AS THE new president and CEO of the Independence Visitor Center Corp., I'm compelled to set the record straight regarding the op-ed by Jon and Leslie Bari (

Dec. 7, "Why the Visitor Center delay?"

).

Pursuant to agreements with the Secretary of the Interior, the IVCC caused the Independence Visitor Center to be designed, built and opened on time and on budget. For eight years, IVCC has operated the center in cooperation with the National Park Service and has provided information, interpretation, facilities and services to enrich the experience of millions of visitors to Independence National Historical Park and this region.

The Visitor Center has been a tremendous success and become a focal point of tourism in Philadelphia. This year alone, we expect to host nearly 3 million visitors, providing information and tickets for attractions and events. Our mission will continue to be enhancing the visitor/tourist experience in the region.

Given the nature of the management relationship between the IVCC and the National Park Service, which oversees Independence National Historical Park, there have been many legal issues requiring resolution.

We are working to complete this formal agreement, which could serve as a model for other parks. In the meantime, the practical aspects of the cooperative management of the Visitor Center by the Park Service and IVCC have long been agreed upon, and IVCC has been legally operating in the Visitor Center via special-use permits issued by the Park Service. Once the operating agreement is signed, IVCC and the Park Service will continue to operate the Visitor Center as it is currently, successfully, operated.

Unfortunately, signing the operating agreement will not result in the end of the federal lawsuit being pursued by the Baris against the Park Service, IVCC and certain employees of both organizations.

The Baris' suit is not about protecting taxpayers or "holding the stewards of Independence Park and the Visitor Center to the standards of government fairness, accountability and transparency established by our Founders on that very ground at Independence National Historical Park," as the Baris contend. Rather it is our contention that the Baris' lawsuit is about maximizing the profitability of the Baris' tour business.

SINCE MY first day at the Visitor Center, I've been impressed by the quality of the services offered, the dedication of the staff and the spirit of cooperation between the Park Service and IVCC.

I will work diligently to continue to foster such cooperation and to ensure that the Visitor Center offers the best visitor experience possible.

James J. Cuorato, President & CEO

Independence Visitor Center Corp.

Philadelphia

Jealousy, not hate

I'm inclined to believe the problems at South Philly High stem more from jealousy than hate. Asian students are superior in math, science and other facets of education. But they usually lack skills in contact sports. Asian and Indian students tend to stay within their own communities.

So why doesn't the Catholic school system have any serious discipline problems? Simple: little allegiance to political, racial or ethnic groups.

Ephraim Levin, Philadelphia