ISSUE | ELEPHANTS

Ringside decision

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey says elephants will leave the traveling circus because consumers have spoken, but a shadowy, Washington-based spin factory with a history of fighting for smoking, obesity, drunken driving, and cruelty is still stuck in the past ("Activists paid up, the elephants go," March 11).

Yes, a number of animal groups reached a settlement with the circus to end years of costly litigation. Ringling's decision to retire the elephants follows that settlement and comes on the heels of cities such as Los Angeles and Oakland banning the use of bullhooks.

Whether it's locking pigs in metal cages on factory farms, selling dogs from abusive puppy mills, or chaining elephants for long-distance travel in performing circuses, businesses must adapt to public concerns to succeed in today's humane economy.

|Alan Heymann, vice president of communications, Humane Society of the United States, Washington

ISSUE | PEN PALS

Worthy of censure

Most presidents, including George W. Bush, were allowed to carry on their dealings, but President Obama, as usual, is being obstructed by treasonous politicians ("GOP goes beyond water's edge," March 12). They are more interested in making the president look bad than in making the world a safer place.

By undermining the nuclear-arms negotiations and possibly driving Iran to accelerate its quest for weapons, these senators could be causing more harm to Israel than would ordinarily be the case. Worse, the Republican signers of the letter to Iran's leaders are not only blocking U.S. efforts, but they are also blocking the efforts of the United Nations. Let's hope these 47 senators will be censured.

|Thomas Skudlarek, Lansdale

ISSUE | GIVING BACK

Candidates careful with a dollar - their own

I was dismayed to see the charitable giving of the five leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor ("Taxes provide insight in race," March 11). Each of the candidates reports a substantial level of income, many times the median household income of Philadelphia residents and, in all cases, more than at least 90 percent of household incomes in this country. Yet their charitable giving represents a tiny portion of what they earn.

From the stunning zero donations reported by Doug Oliver, through the paltry $250 reported by Anthony Williams, all the way up to the measly 2.3 percent of the nearly half-million-dollar income of Lynne Abraham, all five candidates failed miserably to show that they care enough about the community they live in to make a substantial financial contribution to a charity of their choice.

|Stephen Field, Philadelphia, stephenfield@outlook.com

ISSUE | TAX BREAKS

Condo owners can afford to pay their taxes

In a story on high-end condos, one critical fact omitted was the many millions in 10-year tax abatements these millionaire condo owners (and, indirectly, their developers) will garner as handouts from the city ("Condos for millionaires," March 12). This is all the more galling in the face of city public schools starving for funding and Mayor Nutter's proposal to raise real estate taxes by 9.3 percent for everyone except these millionaires.

It's time for all the councilmanic and mayoral candidates to get behind City Councilman Wilson Goode Jr.'s bills to scale back these inequitable and wasteful abatements or exclude the tax revenue for city schools from these abatements. Better would be ending them or targeting them solely for low-income neighborhoods.

|Jonathan M. Stein, Philadelphia

ISSUE | CHARTERS

With fewer students, free up more resources

What are the so-called stranded costs that motivated the School Reform Commission to deny the expansion of so many good charter schools ("District questions math on charters," Feb. 6)?

They are district budget items that need to be changed. They are the bloated administrative costs that continue to grow even with fewer students. They are the resources expended on bad teachers who cannot be fired. They are the half-empty bus routes that cannot be consolidated due to contracts. They are school breakfasts and lunches still being delivered to children who are not even in the schools.

Does it really make fiscal sense to give more money to a system that fewer students use? Families who have no choice of schools for their children to attend are victims of poor management that refuses to react to change. Stranded costs hold in place a system that has stranded Philadelphians in bad schools for decades. Because of these costs, public charters receive only two-thirds of the funding that traditional schools receive. Approving more charters would save the district money in the long run.

School-choice advocates will keep fighting, and we hope that the SRC can put aside politics and approve more high-quality and cost-efficient schools for Philadelphia families.

|Janine Yass, board member, Philadelphia School Partnership; vice chair emeritus, Center for Education Reform, Haverford