Letters to the editor, May 19, 2011 edition

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Give your raises to the people

Some of Philadelphia’s elected officials will receive 2 percent raises as of July 1, 2011, which happens automatically under city legislation.

The middle-class members of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees District Council 33 and 47 have not received a percentage pay increase since 2007. The Philadelphia firefighters’ contract that gave them 3 percent raises in each year for fiscal 2011–13 and exempted them from furloughs has been appealed.

I wonder how many elected officials will put that pay increase back into the city coffers to show some solidarity with the people they represent?

Jeff George

Parkwood

Parking crackdown will yield revenue

I have a great idea for more revenue in Northeast Philadelphia: Police officers actually ticket cars at the Torresdale train station. It’s a free-for-all every day and no one gets ticketed.

I believe the 8th Police District is asleep at the wheel (again) and gives passes to their buddies and friends drinking at a nearby bar. If you put up signs for no parking, why not enforce them?

Michael Nutter needs money for the coffers, so why not start at Torresdale station? 8th District, please enforce this!

Kevin P. Kenna

Holmesburg

That’s no way to treat the flag

As a Vietnam veteran (USMC), I have a great deal of respect for our flag. A lot of young men and women gave their lives to protect what we stand for.

I have been seeing our flag abused for quite awhile now at a gas station on the 7600 block of Frankford Ave. If you’re going to fly the flag, have some respect, don’t be a phony. It’s a total disgrace the shape these flags are in. If you don’t want to replace them at least take them down. Show some respect for the country you’re in.

William T. Muldoon

Tacony

Bustleton Bengals helps local youth

I just wanted to express my delight with the baseball opening day events held at Hayes Playground on May 7. It was great to see such a huge turnout. My son and I were only able to stay for part of the day, but we were thrilled to hear the buzz about a potential gym for the complex.

The support of our elected officials and City Council candidate Bill Rubin was outstanding. I was sorry that current Councilman Brian O’Neill was unable to attend.

As a resident of the Bustleton neighborhood, parent in the organization, and wife of one of the coaches there, I’m excited about the future of Bustleton Bengals Athletics, as it continues to support the growth of our neighborhood children.

Gina Meissler

You’ve got an overpriced ticket

In regard to your fluff piece on local ticket agencies (That’s the ticket, April 28 edition), you state in your article that Wanamaker’s provides excellent service at fair prices. What they really provide is a chance for the general public to buy tickets at inflated prices.

I have been going to concerts since the late ’70s. Never have I been able to obtain the best seats that were available. The last concert that I saw was Roger Waters. I paid $65 over face value, and the seats were average at best.

Thanks for such an enlightening article on how ticket agencies are legally allowed to rip people off!

Thomas Wiser

Torresdale

Listen to the power of truly good music

I want to thank the Northeast Times and reporter Bill Kenny for the enjoyable article on radio station WRTI-FM (WRTI . . . and all that jazz, April 28 edition).

I have always told people that the greatest gift you can ever give your children (or grandchildren) is the love of reading, and you will likely guarantee their success in school and give them a lifetime of pleasure.

The next greatest gift must surely be a love of good music. I lecture on this subject, and sadly, so few people take the time to really learn what music can do for your life.

When I hear the angry, vulgar music blasted from cars by our young people, I can understand why so many of them seem aimless, joyless and rude. Shame on adults for pushing such a culture. But then again, their angry parents seem to have grown up on a steady diet of impoverished music, too.

Nothing decorates a house so gracefully as classical music floating throughout. To learn “the classics” (as with reading), provides peace, reflection and a lifetime of mental exploration. It can keep you feeling young.

I wish WRTI’s jazz included a wee bit more historical focus, for the lives of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday are stories every child could benefit from. Amazing that 75-year-old jazz records can speak more directly to us of our humanity, than almost anything of today! All we need to do, is learn to listen.

WRTI provides an entry to this magical world, all for the price of turning your radio to 90.1. Not a bad deal at all!

Richard Iaconelli

Rhawnhurst

Fire chief should focus on morale

I was personally furious over the discipline recently handed down on firefighter Jack Slivinski by Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers after the member attempted to raise funds for a totally overlooked segment of our society. He had posed bare-chested in a calendar.

Many of the widows of deceased firefighters and police officers are having a hard time coping in today’s economy, with trying to keep up with bills and putting food on their tables, because the city doesn’t care enough about them to offer them an occasional increase to keep them above the poverty level.

Some of these widows are receiving a minimum pension of $250 a month. Firefighters run annual cheesesteak and cheesecake sales, a golf tournament and a softball tournament to raise money for these deserving women. The members also donate proceeds from a company cookbook and $20 per member collected at the stations to assist the fund. Whatever cash would have come in from the sales from this calendar, minimally, would help to ease the financial burden on some of these widows.

Whereas the commissioner labeled the act of baring his chest by firefighter Slivinski as “selling sex,” if this member dove shirtless into the river to save somebody’s life as a member of the elite Rescue 1 unit and his nipples were photographed coming out of the river, would the commissioner have disciplined the member the same way? I would seriously doubt it!

In an era of political correctness, I also doubt that he would have made an issue if a gay firefighter was in the same circumstances or if a female firefighter (with a T-shirt on) had her nipples erect after coming out of the water. It’s totally unfair that he can “judge” some members of his department and not others along racial, gender and cultural lines.

Mr. Ayers also seems to be concerned about children seeing nipples and being upset with that. Have children not seen males while swimming in city pools or at the shore? In fact, Mayor Michael Nutter was party to a photo op a while back diving into a city pool without a shirt on. Was HE “selling sex” that day? Would Lloyd Ayers have a problem with HIM on a morality issue, rather than a “lowly” firefighter?

Friends of mine from around the country are calling to ask how the 11 other city fire departments that will be offering a model for this calendar have no problem (apparently) with THEIR members posing for a charity publication but Philadelphia does.

In fact, the city and its Fire Department are now the butt of national jokes about the lack of candor utilized in this matter and the overreaction by the commissioner.

As far as “misrepresenting” the department, why wasn’t there an “investigation” when Mr. Ayers plugged a minority owned and operated bookstore while he was in uniform? Was he “following rules and regulations” when he stepped over that line? Where was the mayor’s precious Board of Ethics when that situation arose? Is there a different standard for upper-level management?

Lloyd Ayers already has a reputation of handing out “uneven” punishment during his time in power.

In a department that has a member hang a (KKK) hood on somebody’s locker and the “investigation” by fire headquarters railroads an unsuspecting rookie for the deed (to protect a personal friend of the commissioner’s in the process) and has another member concoct a scheme to bypass a registration deadline for a department entrance test, some oversight needs to be put in place to ensure that proper discipline is handed down equal to the seriousness of the infraction.

The two incidents mentioned here should have resulted in terminations. Both members involved were PROMOTED shortly after their indiscretions. Something’s not right about that!

In another tragic incident, two apparatus hit each other at an intersection responding to a reported fire. The officers in command were “investigated” and the engine officer, whose company had the green light, was eventually suspended and demoted. The ladder company’s officer (whose company ran the red light) was not disciplined to the same extent. Everyone heard the rumor that the administration wanted to “get” the engine officer.

In many other documented cases of apparatus crashes, working officers that are minorities are “investigated” but no charges are filed. Where is the mayor when these things are happening in our city?

I think the department has larger issues to deal with rather than “Nipplegate” (as it’s now being called).

Firefighter Slivinski has trained for countless hours to be a valued member of Rescue 1 and he deserves to serve the public where he’s assigned. To vindictively detail him, indefinitely, as far from home as possible and launch an “investigation” into this photo shoot only demonstrates how petty Commissioner Ayers really is.

Maybe Cars 1, 2 and 3 should be dealing with restoring some morale into a department that this administration has destroyed.

It would be a nice change if the members of the Philadelphia Fire Department would think that THEIR mayor and THEIR commissioner had their backs for a change. Sadly though, I doubt that!

Larry Shellenberger

Lieutenant (Retired)

Philadelphia Fire Department

Police union boss: I’m not for sale

Freedom of speech is one of our cherished rights. But like any freedom, it can be abused. Freedom of speech does not protect the tactics of libel and slander.

An example of this type of abuse appeared in your paper last week, in a letter authored by Steve Schmidt (Council hopeful is a Dougherty clone)

In this letter, Mr. Schmidt accuses me of selling my badge to support an elected official. Mr. Schmidt apparently is one of those who believe that cops have no rights in the political arena. Cops are expected to show up for work, risk their lives, and sometimes lose their lives, but remain silent otherwise. In the meantime, people like Mr. Schmidt can make a few bucks selling memorial T-shirts if an officer goes down.

The police officers of Philadelphia have long been the cannon fodder of a sleazy political system in this city.

The reason for this is that people like Mr. Schmidt viciously attack us whenever we stand up and speak out.

Well, here’s a news bulletin for you, Stevie — we have every right to stand up and speak out. We have every right to support candidates who support us and oppose candidates who oppose us. We have every right to actively participate in a political system for which we are willing to risk our lives.

As for my badge, Stevie, neither you nor any elected official nor anyone else currently walking on this Earth has enough money to buy it. You can either publicly apologize for your slur, or you can face the consequences.

John J. McNesby

President, Philadelphia Lodge #5

Fraternal Order of Police

Current Catholic is offended by ex-Catholic’s comments

The letter to the editor on May 5 from John J. Smith Jr. (Former Catholic is now an atheist) needs to be put in perspective.

Sexual abuse of any minor by an adult is reprehensible, especially so if by a religious leader since he is rightfully held to a higher standard.

If even only one priest in the past 2,000 years committed this crime it would be reprehensible, and that priest should be punished according to the laws of his nation. Jesus said it is inevitable that scandals will come, and woe to those perpetrators. I pray that all who offend God turn toward Him and receive His infinite mercy in order to be happy in eternity.

It is predictable that the media focus all attention on the few bad apples in the Catholic Church. After all, was not Jesus Christ, who was totally innocent, accused, convicted and executed as a criminal by the “leading authorities” of the day? Is it not so much easier for today’s opinion-makers to dig up accusations, true or false, and incessantly paste their alleged crimes in the news day after day, year after year?

Wikipedia under media coverage of Catholic sex abuse cases shows the statements made by John J. Smith are blatantly false.

For example, to see the unfair and unbalanced reporting of this topic we have: “During the first half of 2002, the 61 largest newspapers in California ran nearly 2,000 stories about sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, mostly concerning past allegations. During the same period, those newspapers ran four stories about the federal government’s discovery of the much larger — and ongoing — abuse scandal in public schools.”

Last time I checked the U.S. Constitution, the law of the land, it said that all are innocent until proved guilty. I was looking for an exception for priests but did not find one.

Let’s not overlook the financial windfall of accusing a priest, most of which goes to lawyers representing the accusers. L.A. attorney Donald H. Steier states that up to half of all claims are either false or overly exaggerated. With payouts of up to $1 million per case it appears that gambling is not limited to Las Vegas.

Now let’s look at the larger, better side of the church. Ironically, it is the Catholic Church that is most responsible for defending innocent children from being murdered and sexually abused. The church is one of the only international institutions that consistently defends human life from conception to natural death. Worldwide, abortions are approximately a mind-numbing 46 million human lives every year. How does that compare to a few hundred sexual abuse cases in the past 50 years?

Also, the Vatican continually calls out international sex-kidnapping rings. These criminal activities are rarely reported and only in very limited circumstances as in the case of DynCorp, a U.S. government defense contractor.

It is not my intent to point fingers at the media, John J. Smith or anyone else. My goal is to shine some light in the darkness.

Jonathan Garsey

Fox Chase

• • •

I dare say, judging by Mr. Smith’s comments, he is not a former Catholic except by accident of birth, and in fact shows no indication that he has ever understood even the basic truth about Christianity: Jesus died so to ask God to have mercy on us sinners.

Mr. Smith does not claim to have suffered any personal harm, so one can only imagine the source of his hatred for the Catholic Church, or understand why he takes such pleasure in ridiculing people of faith. His generalized claims of widespread hypocrisy could be said about many groups. His desire to blame everyone for the sins of a few should ring a bell with many who have been targeted by hate groups.

Perhaps if he actually visited a few churches and talked to some priests, sisters, laypeople and believers, he would be less inclined to condemn us all for the sins of a few.

Steve Parris

Modena Park