Letters to the editor
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As the rest of the country moves to increase mass transit in response to the energy crisis, Pittsburgh continues to cannibalize the Port Authority and other municipal services in the name of "fiscal responsibility." The underlying reason for the agony of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County's public services is the insulation of both private and "nonprofit" corporations from shouldering their fair share of local government's cost of operation.
The most egregious recent instance is the projected assault on the pensions, benefits and wages of the bus drivers as the Port Authority attempts to shift the monstrous escalation of health-care costs onto the backs of workers. Rather than directing public pressure toward the medical insurance industry for its role in the increased cost of medical coverage, the county executive and the media, including the Post-Gazette, are taking aim at the workers and retirees. Meanwhile, UPMC lords it over the 'Burgh and flaunts its wealth by branding the erstwhile steel tower of Pittsburgh's industrial might with its initials, all the while withholding any sustained and meaningful contribution to the city and county coffers.
It's hard to feel much sympathy for Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato in his struggle with bar owners over the cowardly drink tax. Afraid to confront private and nonprofit corporate power and attack the manifestly unfair tax system that local government suffers under, the county squeezes hard-working bus drivers and the city plans firehouse and EMS cuts while we tax the workers through nuisance drink and parking taxes.
It's time to stop blaming workers, gutting contracts and reneging on negotiated benefits. We must confront the inequities of the present tax system in the course of any contemplated city-county reorganization.
It's a luxury tax
Restaurateur Tom Baron's complaints about the drink tax are all wet ("Inside the Drink-Tax Opposition, a Trio Sees a 'Good Shot'," June 30). Many families are struggling right now to provide for the bare necessities -- food and transportation. Alcohol, whether it be champagne or I.C. Light, is a luxury. Taxing a luxury item (like alcohol) to help provide for the bare necessities (like transportation) makes good policy sense.
I don't buy Mr. Baron's sob story. The owner of several fancy restaurants, Mr. Baron alternately claims to have "made it" and to have "suffered since 2001" (long before the imposition of the drink tax, by the way). It appears he and his cronies have enough money to hire an out-of-town public relations firm. Mr. Baron's complaints and the forthcoming propaganda campaign are tone-deaf and out of touch.
Water on tap
Hats off to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for wanting to reduce the city's dependence on bottled water ("City Wants to Wean Itself From Bottled Water, But ...," June 28). Now if only household consumers would follow suit.
If people are concerned about the quality of their drinking water, there are a variety of filters they can purchase for their kitchen faucet that will clear out 99 percent of impurities. This is certainly preferable to using valuable oil resources to produce tons of plastic, not to mention the energy and money it takes to dispose of these bottles.
No wiggle room
I am writing in response to the front-page article touting the "non-exclusive attitude toward other faiths" ("Nondogmatic Belief in God Strong, Poll Finds," June 24) and regarding the belief among many faiths "that many religions, not just their own, can lead to eternal salvation." I am particularly curious about the 66 percent of Protestants in the survey who claim to have such beliefs.
The scriptures of the Christian Bible leave no such wiggle room for believing there are many paths to God/eternal life. Belief in Jesus Christ is the only way. God himself said of Jesus in Matthew 17:5, "This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him." Jesus said to his disciples, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
Likewise, in a prayer to God in John 17:3, Jesus says, "Now this is eternal life: that they (those who believe) may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." Finally, in Acts 4:12, the apostle Peter declares about Jesus, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
The beliefs of these Protestants may be very popular in today's politically correct culture where we are told to view all beliefs as equally valid; however, this is not by any means biblical Christianity.
Start education early
I share your enthusiasm for the Pittsburgh Regional Compact's work on convening school districts and businesses to ensure students' future workplace success ("Ready to Work: The Region Needs to Match Students with Jobs," June 20 editorial). Are we starting early enough?
Investing in our children's future needs to start with quality early education. I urge our business community and our policy makers to invest in our children and our future workforce well before middle school.
Quality early-education initiatives like Keystone STARS and Pre-K Counts help young children obtain the skills to succeed in school and in future careers. Quality early education provides the guidance, support and learning opportunities that children need when they can benefit from it most. The skills necessary to succeed as adults in the workplace, such as writing ability and math proficiency as well as "personal habits," are shaped by age 5.
Art Rolnick, Ph.D, senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said it best: "The best investment in economic development that government and the private sector can make is in the healthy development of children." Children who attend quality early-education programs succeed in school, attend college and are successful in programs like the Pittsburgh Regional Compact.
Gov. Ed Rendell has proposed increases to Child Care Works, Keystone STARS, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Early Intervention and Nurse Family Partnership so that more children can enter school ready to learn and to succeed. Let's remember that Pennsylvania will enjoy a high-quality workforce only if we invest in high-quality early education.
Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children
It's not about oil
Brian Rampolla is just too cynical in his letter ("They Owe Soldiers," July 2) in which he blames the war in Iraq on the oil barons.
I remember reading countless times how the neo-cons, all with high government positions, were beating the drums for war against Iraq, and not for the oil. The endgame was to protect Israel from a ruthless tyrant who had already lofted Scud missiles into Israel during Desert Storm.
Does he also believe our bellicosity toward Iran has to do with oil, or to keep Israel safe from nuclear annihilation from another nut case?
Hillary Clinton showed us she was ready to be president
It is easy to vilify women of Hillary Clinton's stature because ambitious women are still portrayed as treacherous in American society. Hillary Rodham Clinton represents a lexicon of femininity, positive and negative. But truth be told, the advances of women could not have happened without women like her.
Her candidacy highlighted the accomplishments of women and ignited the realization of how much more equality women need to gain. Hillary galvanized women, of all ages, who find strength in their feminine identity. This is not to ignore the support that she received from men.
Hillary Clinton did not divide the Democratic Party. It was the media and the Clinton haters within the Democratic Party who fractured the party. These haters turned the primary into the dangerous game of identity politics. We were told that if we did not support Barack Obama we were racist -- and that if we supported Hillary Clinton we were doing so only because of her gender.
The voters of this household are Clinton supporters, but we did not begin in her camp. We were convinced by her intelligence, integrity, grace and humility. She showed a willingness to engage in dialogue with her detractors, not with the hate thrown at her. We were amazed by her stamina. Furthermore, we appreciated her hard work, accomplishments and failures.
This convinced the two men and two women of our house that she was ready to be president. It was so sad for Hillary's life's work that she was denied and misconstrued. We will never forget the misogyny (yes, I said it!) that went unanswered, even defended.
First Published July 8, 2008 12:00 am