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Editorial: Give ’em hell, Barry

It was soaring rhetoric, but can it fly in the real world — you know, the world where congressional Republicans say no to everything?

Editorial: Give ’em hell, Barry

It was soaring rhetoric, but can it fly in the real world — you know, the world where congressional Republicans say no to everything?Supporters and even some of his numerous enemies agree that the United States’ first biracial president gave a great speech at his second inauguration on Monday, but did Barack Obama make the very best of it? Not for people who want real gun control.While Mr. Obama said many of the right things, he declined to seize the moment by exploiting the most powerful bully pulpit in the free world to put gun control at the top of the to-do list.If he’s waiting until the State of the Union address on Feb. 12 — the birthday of his hero Abraham Lincoln — to formally renew his call for gun control, Mr. Obama is making a big mistake.Pundits agree that he has only about a year in which to get major legislation passed, so the guy needs to kick some butt. He should call out lawmakers in Congress — Republicans AND Democrats who are petrified of the National Rifle Association — and gun nuts who want no restrictions on weapons.Mr. Obama needs to spend his political capital, left over from a big re-election victory, and expend the intestinal fortitude necessary to get military-style assault weapons out of the hands of the general public, end the insane and insidious loopholes that allow visitors at gun shows to purchase weapons on the spot and with no background checks, and institute a federal registry of all weapons.These common-sense measures and others, which would have been enacted long ago were it not for a plethora of cowards in Congress, will help to prevent another Newtown, Conn.-type of slaughter of innocent life.Send letters to the editor to:

Editorial: A message for City Hall

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:

Letters to the editor Jan. 16, 2013

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

Editorial: Give it up, Mr. Mayor

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:

Letters to the editor: Jan. 9, 2013 edition

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

Letters to the editor: Jan. 2, 2013 edition

 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

Editorial: Their pledges for 2013

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.

Letters to the editor: Dec. 26, 2012 edition

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

Editorial: Do or die

If the cold-blooded slaughter on Friday of 20 innocent, darling, precious little schoolchildren in Connecticut has not made you a little less cheerful or caused you to shed some tears this holiday season, you cannot possibly have a heart.As folks throughout the nation continue to grieve with the families of the murdered little boys and girls and seven adults who were cut down by a madman with weapons, a glimmer of hope seems to be rising from America’s crushed heart.It’s the stark realization that this atrocity can, must and will be different from all of the others before it and will be the catalyst for authentic action in Washington, D.C. and state capitals throughout America.“We must come together to move our nation towards common sense, responsible gun laws — laws that recognize the responsibility of gun ownership, and ensure safety and security in our homes, schools, communities, and public spaces,” congresswoman Allyson Schwartz told her colleagues on the floor of the House of Representatives on Monday. Amen!In a statement on Tuesday, the National Rifle Association of America claimed to be “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” by the massacre and said it was prepared to offer “meaningful contributions” to prevent similar attacks.Now it’s put-up-or-shut-up time for the NRA and the plethora of politicians in Congress and state legislatures who are in the NRA’s back pocket.Are they going to support the status quo, or are they going to enact real gun control — beginning with banning the sale of assault rifles to the general public?In other words, will the gun nuts and the politicians try to do business as usual, or will they be Americans?Send letters to the editor to: