ISSUE | GARDEN STATE

Pollution legacy

In the 1940s, my boyhood trips to my grandfather's farm in the Pine Barrens meant holding my breath from Newark to Bordentown because of the stench. North Jersey was a chemical cesspool and remains one to this day ("N.J. settles for millions, not billions," March 6). It will continue to be one unless irresponsible politicians do something about the problem.

As President Obama said, each of us is part of the long story of human history, and we should try to get our paragraph right. Like climate blindness, eco-blindness is a paragraph sullied by poison and powered by greed. Let's try to correct that.

|John Brodsky, M.D., Swarthmore, johnbrodsky7@verizon.net

ISSUE | POVERTY

Change the strategy

A recent Inquirer editorial mentioned that by investing 2 percent more of the federal budget in existing programs and policies, the nation could reduce child poverty by 60 percent ("Escaping poverty," March 2). You must be joking.

There has been a war on poverty for 50 years, and in that time we have spent $22 trillion, and the poverty rate hasn't budged. Neither a 2 percent nor a 100 percent increase would have any effect.

What we need is a different direction from the welfare state of mind that embraces and promotes single-motherhood to programs that would promote marriage and self-sufficiency.

|Patrick Carson, Norwood

ISSUE | TERRORISM

Foiling ISIS

There is a simple and effective way to counter Islamic State's online recruitment. Whenever a recruitment site pops up, counterterrorism officials should post a slightly different ostensible recruiting site.

This would have two results. The first would be to water down the effectiveness of the sites. The second would be to produce investigative leads on potential terrorist recruits. Thus we turn the effective power of the Internet back on our enemy.

|Reese Palley, Philadelphia

Know by savage acts

I have been dismayed by the mindless attention given to Islamic State's British beheader, referred to as Jihadi John. With this catchy, flippant nickname, school-uniform pictures, and video of him kicking a soccer ball, he is being humanized.

But I do not want to understand him or examine how he became such an amoral sociopath. This disgraceful free publicity must certainly encourage others to join and become infamous as well.

|Joseph B. Baker, West Chester

ISSUE | LESSONS

Take note of need for early music training

Thanks to the letter writer who applauded the All-Philadelphia High School Music Festival program ("Joyful sounds," March 6). But as a former music educator in the School District, my problem is this: How do you have these wonderful music organizations when you eliminate the programs in the lower grades? All-city is not born in high school; it takes years of committed work and instruction throughout the school system.

|Vincent L. Maola, Swarthmore

Learning how to be polite to benefactors

It's a sad commentary when a transformational gift is offered to the cash-strapped School District and the donation is vilified as an assault on public education ("$35M as charter solution," Feb. 5). What a difference 20 years makes: In 1995, the Annenbergs invested $50 million with the intent to reform and improve school systems like Philadelphia's, and their generosity was universally applauded.

Today, philanthropic investment parallels much of what we find in the business world. It's much more strategic and demanding. That's a good thing. To so arrogantly and prematurely reject a $35 million private gift that reflects the new realities of philanthropy is unparalleled. Any other nonprofit institution would be over the moon to work with donors willing to invest at a transformational level.

The Philadelphia School Partnership funders are true community heroes wanting to help thousands more Philadelphia children succeed.

|Ina B. Lipman, Wyndmoor, Ina.lipman@gmail.com

A course in stretching city taxpayers' dollar

Here we go again with the annual "more money for schools" pitch ("Serious money," March 6). We throw money at the schools with no demand for measurable improvement or accountability. Instead of reorganizing, school officials should be setting educational objectives and firing people when the benchmarks are not met.

In addition, if our esteemed mayor (whom I voted for) wants to give the schools money, don't raise property taxes; find the money elsewhere. Suggestions: Collect delinquent property taxes, eliminate tax abatements, get the nonprofits to pay a fair share, reduce the number of deputy mayors, and eliminate mayoral and City Council perks.

|David B. Swan, Philadelphia

ISSUE | RECIDIVISM

Tools to assess ex-cons' second chance

An Associated Press report raising concerns about inmate surveys overlooks volumes of research and actual results showing that risk-needs assessment tools are highly effective at helping criminal justice officials make better decisions about how to sentence and supervise offenders ("States predict inmates' future crimes with secretive surveys," Feb. 24).

Judges and corrections administrators once had to rely on their best guesses on reducing recidivism. By using objective data, today's risk-needs assessments identify factors that drive criminal behavior and indicate how important each factor is to reoffending. This gives officials critical information to determine how a particular offender should be monitored and what treatment programs should be ordered - the keys to stopping the cycle of crime and incarceration. And by establishing common criteria for these decisions, the tools discourage consideration of factors that may be inappropriate or unconnected to what research says is relevant.

There's plenty of room for improvement in the tools and in their implementation, but they are a tremendous advance.

|Adam Gelb, director, Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington

ISSUE | POLICING

A selfless officer offered citizens his all

The Philadelphia Police Foundation wholeheartedly agrees with an Inquirer editorial and sends its condolences and prayers to the family, friends, and colleagues of Police Officer Robert Wilson III, who was killed last week, allegedly by two violent, recidivist perpetrators in a North Philadelphia store ("Just doing his job," March 8).

Officer Wilson is a true hero who put the lives of numerous customers in the store first and, even after being mortally wounded, continued to protect the civilians. This brave police officer was committed to maintaining the safety of the citizens of Philadelphia.

Losing Wilson is heartbreaking, particularly for his two young sons. The board of directors of the foundation will continue to support the men and women of the Police Department who face danger on the job every day when they report for duty.

May Officer Wilson rest in peace, and we thank him for his service to our city.

|Maureen S. Rush, president, Philadelphia Police Foundation, Philadelphia