Letters to the Editor

The Market Street building collapse , seen here, was captured by a SEPTA bus video camera.
The Market Street building collapse , seen here, was captured by a SEPTA bus video camera.
Posted: July 24, 2013

Calibrating openness with care

Soon after the June 5 building collapse at 22d and Market Streets, attorneys for the victims, the property owners, the city, and the District Attorney's Office visited the site, seeking to prevent further harm, preserve it, and determine whether a criminal investigation was needed. When the District Attorney's Office that day requested it, the city agreed not to release collapse-related documents ("Mayor still holding back on collapse information," July 21). Subsequently, the city received 30 open-records requests (from media and non-media sources) for these documents. Keeping its promise to District Attorney Seth Williams, the city denied these requests, while seeking written confirmation from Williams. We maintained this stance until July 12, when I received a letter from First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann Jr.

The city's release of documents last Friday and its refusal to allow city officials to be interviewed by City Council or by the media reflect a balancing of interests consistent with our practice not to interfere with formal public investigations where criminal guilt or civil liability is at stake. The city will also continue to invoke its legal right to protect documents that the court has concluded need not be released for public review. The Inquirer's Sunday editorial perpetuates the fallacy that the only public interest at stake, and to which we must react, is the one defined by the media. A more objective examination of the circumstances - which The Inquirer has eschewed in favor of a month-long tantrum - would reveal the public interest here is indeed much broader.

Shelley R. Smith, City Solicitor, Philadelphia

Public square for race dialogue

I appreciated President Obama's encouragement for ordinary Americans to take up the conversation on race in local forums as opposed to having a grand, politician-led dialogue (" 'Martin could have been me,' " July 20). I don't see the president as a man who hates or fears or despises white people. But I do understand that he feels like an "other" when, for instance, people question where he was born in the face of conclusive documentary evidence that he is American-born, or when people vow, as they did at the start of the 2012 election campaign, to vet the president, as though he hadn't been in office for the previous four years and hadn't been a politician since 1997. In his remarks Friday on the conclusion of the George Zimmerman trial, the president acknowledged that young African American men are indeed more violent, on average, than young white men, but that African American men, in general, still feel tarred with the same brush of generalized hostility and suspicion.

Richmond L. Gardner, Horsham, rlg3526@ix.netcom.com

Judged by the company we keep

The Palestinian Authority last week held a military funeral for Ahmed Abu al-Sukkar, a former Fatah terrorist who was involved in a 1975 bombing in Jerusalem's Zion Square that killed 14 and injured more than 60. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas published a statement describing Abu al-Sukkar as a faithful struggler for the Palestinian cause. Clearly, praise for a terrorist does not show a true desire for peace. It is an incitement to violence and a violation of the Oslo Accord.

Arthur Horn, East Windsor

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