Schools lose out

Although the city has arguably reaped benefits from its generous tax-abatement program, the schools most definitely have not ("Is tax windfall worth the wait?," Dec. 14).

According to the Inquirer/Econsult calculation, since the inception of the abatement program in 1999, the public schools have already forfeited more than $50 million in possible revenues. In 2012 that amount will accumulate to $108 million and will peak in 2016 at $144 million. In fact, the schools don't reap any benefits until 2025 - when they get their first check for $1.6 million, 26 years later.

To its credit, in 2007, City Council voted to transfer a little less than 2 percent of real-estate taxes to the school district, resulting in roughly $20 million additional dollars a year. However, that shift represented the first city increase since the state takeover, and there's no discussion in the city's five-year plan for additional revenue generation to the schools.

Property taxes are the bread and butter of school financing. They're just about the only funds schools are legally entitled to. Everything else we have to beg and scrape for.

As my youngest daughter heads to kindergarten every morning, I can't help but think how she'll go through her entire school life as potentially a "lost generation" for public-school financing. We won't recoup that money; and we'll suffer the consequences for its loss.

Helen Gym

Parents United for Public Education

Philadelphia

Gays have rights

Many gay and lesbian African Americans would affirm Jonathan Zimmerman's commentary ("Why blacks backed Prop 8," Wednesday). It takes a tremendous amount of bravery for us to live authentic lives, because when we speak our truths to our families and friends, we risk losing our emotional support systems, the only cushion between us and a frequently hostile racist world.

How would pro-Prop 8 voters feel if others voted to strike down their rights to marry, vote, or own real property? I plan to pose this question to each straight voter I know.

Yes, we black voters lean toward conservatism. But we tilted toward radical activism during the last century's civil-rights movement, didn't we? It is time for spirited, respectful dialogue between gay and straight African Americans. We shall overcome. Yes, we can.

Renee Bess

East Norriton

Way to spend tax

While I am not a believer in social engineering, I do believe we need to raise the federal gasoline tax by 50 cents to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. However, I would not support an increase if the incremental revenues were given to the government to spend as you suggest on infrastructure or anything else ("Alternative energy solutions," Wednesday). The gas-tax increase should be made revenue neutral by reducing the income tax by the same amount.

It is not a good thing to mix priorities. We should make decisions on spending money for infrastructure separately from making decisions on raising the gasoline tax.

Bill Harvey

Somerdale

Same old, same old

I am furious that Mayor Nutter is giving the Mummers $300,000 for their parade while he is insisting that libraries and firehouses must be closed and that city workers be laid off because of the city's financial "crisis."

The Philadelphia Corporation on Aging has ads every day on KYW describing senior citizens who can't afford to heat their homes. There are also stories about various soup kitchens in dire need of funds because of the increased number of people who need their services.

It was bad enough that the mayor allowed the Phillies parade (costing at least $1 million). It's become clear that Nutter is just another in a long line of politicians who talk about "change" but actually continue the same worn-out, anti-worker policies.

John Jaros

Philadelphia

Right to sue intact

The commentary last Monday "New law would ensure right to sue" mischaracterizes the Supreme Court's ruling upholding preemption in the medical-device industry.

The editorial inaccurately suggests preemption precludes all lawsuits against manufacturers "no matter how bad their conduct." To be clear, patients may sue and recover damages in several instances, including if the company misled the Food and Drug Administration or if the device was defectively manufactured. Additionally, the preemption ruling applies to only a small percentage of medical devices.

Stephen J. Ubl

President and CEO

Advanced Medical Technology Assn.

Washington