Letters to the Editor

Posted: July 28, 2012

Light cameras

The letter "Red-light cameras saving lives" (July 23) by the director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority states that red-light cameras are solely used for traffic safety. This is pure bunk because study after study has proven that adding one second to the yellow-light cycle time greatly reduces accidents. Where this has occurred, red-light violations go way down, accidents decrease, and the profit margins for the camera companies are not sufficient for maintaining them.

Many cities have gotten rid of the cameras because they got caught reducing the yellow-light time cycle. Advocates argue that a longer yellow light will create traffic congestion, but this has not happened where it's been done and just proves that this issue is only about money.

Bill Ruane, Garnet Valley, ruanebill@gmail.com

Charter schools

The article "N.J. has new system for evaluating charter schools" (July 18) raised questions about some charter schools.

Charter schools, like other public schools, are tuition-free and open to any child within a certain district, including those with special needs. These schools have greater freedom, and the coupling of innovation and greater accountability is resulting in success. In 2012, 94 percent of charter school seniors graduated vs. 83.7 percent from the state's non-charter public schools. At LEAP Academy University Charter School, one of the schools in the article, 100 percent of students graduated vs. 56.9 percent in Camden public schools. In addition to graduation rates, charter middle and high schools in Camden are outperforming their counterparts.

Every child should be able to attend a high-quality public school. The nine additional schools will offer 2,000 children that opportunity.

Carlos Pérez, chief executive officer, New Jersey Charter Schools Association, Hamilton

Rail dreams

Yes, the United States is woefully behind when it comes to high-speed rail ("More cannonball than bullet train," Sunday). But there's more to modern rail service than speed, and there's more to mature, modern travel than just getting there.

Airlines can partner with intercity rail to better accommodate their passengers. Lufthansa and the German Railways (DB) now collaborate closely throughout Germany — a train to the plane — and the airline has even replaced its Frankfurt-to-Cologne flights with a reserved car on 13 high-speed trains a day.

Here in the United States, Amtrak could offer amenities that the airlines cannot, like play areas for kids, or a gym car affording long-distance passengers a workout while en route. And with a modest investment, such as closing a few rail gaps, we could have connecting local trains between West Virginia and Maine.

John Dowlin, Philadelphia

Wages vs. jobs

The Inquirer, editorializing in favor of raising New Jersey's minimum wage, cited a study by the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute that promised job creation following a wage hike ("Still time to raise N.J. minimum wage," Monday). Here in the real world, the actual effects of such a mandate are quite the opposite.

Businesses that hire entry-level employees and pay them minimum wage — think restaurants or grocery stores — keep a few cents in profit from each sales dollar, and can't just absorb the cost of a mandated wage hike. When they can't raise prices on cost-conscious customers, they're forced to do more with less: that means more customer self-service, and fewer job opportunities for inexperienced employees.

The evidence backs up this intuition: 85 percent of the most credible economic research from the last two decades points to job loss, not creation, following a wage hike.

Michael Saltsman, research fellow, Employment Policies Institute, Washington

Fracking debate

The article "Experts: Some fracking critics use bad science" (Monday) is every bit as misleading as the supposedly false information cited by environmentalists.

For most of it, the author suggests that only fracking's critics manipulate data; the idea that industry does this as well is practically an afterthought. The primary reason for incorrect claims is not, as the author implies, an intent to mislead, but rather a lack of accurate information. Perhaps environmentalists are guilty of making assertions based on conjecture and not fact, but this is more due to the prevailing "frack now, ask questions later" attitude than anything else.

Additionally, it cannot be assumed that fracking is cleaner than coal simply because natural gas burns more cleanly. In fact, fracking could be far dirtier than coal if methane leakage is factored in. The referenced new federal rules will curb methane emissions by only 25 percent.

Finally, even those environmental groups that support natural gas as an alternative to coal do not believe any form of pollution has a "positive effect." One wouldn't say burglars benefit society because they are not murderers.

Suzanna Erlich, Philadelphia

Special delivery

It is hard to reconcile the fact that our government sends billions of foreign aid dollars overseas, yet it cannot find funds to subsidize the U.S. Postal Service ("Don't let mail crash and burn," Monday). This is an entity that serves every person and business in this country. A way must be found to continue and to improve this service, not diminish it.

If it needs government funding, so be it. If not, free up the management to conduct it as a business.

Jack Boesch, Marlton

Make a deal

Why are marriages considered to be a lifetime commitment by all religious and secular entities? The people who married at 25 may be quite different at 45. Why cannot marriage be a term contract for a specified length of time? Say 10 years, with options to renew. The terms and conditions could be spelled out up front, and a procedure for premature divorce can be specified.

Michael Kropp, Hightstown

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