In her explanation for rejecting the recent attempt at redistricting reform, State Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Phila.) cites the inadequacy of the Legislative Reference Bureau and its present staff to handle the task. This is totally off base. She is well aware that the bureau was expected to outsource the job to an experienced agency, such as a college or university or similar organization, or hire experts in the field for the specific task of drawing lines that reflect population shifts and specifically ignore present legislative and congressional districts.
It is obvious that Josephs and State Rep. Lawrence H. Curry (D., Montgomery), who wrote in her defense (Inquirer, June 3), are determined to preserve the status quo. It is no doubt due to pressure from colleagues who are worried about their future incumbency, as well as their own.
If the legislature doesn't pass redistricting reform this month, Pennsylvania is stuck with gerrymandering as usual, where the legislators choose their voters instead of voters selecting their representatives.
As a conservative, I understand why GOP politicians in Harrisburg are stalling over the state budget ("Pennsylvania's budget: Spring! Time to stall," June 3). A 10-cents-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax and a tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars is unacceptable.
Gov. Rendell is proposing major increases in taxes and spending, which would take even more money out of the wallets of Pennsylvanians. In addition, having a small debt burden is not a reason for the state to borrow more money. No amount of borrowing is good. A balanced budget, which is required by law, with a surplus would be better.
To fund the public works projects Rendell is pushing, he should consider leasing the Philadelphia Airport. This would increase revenue while decreasing bureaucracy.
Cut the perks
All extra expenses must be cut from this budget ("Spring! Time to stall," June 3). Our economy is on shaky ground. Government officials shouldn't expect state vehicles, reimbursements, trips to resorts, and other perks that are beyond the taxpayers' ability to pay. Average people in voterland carefully budget so we can live within our means and not lose what we have worked so hard to gain. Our three branches of state government need to do this as well.
Farm bill needed
I was dismayed by the appearance of Andres Oppenheimer's shockingly myopic op-ed "With the horrible 2008 farm bill passed, Bush must take bold action" (Inquirer, June 3). It is a true act of violence to publish a piece that actively disregards the 28 million people, including 16 million children, who participate in the food-stamp program - the number-one hunger-prevention program in the United States.
Oppenheimer notes that $209 billion of the $290 billion bill is devoted to nutrition programs and food stamps for low-income families. How could he quibble about the additional $81 billion over five years when Congress is regularly asked to set aside similar amounts to get us through another few months of a woefully unsuccessful war in Iraq?
I invite Oppenheimer to live for a month on a poor person's diet without food stamps: Oodles of Noodles and potato chips. Maybe he would redirect his rancor for "rich farmers," and engage with the experience of being poor.
Philadelphia GROW Project
My wife, Betty, and I recently experienced proof that Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love. An unfortunate fall at 13th and Sansom left my wife hurt and bleeding on the sidewalk. Three total strangers came to her immediate aid, and we are truly grateful to them. They, and staff from El Vez restaurant, wouldn't leave the scene until they knew Betty was safe in the ambulance they had called. The trauma center staff at Jefferson Hospital were wonderful, too. We are proud to call each of you our friend. Thank you.