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To survive, we must encourage immigration

Pittsburgh needs immigrants to be a dynamic, growing city. A hundred years ago, 26 percent of this city's residents were immigrants. Some worked in the mills. But many formed companies. There were the Carnegies, Mellons and Kaufmanns, to name a few. There were also numerous smaller businesses such as grocery stores, clothing shops, restaurants, tailors, wholesalers and many more. In fact, 30 percent of new businesses were started by immigrants.

Now, only 3 percent of the region's population is made up of immigrants. And, let's face facts: We have a rapidly aging population in a county already known for the extent of its senior citizenry. We also have a very low birth rate. Where will our future workers come from? Who will start the new businesses needed to keep this area healthy and vital?

I believe our local leaders should do all they can to encourage new immigrants and ensure the future of Western Pennsylvania. They may not come from places we know well. They will probably come from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America and elsewhere. But they will bring the same belief in the future, hard work ethics and entrepreneurial ideas that previous immigrants have brought to this area. We should welcome them.

ANNE MATES
Greenfield


Misguided glitz

Post-Gazette sportswriter Dejan Kovacevic usually ends his online Pirates Q&A with "Thing No. [X] That Makes Pittsburgh Great." Inspired by his example, and dismayed by the story about the purging of Candy-Rama from its longtime home Downtown ("Hanging Up Their Hats," Oct. 31), I present "Thing No. 87 That Makes Pittsburgh Lame and Degenerate":

A slavish adherence to yuppie-centric Reaganomics in Downtown drives small, local businesses out, in favor of high-rise condos, ritzy chains and fitness clubs.

These spawns of misguided supply-side development seem to sprout in our city daily like a twisted thicket on the shores of Acheron. Aside from the pandering to the upper crust antithetical to Pittsburgh's proletarian identity, the distressing element here is that Downtown is going to be loaded with high-end housing and gyms that will be completely empty.

And yet, the Urban Redevelopment Authority keeps making way for these establishments as if the problem were that they just haven't built the right one yet. They think that perhaps this will be the boutique-condo-fitness-martini-bar complex that will tap the yuppie geyser and have the Lincoln Navigators flowing through town on a river of wealth.

More likely, 15 years from now we'll still have an abandoned Downtown full of overpriced lofts nestled among shanties of uninspired art and bad theater, but we also will have wasted billions on a metropolitan-center-never-to-be.

Pittsburgh's charm and strength is in the personalities of its (now decaying) neighborhoods. Build on that. People don't visit New York to see office buildings, but Greenwich Village and Chinatown. People want personality and variety, not a pathetic attempt to fulfill a generic and unrealistic notion of "urban."

MORGAN KELLY
Squirrel Hill


Things we like

The mayor was right, a lot of people think Pittsburgh is special and we all need to promote Pittsburgh's positives. If you try to list all the great things about Pittsburgh, the list is amazing. Pittsburgh is not too big and not too small. We have so many things to do. You can do something different every day.

Here is my suggestion to promote your paper and the city.

Every week ask four Pittsburghers one question: "What do you like about Pittsburgh?"

The person then lists three things he or she likes about Pittsburgh and a description. But they have to be different from the answers of previous respondents.

For example, here are my three:

1) The O'Reilly Theater in the Cultural District. It's a great place to see a play.

2) The lounge at LeMont on Mount Washington. It's a great place to share a beverage with my wife, while listening to an entertainer perform and enjoying the wonderful view.

3) Shopping Saturday morning in the Strip District and buying coffee at Prestogeorge.

Others participating could say shopping at the Strip, but they have to have a different reason.

The idea is to share with everyone the great things of Pittsburgh.

JERRY T. FINK
South Park


Raccoon stats

Here we go again -- wild animals vs. people. Answer: let's shoot, trap, gas, poison or whatever the relevant method of death is. I'm sorry Donna Scafede was bitten by a rabid raccoon ("The Rise of the Raccoon," Nov. 13 Local news story), but I hope people read the facts on the inside page before they go all rabid about ridding the world of raccoons.

The vaccination bait program is working, as evidenced by the 32 rabid animals caught in 2003, and the eight caught this year. As the program continues, sick raccoons will die out, and the population will be healthy, vaccinated and no danger. Trapped raccoons are rarely the rabid ones, the Animal Rescue League's director of the Wildlife Center reported. Again the evidence is clear: some 900 raccoons received by the league, of which only three had rabies. That's 897 healthy -- but now dead -- raccoons.

There has been not one case of a Pennsylvanian getting rabies since 1984; that's 23 years ago.

The knee-jerk reaction to wild animals, that we just kill every critter in our way, is pathetic coming from the species that's supposed to have the big brains. We are fortunate to live in communities with woods and parks and rivers. With these amenities comes wildlife. How about we use that extra gray matter constructively and learn to live and let live?

IRIS VALANTI
Brookline


No need to panic

There's no reason to panic due to the recent incident involving a rabid raccoon ("The Rise of the Raccoon," Nov. 13). Although rabies is a terrible disease, the good news is that it is extremely rare in humans and post-exposure shots are fully effective for people bitten by a rabid animal.

Rabies is the second-rarest disease in the United States, next to polio. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only one person is on record as having died of the raccoon strain of rabies. The few human deaths to rabies annually (average: two a year) have been largely due to the bat strain or other strains that people contracted overseas.

It's relatively hard to contract rabies. You can get rabies only via a bite from a rabid animal or through scratches, abrasions, open wounds or mucous membranes contaminated with saliva or brain tissue from a rabid animal.

Setting out traps will do nothing to control rabies. Clinically rabid animals don't act normally and rarely go into traps. What you want instead is for the naturally immune (up to 18 percent of the population) and vaccinated raccoons (under the ongoing USDA vaccination program) to serve as a buffer for humans.

The bottom line is to not panic over rabies but to take sensible precautions. That means not feeding or handling wild animals, getting prompt medical attention if you're bitten and vaccinating your companion animals.

LAURA SIMON
Urban Wildlife Program
Humane Society of the United States
Woodbridge, Conn.


Couldn't some creative thinking save Schenley?

Schenley High School, a grand and historic building, deserves to be saved for current and future generations. Pittsburgh has many philanthropists, along with average citizens, who could come to the rescue. We could start with a fund-raiser and then approach the building like a Junior League Showcase Home. It could be a flagship school and a national model for struggling city schools across the country.

The folks in the city and surrounding counties could show their support for the young people who will go to Schenley and the city schools in general. There is no need for suburbs if there is not a thriving city to surround!

First, give nonprofits an opportunity to rebuild a classroom. A few ideas: UPMC health careers lab, Highmark Blue Cross life science classroom, the Mellon Foundation economics classroom, just to name a few.

Make it a green building and ask local utilities to participate for a tax write-off. They have money for all those commercials.

Then the for-profits: Steelers gymnasium, Penguins exercise room, Giant Eagle cafeteria. Don't forget the banks, which are busy putting up new branches every second block in the affluent suburbs. We also could start an alumni foundation of all city schools for a new auditorium.

Last but not least, have a naming-rights bidding war, as long as the word Schenley is included.

Well, you get the idea. The aforementioned and many others have made their money on the backs of Pittsburghers. It's time to give back in a meaningful and historic way. Superintendent Mark Roosevelt should want to preserve our history; he has a bit of history in his family, too.

KATHLEEN BAKKILA
O'Hara



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