Letters to the editor

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Pa. can reduce the size of government

The Post-Gazette has recently published articles demonstrating problems of government in Pennsylvania.

The attorney general announced indictments of Republican caucus members for corruption and misuse of public funds. This follows 2008's indictments of Democratic caucus members for corruption and misuse of public funds. Clearly, this is not a one-party problem.

Several women elected to the state House as reformers (after the 2005 pay raise furor) decided not to run again. One cited the size of the Legislature as the reason meaningful change can't be accomplished.

Fake reform proposals pop up after each revelation of corruption and incompetence. One example is somewhat reducing the size of the Legislature -- but only over the next 44 years.

This year's budget passed 101 days late. Not addressed was the fact that this year's $3 billion shortfall was eliminated with $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds (which won't be available again).

An Internet search of the phrase "unicameral legislature" unveils a full explanation of the why and how of an alternative -- during the last major U.S. economic crisis, the people of Nebraska decided to change the way their legislature operated. Not only has Nebraska operated for 72 years with a one-house legislature of only 49 members, those members are all chosen in non-partisan elections.

Two hundred and fifty-three legislators and their staffs who appear to be interested only in using public money to get themselves reelected -- in order to use public money for themselves -- is not acceptable.

It's time that Pennsylvania operated in a way its citizens can be proud of.


Not a technicality

Staff writer Paula Reed Ward writes that a rape case was dismissed against David L. Bradford on the basis of a "technicality." ("Authorities Try to Trace Errors in Legal System That Lost Rape Case," Dec. 5) She explains: "Under Pennsylvania Act 600, a defendant cannot remain in custody for more than 180 days -- or be free on bond for more than 365 -- without a trial."

The Pennsylvania act Ms. Ward references is not some arbitrary rule of criminal procedure. It is a statutory articulation of the Sixth Amendment's right to a speedy trial, which prevents prosecuting officials from holding criminal charges over the heads of the presumed innocent for an indeterminate period of time.

Mr. Bradford's release obviously was necessitated by a breakdown in the system that needs to be corrected. But to label the application of the Sixth Amendment to Mr. Bradford's case as nothing more than a "technicality" is troubling because it trivializes one of our most cherished constitutional protections whose roots run deep in mankind's long struggle against tyranny, even predating Magna Carta.

A discussion of the reasons for the breakdown in the system is not advanced by characterizing the vital interests served by the Sixth Amendment and its statutory progeny in such a dismissive, pejorative manner.

Pleasant Hills

Preserving the arena

As an urban planner and preservation educator, I find that the Post-Gazette shares an unfortunately common misunderstanding about what historic preservation encompasses.

The editors appear to be fundamentally uninformed of the breadth of what preservation offers as a planning tool when they say that plans to modify Mellon Arena "aren't really preserving it as much as reworking it into something completely different and new, on the inside and the outside," and when they inaccurately represent the opportunity to open and close the dome over the proposed civic space underneath as requiring "the dome to remain retracted almost all the time. That's not historic preservation" ("Fantasy on Ice," Dec. 2 editorial).

Historic preservation, as defined for decades by the National Park Service and embodied in the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, is inherently flexible and realistically responsive to parochial notions that preservation means freezing a building in time.

The standards present four approaches -- preservation, rehabilitation, restoration and reconstruction -- which offer a range of options for incorporating historic and culturally significant buildings into future plans.

The second approach, rehabilitation, which is being proposed for the arena, is defined as "the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural or architectural values." The vast majority of all historic preservation work falls under this approach.

Creatively modifying the interior of the arena in the context of a transparent, inclusive public planning process is what good preservation is!

Squirrel Hill

Desperate times

Thoreau once wrote, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," a quote sadly relevant to today's American.

What, really, is any citizen's response to a radical president making our once-remarkable republic subservient to global politicians? That's the dry logic that follows any plan to allow world diplomats to tax Americans for anything, let alone the criminal global warming farce.

How do we stop this arrogant extremist, protected by his obedient media and global bedfellows, from trading away our constitutional sovereignty? How do we fight this apologist who tells international audiences that America isn't special, then works to ensure we're not?

Our most dangerous politician forgets that we're the only modern nation that had the strength to take armies across oceans to win world wars, the opportunity to press its advantage and literally conquer the planet and the astounding will not to. He forgets that we respond like no other to international humanitarian disasters.

The irony is chilling. Copenhagen is all about giving global diplomats the same power to rule the world that a historically unparalleled America properly declined. Leading the charge is the only president and first lady to consider their country an embarrassment.

The quiet desperation is deafening.

Penn Township

Darfur horror

I feel obligated to speak out for survivors of rape, violence and displacement in Darfur and Sudan whose courageous voices often cannot be heard. As I write to you, millions of women and young girls are being brutalized in the Sudan, and I feel as an active member of the Save Darfur Coalition to use my voice to speak for them.

I have also been keeping up to date with the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence." This is an international campaign running from Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. These women have gone in silence long enough.


Three Mile Island followed the rules with the incident

There has been much ado recently about the Nov. 21 "unusual event" at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant and its handling of the notifications. As a result of the accident at TMI in 1979, federal and state rules, regulations, policies and procedures for dealing with various classifications of situations at nuclear power plants were promulgated. Within that body of regulations were notification requirements.

As noted in "An Alarming Lack of Alarm," an editorial from the Philadelphia Inquirer printed in the Post-Gazette on Dec. 2 ("As Others See It"), the leak did not fall within the 15-minute notice to state officials required by the federal government. Neither did the event that occurred days later, which turned out to be a false alarm.

The above noted federal and state rules, regulations, policies and procedures apply to all nuclear power plants in the United States. TMI should not be held to any higher standard.

As noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, "nuclear power provides the country with a dependable and affordable source for its increasing electrical demands." Nuclear power will play an important role in meeting future demands for electric power while attempting to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases.

The next generation of reactors, particularly Westinghouse's AP 1000 are even safer than today's. Generation IV reactors will be safer yet.

So let's stop hitting the panic button every time the "N" word (nuclear) is used in the same sentence with incident or accident.



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