Northeast Times

 Articles by Editorial

Editorial: Do actual collecting

   If you voted yesterday, you get a gold star for citizenship. If you didn’t vote, shame on you. Blame the guy in the mirror if you get the government you didn’t vote for.    Now it’s time for Philadelphians to focus on an issue of equal, and maybe even greater, importance: The city’s very broken property-tax system. After years of delay and cowardice by elected officials, the city is finally trying to institute reform by taxing properties at a percentage of what they are actually worth.The plan is called the Actual Value Initiative, and while it’s long overdue, it should not go into effect until Philadelphia gets its fiscal house in order by eliminating waste, maximizing municipal employees’ productivity, and finding cheaper ways to deliver city services, including privatizing trash collection by giving the job to the qualified lowest bidder and requiring the winner to retain the current workforce.   Under no circumstances should Philadelphia residents or merchants allow the city government to collect another dime in property taxes until it gets its act together and collects back taxes. That means Mayor Michael “I’ll Reform City Government” Nutter must instruct the commissioners of the Departments of Revenue and Licenses & Inspections to get together with the city solicitor, who runs the Law Department, to crack down, IMMEDIATELY, on tax deadbeats.   “Philadelphia has over $500 million in delinquent property taxes but no new plan and very little discussion about how to collect what is alreadly owed. We’re also still waiting for the revenue numbers from the reassessment to come in,” says Northeast Philly state Sen. Michael Stack. “These are the issues we need to tackle before we talk about AVI and city property taxes.” Amen.Send letters to the editor to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: Speak up on Tuesday

Leave it to Mother Nature to get her daughter, Hurricane Sandy, to help the Republican Party get its wish to shut down government and cast further doubt that Barack Obama will get re-elected on Tuesday.Frankenstorm crippled much of the East Coast Monday and Tuesday, closing state, local and federal government offices and putting power companies to the test. It also canceled early voting in a few states.Curbing government and making voting difficult are music to the ears of many in the Republican Party who despise President Obama, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said his top legislative priority was to deny Mr. Obama a second term. His party’s senators have used a record number of filibusters to block votes on virtually every economic-development and jobs bill supported by Mr. Obama — just to make him look bad to the nation.The Not-so-Grand Old Party is also home to Senate candidates who {a} think women who become pregnant from rape should not be allowed to have abortion because the pregnancy is God’s will (Richard Mourdock in Indiana) and {b} think women who are raped can’t get pregnant (Todd Akin in Missouri); a vice presidential candidate who thinks rape victims should not be permitted to have abortions and who this year tried to cut $10 billion a year in federal disaster aid (Rep. Paul Ryan), and a presidential candidate who wants disaster-relief responsibilities to be stripped from FEMA and given to private industry (Mitt Romney)So, ladies and gentlemen of the voting jury, if you’re thinking of not voting next Tuesday because you don’t care about politics or you think your vote doesn’t matter, think again. The recovery from Hurricane Sandy is just one reason you need government in your lives. Don’t you dare sit on your hands on Election Day.Send letters to the editor to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: Pay to play? No way!

Only in Philadelphia could the public school system get away with making community athletic groups pay what essentially is an extra tax to play games in public school gymnasiums after school hours. Or can it? The School District of Philadelphia’s plan to impose user fees at nights and on weekends is not a done deal. With three consecutive years of property-tax hikes and a not-so-temporary hike in the sales tax, Northeast Philly parents, already taxed up the wazoo, must say “NO!” Much of the blame for the school district’s poor fiscal condition lies squarely in the laps of past members of the School Reform Commission, which a year ago inexplicably gave $905,000 to inept ousted Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to buy out her contract. That $905,000 could have paid for many hours of after-hours play time at school gyms throughout the city. City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who has the statutory power to withhold questionable or otherwise improper city payments, should have tried to block the Ackerman fiscal fiasco. City taxpayers should tell Mr. Butkovitz, who is likely to seek re-election next year, to join City Council members in instructing the school district — and if necessary, the city recreation department and the entire city government — to forget about charging taxpayers to use public facilities already financed by their (public) tax dollars.Philadelphia residents and merchants must also demand the city crack down on tax cheats and finally collect the $515 million owed to the city and school district. If it does that, there will be plenty of money to keep school gymnasiums open for kids who just want to play ball.There was good news on Tuesday when Mayor Nutter granted a partial reprieve for the clubs as he announced that the city would pay $338,000 in gym fees. The money will fund court time at 25 gyms until 8:30 on weeknights and all day on Saturdays for five months starting Dec. 5. Here’s the bad news: The athletic groups will still have to pay-out-of-pocket if they want to use any of the other 80 school gyms after 7:30 on weeknights or on Saturdays.Send letters to the editor to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: Rebel with a cause

When he was laid to rest Tuesday afternoon in a cemetery in Lower Moreland just across the border with Somerton, Arlen Specter left a legacy that likely will remain unmatched by 99.9 percent of American politicians.While most politicians are quite adept at talking the talk and saying and doing a whole lot of nothing in a whole lot of words and time, Mr. Specter — Pennsylvania’s longest-serving U.S. senator who passed away Sunday morning — actually walked the walk with common sense, decency and true public service.The accolades that poured in following word that Mr. Specter had succumbed to cancer were more than just the obligatory lip service that mourners typically give to the recently departed. The good things that politicians and regular people alike said about the former prosecutor, defense attorney and senator were genuine.Sen. Specter’s fierce independent streak, often misinterpreted by skeptics as political opportunism, benefited folks in Pennsylvania and the entire nation more than they probably realize.If most politicians had emulated Sen. Specter by thinking for themselves instead of thinking for the bosses and extremists in their political parties, America would not be in the political and fiscal sinkhole that it currently finds itself in.In the end, Sen. Specter relied on stand-up comedy to help him through his illness, and that should inspire all of us to take our cue from him, especially in trying times. The moral of the Arlen Specter coping story: A hearty dose of laughter is life’s best medicine. ••Send letters to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: The cost of free speech

There are a couple of things that could have prevented the mountain that arose from the molehill at the Port Richmond school where 16-year-old Samantha Pawlucy got in big trouble — trouble with a capital T — when she arrived at school wearing a T-shirt promoting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan:1. Samantha could have kept her political views at home, where they belong.2. Her teacher, Lynette Gaymon, could have kept her political views at home, where they belong.Neither of those things happened, however, and now America’s cradle of liberty is left with yet another “teachable moment” in history.Yes, Samantha was well within her First Amendment right to free speech by letting the world know she thinks Romney and Ryan are cool guys worthy of leading America, but was it really necessary to do it at school?Yes, Ms. Gaymon had the right to call Samantha out on it, but was it really necessary to embarrass the girl, compare her T-shirt to a KKK shirt, and make much ado about nothing at what she called a “Democratic” school?The School District of Philadelphia should learn a lesson from this completely unnecessary incident by immediately ending “dress down days” and getting back to strict enforcement of a school uniform policy for all students in all grades on all school days at all schools. Fridays are every bit as important as Mondays through Thursdays. Students should be free of all distractions every day.Anything less than a standard school uniform brings potential distraction to the classroom, particularly because kids will be kids — even those who yearn to vote.Send letters to the editor to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: Still time to debate

If you’re reading this on Wednesday afternoon before the Obama-Romney debate and you’re thinking about skipping the debate, think again. Watch it. You’ll learn something about two of the men who want to lead the nation. If you’re reading this after the big debate and you didn’t watch it but could have, shame on you. You missed out, but you can catch the remaining two debates as well as the one set for the vice presidential hopefuls. All four showdowns will make for a great October.What a travesty, however, that Northeast Philadelphia voters apparently won’t get a chance to see a few other debates much closer to home. U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, state Sen. Michael Stack and state Rep. John Taylor — entrenched politicians, all of them — are refusing to meet their challengers in the Nov. 6 general election, and that is bad news for voters.What are they hiding? By depriving voters of an opportunity to see the incumbents and their challengers on an equal footing in a public forum — Obama/Romney style — they are choosing to put political strategy ahead of their duty to the public. It’s the voters who lose.Rep. Schwartz and Sen. Stack, both Democrats, and Rep. Taylor, a Republican, have records to stand on and, presumably, to defend. Voters deserve an opportunity to size them up, in person, standing side by side with their challengers: Joe Rooney, Mike Tomlinson and William Dunbar, respectively.The incumbents should not get out of the debates simply by whining that they have no time. Congress, for instance, is on another long, undeserved recess (for campaign season).Voters, do not let the candidates off the hook.Send letters to the editor to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: Do your civic duty

Summer ended, figuratively speaking, when Labor Day weekend ended, and it ended, officially, last Saturday. By now, Mr. and Mrs. Average Northeast Philadelphian have probably accepted the fact that it’s back to the rat race, full time.But, Gentle Readers, if you think that means it’s OK to go from relaxing on the beach at the Jersey Shore all day to relaxing on your easy chair at home after dinner each and every night, you’re wrong. With a plethora of civic associations and Town Watch groups back in business after the summer hiatus, you should do your civic duty.Northeast Philly’s a big town with a civic group in just about every neighborhood. In this edition of the Times, for instance, there are a handful of articles about recent civic meetings that address a host of topics, from zoning and taxes to community cleanups and charity benefits. In fact, so many civic groups have held meetings that we couldn’t even cover them all in this week’s paper.So, if you attend your friendly, neighborhood civic association’s monthly meetings on a regular basis, bless you — you get a certificate for good citizenship.But if you’re one of those uninformed drones who’s clueless about the latest developments in your area, you haven’t anybody to blame but yourself. If you don’t attend your civic group’s sessions because you’d rather stay home and watch TV, shame on you. Just like voting every election day, if you don’t participate in the democratic process at every available opportunity, you relinquish the moral right to gripe about government and its movers and shakers, and your neighborhood and its movers and shakers.Stand up, speak up, and show some civic pride.Send letters to the editor to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: It’s paypack time, Mr. Mayor

Back when he was running for mayor in 2007, Michael Nutter was all reform, all the time. The former city councilman touted his image as a maverick, a rare breed of politician who thinks outside the box to serve the public.The Democratic candidate’s efforts to exploit his dogged determination to clean house in City Hall were so effective that he won every ward in the city, including those in the Northeast, where Mr. Nutter’s Republican opponent, Al Taubenberger, was a longtime resident.While Mr. Nutter has done some great reform-minded things as chief executive of the city, he appears to be slipping into the role of Just Another Big City Democratic Politician as he nears the end of the first year of his second and final term. A glaring example is the use of taxpayer money to pay for two aides to accompany him to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. earlier this month.While attending a presidential nominating convention is perfectly fine, the trip was entirely political, and every dollar of the expenses associated with it should come from either the mayor’s campaign or personal funds or the Democratic National Committee’s treasury.In a perfect world, Mr. Nutter’s fellow Democrats — for instance, congressman Bob Brady, head of the Democratic City Committee; veteran state Rep. Mark Cohen, who never met a per diem he didn’t like; or City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who has the power to withhold payments of city funds — should blast the blatant misuse of public funds.Don’t expect them to say anything, however. Why should they? They hold office in a town whose voters have foolishly allowed themselves to be governed by one party for more than 60 years.Send letters to the editor to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: Safe passage

Students returned to classes at Fels and Northeast high schools last week to the good news that their schools had done the hard work and become safer.  The two schools were taken off the state Education Department’s “persistently dangerous schools” list for this year.But two other Northeast Philly high schools  — Frankford and Lincoln — continued to fail the safe schools test. For the seventh year running. Overall, six Philadelphia public schools are on the list this year, down from 12 the year before. What a shame that a third of them are in the Great Northeast.Schools make the list based on the last two years’ worth of data about dangerous incidents that result in arrest. These are  defined as weapons possession or a violent crime, ranging from homicide to assault. Any child who attends one of these “persistently dangerous schools” has the option to enroll elsewhere.This may sound like just a bunch of number crunching, but as the old adage goes, you can only change what you can measure. And, as the state guidelines recognize, “some schools need to take serious steps in order to make their schools safer.”We couldn’t agree more. It’s time for Frankford and Lincoln to end the climate of danger at their schools.The place to start? Talk to their colleagues at Fels and Northeast about what they did to make their schools safer. Then, let everyone in the school community — students, parents, teachers and administrators — know that you expect a lot, and you mean business. Every child deserves to go to a school that is a safe place to learn. Frankford and Lincoln, do the hard work and get off the list. •• Send letters to: pronews@bsmphilly.com


Editorial: Let’s do it again

Yo, Philly, are you feeling left out? If not, you have no civic pride, you haven’t been watching the national political conventions, or both.Anybody who has ever lived in, worked in or visited the City of Brotherly Love has to be rather jealous of Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., the host cities of the Republican National Convention (last week) and Democratic National Convention (this week), where supporters have whooped it up for Willard Mitt Romney and Barack Hussein Obama.With the coveted title of host city comes a humongous dose of national attention — the kind that money just cannot buy. Indeed, the conventions themselves attract tens of thousands of politicians, delegates and their families, and journalists — in search of drama during events that have turned out to be largely free of suspense — who leave behind lots of money.Philly hosted both the Democratic and the Republican conventions in 1948, and it proved that it can be a terrific host city again in 2000, when newly installed Mayor John Street’s ultra-Democratic town did a fantastic job hosting the Republicans at the First Union Center.Philly has it all — tons of historical sites, hotels, restaurants, a great public transit system. It’s everything conventioneers could ever hope for. So, what do Tampa and Charlotte have that Philadelphia does not? Nothing, and a whole lot less.Note to Mayor Nutter, Gov. Corbett and Philadelphia’s hospitality industry: Get off your butts right now and start working to bring the Democratic or Republican National Convention to Philly in 2016. Philadelphia and democracy are a perfect match.Send letters to: pronews@bsmphilly.com