HomeNewsLetters to the Editor: August 28, 2013

Letters to the Editor: August 28, 2013

Schools should teach kids, not parent them

Recently, in one of the local newspapers, an editorial writer suggested that we make the school year longer. The writer said that, “Schools are doing a better job of educating kids than they were 50 years ago.” And, “The problem is that schools are not keeping pace with the demand for more skills.”

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If the schools today are doing a better job of educating than they were 50 years ago, why are so many graduating high school who can’t read or write? Why are so many high school kids so deficient in basic math that they can’t figure out how to make change without a computer? This has nothing to do with keeping up with demand for more skills, this is basic material that anyone should know by the time they graduate high school. And many of today’s kids don’t.

Kids go to school until 3 p.m. After that, it should be the parents’ responsibility to see to the needs of their children. Parents should be raising their own kids and not having those responsibilities taken over by institutions.

The day before that, in the editorial section of the same paper, it was suggested we shorten the summer recess because kids are not getting meals during the summer. I am well aware of the breakfast, dinner and even weekend meal programs provided by the schools.

Since when did it become the school’s (the taxpayers’) job to make sure kids get dinners and meals on the weekends as well as during the summers? So I guess we can add to the writers’ rant, “We no longer have to feed our kids because the schools will do it.”

Schools should be institutions of learning, period. They should not and can not parent kids. And it seems that’s exactly where it’s headed by suggesting we keep schools open longer and shorten the summer break. Six-and-a-half hours a day is plenty of time for schooling. It’s the quality of those hours that defines the education a child will get.

Peter DiGiuseppe

Rhawnhurst

How do we handle the ongoing drug epidemic?

Once again, a policeman, a Northeast Philadelphia resident, has been shot by a suspect who has allegedly previously pled guilty several times to possession of drugs as well as selling them. He has allegedly served time for prior offenses that did not deter him. Heroin was later allegedly discovered in his car and house. He also may be a suspect in a killing over stolen drugs.

It costs the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a year to incarcerate a person. Rather than tax citizens more to build new prisons, due to overcrowding, they are soon back on the street “plying their trade.”

Some people speculate as to whether it would be more practical to have the government control, tax and sell the drugs rather than have deaths from competing dealers or desperate people holding up stores and shooting the owners to get money to feed their habit.

There is no simple answer.

We tried unsuccessfully some 80 years ago to “legislate morality” with Prohibition, which only led to violent criminal competition to supply the public with what they seem to be unable to do without. That law had to be overturned.

It makes one wonder whether we are going about dealing with the drug epidemic the wrong way.

Mel Flitter

Somerton

A school lottery in needed in Philadelphia

We all know the city needs money for schools and pensions. We can‘t keep raising property and wage taxes. The real estate transfer tax is out of this world. I have a solution that will solve our problems — a Philadelphia school lottery. It would be like the Pennsylvania lottery. I know people in Philly would buy tickets. I will. And perhaps in the future, the property tax will be eliminated.

Jerry Foglia Sr.

Rhawnhurst

Item found outside Northeast supermarket

I found a valuable item outside of Acme on Red Lion Road. I am waiting for the owner to claim it so that I can return it to them.

If this lost item belongs to you, contact the store, which has my information, or the Northeast Times.

Barbara J.

Far Northeast

The mayor shouldn’t burden taxpayers

I just heard that the mayor of Philadelphia wants $50 million from the citizens of the city. What kind of mayor do we have? He is willing to burden the city again with another tax. One percent more for the city tax, he says. Did we not get taxed two years in a row for real estate tax or was it three times?

The City Council president has the right proposal for the $50 million the schools want again: sell a few properties that could net the city $200 million. Stop hitting the taxpayers over the head every time there is a crisis.

The mayor and his staff are mismanaging the city. Where are the delinquent real estate taxes they promised to pursue? What about the abandoned houses that can be resold? There is a lot of waste out there. We need a mayor with vision, not one who dumps on the citizens of Philadelphia. One note: Does the mayor have a time frame on the 1-percent raise, or is it forever?

Ronald Farrell

Lawndale

Fox Chase Night Out was a great time

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank state Reps. Kevin and Brendan Boyle and the Fox Chase Town Watch for their involvement with this year’s Fox Chase Night Out.

Neither its absence last year nor the threat of rain stopped hundreds of neighbors from Fox Chase and surrounding communities from attending.

This year’s event was nothing shy of a huge success, and it could not have happened without the role that they played.

Tons of vendors were on hand giving out pizza, water ice and pretzels. There was even Mickey and Minnie Mouse, face painting and balloons for my daughters.

I am so happy that someone stepped up and showed the necessary leadership to make sure the families of the Northeast have access to great events such as this.

I hope this great tradition continues.

Jim Pearl

Bustleton

Deadline nears for tax exemption application

The Holme Circle Civic Association wishes to remind everyone that applications for the Homestead Tax Exemption are due by Sept. 13, and are accepted over the phone at 215–686–9200 and online at www.phila.gov/opa

To qualify, you must own and reside within the property as your primary residence. Rental properties are not included. Although many residents have already applied, more than 10,000 eligible residents within the 6th Councilmanic District, where our civic is situated, have not yet applied for the discount. As a public service to those especially in our area without Internet service or transportation, applications may be picked up in person at the sites of two of our business members, Beneficial Mutual Savings Bank, 2845 Holme Ave., and Lily Pads Frozen Yogurt, 3130 Willits Road. As a courtesy to any of your elderly neighbors, you may wish to inquire if they have completed an application.

Elsie Stevens

President, Holme Circle Civic Association

Corbett should drop lottery scheme

Focus is an admirable trait in an elected official. Distractions can upturn even the most earnest legislative agenda. It is good to be determined. Gov. Corbett’s relentless push to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery has crossed the line from determination long ago and now reeks of stubbornness and ineptitude, traits that will hurt him politically and harm the people of our state.

As you may know, earlier this year, Attorney General Kathleen Kane rejected Corbett’s plan to allow England-based Camelot Global Services to take over the lottery on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Since then, the Corbett administration has requested and received a third extension of Camelot’s bid, in the hopes that he can push the contract through despite Kane’s decision. Corbett has been spending considerable time and resources — including tax dollars — in his efforts to sell off one of our state’s most profitable assets.

The continued negotiations alone have cost taxpayers around $3 million. If Corbett succeeds, it is sure to cost taxpayers even more — especially seniors. In Philadelphia County alone, for the most recent year in which figures are available, the Pennsylvania Lottery paid out more than $210 million to beneficiaries. That money helps fund county aging programs, long-term living services, property tax and rent rebates and many other vital programs that our seniors rely on.

Privatizing the lottery would be a sensible thing to do only if it were underachieving or poorly run, which it’s not. Recently, the Department of Revenue announced that the Pennsylvania Lottery had another record-breaking year with sales of $3.7 billion for the 2012–13 fiscal year. The lottery earned more than $1 billion in profits, while keeping the total administrative costs at just 2.07 percent of sales. These statistics make the Pennsylvania Lottery the model for all other state-run lotteries.

While Corbett focuses on dismantling this well-run and important program, our roads and bridges are crumbling beneath our feet, teachers are being fired due to a lack of funding, and our state is ranked 49th in job creation. All of those issues deserve serious consideration and effort from our governor, but I guess he is just too busy to be bothered. Corbett needs to move on from this political obsession of his, and refocus his time and energy onto the issues that actually matter.

Rep. Ed Neilson

169th Legislative District

Zimmerman was acquitted by jury

The opinions and judgments are made by everyone in the George Zimmerman trial. However, only the jury of peers in the case heard the testimonies of all the witnesses, saw the pictures and listened to all the facts provided up close. These were women who decided in a court of law, the American way of justice.

Everyone outside the courtroom who voices or voiced an opinion or judgment about the case is making meaningless and sometimes hurtful or inflammatory noise across whatever media they use.

Joseph L. Caristo

Bustleton

Can’t fight City Hall

I recycle everything.

I take plastic bags to the local grocery store to deposit properly. I mulch-cut my lawn, so there are no clippings to put out. When I go to the Poconos, I even haul all the recyclables back home to put out.

It is only me who lives at my house. My actual trash can fit in a small plastic bag you get when you buy a hoagie from a convenience store.

What do I get for my efforts? A $50 fine for not separating my trash from recyclables. It’s just simply not true. And there is nothing I can do about it. To dispute it, I would have to take a day off from work to go to court. Who can afford that?

The city has you, and they know it. Thanks for nothing, Philadelphia!

Ed Fabry

Rhawnhurst

Op Ed: Is same-sex marriage unconstitutional?

In July, Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. These licenses would seem to be issued in contradiction to the Pennsylvania statute that limits marriage to one man and one woman. Mr. Hanes says that he believes that law is unconstitutional and therefore not enforceable.

Some have attacked Mr. Hanes for essentially going rogue. They say he does not have the authority to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce and which ones he does not. They also point out that if a law is unconstitutional, it should be a judge who makes that determination, not a county row officer. While these are reasonable points to make, they miss the true issues at stake. A more comprehensive review of relevant legal issues reveals that the actions taken by Mr. Hanes were, in fact, correct.

It is certainly true that no executive officer can unilaterally and capriciously choose what laws to enforce. But it is also true that all executives, including the Montgomery County Register of Wills, are legally required to take an oath of office, in which he swears to “enforce, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States…” not the “Domestic Relations Code of Pennsylvania”. Therefore, when a state or local law is clearly unconstitutional, Mr. Hanes has not only the right, but the sworn obligation to not enforce it.

An example removed from the context of marriage is illustrative. Virtually everyone would agree that the right of free speech under the First Amendment requires that the state be content-neutral in applying speech restrictions. So suppose a state passed a law saying that newspapers could only publish editorials in support of Democratic candidates for office and were prohibited from publishing editorials in support of Republican candidates. I think most people would say that is an obvious and blatantly unconstitutional law.

It would be difficult to see how enforcing such a law would be consistent with an oath of office wherein the officer has sworn to “defend the United States Constitution.” Would we really want local authorities to arrest newspaper editors for publishing forbidden editorials until a court intervenes?

Further, there is ample Supreme Court precedent supporting the proposition that executive officials are not required, or even permitted, to enforce unconstitutional laws. The court has said that an unconstitutional law “is void for any purpose” and must be treated “as if it never passed.”

Given the clear fact that Mr. Hanes cannot enforce unconstitutional laws, the question becomes whether he acted reasonably in determining that the specific marriage law that he disregarded was unconstitutional. It is important to remember that Mr. Hanes was elected in 2007. He has been in office for more than five years and never once declined to enforce any Pennsylvania law, including the one that limits marriage to one man and one woman. For more than five years, he has issued marriage licenses only to heterosexual couples, regardless of his personal feelings about gay marriage (of which I do not know). However, something changed.

The United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in United States v. Windsor, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While that opinion did not consider the Pennsylvania marriage law specifically, it contained language that made it fairly clear that the court viewed discrimination against gay couples who wished to marry as very constitutionally problematic. Writing for the court, Justice Kennedy said laws that discriminate against married gay couples “have no legitimate purpose” and serve only to express “animus and disapproval” toward same-sex couples, which is not a constitutionally appropriate reason to pass legislation.

It is not only Bruce Hanes who believes that Justice Kennedy’s opinion is inconsistent with marriage discrimination. Even Justice Scalia, the court’s most ardent opponent of gay marriage, wrote: “…the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. How inevitable it is to reach the same conclusion [of unconstitutionality] with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples’ marital status.”

When the Windsor opinion was issued, Bruce Hanes faced a dilemma he did not ask for. Should he disregard the clearly unconstitutional Pennsylvania marriage statute? Or should he disregard the oath he took to God and those who elected him to “enforce, obey and defend” the Constitution of the United States? I, for one, am glad that Mr. Hanes chose to respect the Constitution.

State Sen. Daylin Leach

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