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: email@example.com
“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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you don’t know the significance of next Tuesday, you’re probably the kind of person who whines about government but rarely or never bothers to vote. If so, shame on you. Shame, shame, shame on you.There’s a host of important decisions to be made in the primary election. It’s time to select candidates for president, the U.S. House and Senate, the state legislature, attorney general, auditor general and treasurer, and whether you like it or not, some of those men and women are going to retain or win their positions of public trust. Therefore, it’s up to you to know who they are and what they stand for and then give them an earful.Sadly, some of the state representatives and senators up for re-election this year have no opposition whatsoever — no opponents in Tuesday’s primary nor the Nov. 6 general election. In a free and democratic society, that is pathetic.Remember, an active, informed, motivated electorate is many a politician’s worst enemy. Citizens who exercise their right to vote every election day are helping to hold elected officials accountable for their actions — or, too often, their inactions — and in so doing, they demonstrate a sense of self-respect and a desire to do their part to control their own destiny. Yes, gentle readers, the politicians listen to the people, but only if the people speak up. If you sit on your hands on Tuesday thinking that your vote doesn’t count and that the politicians will do what they want anyway, you deserve the consequences. People who don’t vote are essentially inviting politicians to give them the shaft.Even if you think elections force you to pick the lesser of two evils, or the least of all evils, go to the polls anyway. Because in a democracy, silence is never golden.Send letters to: email@example.com
Too often, city officials and judges believe the best way to handle a problem is to first pretend it doesn’t exist, then pretend to do something about it, then, only if absolutely necessary, do something about it. Now, two firemen from Northeast Philadelphia are dead, and it appears their blood is on the hands of local government.The horrific five-alarm blaze at a vacant warehouse in Kensington that killed Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney Monday morning likely would not have happened had the city and court system been proactive, not reactive. The Langhorne-based company that owned the empty warehouse, on the 1800 block of E. York St., owes back taxes and unpaid water bills. That’s bad enough, but the building reportedly had been visited by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections a half-dozen times since November and had been broken into, even after the city sealed it up.Something’s terribly wrong with this picture. Too many Philadelphia neighborhoods have abandoned warehouses that are tragedies just waiting to happen.If city officials and the courts, from Mayor Michael Nutter and president judges on down the ladder, had any courage, they would have made sure that buildings like the one that collapsed on Lt. Neary and Firefighter Sweeney were torn down years ago.Like so many other segments of government, vigorous enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy on tax deadbeats and absentee landlords — of hazardous residential AND commercial properties — is doable but rarely done. Had the city and courts not dilly-dallied, two Northeast families and the entire family known as the Philadelphia Fire Department would not be in tears today. ••Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org
How many of you would like to run into a burning building and risk your life to try to save the structure or more importantly, people inside the structure? Odds are, not many of you raised your hands.Thankfully, enough men and women in Philadelphia are brave enough to put everything on the line as members of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Sadly, though, those courageous heroes — every uniformed member of the department — are essentially getting kicked in the teeth by short-sighted, heartless, pig-headed city officials who care more about their egos and saving money than saving lives — a point highlighted by firefighters’ family members at a rally in Burholme last week.By resorting to temporarily closing fire stations throughout the city — a procedure called “brownouts” — fire officials, particularly Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, are putting citizens in jeopardy. They’re banking on the hope and possibility — and yes, perhaps the probability — that nobody will ever die as a result of reduced manpower and slowed response time resulting from brownouts, but they are playing Russian roulette. They’re literally playing with fire, and shame on them.Some day their luck is going to run out. When somebody dies because the short-staffed, ill-equipped fire department cannot get to the scene of a fire in time, there will be hell to pay in Philadelphia. And in this city of 1.5 million people, that is likely to happen. If fire officials think that’s OK, it’s time to get new fire officials.Send letters to the editor to: email@example.com
Was John M. Perzel, the once mighty state representative from Lexington Park, really representative of the 62,000 or so residents of his 172nd Legislative District? You’d better hope not. After all, most of those people are not crooks.Mr. Perzel, who in exactly two weeks will head to prison following sentencing for public corruption, was not representative of the good folks in his district or the Northeast as a whole.By using taxpayer money to advance his political career, Mr. Perzel disgraced himself, his friends, his family, his once-good name and worst of all, the cause of public service. In the end, he proved to friends and foes alike that he was just another self-serving, power-hungry egomaniac who got by with a lot of help from his charm, personality and just plain dumb luck.Yes, Rep. Perzel did some good things for the people of his district during his 32 years in office, but that was his job — to help them. But boy, did he let the people down. He should have resigned before losing an audacious bid for re-election in 2010, but again, his ego got the best of him. His soiled name remained on the walls of a community center in Mayfair far longer than it should have.John Perzel pleaded guilty to just eight of the 82 counts that prosecutors lodged against him in 2009. What happened to the other 74 counts? Why did they magically disappear in his plea bargain? Why didn’t the prosecution decline a plea bargain and try him on all counts? Was the evidence in those 74 dropped counts so flimsy?Perhaps the public will never find out, but at least Northeast Philadelphia’s infamous crook will have some plenty of down time in which to ponder his behavior. ••Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is Tom Corbett out of his mind? Does he think women are incapable of tending to their own body business? Does the “moderate” governor of Pennsylvania actually think women should be forced to undergo an ultrasound and wait 24 hours before having an abortion? Does he realize that women outnumber men? Does he have a clue? Does he think he lives on another planet?The former state attorney general is taking plenty of heat from plenty of level-headed people for defending legislation dubbed the Women’s Right to Know Act that would treat pregnant women like imbeciles.For pregnant women who know there is no need to look at a monitor while getting their mandatory ultrasound and have no desire to do so, Mr. Corbett offers this friendly, fatherly advice: “You just have to close your eyes.”Oh, how nice. That’s the only choice women deserve, according to the paternalistic governor.Abortion rights in the year 2012 are under attack by far-right politicians, mostly men, who, like Mr. Corbett, can never get pregnant but treat women with utter contempt and thumb their nose at the right to abortion, which became settled law with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.Attention, all women who cherish their privacy and all men who respect women: Let Tom Corbett know how you feel. Call him at 1-717-787-2500 and send him a message at www.facebook.com/Gov.TomCorbettTell him — and Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum and other “limited government” proponents — to stay the hell out of your bedrooms and doctor’s offices. ••
A majority of the American people tend to sit on their hands every election day. The number of non-voters is staggering and pathetic; perhaps some day they will wake up and exercise their duty faithfully and diligently. The people who do vote, however, should be limited to one vote per person. After all, “one man, one vote” is in the Constitution.
A state law designed to crack down on DWS — driving while stupid — that goes into effect Thursday shows just how tone-deaf members of the Pennsylvania Legislature really are.