Letters to the editor
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It's too costly to underfund our infrastructure
Last week, the American Society of Civil Engineers released "Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure." As transportation writer Jon Schmitz noted Thursday on his blog "The Roundabout," it makes clear that not spending on infrastructure costs us far, far more, both in money and jobs.
Pennsylvania has some of the busiest highways in the country, more failing bridges than any other state and, while truck traffic is rising, our road capacity isn't. Our transit systems, which could help reduce traffic, are underfunded and cutting routes.
So what, you say? Nationwide in 2010, our failing transportation infrastructure resulted in $129 billion in added costs for Americans. That's $32 billion in delays and $97 billion in vehicle operating costs. If we continue to shortchange the funding needed, in less than a decade, household incomes will fall by $7,000 and U.S. exports will fall by $28 billion. Think of it like this: By not paying the equivalent of a small coffee per day now, we will be losing $20 of daily income in 10 years.
Investing in transportation infrastructure creates jobs. Taxes and fees to pay for roads are unpopular, but not maintaining our systems costs far more, and we get nothing in return. We know exactly what failure to act will cost us -- now we need to let our legislators know.
The writer is president of the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Like letter writer Rich Schachte ("Fair votes," Aug. 1), I strongly support "a fair and honest voting system." I don't know anyone who doesn't. However, I couldn't disagree more with Mr. Schachte's position that denying the right to vote to Pennsylvanians unable to produce a photo ID is a legitimate or necessary step to achieving a fair and honest voting system.
As I understand it, tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians lack a photo ID. Many of them are seniors who have voted, often at the same polling place, for decades. Out-of-state students attending Pittsburgh-area universities also would be denied the chance to vote locally unless they presented a passport or obtained a new Pennsylvania driver's license or photo identification card. Republicans in the state Legislature rejected amendments to allow any other kind of identification such as voter registration cards, college IDs or even hunting licenses.
The photo ID requirement is being promoted as a measure to fight voter fraud, although no evidence exists that voter fraud is a significant problem in Pennsylvania. All this requirement will really do is prevent many law-abiding citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
UPMC's refusal to deal with Highmark seems like the kind of anti-competitive conduct the antitrust laws were designed for.
The "essential facilities doctrine" can subject a monopolist to antitrust liability where there has been a refusal to deal with a competitor. Under the doctrine, where facilities cannot practicably be duplicated by competitors, those in possession of them must allow them to be shared on fair terms. It is an illegal restraint of trade to deny the essential facilities to a competitor.
The test applied to determine liability requires the existence of all four of the following factors: (1) control of the essential facility by a monopolist; (2) a competitor's inability practically or reasonably to duplicate the essential facility; (3) the denial of the use of the facility to a competitor and (4) the feasibility of providing the facility to competitors.
It is apparently difficult to prevail using this doctrine, but when there is a clear anti-competitive purpose to create, maintain or enlarge a monopoly, an antitrust violation may be found. I can see no rationale for UPMC's refusal to deal that is not anticompetitive. UPMC's attorney acknowledges in his P-G commentary "Imagine a Better Health Care System" (June 26) that "nothing about nonprofit status exempts a company from... antitrust regulation" and that UPMC's refusal to deal stemmed from Highmark's decision to "compete directly with UPMC."
Perhaps the U.S. attorney general or some eager attorney questing after a multi-million-dollar judgment will consider filing an antitrust action. However, a reasonable contract between the two "nonprofits" would be preferable.
On July 17, I read with a broken heart the Associated Press article "Starving Somali Kids Die en Route to Refuge," about the 29-year-old widow whose 4-year-old daughter and then 5-year-old son die of exhaustion and hunger as she and her two other surviving children traveled to Kenya seeking food. The article went on to say that more than 20 children had been left dead by the roadside. The article stated that the government of Ethiopia estimated that 4.5 million people there are in need of food and the United Nations is estimating more than 10 million worldwide.
Later that day I happened to read in another publication that 26,000 children under age 12 around the world die of hunger each day. That same publication said that if you make $10,000 a year that you are making more money than 84 percent of all the people in the world. And then, on July 19, I read of the man who will be spending $20,000 on Botox injections over the next few years ("A Touch of Bro-Tox").
Considering that we are only on this Earth for a brief 70 to 80 years, each of us has the opportunity to make an impact on hundreds, possibly even thousands, of lives during our lifetimes. After that we have to stand before the Lord giving an account of what we have done in His name. I can hear it now: "I'm sorry, God, I just didn't have the extra money to feed the hungry ... I really needed it for my Botox injections."
CHARLES P. HERRMANN
Virtuous, not vice
Did letter writer Marty McCabe ("Sorry Images" Aug. 1) really call breast-feeding a "chosen vice?" How could he possibly equate women who breast-feed or starving children with people who smoke or use drugs? Perhaps he needs some education on the benefits of breast-feeding, and the irony that breast-feeding in third world countries could actually help prevent starvation of some infants.
Shame on you, Mr. McCabe!
I am writing in response to your July 20 article about Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields pushing to put a gas drilling ban in the Pittsburgh charter. Kathryn Klaber, president of the trade group Marcellus Shale Coalition, was quoted as saying this would strip property owners of their rights. On the contrary, Mr. Shields actually intends to protect property owners.
The state constitution guarantees us the right to the preservation of the aesthetic value of the environment. How would you feel if someone built a steel mill or an international airport 200 yards from your front door?
Contrary to Ms. Klaber's claims, property owners do not have the right to do with our property what we wish and we never have. Local ordinances dictate whether our property is for residential, commercial or industrial use. I cannot build a Wal-Mart or even a hair salon on my property without environmental impact studies, public hearings and zoning variances.
Historically, when this industry moves into a neighborhood, property values decline. Lenders traditionally will not grant loans on properties with a well pad and Realtors often will not list homes near well sites.
Wake up property owners. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and protect your property rights.
CFL bulbs don't seem green at all
Your editorial "Dim Bulbs: Lights Out for Move to Hold Back Progress" (July 16) included the new CFL bulbs in the green technologies category. I ask how can that be true of a bulb that carries a warning concerning mercury poisoning, which in some instances requires a hazardous materials team to clean up the broken CFLs.
You also mentioned that they last 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs. There are incandescent bulbs that last for many years. They are designed for locations where it is difficult to replace bulbs, but they can be used in any location. Also, while the CFLs claim longer life, it's definitely not as long as the package claims. I have two incandescent security bulbs on my garage that are on every night that have been working for over 20 years.
As for the statement that fluorescent lighting produces no heat, that is completely false. While they don't get as hot as an incandescent bulb, they do get hot. Just try holding a 32-watt CFL meant to replace a 150-watt incandescent. After it has been on for a few minutes it will burn your hand.
First Published August 2, 2011 12:00 am