Tackling blight

It is incredibly heartwarming to know that advocates for disinvested communities, the poor, and the forgotten city have succeeded in making blighted and abandoned property something that's worth fighting over ("Her long trek to a land bank for Phila.," Dec. 16). And it is exciting, because places like Philadelphia - and Reading, Pottstown, and numerous other Pennsylvania cities - have a lot of abandoned property. And it has long been one of the things that has dragged us down, lowered property values, nurtured crime, and signaled urban failure and unworthiness. And until recently, we felt powerless to do anything about it.

A decade ago, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania published a booklet titled Reclaiming Abandoned Pennsylvania. It laid out an agenda for reforming state regulations to give local communities the tools needed to address blight - in essence, providing new weapons in the fight against blight. In it, we proposed land banks. Years later, here we are with a new state law to enable cities like Philadelphia to establish land banks, and with Philadelphia poised to become the nation's largest city with a land bank. Who says we can't change things?

Liz Hersh, executive director, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, Glenside

Drug-price fix

Medicare and Medicaid are easily paid for - and not by paying doctors and hospitals less, or by making patients pay more. As in other countries, the key to keeping costs down is to tell Big Pharma what the government is willing to pay for prescription medicine. With many me-too drugs in most classes of pharmaceuticals, Medicare has many choices for any given condition. Except for a small percentage of the population, many drugs in the same class produce the same results effectively and safely. Drug companies tout their big differences in advertising, yet, as a physician for 40 years, I saw similar results from several competing formulas. If we were to tell the makers of Crestor, for example, what Medicare would pay for it, would they want to be frozen out of the Medicare/Medicaid program - or would they be willing to deal? Those hardest to sell on this approach, I'm afraid, might be the politicians who are beneficiaries of large pharma donations.

Gerald Skobinsky, D.O., Elkins Park

Trim Temple staff?

Since Temple University is reducing its Division I sports by one-third and the number of athletes by 200, shouldn't there be a corresponding reduction in the number of athletic administrators?

Larry Connell, Ventnor, rowcoach99@yahoo.com

Ill-suited to DEP job

Christopher Abruzzo, Gov. Corbett's new head of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said at his confirmation hearing that he had "not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude that there are adverse impacts to human beings or to animals or to plant life at this small level of climate change." In fact, there is a scientific consensus that the polar ice caps are melting and that global warming is causing global climate change with significant adverse impacts on humans and animals. That Abruzzo did not know this amply demonstrates that he is not qualified to run the DEP.

Stephen G. Harvey, Philadelphia, Steveharvey7@hotmail.com

Not under Hillel

Swarthmore College students demanding the right to host, in the name of Hillel, speakers working to damage and destroy Israel are trying to make it appear that, by objecting, Hillel International is trampling on their freedom ("At Swarthmore, Jewish group sets own path," Dec. 14). That stance is phony. They can bring in anyone they want, just not under the aegis of Hillel. It would be like having tea-party activists take over a student Democratic Party group and then, under those auspices, sponsoring speakers working to have President Obama impeached.

Arthur Rabin, Havertown