Gil Weiss, Bensalem, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sour notes in city school cuts
Among the many dedicated teachers laid off in the current school budget crisis were all 66 instrumental music teachers, a move that creates a profound cultural and moral deficit just as troubling as the financial one. Philadelphia is a world-class destination for arts and culture, boasting many treasures. What a contradiction to see support for this dimension of our children's education being decimated. Without the cultural literacy and the appreciation conferred to students by these teachers, our identity as a city will be put at genuine risk - along with the next generation of the patrons who support and maintain these traditions. Government leaders must not be tone-deaf to the larger impact of these cutbacks.
Wesley Broadnax, Charles Hallahan, Matthew Brunner, Greer Cheeseman, Kushol Gupta, Adam Sherr, and John Dunphy, directors, area university marching bands
High step for older SEPTA riders
A regular SEPTA rider, I see many patrons abuse the senior pass. But the idea that seniors are going to be required to show a photo ID as proof of age I find quite incredible. If one sits on a bus and watches what seniors go through just to show their passes, and then to have them also dig out a photo ID, that goes too far. Perhaps the driver's license bureau has a warehouse full of old cameras; let SEPTA use them to paste a picture and a rider's age on the current senior pass.
Cherry Bombeck, Philadelphia, email@example.com
No DNA database as an island
Processing DNA from low-level nonviolent crimes, particularly burglaries, has the potential for huge public safety benefits. ("Bensalem DNA database helps nab low-level criminals," June 23). Urban Institute research has found that burglars are not specialists - they are often violent criminals with a history of rape, murder, and other serious crimes. But, an effort like Bensalem's to create a DNA database that is not linked to other states reduces the effectiveness of DNA collection and creates the potential for real abuse.
FBI management of the interstate DNA database system protects the innocent by requiring a series of strict checks to verify that a person should be in the database and, after a hit, confirm that the match was not in error. State legislatures determine which citizens should have their DNA in a state database and the one overseen by the FBI. While Bensalem is implementing some of these quality controls, local databases built through private labs are not beholden to those protections. Ultimately, standalone databases in single jurisdictions miss out on the power of searching evidence from crimes outside their borders and may not be scrupulously protecting the innocent.
John K. Roman and Kelly Walsh, researchers, Urban Institute, Washington
Catch up on renewables, Pa.
Gov. Corbett's reflexive charge that President Obama was declaring a war on coal was unsurprising ("Will Obama's climate plan boost N.J., Pa.?" June 27). The governor clings to the argument that Pennsylvania's economic vitality rests on continuing to enable the coal industry by exempting it from responsibility for producing and burning a cheap product at the expense of air and water quality, people's health, and the livability of the planet. Corbett and state lawmakers should focus on recovering the economic opportunities squandered by stalling the clean-energy economy.
Robin Mann, Rosemont, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carbon-fee plan promising
Congress should either embrace President Obama's climate plan or take action itself with serious, viable climate legislation. An interesting proposal emerging in Congress is the market-based, revenue-neutral plan for a carbon fee proposed by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) and U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.). Their plan would correct the failure of our markets to include pollution costs in the price of fossil fuels. This would create a fairer energy market, allow renewables to compete on their economic merits, and unleash the powerful forces of capitalism and innovation to solve the pressing climate problem.
Jay Butera, Gladwyne, email@example.com
Super self-appointed tour guides
Recently, my cousin and I took a train into Philadelphia to visit the Barnes Foundation. Not familiar with the city, we referred to a city map several times as we walked from 16th and Locust Streets to 20th and the Parkway, then back again. Four different people noticed our uncertainty and stopped to offer help and directions. Wow. We were quite surprised and impressed. Thanks, Philadelphians: You really do know what it means to live in the City of Brotherly Love.
Sandra Leichner, Tabernacle
Sticking with the union's benefits
After reading the commentary by corporate lobbyist Richard Berman, I note that National Employee Freedom Week is affiliated with the Koch Brothers-founded Americans for Prosperity and the Heritage Foundation, both antilabor groups ("Union members in Pa. have rights," June 28). So I really can't put much faith in their poll purporting to show eroding union support among members. But as a union member for 32 years, I know these facts: I was able to receive a living wage, which in turn helped me put three children through college. I have health benefits for my family. When I retire, I will have a pension. With multimillion-dollar salaries for CEOs while middle-class workers watch wages decline, benefits taken away, and pensions stopped, unions are needed more than ever.
Suzanne Fox, Mount Royal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Clearing the Record
A Sunday letter should have specified that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be only the second American woman to receive the Liberty Medal, and the third woman overall.