Questions on drone war

Dick Polman correctly calls attention to the lack of transparency concerning the use of drones in the "war on terror" ("Liberals quiet on drone war," Friday). Drones are one means to effect targeted assassinations of "enemy combatants." However, before we debate the pros and cons of this policy, we need to address the policy itself, particularly when the targeted individual is a U.S. citizen. Banning drones would do nothing to prevent the use of other means to the same end. So, as Polman suggests, the questions to ask are, "Is Obama authorized to kill anybody? Under what criteria?"

Michael J. DeLaurentis, Elkins Park, michaeljad@comcast.net

Commit to neighborhood schools

Kristen Graham highlights parents' extraordinary efforts to have their children admitted to a "handful of top-tier neighborhood elementary schools" ("The scramble for top schools," Dec. 11). I wonder what these parents might have accomplished had they put the same amount of time and energy into supporting their own neighborhood schools.

The prized schools exist because neighborhood families and community organizations claimed them as their own. Fund-raising and volunteering provide principals and teachers with additional resources that continually improve their schools.

In the satellite areas to Center City, the trend of young families fleeing to the suburbs when their children start kindergarten is changing. Parents of preschoolers (and couples who don't even have children yet) who want to stay in the city are making a conscious long-term commitment to their neighborhood and its public elementary school. They are forming groups like the Friends of Chester Arthur, Supporters of Stanton, and New Kensington Parents. They are raising funds and volunteering at their schools now. It won't be long before their schools are listed among those coveted through the voluntary transfer process.

If you like living in your neighborhood and like your city lifestyle, don't just assume that your neighborhood school isn't good enough. Get involved now. Make it better. Find out if there is a "friends" group that supports your school. If there isn't, then start one. Engage with families who feel the same way you do, and make a commitment to make your neighborhood school yours.

Christine Carlson, public school parent and founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition, Philadelphia

Murals aid development

I respectfully disagree with comments about murals being a boondoggle as an economic development strategy ("Huge new N. Phila. mural isn't an economic panacea," Dec. 7). Having just returned from Miami, I was energized by Tony Goldman's vision of using murals to transform an outlying warehouse district into a thriving street museum of galleries, shops, cafes, and performance spaces that attracts thousands of people each year.

My experience was confirmed by a 2009 E-Consult study of commercial corridors, which found that mural projects were one of the top five investments a city can make - with attendant increases in property values and retail sales.

We hope Philly Painting will be a catalyst, and build on the vision of local politicians, organizational leaders, and city government to remember what Germantown Avenue once meant to North Philadelphia and see what it might be in a part of Philadelphia adjacent to the Avenue of the Arts North.

Germantown Avenue is ready to welcome those who believe in it. And we will be there too, to keep up the momentum of transformation.

Jane Golden, executive director, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, jane.golden@muralarts.org