Judge is doing what justice requires

Re: "Gun cases tossed out, suspects walk out," Sunday:

As a former Philadelphia prosecutor and current criminal-defense attorney, I have had the pleasure of appearing in front of Judge Paula A. Patrick on many occasions. She is a hardworking, fair-minded, and even-handed criminal trial judge who tries extremely hard to do what justice requires. Your headline and innuendo are neither supported by legitimate empirical evidence nor even an understanding of how American jurisprudence works.

In many legal systems - for example, third-world countries, dictatorships, and the former Soviet bloc countries - a person is arrested by the police and then sent to jail, where he begins serving a long sentence. In America, however, the Constitution requires that people receive certain levels of due process. That means that law enforcement officers must follow rules.

If the rules and procedures are not followed, then judges are duty-bound to order that evidence be suppressed. To imply that, by doing her sworn duty, Judge Patrick is soft on crime is both a cheap shot and unfair. It is also worth noting that your paper has made much of the arrests and convictions of police officers over the last year and a half. Implicit in all of the police corruption is the idea that someone must police the police. With that in mind, you still attack the very judges whose job it is to sit in judgment of the same police force so rife with issues of reliability.

Michael J. Diamondstein


nolead begins

Greene's influence still commands PHA

In Sunday's article "PHA spent lavishly on nonhousing construction," Nicole Tillman of the Philadelphia Housing Authority is quoted as saying that when a Center City deal fell through for PHA office space, the decision was made to build on a PHA-owned site. This gives the impression that PHA abandoned the $20 million Center City proposal, which is not the case.

Former PHA head Carl Greene proposed that PHA demolish its former office building at 2012 Chestnut Street and build a new headquarters building at that location.

Because federal funds would be used and because the site is located in the Center City West Commercial National Register District, the project had to be evaluated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for its impact on historic resources. To do so, HUD is required to invite "consulting parties" to comment on the proposal.

The four consulting parties - the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Philadelphia Historical Commission, the Center City Residents Association, and the Preservation Alliance - have unanimously informed HUD and PHA that the proposed building is incompatible with the historic district and would have a negative impact on the historic character of the area.

In spite of those comments, PHA staff and its architect, Vitetta, continue to push for the construction of the building. A representative of Vitetta told me that it had designed a building compatible with the historic district, but Greene wanted something else.

I asked PHA board chairman John Street and PHA interim directorMichael P. Kelly to change the course of this project, but neither has responded. Greene may have left, but as far as this project is concerned, he still appears to be in charge.

John Andrew Gallery

Executive director

Preservation Alliance

for Greater Philadelphia


nolead begins

Curriculum includes lessons in 'cronyism'

Don't America's public schools have enough trouble with the perception that they socially promote students without compounding the problem by socially promoting contractors? How about promoting enduring American values such as social skills, intellectual integrity, and professional competency?

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman claims that the Philadelphia school system is "trying to break a culture that is hurtful in many ways" and therefore should do what it can to help people of all races succeed, within and beyond the classroom.

Really? Perhaps I'd be more impressed with the veracity of her statement if she had insisted that an Asian American firm be given the now controversial contract, given the rampant racism to which Asian American students were subjected on her watch. What better way to make good use of a teachable moment?

Based upon The Inquirer's coverage, all I see is the continuation of a different time-honored practice - cronyism.

Michael S. Murray


nolead begins

Merit pay won't address bad teachers

I have been a commission salesman for most of my adult life, which means if I don't produce, I don't get paid. There is no doubt the carrot and the stick are effective motivators, so one might think merit pay would improve education.

But teaching is not a business, and teachers do not have complete control over the final product. The variables of parents, environment, and, yes, ethnicity are factors that must be considered. Teachers who work in districts where education is highly valued are not necessarily better teachers. They just have better raw material.

That said, it can be difficult to get rid of those teachers who do not perform. In some instances, tenure is the culprit. A system that was designed to protect the poorly paid teachers of long ago has become an anachronism. No business or system can succeed with unqualified or inept employees.

Ralph D. Bloch



nolead begins

Tax deal wasn't the best for country

Former President Bill Clinton said this is the best tax deal we could get. But a better deal would have been to let the Bush tax cuts die. Tax rates would rise, Social Security would not suffer due to a reduction of contribution rates, and millionaires once again would pay appropriate estate taxes.

Herbert B. Cohn