The Committee of Seventy agrees with The Inquirer's recommendations on the eight ballot questions for Tuesday's primary with one exception: We support eliminating the City Charter-mandated "resign-to-run" provision (charter change Question 2).
Our big disappointment is that the proposed amendment doesn't also extend to the mayor. Philadelphia might have taken a different turn if Mayor Richardson Dilworth had not been forced to resign to run for governor in 1962, leaving the city in the hands of veteran pol Jim Tate.
Your primary concern appears to be the potential for political mischief if City Council members are allowed to keep their seats while challenging a first-term mayor. Our greater concern is losing effective Council members by forcing them to resign to run for another elected office. What makes Council so different from the Pennsylvania General Assembly or U.S. Congress, whose members get to keep their jobs?
Eliminating the resign-to-run rule might even make genuine two-party contests in Philadelphia the rule, rather than the exception. That's what democracy is all about. As for your fear that the primary would yield less-than-serious mayoral contenders, we doubt it. History tells us that opposing an incumbent mayor tends to be a fool's errand - and a costly, time-consuming one at that.
Your analysis takes a short-term view based on the current personalities on Council and on the political deal-making Philadelphians have come to expect. We choose to take the long-term perspective that we believe proposed changes in the city's governing document deserve.
That's why we urge a "yes" vote on charter change Question 2.
President and CEO
Committee of Seventy
Many Americans believe the Iraq war was unnecessary, and possibly illegal or immoral, and they want our troops brought home tomorrow. Naturally this disturbs many people who have lost a loved one in Iraq and want us to keep fighting until we win the conflict against terrorism. Otherwise they feel their sons and daughters will have died in vain.
Leaving aside the questions of whether this war can be "won" in any real sense of the word, and whether the bloodshed must continue to validate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I believe the families of our fallen warriors can derive some comfort from the words of Robert S. McNamara, a primary architect of another questionable war, in Vietnam. In his memoirs, In Retrospect, McNamara says:
"In the end, we must confront the fate of those Americans who served in Vietnam and never returned. Does the unwisdom of our intervention nullify their effort and their loss? I think not. They did not make the decisions. They answered their nation's call to service. . . . They gave their lives for their country and its ideals. That our effort in Vietnam proved unwise does not make their sacrifice less noble. It endures for all to see. Let us learn from their sacrifice and, by doing so, validate and honor it."
Encouraging youthful voices should not be dismissed as a "silly idea," as The Inquirer did Sunday in voicing its opposition to ballot Question 3, which would create a Philadelphia Youth Commission. The proposal is based on more than 10 years of success in San Francisco with a similar body, which has been emulated by many cities, including our neighbor Baltimore.
The two candidates The Inquirer has stated are most qualified to be mayor are on record in support of the Youth Commission, as is the entire City Council, which enacted supporting legislation after open hearings during which many youths and organizations serving youth testified.
The commission would consist of 21 young people ages 12 to 24. Each Council member would appoint a youth from his or her district and the mayor would appoint four. The panel would advise the mayor and Council on issues affecting youth. The Inquirer has been a strong supporter of civic engagement. Why not have civic engagement begin with our youth?
Thomas M. McKenna
Bill Lyon ("How and why top horses win our hearts," Friday) writes about the magnificence of thoroughbred racing - the beauty of the horse, the excitement of the race. He also states that "these magnificent creatures" are also "fragile, vulnerable and sometimes easily spooked." That's something to think about as the jockeys use their whips to beat the horses' sensitive flesh to win at the finish line.