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The league's ads weren't about Mass. election

A Post-Gazette editorial Monday concerning the pledge to discourage special interest group attack ads made by the candidates for U.S. senator in Massachusetts ("Positive Pledge," Jan. 30) claimed that the League of Women Voters was among three organizations that "have already sunk $3 million into the campaign's saturated media market." I understand that the source of that information was a New York Times blog.

The PG editorial left out a quote in the blog from League of Women Voters president Elisabeth MacNamara, who noted that those ads about Sen. Scott Brown's environmental record, which ran in April 2011, were "not in support or opposition of any candidate but in support of the Clean Air Act." She added, "The only votes we are interested in influencing are the votes in Congress."

The ad addressing Sen. Brown, a Republican, and a similar one run in Missouri addressing a Democrat spoke to them in their capacity as sitting senators, expressing the league's objections to actions taken in carrying out the duties of that office.

Citizens and citizen organizations should be able to address government officials publicly in a year in which those officials are not running for election, without having their words being taken as an attempt to influence a future political campaign. If the campaign season becomes 24/7/365 with no break, citizens lose a valuable opportunity to communicate with their government and the public about government action on important issues -- a serious loss for the democratic process.

SUZANNE BROUGHTON
President Emeritus and Director for Advocacy
League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh
Downtown


Let's see returns

Now that Mitt Romney provided his tax returns, in all fairness it should be incumbent on anyone running for president to make his or her tax returns public.

In fact, public officials such as the president, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate majority leader, the governor of Pennsylvania, the leader of the state House of Representatives and of the Senate also should be required to make their tax returns public. After all, they are all employees paid by the taxpayers.

Hopefully the media will pursue this goal to provide voters with as much information as possible.

HOWARD KISSEL
Stowe


Birth control truths

I liked the logic, or illogic, used in the Jan. 30 column by E.J. Dionne Jr. ("The Contraceptives Question"). He makes the point that:

"While the Catholic Church formally opposes contraception, this teaching is widely ignored by the faithful." He even laments the fact that the church is so inflexible with regard to contraceptive services for women. Nevertheless, he goes on to defend this nonsensical line of thinking by adding: "But as an American, I understand why its leaders felt that the broad contraception mandate encroached on the church's legitimate prerogatives."

I guess the legitimate prerogatives of a wide variety of women who want access to birth control through their health insurance providers don't matter. What matters is some archaic notion about the church and its right to tell its followers not to use contraception while looking the other way when they do. How juvenile is that thought process?

The great thing about the truth is that you can't argue with it. The truth is that women use birth control as a tool for family planning. Birth control is prescribed medicine. It is reasonable and correct to make this medicine affordable and available through our national health care initiative to ensure that all women, regardless of who their employer is, have access to proper and safe family planning tools.

ANNA MARIE PAVONE
South Side


Pastoral politics

Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is upset because he believes President Barack Obama is ramming something down his church's throat on the issue of contraceptives coverage for employees of Catholic institutions.

He has not made any such statement about Gov. Tom Corbett's attempt to ram school vouchers down my throat. Why? Because his church stands to be the major beneficiary of Mr. Corbett's terrible idea. Were the bishop truly making innocent political statements, he would speak up against Mr. Corbett's plan to rebuild the Catholic school system.

The harm to homeowners' property values (real estate values go down when the perceived quality of education goes down, and when we take money out of the public schools, homes sell for less. Look at what has happened since Mr. Corbett decreased school funding). I have no reason or desire to send someone's child to private or parochial schools. I have no school-age children, and I have no problem in having my property taxed to support the public schools; I do have a legitimate problem with this voucher thing.

Institutions led by Bishop Zubik, Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, Al Sharpton and other political pastors should lose tax-exempt status for using their pulpits for political purposes.

MELVYN E. SMITH
New Kensington


Penn Stater for a day

I could not believe my daughter Gina when she called with two tickets for the memorial service honoring my friend Joe Paterno. Yes, I'll attend, I answered. Believe me, for 24 hours this Pitt alumnus and letterman became a Penn Stater for a day.

Viewing the 21/2-hour tribute to Joe was an experience I will never forget. Being present to feel the "vibes" and the sincerity and love in the messages being delivered was heartwarming and priceless.

Penn State lettermen, you are some loyal souls! Your expression of commitment, passion and love to your school and your coach is beyond reproach. I envy the feeling you all have expressed, and I commend you for standing tall and firm in your expressions.

I also believe in the words tenderly whispered by his son Jay in Joe's last moments: "Dad, you won. You did all you could do. You can go home now."

God bless the Paterno family.

LOU "BIMBO" CECCONI
University of Pittsburgh, 1950
Pleasant Hills


'Mama' and others should be helping court employees who deserve raises

Regarding "In Common Pleas Courts, Family Ties Are Everywhere" (Jan. 22): Nepotism is alive and well in Allegheny County, particularly with the judiciary. "Mama" Donna Jo McDaniel has done a fine job at taking care of her children before her reign as president judge ends in 2013.

I worked for the courts for 33 years and have seen it firsthand time and again. Administrators try to warn staff about the "appearance of impropriety" but apparently the same does not apply to judges who answer to no one.

The Allegheny County website, Department of Court Records, lists the "appointments" to court jobs and their respective salaries, but this webpage is not easy for the public to find without detailed instruction. Many of these jobs aren't posted anywhere on the court or county website. The only qualification is that you be a relative or close friend of the judiciary or administration. In addition, there are times when a judge wants a person "placed" into a position and it just happens. There are no interviews and the person may or may not be qualified for the job.

Judge McDaniel's actions are a slap in the face to the hard-working, underpaid clerical, professional and quasi-judicial staff of the court who struggle to receive any raise. These employees do not have the opportunity to apply for these jobs, nor are they handed such generous salaries.

Last year Family Court managers asked District Court administrator Raymond Billotte (whose daughter Mary Kate was appointed to an intern position) and Judge McDaniel for assistance in obtaining long-overdue raises because some of the staff they were supervising were making more money than they. Mr. Billotte and Judge McDaniel said they weren't able to help and passed the buck to the county executive. Nothing happened. But it's very interesting how they can make things happen for their own family.

That said, nothing will change, most won't notice and the appearance of impropriety will continue as business as usual in the Allegheny County court system.

By the way, if you would like help navigating the county or court system website, email me at ACourtInfo@comcast.net.

ROBERT O'SHEA
Family Court Manager, Retired
Crafton


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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