in Congress?William CooneyFox ChaseFocus on education of stricter gun lawsOnce again, our nation mourns for victims of a mass shooting. This time, 20 children and six adults were shot to death. President Obama should enact laws to curtail easy access to guns. But the fact remains, we have the freedom to possess guns.On another note, many times the shooters have mental health problems. Families of such people need to be aware of various signs — signs that could lead to such violent behavior.Perhaps education as well as enforcement of stricter gun laws will help to curtail these horrible acts of violence and curtail another mass shooting.Marie PattonFox ChaseDoing a lot of nothing about somethingWe the people have allowed power to leave our hands and go into the hands of lobbyists, corporations and longstanding politicians. The focus won’t be on what really caused it, the focus will be on Adam Lanza, the person that caused it. That’s what will allow the victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., to be buried and things will move on in the similar fashion.Referring it to grief counselors won’t change what has been allowed. Guns didn’t kill the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Dollars going into politicians’ election campaign funds from the NRA and politics did.We the people love to look at those in power attempting to get away with doing nothing about something that is absolutely wrong, knowing that they can do something.The rest of us look on, merely hoping that someday we will be in the same position of power to change things, until such a tragedy happens to us. Then we wonder what happened.Larry IlariaLawndaleThe Field Trip Please don’t be sad, we’re OKWe went on a field trip todayA secret place where there’s fun to be hadAnd the principal’s with us, so we won’t be badIt’s full of toys and rainbow slidesCotton candy and high cloud ridesA funny zoo full of different thingsI even saw a girl with wingsWe’re not alone so don’t be scaredWe’re chaperoned by angels hereIt’s really nice so I think I’ll stayAnd hold your spot till your field trip dayI know Christmas is here and there are toys to be givenSo please tell Santa that he needs to send them to heavenSophia DeSantisAge 10Into The Darkness You stand there judge and juryDeciding what other lives you’ll endBecause you see no way throughYou want others to come with youInto the darkness away from the lightRemoved from touch cause you hurt so muchYou want others to feel the way you doThat’s why you strike, ’cause you feel it’s rightTo take the innocent on your flight to hellThe life you see before your eyesHas become a bed of endless liesPain is your best friend ’til the endAlthough you know you’re not aloneGoodbye letters you may decide to leaveOr a message on somebody’s telephoneYou choose to take others in your worldWhen you take the life of a boy or a girlThe walls of sanity seem to crumble awayYou believe there’s nothing anyone can sayYou don’t want to be the only one to feel painSo you make sure some of the innocents remainInto the darkness away from the lightRemoved from touch cause you hurt so muchYou want others to feel the way you doThat’s why you strike cause you feel it’s rightTo take the innocent on your flight to hellJohn J. RuppertMayfair