Northeast Times
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Editorial: Say no to voucher

Give the girls at St. Hubert High School lots of credit. They love their school, and they show it.When push came to shove earlier this year and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia threatened to close the school to help ease the archdiocese’s money crunch, St. Hubert students, families and alumnae joined forces to raise the funds necessary to keep their fine institution open.Now, the girls at St. Hubert are making a push for a law that would allow their parents to use taxpayer-financed tuition aid for parochial (in other words, non-public) schools, but there’s one teeny-tiny obstacle to so-called school choice. It’s called the Constitution of the United States.This is America, where separation of church and state means public funds cannot be used to send kids to parochial schools.Parents who want the public to help pay for their children’s religious education are no doubt good and decent folks who want the best for their kids. They want education choice, but they already have a choice. It’s called public schools.As taxpayers, the parents of parochial school students have as much right and indeed an obligation to demand the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission provide efficient, effective and excellent education as do parents of public school students.Parents also have another American right — the right to free speech. Parents of kids in Catholic schools, for instance, have the right to ask church leaders why they have shelled out more than $11 million in legal fees related to the clergy-abuse scandal. That money could have helped an awful lot of parochial school families pay their tuition.E-mail letters to the editor to:

Letters to the editor: May 30, 2012

Shame on CLIP for going too farI moved from Philadelphia a couple of decades ago, and I’m glad I no longer live in Philly! After visiting family and reading about CLIP, I am truly appalled at the decline. For crying out loud, this is the birthplace of America. This is where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell; Carpenter Hall, where the Continental Congress met to discuss important matters of freedom; the Betsy Ross House; Benjamin Franklin; and the Declaration House, also known as Graff House, where Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence!I totally agree with Dee Maialetti’s letter of March 28, Yo, CLIP, just who do you think you are? As an American citizen who was liberated by the U.S. Army in post-WWII Germany, I find this sort of “patrolling,” trespassing, photographing and fining of the homeowners to be a violation of our rights against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution. These Gestapo tactics are an abuse of our civil liberties!It is one thing to go after absentee landlords who neglect to maintain their properties; it’s quite another to target the elderly, the disabled and the poor. Shame, shame, shame! For those who condone this abuse, I suggest a course in American history. I would also encourage you to get online and read the indictment against the nine CLIP criminals! Put yourself in the shoes of your neighbors: Would you want to be treated this way? ( am surprised that the citizenry has not risen up and demanded that this “program” be dismantled. Whatever happened to the concept that a man‘s home is his castle? I would have filed a class action lawsuit against the city by now, and involved the Justice Department!Lydia F. SelwoodHarrisonburg, Va.

Letters to the editor: May 23, 2012

Stuck in the mud or riding out the stormThe majority of Northeast residents fall into two categories: either they are stuck in their neighborhood and would prefer to move out but at the moment, they cannot afford to do so, or they are the residents who fall into the category of homeowners that have paid their mortgages off and are hoping for better days ahead in the region.To say that the bar has been lowered would be an understatement after you speak at length with longtime residents about the glory days of the Northeast. These days when you take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, every few steps that you take, you are instinctively looking down to dodge dog crap or trash.Fast forward to today and out of desperation the community gets excited over the introduction of new minimum wage jobs created by fast-food restaurants breaking ground in the community. For instance, I remember the initial buzz in the Northeast over the newly constructed Krispy Kreme shop in Fox Chase.What can be done to make the Northeast viable and once againeconomically relevant?Is Section 8 housing mainly to blame for the rapid decline in the area over the past 25 years?Does the community think the Northeast region is heading in the right direction?Jason Kaye

Letters to the Editor: May 16, 2012

It pays to be an alienIf an immigrant is over 65, he can apply for SSI and Medicaid and get more than my mom gets for Social Security. She worked from 1944 to 2004, only getting $791 per month because she was born before 1924 and there is a Catch 22.It is interesting that the federal government provides a single refugee with a monthly allowance of $1,890, and each can also obtain an additional $580 in social assistance for a total of $2,470 a month.This compares very well to a single pensioner who, after contributing to the growth and development of America for 40 to 50 years, can only receive a monthly maximum of $1.012 in old age pension and guaranteed income supplement.Maybe our pensioners should apply as refugees!Consider sending this to all your American friends, so we can all be ticked off and maybe get the refugees cut back to $1,012 and the pensioners up to $2,470 and enjoy some of the money we were forced to submit to the government over the last 40 or 50 or 60 years.Please forward this to every American to expose what our elected politicians, Nancy Pelosi included, have been doing over the past 11 years to the overtaxed Americans.Send this to every American taxpayer you know!All older Americans must demand that any person who actually worked for their Social Security gets at least as much as an alien gets, if not more!William ColeMillbrook

Editorial: Get down to business

The more things change, the more they stay the same.That old saying applies to so many things, including the long commercial strip along Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philly’s Castor Gardens and Oxford Circle sections — where the types of businesses, like the surrounding neighborhoods, have undergone somewhat of a transformation of late.Change can be a good thing, even in the wonderful world of good old-fashioned family-run businesses, which are prevalent on Bustleton Avenue, which has seen an influx of Asian, Middle Eastern and Hispanic merchants.Indeed, ZIP code 19149 was described as a “global nation” by an Asian-American official of the city’s Commerce Department, which last week stepped up efforts to create a Bustleton Avenue Business Association.The new group would address issues that long ago have been tackled by organizations in other Philadelphia neighborhoods, including security, sidewalk cleanliness and parking. To be sure, the Northeast deserves some of the blame for the City of Brotherly Love’s other, less charitable nickname, Filthydelphia, so whatever the new Bustleton Avenue group can do to chip away at that embarrassing moniker would be welcome. Upgrades to the sidewalks and installation of benches would be a good start.The new inhabitants on the residential and business sectors, along with the old-timers who have not yet fled to greener, “safer” pastures in suburbia, represent an opportunity to rejuvenate an area that once put the “bustle” in Bustleton. All it takes is for the merchants — ALL of the merchants — to join together and make it happen.Send letters to:

Thanks for the memories, Northeast Times

Over the last couple of weeks, some kind folks have asked what the biggest change has been in my 25 years at the Northeast Times, and it gets me thinking.Hmmm. I suppose it’s that I don’t goof around and raise as much hell as I used to here. And on Saturday nights I’m usually snoozin’ by 10.That’s when I realize they’re asking about technology and stuff. Oops … stupid me!May 9 closes a quarter-century run for me as editor of the Northeast Times, a personally enriching and glorious run that I don’t measure by anything I’ve done, but rather by the remarkable people — some still in this Trevose building, many spread elsewhere, a few who have left us forever — who have given me a cardboard box full of wonderful memories to chuck in the back seat.Initially, I wasn’t moved to do a “farewell column.” Too many good things have spurred the Times’ growth over the years that I won’t ever be able to take credit for. But then I figured maybe I should do a farewell column, simply because I fret about the future of newspapers these days, and perhaps in 2550 when Franklin Mills is being knocked down to make way for a regional government launching station that will send colonies of Northeast Philly residents to Jupiter, this edition will be unearthed, and someone will marvel that there really was a paper called the Times that chronicled life in the Northeast for years and years and years.To be honest, so much of those 25 years … I can only recall it with a haziness akin to driving up 95 to work on a fog-enshrouded morning. But I doubt I’ll ever forget March 1, 1987, the day Lou Chimenti, the executive editor of the Smylie family’s Northeast Times, gave me the chance to leave a South Jersey newspaper — where the editors were ensconced and becoming the fossils that I myself have become — and boss people around in my own newsroom.What a wonderful 35th birthday gift!The Times was on Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg then, just above Rhawn Street, in a narrow and crumbling white stucco building that I figured had to have been built around the time of the Louisiana Purchase. I just remember arriving for the job interview and peering out my car window, unsure I was at the right place, thinking, “I hope that’s not it, it looks so … so … condemned.”It was the right place.A week later — my very first day — immediately established the tone for why I’ve wanted to be here all these years. I felt good that morning. Figured I’d wowed my new, young staff with my personality and knowledge shaped by 12 years in the business, and I was ready to tackle lunch.Rich Bradley was the young managing editor, a talented but pain-in-the-butt little rascal who wore a stud earring long before guys even had the brass to do that. I think he also invented “Let’s Haze the Editor.”“Where can I eat that’s fast?” I asked Bradley.“Well, there’s a Roy Rogers restaurant. Just go onto Frankford Avenue, turn right, and walk two or three blocks … you’ll see it.”Seven blocks later, this Roy Rogers still was nowhere in sight. So I kept walking, block after block, thinking surely it had to be the next one, feeling very much like Peter O’Toole in the movie Lawrence of Arabia as he meandered across the desert in search of water, but at least Peter had a camel. And finally there it was, Roy Rogers, roughly a mile from the office.I know that some people may call that trek stupidity. I prefer to call it optimism. Either way, as I wiped my glistening forehead with a napkin and bit into my Roy’s Double-R Ranch Burger, I took out my small writing pad and pen.“Note to self: Fire that kid.”Yes, it was an endearing place. But it also established a 25-year journey that I will remember most for remarkable colleagues in all our departments — in my newsroom, in advertising and business, in production, in circulation — who shared the goal of growing a wonderful Northeast Philly newspaper that had been an heirloom of the Smylie family for 65 years, until they sold it with reluctance in 1999. I wish I could take time to name them all. But I’d be like the guy who wins the Oscar for Best Totally Obscure Foreign Film and has 266 people to thank — and then the orchestra music suddenly builds to a crescendo, his clue to get his butt off the stage.I will say there’s a little Oscar I’m taking with me. It’s a miniature version of the Times front page embedded in a glass cube, a Pennsylvania Newspaper Association honor for having been selected as best statewide weekly in our circulation category a few years back. We were fortunate to have won that award twice; I gave the first cube to former owner Bob Smylie, but I need to keep this one, not as any trophy, but simply as a memory. I’m grateful to all at this paper who have enriched my life. I’m grateful for so many young journalists over the years, so into this business and so eager to learn, because they kept me young too. I’m grateful for the loyal readers and advertisers who’ve believed in the Times. Grateful too for Northeast Philly, such an amazing coverage area with so many stories to tell. I’m especially grateful that I could work in jeans.Of course, there is always unfinished business. And there are worries, whether it’s the fragile future of newspapers, or a new generation of journalists wondering when opportunity will knock, or even if the Northeast Times can keep fighting in this unpredictable era for newspapers.I think I’ve done all I can do.So I’m pleased to offer best wishes to Lillian Swanson, a veteran Philly newswoman who came on board as editor this week to help our publisher, Perry Corsetti, and owner Darwin Oordt keep the pages turning here at the Times.I do need to express my affection for some longtimers who have devoted huge parts of their lives to this paper, and their names are familiar to many: managing editor Fred Gusoff, reporters Tom Waring and Bill Kenny, and our community editor, Joyce Ruggero.I just cleaned out a lot of years of stuff but didn’t keep much, only because sentimentality has a way of making the suitcase too heavy. Besides, most of it is stored in my head and in my heart.And as time passes, my friends, that will bring me the best feeling of all.Thanks for making it happen.

Letters to the Editor: May 9, 2012

Firefighters are grateful for public supportTo the citizens of Philadelphia:As you all know, this has been a very rough time for the members of our union. The men and women firefighters and paramedics of Local 22 have suffered a tragic loss. I am humbled by the outpouring of sympathy and support shown by you, the citizens of this great city.Your generosity, kindness and empathy have had a profound impact on our members, and though we will be in mourning for some time, you have shown us all that the sacrifice these men made does not go unappreciated by you.When we lose a member in the line of duty it is never easy. We chose a profession — no, a calling — where we go out each day to try and help our fellow citizens, and when we lose one of our own in the process, it really hits home. We are faced with the dangers of our profession day in and day out. We as firefighters and paramedics have answered the call to put ourselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and the property of our city.One thing that we did not sign up for is to have the very city we have sworn to protect attempt to systematically cut the necessary resources it takes for our members to do their jobs in a manner that is not only safe for you the citizen, but for our members.We appreciate all that you the citizens of Philadelphia have done for us. Your prayers and your kindness have helped us begin to heal. Remember that we are always there for you, and I will never forget how you have been there for us.Bill GaultPresident, Local 22 IAFF

Letters to the Editor: May 2, 2012

Firefighter Daniel Sweeney: 9-18-86 to 4-9-12The entire Sweeney family wishes to express our heartfelt thanks to all who reached out to us since the death of Dan and his supervisor, Lt. Robert Neary. The tremendous outpouring of support has helped us in these troubling times. David and Marian Sweeney sincerely appreciate your prayers and generous acts.Contributions in Dan’s name may be made to The Daniel Sweeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, accepted at any Police and Fire Credit Union or simply mailed to PFFCU (c/o the fund), 901 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 or Local 22 Philadelphia Firefighters union, 415 N. Fifth St., Philadelphia, PA 19123.The fund is set up for deserving children who wish to attend Bishop McDevitt High School (Dan’s alma mater) and any other school.

Editorial: A sigh of relief

“Let the justice system handle Mister Toledo.”That was the very wise advice from Capt. Frank Bachmayer, commander of the 15th Police District, following the arrest of an Aldine Street man who allegedly slashed tires on vehicles belonging to his neighbors in Mayfair and Holmesburg.While residents may be sleeping a tad bit more soundly these days now that David Toledo has been apprehended and awaits his day in court, folks ought not get too lackadaisical.They should remain vigilant, aware that quality-of-life crime and the type of low-level urban terrorism Mr. Toledo allegedly put them through can happen anytime. They should continue to join and support their local Town Watch groups — heck, the more the merrier; remember, in unity there is strength — and frequently peer out their windows for signs of trouble.But residents must never allow their justifiable anger to move beyond the thought process, even if the wheels of justice move at a snail’s pace. A temptation to harass the suspect, his family or his property may be a natural instinct for folks who have lost time, wages and lots of dollars to get their cars repaired following the vandalism, but, as Capt. Bachmayer suggested last week, such action is off-limits. Crime victims must refrain from becoming criminals themselves in the name of retaliation.

Editorial: The great outdoors

More than 400,000 people call Northeast Philadelphia home, but it’s a safe bet that for many of them, their only exposure to the area along the Delaware River is when they glance at it on the way to or from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.That limited exposure should change in a few weeks when Lardner’s Point Park, a 4.5-acre jewel of the outdoors between Robbins Avenue and Levick Street, is formally dedicated for all to enjoy.The trash and debris that once marred the area will be replaced by a medley of amenities, including a walking trail that will be part of a 3,000-mile path along the East Coast, a fishing pier, benches and picnic tables, solar-powered lights, parking, and perhaps most important, trees.Much of the $1.5 million cost of the project came from state funds — in other words, you the taxpayers — so it would behoove able-bodied Northeast denizens to attend the May 14 dedication to check out the new and improved waterfront.With other improvement projects on the horizon, the area soon will offer Northeast residents great reasons to spend some of their leisure time in their community instead of the easy chair.• • •Speaking of treasures, America became a bit poorer last week with the passing of the world’s oldest teenager, music legend Dick Clark.Although watching the New Year’s Eve festivities on TV arguably lost much of its luster when bandleader Guy Lombardo died in 1977, Mr. Clark became a beloved tradition on ABC with his hosting duties on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. This year, New Year’s Eve just won’t be the same. ••Send letters to: