Letters to the editor

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Shuman's problems harm safety and morale

The recent Department of Public Welfare inspection of Shuman Center has brought to light staffing shortages and inadequate facilities ("Shuman Doesn't Comply With Regs," Aug. 15; "State Inspectors Return to Shuman," Aug. 16). SEIU Local 668 represents the youth care workers and support staff at Shuman Center, which is the largest youth detention center in Pennsylvania. Staff members are forced to work mandatory overtime on a weekly basis. It is no surprise that the facility has the highest turnover rate in Allegheny County government.

The facility regularly holds more juveniles than it was designed to house. In addition the high-impact units that house the most violent offenders are the first to house the overflow population, making an already dangerous job even more dangerous. Overcrowding is a serious problem in many facilities across the state. Recently Allegheny County has decided to house overflow from Shuman Center in a nonsecure environment. This solution poses many risks to both citizens and staff. To move the less-violent offenders out of Shuman Center is only going to turn Shuman Center into a maximum detention facility for extremely violent juvenile offenders -- a purpose that this center was not designed for.

Inadequate funding, staffing shortages, overcrowding, unsafe working conditions and a dangerous environment have created a workplace troubled by low morale and constant turnover in staff.

The members, staff and officers of SEIU 668 look forward to working with state and county officials to resolve these important matters.

Legislative Director
SEIU 668

Her gun said it all

Congratulations to Leda Smith, the 85-year-old who confronted and held at gunpoint the burglar she found in her Fayette County home ("Granny Gets Her Gun, Turns Tables on Burglar," Aug. 20). How fortunate for her she doesn't live in an area governed by anti-gun politicians who don't believe that law-abiding citizens have a need or a right to own guns.

In an ideal world, Ms. Smith would get a medal and the teenage burglar would get a couple of years in an adult prison.

However, the way things have been going in this country, I wouldn't be surprised if the parents of the burglar sued Ms. Smith for traumatizing their "child" by pointing a loaded gun at him.

Mt. Lebanon

Cyclists' views

I feel required to add to the Aug. 18 front-page story on bicycling in Pittsburgh ("When Bicyclists Break the Safety Chain, Driver Complaints Mount"). Although it was mostly a balanced article, the overall tone still emphasized the problems bicycles create, and astounded motorists were very well represented. I have been a bicycle commuter for 37 years, the last 26 years in Pittsburgh, and our view was not well represented.

I'm amazed a bicyclist had the lack of survival skills to cut off a car. However, I've been cut off by cars hundreds of times. In most cases, I'd like to say they didn't see me. The frequency of situations when someone opened a car door in front of me has dropped dramatically in recent years. Although I've stopped looking through rear windows to see potentially hurried people opening car doors, I will likely never stop watching right front tires for signs of sudden turning.

I also must add that of the cities where I've biked, Pittsburgh drivers are the most generous. In roughly one-third of the times I've waited at a stop sign with a car, the driver has waved me through.

Finally, I am hopeful the new city bicycle and pedestrian coordinator can make the narrow Pittsburgh main streets more safe. My first suggestion is to make drivers more aware of bicyclists sharing the road as our numbers are very likely to grow.

Highland Park

Sandcastle solution

I was glad to read Brian O'Neill's Aug. 10 column ("Drawing a Line in the Sandcastle"), and Kennywood Entertainment President Peter McAneny's response ("The Sandcastle Land Simply Isn't Wide Enough," Aug. 17 letters), regarding the missing bike trail link at Sandcastle.

If the access road is that restricted in width, why not do what the developers of The Waterfront did? There, the trail hugs the river behind the apartments, offices and restaurants until the property becomes too narrow to have a trail and building. But, rather than say, "We don't have room for the trail and our business," they use the 5-foot-wide sidewalk that is shared with their patrons. The sidewalk crosses driveways, from the town center to Sandcastle, and cyclists and cars are no less cautious than they would be next to any road.

I'm sure the management at Kennywood has seen its share of frivolous lawsuits over the years and giving permission to cross your property causes some concern. However, I don't see how marking the road for use by cyclists and cars, with bikes directed to use the right berm closest to the railroad, is that complex of an issue. This is the only missing link in a trail that included many right-of-way issues, lots of new and rebuilt bridges, re-opening a massive tunnel and sharing a tunnel with a steam train! It's hard to believe that Sandcastle's concerns are any more challenging than anything the Allegheny Trail Alliance has already resolved to make this trail a reality.

Maybe if someone from Sandcastle were to join the Pittsburgh 250 ride from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh, they would understand how important it is for them to be a part of this trail.


Charming putdowns

Regarding Reg Henry's July 30 column ("By Their Savagery Ye Shall Know Them"): Mr. Henry always knows how to turn a charmingly descriptive phrase.

He calls Michael Savage "one primitive in a tribe of conservative Neanderthals" and says "Another is my old pal Rush Limbaugh, the blimp of bombast." He continues: "With the Fairness Doctrine abolished, the garden of free expression bloomed. Unfortunately several undesirable plants -- the Rush dandelion, the Savage thistle, the O'Reilly ragweed -- thrived in ground fertilized with manure."

He concludes with "I sense a new age coming. No, not the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Aquariums. You guys will be the blowfish."

Sly Reg never fails to skewer those who deserve it, and in the most delightful way.


I'll second that

Hats off to Phil Gallagher for his Aug. 20 letter, "The Steelers Are Raiding the Taxpayers' Pockets." More of us should see the Steelers management for the opportunists they have become.


Fine photography

I would like to thank the photographers of the Post-Gazette for the high quality of many of the photos published over the last year. In particular, your photographers have given readers some wonderful and memorable pictures of local children and families experiencing both joy and sadness. Many thanks on behalf of the many readers who, I'm sure, share my appreciation of your photographers' work.

Point Breeze

Obama gives me a sinking feeling

After reading your Aug. 18 editorial "Obama's Generosity: The Senator Gives the Clintons Their Moment," regarding Obama's "generosity" in allowing the Clintons a role in the Democratic convention, I wondered if you were fed your talking points by Mr. Obama's campaign.

Barack Obama needs Hillary's supporters and he's finding out he can't win without us. My personal reason for not supporting Mr. Obama is that he is simply inexperienced and unqualified to be president. He constantly cites his role as a community organizer as a qualification. That would be like me thinking I would be qualified to be president if I had experience leading the Regent Square Civic Association.

Mr. Obama also has a pattern of not standing strong on important issues as shown by his many "present" votes in the Illinois Senate and not voting in the U.S. Senate on controversial issues. He failed to stand up to the nuclear industry over radioactive leaks in Illinois. He didn't vote on the Kyl/Lieberman amendment regarding Iran. He flip-flops on issues Democrats fought for by dropping his filibuster pledge and allowing more spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and for endorsing an expansion of President Bush's faith-based initiatives program. From Mr. Obama's actions, his "hope and change" are more like "smoke and mirrors."

During this week's nomination roll call, I hope the delegates wake up from their Obama Kool-Aid stupor and nominate the most-qualified candidate -- Hillary Clinton -- and steer the Titanic away from a mighty November crash.

Regent Square

We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.


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