Northeast Philadelphia residents discuss historians, taxes and Spanish speaking Americans in this week’s letters to the editor.
Historians need support
In response to op-eds, “History should be fun, accessible and accurate,” and “When it comes to history, actions speak louder,” printed in the May 9 and 16 editions of the Northeast Times:
Two recent issues included op-ed pieces about Northeast Philadelphia history. The first article pointed out some errors of fact in the film The King’s Highway, which (it seems fair to say) is the best-known work in existence focusing on Northeast history. The film’s creator defended his efforts in the second article, identifying himself as an “entrepreneur” who makes no claim to be a “historian.”
It’s unfortunate that this well-known and otherwise well-made film contains some erroneous material. But it’s not surprising. Writing a history book or film is hard. And whether the book or film relies upon other people’s research or upon original research, somebody has to find, process and interpret evidence before any work of history can be produced. This may require many hours of digging in archives, processing data, reasoning and writing.
I think something more is needed. Not enough of the hard work that goes into the discovery of historical knowledge will be completed if the people doing it are volunteers. No one has that kind of time.
No wonder, then, that much historical writing is done by academics. Paid by colleges and sometimes by philanthropic support, to devote time and energy to the tedious work of research and writing. We in the Northeast live in a place that’s historically very interesting, with a past that deserves to be studied and taught, too. Films are a fine tool for popularizing history, but there are too few people doing the dirty work of original research that produces a history to be popularized. That needs to change.
In other parts of the country, colleges and universities have chosen to make themselves focal points for the study of history of a particular place. They hire faculty interested in researching, writing and teaching about the place, hold symposiums to encourage research, offer classes, collect archives, edit and publish journals and books, and sponsor efforts to collect oral histories of local residents so that the huge body of living memory is not gradually lost to time. A number of institutions of higher learning have operations in our area. So far, however, colleges’ and universities’ efforts to advance knowledge of the history of the Northeast have been limited. What will it take for one of these schools to step up and support the academic study of the Northeast’s history in a meaningful way?
Enough taxes already
I often wonder when the people who live in Taxadelphia will say enough. Mayor Kenney is seeking an increase in the property tax, even after it was revealed that the city is also attempting to reassess most properties for a stealth tax increase. The Water Department has filed for a whopping 11 percent increase in water and sewer services. All of this on top of a ridiculously named “soda tax” that results in huge surcharges on most beverages, including a buck a carton on soy milk.
The city already has a massive wage tax, a substantial property tax with a punishing real estate transfer tax, many business taxes and a million and one nuisance fees, along with overzealous parking ticket writers always trying to generate revenue.
When was the last time you heard a city official say, “We are going to be more efficient, set priorities, and spend less this year?”
And when are the taxpayers of this city going to insist on financial accountability and not accept cliches like: “We’re doing it for the children.”
Most Taxadelphians live on a budget; we manage our spending and make disciplined and sometimes difficult choices. It’s about time the city government did so, too.
Latinos are Americans, too
What is the problem with Latinos speaking their language? First, the lawyer in the eatery in New York City questioned two Americans citizens. Now, in Montana, a border patrol agent questioned two Hispanic females for the simple reason that they were speaking Spanish. These two ladies are Americans citizens. Thank God for the cell phones, because both incidents were recorded.
I live in Rhawnhurst, which has a lot of Russian immigrants and they speak their language. Why are people not complaining, or calling ICE on them or the Chinese or other ethnic groups? It is always the same — only against Hispanics. Enough is enough. We have the same rights as other groups. Latinos are Americans citizens, too.
Carlos Ramon Perez