Glenn Loatman, Kennett Square
Set standards for ‘hydro' farms
The story "Hydro-harvest for a ‘food desert'" (June 11) highlights the potential for aquaponic farms to revitalize urban neighborhoods. This unique style of agriculture combines fish farming and hydroponic vegetable gardening in a clean, eco-efficient system that recycles and recirculates water. Being able to grow food without soil makes these farms ideal for indoor and urban settings where uncontaminated soil isn't readily available. Projects such as the Urban Food Lab in West Philadelphia can bring fresh, nutritious foods to neighborhoods that lack healthy options — and also create much-needed green jobs.
Unfortunately, regulatory hurdles prevent more organizations and individuals from building such farms. With no national permitting standards, recirculating farms are regulated in some places as traditional agricultural operations and in others as laboratories — categories they don't neatly fit into. The Recirculating Farms Coalition, a collective of farmers, educators, and organizations, advocates national standards, and is working with its partners to urge Congress to add recirculating farms to the Farm Bill.
Congress should make it easier for farmers to produce fresh, local food and spur economic development in our cities. Recognizing recirculating farms is an important step forward.
Marianne Cufone, executive director, Recirculating Farms Coalition, New Orleans, www.recirculatingfarms.org
For GOP, a matter of racism
Jeb Bush observed correctly that his father, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan had bipartisan support, and they would have been out of step with the present Republican Party ("A different GOP for Bush, Reagan," June 12). He would have been more honest had he recognized that Democratic recalcitrance is primarily the result of the GOP, with its "no to everything" strategy dogmatically forcing its ideology on Democrats.
It is easy to see through the facade. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell admitted that his most important goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. "Get the black man out of the White House," is the Republican goal. One word describes this problem in its entirety. It is taboo to use the word, but it is racism. Racism is the bane of American society, and it limits the U.S. economy.
Fred B. Bornemann, Glenside
Stimulus plan was right course
The Republicans certainly have blinders on as they regurgitate an out-of-context remark by President Obama: "The private sector is doing fine" ("Sound-bite duel lacks context," Tuesday).
But contained in the complete statement is the fact that state and local governments are cutting back. Why? Because of the GOP's fanatical stance on austerity and its ideological pursuit of purity.
Hasn't the GOP learned from the high unemployment rates in Europe, the ensuing social disruption, and voter anger that austerity is not the right path?
Obama's stimulus strategy has proven to be the correct course, as our unemployment rate, although high, is not as devastating as Greece's or Spain's. It could have been if we didn't rescue the auto industry and its ancillary jobs. A return to the failed GOP economic policies of the Bush administration, now part of Mitt Romney's economic strategy, will only mean massive unemployment, with its tax-cutting, job-destroying results.
Here in Pennsylvania, Gov. Corbett's no-tax pledge has led to less funding for school districts, nonprofits, cities, townships, and local agencies. The result has been layoffs for teachers, librarians, firefighters, police, and their support staff.
Is this the course we want the nation to take?
Michael Miller Jr., Philadelphia
District's nurturing employees
The attitude of School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos toward the unions that district employees belong to is insulting and counterproductive ("District union offers $20 million to save jobs," Thursday).
Despite what Ramos seems to think, employees are not easily replaced, at least not if we actually want to provide a nurturing environment for children. One example is my building engineer. She goes above and beyond the call of duty to provide safe, clean learning conditions for our students. Every September, she makes sure that teachers have what they need to prepare classrooms. Every week, she sets up hoses and buckets so that our students can water our new saplings. Every day, she thoughtfully interacts with students and looks out for their well-being. Such dedication should not be taken for granted.
Looking for cheaper labor will destroy long-standing, productive relationships and erode the quality of the school day for Philadelphia's children.
Erica Darken, Philadelphia
Are mayor and Council serious?
I am not a fan of the latest catchphrase — "Really? Really?" — but after reading how Philadelphia's Actual Value Initiative could almost triple my property tax ("Right moves are made on AVI," Sunday), and then also learning that property-tax delinquents owe the city and schools more than $515 million in back taxes, all I've got to say to Mayor Nutter and City Council is, Really? Really?
Anthony Santini, Philadelphia
Contributing to his community
On behalf of Entrepreneur Works, a nonprofit organization with a mission of helping Philadelphia-area small businesses achieve lasting success, we want to thank The Inquirer and Annette John-Hall for her well-written, in-depth profile of an Entrepreneur Works client, Joel Austin, president and CEO of Daddy UniverseCity Inc. ("This parent is a mentor to fathers in formation," Friday).
Like so many innovative and resourceful entrepreneurs, Austin is truly making a difference in his community by supporting Philadelphia fathers and families in need. We are proud to have provided him with the core business skills and guidance he needed to build his small business.
We congratulate Austin on his success, and thank The Inquirer for showcasing small-business owners who make vital contributions to our local economy and our communities every day.
Leslie Benoliel, executive director, Entrepreneur Works, Philadelphia