Drab downtown

My husband and I recently decided to go to Center City for dinner and shopping ("An opportunity to wow the shoppers," Dec. 17).

It was Wednesday, the traditional shopping night, the weather was fine, and it was close to Christmas so we figured the streets would be festive and the shops open and welcoming.

We parked on 19th Street, and walked to Broad on Walnut and then back on Chestnut. We were floored to discover that many, if not most, of the shops were closed by 7 p.m. and that the decorations were minimal.

Other years we strolled Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill on a Wednesday in December and had a delightful and festive time - even, one year, in the rain. My husband fondly remembers Chicago at Christmastime, and I treasure memories of New York City during the holidays. Center City did not compare favorably with the New York or Chicago of reminiscence, and even fails in comparison with the Chestnut Hill of today.

If Philadelphia wants appropriate attention in the holiday season, the streets need to be active, the decorations lavish, and the shops open.

Ellen Wertheimer

Bala Cynwyd

Unfair letter

We take exception to the end-of-year message to employees of Philadelphia's County Assistance Office from executive director Denise Chambers ("Holiday request: The gift of civility," Dec. 19).

To imply that most workers are "nasty . . . and uncaring" or that 25 percent of the staff are full of self-loathing is unfounded and unfair.

A caseworker in our office was brutally assaulted recently by a man who has since been arrested. The caseworker, who is in her early 60s, is gentle in demeanor and has garnered the respect of all. To have someone vent their discontent against another in this way is wrong and unconstructive. Yet if there is no excuse for callous treatment, why does the executive director use such tactics with us? Is there no consideration of the pressures on caseworkers and staff?

Just as our clients demand equality and respect, we ask for acknowledgment of our shared humanity. Just as our clients struggle with only few resources, we struggle to fulfill our mission while facing limits of manpower and wherewithal. Just as we are asked to hope in our clients' efforts to succeed, we ask the executive director to retain her faith in those who work, even in the face of physical violence, to help our clients achieve success.

Joseph Greene, Ryan Hector,
Allen Stewart, Michael Lawrence, Ricardo Morales, Joan Ozlek,
Mamie Pembrook, Anthony Phillips and Andrea Shedrick

The writers are members of the PSSU Shop Council at West District and caseworkers for the Phila. County Assistance Office.

Fighting terror

Washington politicians are doing their best to waste taxpayer dollars to discover what happened to the interrogation videotapes of two Islamic terrorists ("CIA tapes discussed in 2004," Dec. 20).

Before politicians strip our armed forces of any more weapons and methods to fight terrorists, they should step out of their utopian secure abodes and spend some time on the front lines.

Larry Lueder

Mantua