Letters to the editor
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John G. Craig Jr.'s May 25 letter ("Bad Info on Bad Air") takes the American Lung Association to task for relying on the highest-reading air monitor in each region to create its list of most-polluted metropolitan areas.
However, Mr. Craig appears to go on to side with the ALA when he observes "Pittsburgh's air compares unfavorably with national norms and is much worse than it should be." On this point Mr. Craig is correct. True, the ALA report spotlights air pollution generated by the Clairton coke works, but 25,000 people call this area home. That's 25,000 of our neighbors who cannot escape the increased mortality, asthma rates and other potentially grave consequences this air pollution poses.
Even if the Clairton monitor were removed from the ALA calculation, the Pittsburgh area would still rank 13th worst out of the 221 metropolitan areas examined for particulate matter pollution. Mr. Craig's organization uses an entirely different methodology to rank Pittsburgh second-worst for particulate matter out of 15 cities studied.
The Pittsburgh metropolitan area has much to be proud of, but if we are to continue to better ourselves, we must also acknowledge our failings. The ALA provides a valuable service by drawing attention to our continued failure to achieve national health-based air quality standards. Whether we can be most accurately ranked No. 1, No. 2 or No. 13, the consistent conclusion is that we suffer from poor air quality. Rather than wasting any more time and energy arguing about the most painstaking method of ranking our air quality problem, let us resolve to focus on solving it.
The letter writer is on the board of directors of the Group Against Smog and Pollution and a member of the Allegheny County Air Pollution Advisory Committee.
Thanks to the Post-Gazette for publishing the "In Rebuttal" article by Charles D. Connor of the American Lung Association ("Our Fair Rankings of Air Pollution," May 18). His article was attempting to rebut the PG's May 4 editorial ("Let's Clear the Air"), which properly pointed out the twisted method by which ALA ranked Pittsburgh as the No. 1 most polluted city in the United States for "short-term particulate [air] pollution."
By presenting its rebuttal, the ALA exposed the double-talk that passes for science in its study. Its rebuttal asserts that "fundamentally, averaging is unfair." Actually, the reverse is true. Does anyone rank baseball players by a single at-bat instead of a batting average? Why not rank the unemployment rate in cities based on a single neighborhood instead of an average across the entire city?
In an area like southwestern Pennsylvania, with multiple air-quality monitoring sites, it only makes sense to use data from all of the sites rather than only one. The ALA study ranked the entire region (Pittsburgh to New Castle) based on air quality readings from only one point, the Liberty-Clairton monitor.
In its rebuttal, the ALA claims that it doesn't use averaging because it "makes it less likely that areas with peak problems will get addressed." Sorry, but it need not worry about the Clairton area receiving enough attention for air emission controls. The Allegheny County Health Department has been addressing the Clairton area for years without ALA's help and industries have spent hundreds of millions in air emission controls, again without the need for ALA. If anything, ALA's ranking report trivializes the serious governmental and industrial efforts that have succeeded in dramatic air quality improvement in the Pittsburgh region.
The ALA should have issued an apology, not a rebuttal.
A taxing taxi?
I have long advocated the presence of a lively water taxi operation on Pittsburgh's three rivers. Many other major cities on the water have them (Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Boston and Seattle, to name a few), so why not Pittsburgh?
However, the all-night water taxi linking three entertainment districts described by Brian O'Neill in his May 28 column ("Water Taxi Does the Weekend Party Loop") seems like a recipe for unpleasantness, ranging from the annoying (pools of emesis floating on the Mon) to the sensational (drunken water taxi passenger lost at sea after falling overboard!).
I certainly wish Capt. Mark Schiller the best in his new endeavor and sincerely hope that his patrons will contribute to, and not hinder, his success.
Irresponsible of PG
I was dismayed with the decision of this newspaper to publish the names and criminal records of witnesses in a local murder case ("Homewood Teen Acquitted of Busway Murder," May 28). It was an even more inexcusable decision because the witnesses in question are juveniles.
The danger to which these young men and those close to them have been exposed is immeasurable.
Working daily with adjudicated youth in detention, I see firsthand how those who cooperate with authorities are treated. What is true in the controlled environment of the Shuman Center is even more so on the streets of Pittsburgh.
It takes great courage for witnesses to come forward and cooperate with the judicial system, especially in the climate in which we live. Continuing to make the names of those who accept this responsibility public can, and will, have a chilling effect on future witnesses to crimes in our community.
All of us want to live in a safer community. The cooperation of witnesses is an absolutely vital element in any investigation and prosecution. If we are going to have any impact on the levels of crime and violence in this community, the protection of witnesses and their identities becomes a responsibility that we all must share.
I hope that in the future, this newspaper will exercise more discretion and judgment when deciding which names and information to release.
WILLIAM T. SIMMONS
Shuman Juvenile Detention Center
Letter writer Dave Majernik asks the right question: Will health care be rationed under a single-payer or nationalized health care system? ("Would a New Health System Allow This Operation?" May 21), but he doesn't do his homework -- he answers rhetorically and in fact his answer is wrong.
The choices we want: freedom of doctor, of hospital, of procedure and of second opinion or appeal are more protected under the proposed single-payer plan than with existing private plans. There is plenty of health-care rationing going on right now under existing private plans. I cannot choose any doctor, am limited with some procedures, and denial of claim or slow processing of them is routine. Single-payer will not only lower costs by eliminating profits but also by lowering administrative costs from an average of 24 percent to about 3 percent.
The quality of care in the single-payer plan with no copays or deductibles will be equal to the health care afforded members of Congress.
Yes, Mr. Majernik, under single-payer you would get your heart transplant.
Re: marriage, let's be clear on whose rights are under attack
I write in response to Donna W. Evans' letter accusing the PG of not thoroughly researching the institution of marriage and having a knee-jerk reaction on the subject of gay marriage ("PG Gives a Shallow Analysis of Gay Marriage Issue," May 28). Ms. Evans is correct that marriage under the umbrella of religion has a long history. She left out the part that marriage among pagans and the nonreligious also enjoys a long and deep past.
The truth is, in our country, the Christians, Jews, the nonreligious, first marriages, seventh marriages, the young, the elderly ... everyone is legally able to enter the institution of marriage. Well, everyone but gay people. The reaction from many of those opposing same-sex marriages in this debate would make some kind of sense if Sen. John Eichelberger's law was outlawing heterosexual Christian marriage. You can spin it all you like, but rights of people of faith are in no way under attack here. The rights of gay people to enjoy full citizenship are.
Being Americans all, we know that part of living in a country that values freedom means that we have to share our space with people who live and believe differently than ourselves. I would wager there isn't a gay person anywhere who would question Ms. Evans' right to marry and live her life with her marriage protected under the law. I'm sorry she can't find it in her heart to return the favor.
SCOTT J. BELL
First Published June 9, 2009 12:00 am