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This mayor still doesn't get it regarding ethics

In a letter to Pittsburgh's ethics hearing board, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl stated elected officials and municipal employees should be allowed to accept event tickets unless the gift exceeds $500 in value, in which case the recipient should report it on their annual ethics form ("Task Force to Review Free Ticket Rules," Oct. 13).

This isn't reform -- it's adding corruption to an already questionable practice. What Mayor Ravenstahl is suggesting appears to be the price tag for a payoff. Need to influence or sway a building inspector or the "Redd Up" crew? Try giving them $500 in Steelers tickets.

Nothing of value should ever exchange hands with a city employee, starting at the top with the mayor and his underlings. City residents won't be hurt if there are no more free rounds of golf, lavish meals with billionaires or free tickets to sporting events.

Why can't the mayor come to his senses and support the Ethics Hearing Board's position? Its stance is that anything of value should come directly from a charity and not be sponsored by a third-party special-interest group that does, or wants to do, business with the city of Pittsburgh.

Come on, mayor, do the right thing. Forget about the perks.

JASON PHILLIPS
South Side
The writer is a Democratic committee member for the 17th Ward.


Political class

I, along with a few of my Duquesne University classmates, had the pleasure of attending the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mayoral debate in conjunction with our American government class. While I entered the debate favoring Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, witnessing the debate has strengthened my support exponentially.

While Mark DeSantis relied heavily on his seemingly unending supply of ad hominem attacks and scripted jokes, our "young" mayor responded with the composure and political class that his opponents so sorely lacked.

The raucous applause elicited by the moderator's request that Mr. DeSantis allow Mayor Ravenstahl to speak is indicative of Pittsburgh's general view of negative campaigning. Pittsburgh, like the rest of the country, wants civilized discourse, something severely lacking from Mr. DeSantis' rhetoric.

As a young person living in the city of Pittsburgh, it is exciting and invigorating to have such a fresh face representing our city. The fact that we are an aging city is unavoidable. How better to freshen this great city's image than to elect a vibrant young mayor to represent the city to show those considering moving here that we are committed to making this great city as exciting and vivacious as it deserves to be?

BEN GRANCE
Uptown


Don't blame patients

How dare UPMC's Diane Holder ("Lacking the Skills to Stay Healthy," Oct. 17 Midweek Perspectives) blame health-care customers for health providers' shortcomings.

I found nothing amusing or illuminating about her anecdote concerning the young mother who mistakenly poured medicine into her child's ear instead of administering it orally. Why was this confusion necessarily the mother's fault -- and not the fault of the presumably highly literate physicians, nurses and pharmacists involved in the child's care?

Like so many health-care executives, Ms. Holder parrots the familiar line: "Physicians, who remain the public's most trusted source for health information, have increasingly limited time to interact with patients." Whose fault is that? Surely not the patient's.

WILLIAM McCLOSKEY
Regent Square


Care solutions

I found the article "Doctor Eschews Insurance, Launches Concierge Practice" (Oct. 13) about Dr. Joel Warshaw's concierge practice quite interesting. It is somewhat ironic how health care has changed so drastically over the past 50 years or so, yet now we are seeing a "throwback to the old days" with some doctors opting for a concierge practice.

More time with your doctor during visits, a more personal relationship with your doctor, home visits, 24-hour access if necessary -- these are all positive steps in health-care quality. Paying more than $1,000 a year for these services may not be for everyone, but no one ever said that each person's health-care solution should be exactly the same.

Increased governmental involvement in health care has been helpful to many people, especially the elderly and the medically indigent. However, at the same time there has been a significant increase in administrative costs, both for the physicians and those paying for the care. This type of concierge service is just one of the private solutions that can be used to combat the health-care problems we are facing.

In addition to increasing quality, there must also be an increase in access and a decrease in costs. Some other private solutions that could help include telephone consultation services with doctors to reduce costs in some cases and more walk-in retail clinics to improve access and convenience.

We should be looking for ways to improve health care without relying totally on the government.

MATTHEW CAROTHERS
Oakland
The writer is a student in the Health Law Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.


Men and infertility

In her article about couples facing reproductive challenges ("Catholics Look to Ease the Moral, Religious Pain of Infertility," Oct. 15), Ann Rodgers did a good job of conveying the emotional turmoil associated with the inability to achieve a pregnancy.

What was missing, however, was an acknowledgment that infertility is not just a woman's disorder. In fact, problems in the husband's reproductive system are involved in fully half of all cases of infertility. Fortunately, some of these problems can be treated effectively with medication or surgery, allowing conception to occur naturally. This is why it is so important for both partners to undergo testing when a couple is having trouble conceiving a child.

JENNY WOLSK BAIN
Squirrel Hill
Infertility Counselor


Mutual support

My husband and I are former Pittsburghers and the parents of an in-vitro conceived 10th-grader at a Catholic high school in Wisconsin. As an infertile feminist, I have a strong response to some statements made in "Catholics Look to Ease the Pain of Infertility" (Oct. 15).

The United Church of Christ minister's opinion that women are necessarily exploited by infertility treatment is, frankly, more sexist than anything I ever encountered from the Catholic Church.

As an IVF mom, I am intimately familiar with infertility's invasive procedures. Because they worked, I am lucky to be intimately familiar with childbirth. My role in each process was not the imposition of a sexist society, but a direct result of my being the person in my marriage with eggs and a uterus.

As is the case with 20 percent of infertile couples, my husband and I both had infertility problems. We both went through surgery. We both endured injections -- he giving, me receiving -- and then the waiting, the hoping, the destruction of hopes, and the trying again. My husband did all this not because he was a Neanderthal trying to impose his will and his genes on a glassy-eyed Stepford wife, but because he loved me. We both wanted to try for a biological child, and we supported each other.

For this his reward is an ignorant statement like Rev. Turner's: "[I]f men had to go through it, there wouldn't be much interest in reproductive technology." Pathetic.

CATHERINE ARNOTT SMITH
Middleton, Wis.


Amazing firefighters

Every Sunday I go to lunch with my sister who lives on Broad Street in Garfield. One recent Sunday, I got a call from another sister who heard there was a fire in that area. I turned on the news but did not hear anything prior to leaving so went there as usual.

When I got there about 11 a.m., there were police cars blocking both ends of the street and fire trucks around the middle of the street. I parked in the church lot, walked down and was amazed to see the house that had just about burned to the ground. The house right next to it had some damage but was saved.

The firefighters were still hosing the house and checking to ensure that the fire was completely out. I heard this was a vacant house and that by the time the firefighters had been called, there were flames shooting out of the house. I feel they did a remarkable job putting out this fire before it had spread further. It's just amazing in this neighborhood of older homes that the fire did not get out of control and destroy many more homes.

The firefighters did a great job and deserve a lot of thanks.

ANN STANTON
Baden


Bush's policies toward detainees have weakened our nation

I was disturbed by the news of a Department of Justice report that justifies aggressive interrogation techniques by parsing the definition of torture to allow us to get the "benefits" of torture without suffering the moral consequences of admitting that we do it.

But this tortured (sorry) logic is unnecessary. Especially for an administration that claims to have strong religious principles, it would be nice if the Bush administration adhered to them in its actions on occasion. For guidance on this issue, the administration should simply follow the golden rule.

Detained people are either criminals, who are innocent until proven guilty, at which point they are punished (in a humane way), or they are prisoners of war, which makes them subject to the Geneva Conventions. In either case, the techniques we use to interrogate the prisoners should be those we would expect to be used on our citizens were they to be in a similar situation, either arrested for violating the law in a foreign country or soldiers captured during a military conflict. If we followed that simple rule, we would not need to have the Department of Justice trying to figure out how much pain and discomfort can be inflicted on a person before you must call it torture.

Because the Bush administration thinks power is generated by fear, it has pursued policies that have weakened us immeasurably. The end of this administration cannot come soon enough.

KENT JAMES
Washington, Pa.




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