Historical Commission not filling its role

Posted: May 04, 2003

Re: "Historical panel to limit new districts," April 27:

I was present at the meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission on April 11 and no action was taken by the commission to set a limit on new historic districts. There was a very brief discussion of the fact that the commission has inadequate staff to handle the review functions involved with many new districts. It was stated that the current staff capacity is sufficient for one more district and after that additional staff would be needed.

The sense of the meeting was not that the commission would limit districts but that it would seek ways to increase or augment its staff. The article suggests that a decision was made when in fact none was made.

It is true that the commission is understaffed, but not only for historic districts. It does little to nominate properties for historic designation or to engage in research that would support nominations for national landmark buildings, and it has inadequate staff to respond to the broad issues of historic preservation that are implicit in such city actions as the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative.

The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has offered to help the commission research staffing and budgets of historical commissions in other cities and has offered to develop a case for increased support in the city budget. We look forward to assisting the commission in this way.

However, staffing is not the only issue. The commission needs to look at the inefficiencies in its own procedures, as well as its need for staff, with the goal of moving ahead with more historic districts on a more rapid time schedule - not placing limits on a tool that is of great benefit in preserving both the character and the economic value of Philadelphia's neighborhoods.

John Andrew Gallery

Executive Director

Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia

john@preservationalliance.com

Ganging up on Santorum

Last Sunday's Inquirer had on page A6 an article headlined "A sharp tongue has ever defined Sen. Santorum."

I guess Santorum was the topic du jour everywhere. Deeper in the paper was Tom Ferrick's column, headlined "Santorum makes stand, loud and clear." Doesn't sound too bad, but wait. He paraphrases the senator, putting his own words in Santorum's mouth. Nasty device. Now we're in the "Manichean world of the hard right." And "Santorum's line...is an embrace of the Roman Catholic Church's thinking on this matter." That's pretty radical for a Catholic. And I see he's also a "troglodyte."

Well, onward to Mark Bowden's column, "A higher calling for Santorum the virtuous." And then there's Steve Young's Commentary Page piece about checking Santorum's bedroom for weapons of mass destruction or gays. I think it's supposed to be funny.

And there's Tony Auth's cartoon putting the word "fag" in Santorum's mouth.

Four separate articles and a cartoon in one newspaper on the same day, all attacking Rick Santorum. Isn't that a bit much?

Mel Boyd

Berwyn

Tax hike questions

As mentioned in your April 20 editorial ("Look under the hood"), the proposed hike in Pennsylvania income tax has not been well-explained. Taxpayers might feel a bit more generous if answers to a number of issues were presented.

For example, taxpayers do not feel that their money is well spent by a legislature that includes members such as Rep. William Rieger.

On April 26, The Inquirer reported that Gov. Rendell's proposal includes $100 million to reduce the city wage tax ("New law could cut Phila.'s wage tax"). A worthy goal, but many taxpayers statewide do not support this.

On the same day, it was reported that the governor wants a four-year wage freeze for workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ("Rendell lays out 'wish list' for negotiations with AFSCME"). Perhaps a worthy goal, but one might ask what cuts are planned for administrative appointees and patronage jobs.

And in the aftermath of hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding for sports stadiums in the state, how many taxpayer dollars will be requested, and when, for the future upgrading of the Convention Center.

The details have been incomplete and not sufficient to allow citizens of Pennsylvania to get a good "look under the hood."

L. C. Williams

Malvern

Not justification enough

Besides Tom Adkins' shockingly vacuous comparison of frat boy hijinks with an international war, his assertion that Saddam Hussein's tyranny is reason enough to invade Iraq is seriously logically flawed (commentary, "Halting tyranny is justification enough," April 27).

"Except for the truly naive" (in his words), everyone knows there are plenty of tyrants in the world who abuse their own populations, many of which the United States installed or supported (just as we did Hussein). If we plan to rid the world of every tyrant, we'll have our work cut out for us.

The more salient point is that we insulted our fellow United Nations members and flouted opinion at home and abroad based on the assertion that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We can find perfectly viable alternate rationales for our invasion after the fact, but that does not negate the very real possibility that our President lied to us to justify this invasion for his own unacknowledged reasons.

Danielle Masursky

Philadelphia

Artwork is appropriate

In her April 27 appraisal of the new international terminal at Philadelphia International Airport, Inga Saffron dismissed the Declaration of Independence as clich and boring subject matter for public art ("Calming light, views - but little cohesion"). As the son of an immigrant, I challenge that view.

American Dream, my artwork for the Arrivals Hall, was selected by a jury of arts professionals from among proposals of more than 120 artists who competed in the city's Percent for Art program. The Arrivals Hall is the front door to Philadelphia and the United States. It must welcome visitors with an important statement about America. Our values, however unattainable, are perfectly expressed in the declaration, and only Philadelphia can claim the declaration as its own.

Contrary to Saffron's observations, the hall is an inspiring cathedral-like space, its glass ceiling open to the sky, flooding the hall with ever-changing light. The powerful words from the declaration are composed in my artwork like "concrete poetry" on the walls, standing out in high relief, surrounded by a dream-like blue/white neon glow. The human presence in these words is expressed in their highly magnified calligraphy.

The signers of the declaration are recognized through their individualized signatures etched in glass.

American Dream welcomes people to the United States, making sure you know you are in America and know what we as a people stand for.

Rob Fisher

Bellefonte

Glenunion@aol.com

(Photos of American Dream at

robfisheramericandream.com)

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