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Cheers, not jeers, for this smoking ban's demise

Having been tried and convicted in the court of the Post-Gazette ("Smoke Signal: County Sends a Message That It Plans to Be Tough," March 30 editorial), the officers of the Lithuanian Citizens' Society of Western Pennsylvania shed no tears that an ill-conceived law enacted by Allegheny County Council has gone up in smoke ("County's Smoking Ban in Ashes," May 23).

After having vilified our officers without knowing the full circumstances under which they acted regarding smoking at our bingo, perhaps it is time for the Post-Gazette to ask why County Council knowingly enacted an ordinance that violated state law. Why didn't the law apply equitably to all workplaces, rather than providing exemptions for a chosen few who could then gain an unfair business advantage over their competitors?

Why did the Post-Gazette support this faulty and illegal law? Could the reason be the old saying, "Something is better than nothing"? In this case, "something" was a disaster.

Our sympathy goes to county Health Department officials, who were handed this albatross and asked to enforce it, and to those who must now deal with a bloated state Legislature that has proved time and again that it is incapable of enacting laws pertaining to the social vices (smoking and liquor) that would bring the commonwealth into the 21st century.

JOHN P. BALTRUS
President
Lithuanian Citizens' Society of Western Pennsylvania
Jefferson Hills


Step up, Legislature

Now that Commonwealth Court has ruled on Allegheny County's smoking ordinance, it is time for the state Legislature to lead -- endorse the U.S. surgeon general's report on secondhand smoke and pass a comprehensive bill without exemptions, or get out of the way -- and allow Allegheny County to have the same rights under the Clean Indoor Air law as Philadelphia.

The time for doing nothing is past.

PAUL M. KING
Oakland


Pedal power

The Port Authority has just released its list of cut and scaled-down bus routes ("Port Authority Web Site Has Details of Transit Cuts," May 22), and reports say that gas prices are expected to reach $4 per gallon this summer.

Thankfully for myself and hundreds of other city residents, our fuel supply is still plentiful as we commute to work and other places by bicycle. Perhaps more folks will be joining us as the nice days and gas prices increase.

If you do choose to continue driving your car, please be aware of the other people using the road around you -- check twice in your mirrors and blind spots before merging, and pass us carefully and not too close. Remember, we could be your neighbor, doctor, daughter or even best friend.

CAITLIN LENAHAN
Regent Square


A PennDOT danger

After discussing this matter at work with several individuals, I had to write this heads-up to the geniuses at PennDOT.

At present our fine state is in the process of rebuilding I-79 north of the Ohio River bridge crossing, and traffic did seem to be flowing at a normal rate until late last week when for some unknown reason one lane of the Ohio River bridge (the broken bridge) was closed.

Now we have traffic congestion at this location, and it has created a quite dangerous situation since people coming onto the interstate must stop before they get on the main roadway. Then they obviously have to make a mad dash to get onto the highway before they get rear-ended.

Closing this lane could not be for safety reasons since there is no work being done on the bridge. Does anyone there at "moonbeam central" (PennDOT) have a responsible answer?

JOHN T. STRAHSMEIER
Franklin Park


Tax based on land

I have a great plan to fix all taxation. This will make it fair and self-adjustable. I suggest we tax by adding up all costs -- school, street department, water and sewer or whatever is in need of financing. Then figure out how much land is in the taxable areas. Then figure out how much per square foot it would be. If our costs were $1 million to run government and there is 1 million square feet of county land, it would be $1 per foot.

There would be no exceptions. If you hoard land, then you pay more taxes or sell it to someone who will invest in it. I like this idea because, just because I fix up my house, I shouldn't pay more for taxes. This would make people want to live here, and more homes mean the tax could go down because of volume. People could afford a more expensive house and not be taxed to death.

GUY F. RUFF
Beaver Falls


Sad indifference

As a lifelong resident of Allegheny County, I am amazed and appalled that our younger citizens can be so indifferent to others.

On Saturday, my daughter and son-in-law decided to visit a local orchard with their 3-month-old daughter. As is quite normal on a spring Saturday, the orchard was teeming with people and their children. Suddenly, my daughter (with her infant in her arms) tripped and fell to the ground with at least two dozen people staring at her.

No one came to her aid or even asked if she and the baby were all right. My son-in-law came running to her aid, but no one else did. Many of the people surrounding her were parents with young children also. Ask yourselves -- is this how you would like your wife or daughter to be treated? Is this how you wish your grandchildren to be treated?

Shame on those who did not even ask if she and the baby were OK. She has been treated better in Times Square in New York City than in our area. How very sad. She and the baby are OK -- minor scrapes and bruises.

FRANCES L. FIESER
McCandless


Senators, stop this

The recent declaration by President Bush and congressional leaders of a compromise immigration bill that is "fair to all" is nonsense. This current immigration bill is amnesty by any other name and rewards all who willingly break the law with little or no punishment ("Senate Advances Illegal Alien Bill," May 22).

When Bob Casey ran against Rick Santorum for the U.S. Senate last year, he claimed Sen. Santorum was too much of a yes man and rubber stamp for President Bush. Well, Bobby Casey, here's your chance to prove yourself and not be Mr. Bush's rubber stamp and to oppose this terrible immigration bill now before Congress.

Sen. Arlen Specter also claims not to be a rubber-stamp yes man for Mr. Bush, and he also should prove himself, especially to those in his own party, that he truly is a Republican and vote against this amnesty/immigration bill.

Our nation needs strong and committed leadership now more than ever, and Bob Casey and Arlen Specter have the opportunity to prove they possess that type of leadership by standing up to President Bush and oppose this amnesty/immigration bill.

JERRY DAUGINIKAS
Baldwin Borough


This corporate jet helps UPMC to provide top-quality care

Much has been made of the lease of a corporate jet by UPMC. It is time to set the record straight.

At UPMC our No. 1 priority is to provide our patients with the very best in medical care, whether they are located in Pittsburgh, in Palermo, Italy, or in any other international location where UPMC provides care. UPMC's primary use of the jet is for clinical purposes.

The jet allows our highly skilled transplant specialists who previously faced long, tiring multi-layover flights, to travel nonstop and arrive rested and ready to immediately enter the surgical suite and begin operating.

Only this past week, the transplant team completed a liver transplant in Pittsburgh early Monday before leaving for Palermo, where they completed four additional transplants before returning to Pittsburgh. These patients are people's mothers and fathers; they have parents and children. Which of them deserves a tired surgeon? Which of them should wait while a suitable organ goes to waste for lack of a transplant team?

We believe that every patient deserves the best quality that we can provide. For those who view the use of such a jet as a luxury, we have only one response: At the transplant center in Palermo, we have performed more than 500 life-saving transplant procedures. Hundreds more received transplants here in Pittsburgh.

It is these people whose lives we have touched who fuel our unwavering commitment despite unwarranted attacks on this organization.

BILL MORRIS
Transplant Administrator
UPMC Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute
Oakland


We receive more letters than we can fit into the limited space on the editorial page, so we'd like to share some additional letters with our Post-Gazette Web site readers.


Bush embodies this principle

"The Peter Principle" strikes again! Named for its author, Dr. Laurence Peter, "The Peter Principle" states "in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

That's where we are with George W. Bush, perhaps capable of running an oil business in west Texas, operating the Texas Rangers baseball club and being governor of Texas but "incompetent" as president of the United States.

Everywhere we look -- the war in Iraq, the energy crisis, illegal immigration and more -- we see the manifestation of "The Peter Principle." In our country the process is called impeachment. It needs to be undertaken. We can't afford to continue another 18 months with this president.

JIM WELCH
Upper St. Clair


A problem with answers

Your May 19 editorial "Running on Empty: We All Complain About Gas Prices, But No One Acts" addressed only the problem, offering no answers, which only furthers the "victim mentality" of the reader. There are answers to some of the situations you mention.

First, when prices are high, it's because demand has increased. Answer: Buy less gasoline by carpooling. And, when you do buy your gas, why not avoid Citgo, the U.S.-based refining arm of Venezuela's state-run oil company? There's no need making a thuggish leader richer than he already is. Taking mass transit will not only cut personal costs, but also will help the poor, underfunded Port Authority.

There are several reasons why gas costs are high. Environmentalists block drilling here at home and expect us all to ride our bikes or skateboards. They've also been instrumental in making sure that no refineries have been built in the United States in about 30 years, despite the fact that there are several times the number of vehicles on the roads today than there were in the late '70s and early '80s. Interference like this makes it virtually impossible to reduce gas prices.

While the oil companies get fat, the federal and state governments are part of the gouge as well. Government benefits without any investment at all, so it behooves us all to make our voices heard in the state house as well as the White House. Gas taxes might be cut if the politicians weren't playing so loosely with our money!

Hybrids are another way of helping solve the problem, but may not afford a true cost saving, since they require supplemental electricity. You might want to go to the Internet and check out Honda's new 2008 FCX, which runs on a hydrogen cell. Honda claims it will be available for lease next year.

Finally, the public's insatiable thirst for gasoline continues because a gallon of gas costs about the same as it did in 1981, factoring in annual inflation. Until the price really hurts, the demand will continue.

HARRY CHODER
Squirrel Hill


Volunteer to maintain this trail

I'm writing regarding the development of the Steel Valley Bike/Hike Trail, part of the Great Allegheny Passage trail. The Steel Valley Trail Council is working feverishly to complete it to the Point by the upcoming 250th anniversary next summer ("Slow But Sure, Bike Trail Nears Completion," April 27). Tireless volunteers labor behind the scenes to bring a great asset to the Pittsburgh community, and it will be used extensively, I'm sure, by all the communities along the Mon from McKeesport to the Point. (If we build it, they will come.)

The problem will be afterward. As the other trail councils along the Great Allegheny Passage have found, maintenance is the largest issue once the trail is complete. Volunteers are needed constantly to repair, monitor, improve and patrol, and the Steel Valley Trail will be no exception.

As president of the Yough River Trail Council, based in Connellsville, I urge residents of the Steel Valley area to become active and help as much as possible. It's usually a handful of people who do the majority of work on the trail and the users take them for granted. Get involved. Trails don't care for themselves.

If you're truly interested in helping, visit http://gaptrail.com for more information about volunteering some time.

TED KOVALL
President
Yough River Trail Council
Connellsville


This camp couple have done so much for so many

I was on the Post-Gazette Web site when I happened to come upon an article about Harry Kramer of Camp Kon-O-Kwee and his retirement ("Man Who Saved Kon-O-Kwee Retires," April 22).

I have been going to Camp Kon-O-Kwee since I was 7 years old, and I am also a staff member there on some weekends and during the summer camp season. To say the least, I was very happy about the article. It almost brought tears to my eyes because it's so hard to believe that a man sent to close down a camp would be there 37 years later and the camp would be one of the finest in the United States.

"Uncle" Harry and his wife, "Aunt" Barbara, are the nicest, most amazing people I have ever met. They are two people who have influenced my life, and I will never forget what they have done for me as well as what they have done for thousands of other people. All in all, thank you for such a moving article.

KATIE HODGDON
McCandless


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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