Letters to the Editor

State gaming officials this year will designate a second casino to join SugarHouse.
State gaming officials this year will designate a second casino to join SugarHouse. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 21, 2013

More snake eyes on casino plans?

Imagine that a choice must be made among six massive development proposals, ranging from $400 million to $900 million in capital investment. The agency charged with this important decision has no urban redevelopment experience, has not engaged consultants in the fields of architecture and planning, and is not accountable to the city in which the development will take place. What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, that is the situation with the state Gaming Control Board in its second effort to pick a casino site for Philadelphia. Things did not go well the last time, and the board appears to have learned little from the experience - if the highly variable quality and generally unclear architectural presentations of the casino license applicants, who followed the board's vague and incomplete requirements, are any indication.

Now is the time to enhance the design requirements that applicants must meet to ensure this project makes a positive contribution to the redevelopment of the city. The gaming board needs to obtain advice from qualified design and planning experts, and it must recognize that it is in the urban-development business, as well as the casino-management business.

George L. Claflen Jr., vice chair, Design Advocacy Group of Philadelphia, Claflen Associates Architects and Planners, Philadelphia

Paradise has enough parking lots

It was with a sinking heart that I read of Toll Bros.' interest in purchasing what is now the Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill. Those of us living in developments surrounding this facility can attest to the already unholy traffic congestion nearby. Another medical facility? Really? What of the wildlife that this undeveloped tract supports? Has anyone investigated to see if endangered birds are on-site? Would it be too far-fetched for Cherry Hill Township to purchase this land?

Just down the road, one has the pleasure of seeing a still-existing horse farm at one of New Jersey's busiest intersections, compliments of Green Acres. Here's an opportunity, probably the last, for township officials to provide citizens with a wonderful gift: open land that isn't a parking lot.

Donna Pallante, Voorhees

Tools needed to scrub titles clean

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority staffer who says he is unable to redevelop his vacant and tax-delinquent property because he cannot obtain a clean title makes a salient point about the neighborhood-killing effects of the city's laissez-faire property-tax policies ("Delinquent owner helps city market its land," March 12).

Many, if not most, tax-delinquent properties have murky titles - a long list of liens and/or an unclear chain of ownership - and the vexing legal labyrinths for cleaning these titles stymie even the most steadfast of neighborhood redevelopers.

If the city commits itself to a fast, effective, and robust tax foreclosure process - the legal structure for which is already in place - it would not only collect back taxes from speculators and extant derelict owners, but also offer the simplest and most assured vehicle for cleaning murky titles and moving properties from indolent and unreachable owners to productive taxpaying use.

Jeffrey Allegretti, Philadelphia

Well-schooled in finance, thanks

I am disappointed that The Inquirer continues to uncritically repeat misleading and inaccurate allegations that, prior to the current administration, the School District built its budgets assuming levels of funding that exceeded what was promised.

In fact, School District policy on budgeting state and local funding has been consistent for decades: The district has budgeted state funding at the level contained in the governor's budget proposal; local funding, consistent with the assumptions in the mayor's budget and five-year financial plan. Moreover, in recent years, the district immediately amended its budget once those numbers were finalized. That resulted in budget surpluses for the fiscal years 2009-2011.

The schools are in financial trouble today for just one reason, that the state reduced its financial support by 21 percent in fiscal 2012 and essentially froze funding at that level.

Michael Masch, former chief financial officer for Philadelphia schools, Riverdale, N.Y.

To arms, for lasting disarmament

In a world where the threat of North Korea is becoming so obvious that even China is agreeing with us to sanction the regime, we must ask ourselves why the rest of the world is still not as aggressively concerned about a rising Iran. But we face more than a nuclear threat: We face a lack of action in nonproliferation work.

The media are explaining threats, but what needs to coincide with that reporting is something constructive: a look at how students can study nonproliferation, and how adults can get involved, especially through conversations with elected representatives. We need to continue a global discussion on nuclear arms control with the same intensity as during the 1980s.

Richard Maopolski, arms control researcher, Harvard University, Old Forge, richardmjm@gmail.com

Responding to 'Being white'

A.J. Liebling was wrong in saying that press freedom is guaranteed only to those who own one - or, in this case, edit a publication. Tom McGrath, editor of Philadelphia Magazine, was indeed free to publish "Being White in Philly" in the March issue. But magazine readers are also free to speak and write in opposition to this ill-conceived and thoughtless article. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are no guarantee that everything written or spoken will be correct, edifying, or well-expressed. I salute the National Constitution Center for holding a forum in which all views on this issue could be presented. The only answer to free speech with which one disagrees is more free speech.

Margaret Rohdy, Philadelphia

Dousing fire-in-theater fears

Mayor Nutter got it so wrong in asking the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission to investigate Philadelphia Magazine for publishing its controversial "Being White in Philly" feature in the March issue. The mayor's assertion that the article might be akin to shouting "fire" in a crowded theater so contorts the First Amendment as to rid it of any meaningful protections it offers controversial expression.

Rather than rely on that tired quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, which censors have used countless times to justify silencing expression they disagree with, Nutter should look to the Supreme Court's ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio. That ruling declared that unprotected incitement must be "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action," and it must be "likely to incite or produce such action."

So the mayor's suggestion that the magazine came anywhere close to this standard is not only embarrassing; it's also a dangerously irresponsible use of the powers of his office.

Peter Bonilla, Philadelphia

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