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Letters to the editor

Monday, March 12, 2001

No wonder the city shrivels: Murphy ignores the neighborhoods

Several years ago when Mayor Tom Murphy was making his goodwill, door-to-door election campaigning stops, he insisted that he would stop the exodus from the city and the 2000 Census results would show that, because of his efforts, Pittsburgh would actually increase in population.

Well, the proof is in. Pittsburgh had 369,879 residents in 1990. Since then, did the population grow in pace with the national average of 13 percent? Did it even match the state average growth of 3.4 percent? No. Instead, our population declined by 9.5 percent. It shrank to 334,563, a loss of more than 35,000 people ("Census 2000," March 10 and March 11).

What seems to be the problem? After all, we have the Pirates and the Steelers. New stadiums are going up. Millions of tax dollars have been pumped into Lazarus, Lord & Taylor and other corporate welfare programs. Could it possibly be that while Mayor Murphy was so obsessed with taking care of the McClatchys and Rooneys of this world that he has neglected the neighborhoods where the people have to live?

Read the letters to the editor or attend block watch meetings. The problems are rampant: litter and vandalism on the South Side, burglaries in Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill, shootings in East Liberty and Homewood, drugs in Lawrenceville, juvenile delinquency in Bloomfield. If Pittsburgh wants to stop its migration of citizens leaving for the suburbs, then it must address the problems of its communities. We need something more than a politician shaking hands because it's re-election time.


Fiscal restraint

Regarding the March 7 Midweek Perspectives commentary by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Swissvale ("Budget Surpluses, Tax Cuts and the Weather"):

I agree with the congressman! His numbers make sense. As a home owner, I budget improvements and vacations on what I know I can afford with certainty, money in the bank. I would like to spend with wild abandon but with the economy slowing, how can I justify spending thousands on credit when I may be laid off and unable to make payments?

I could buy credit insurance for just that situation. But what kind of insurance does the government have?


Unhealthy situation

Regarding the Feb. 15 regional health care summit ("Situation Critical," Feb. 16), sponsored by Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey and Mayor Tom Murphy. As a registered nurse, I was thrilled to know that the health care shortage is being recognized as a real problem in this area. The article listed job dissatisfaction, low wages and poor work environments as a few of the reasons why the shortage is growing. It also suggests that the shortage is so severe that it is adversely affecting patient care. I find all this true.

However, as an Allegheny County employee and president of the PNA Local 802, I am sickened by the actions of Mr. Roddey, which are the opposite of what he says. I work at the Scott Township John J. Kane center, so in a roundabout way, Mr. Roddey is my boss. Along with Local 1058, which represents over 1,000 Kane employees, the R.N.s have been working without a contract since Aug. 1.

Why is it that so many county employees can work without a contract for so long unnoticed, but the teachers and paramedics can make the 6 o'clock news? I wonder if Mr. Roddey realizes that working without a contract causes a rise in job dissatisfaction.

Mr. Roddey admits that nurses are underpaid. I hope he is aware that the Allegheny County nurses are the lowest paid in the region. The starting salary is $13.95 per hour. After seven years, my salary is only a few cents more.

I have watched the nursing staff dwindling away for months. There have been no new hires, so the workload is pushed on those of us who remain. Mandatory overtime is daily because there is not enough staff to operate. Some Kanes have closed units and are forced to restrict admissions due to the lack of staff. As a direct result, patient care has suffered for many months. This has a domino effect on employee morale, creating a very disturbing work environment.

Mr. Roddey called for "a new cooperative and dynamic relationship between employers and labor unions." However, he has yet to develop any relationship with his own labor unions. Mr. Roddey also pledges to follow through on some great ideas and plans. One idea is to analyze a work site and redesign it.

Perhaps he could offer one of the Kane Centers, as they are all in dire need of vast changes if they are to continue operating. However, considering his blatant lack of interest over the past year, I will not hold my breath.

McKees Rocks

An armed, safe society

Last week Javier Goode was sentenced for killing Philadelphia Daily News columnist W. Russell G. Byers with a knife (National Briefs, March 7). While the Post-Gazette always asserts that guns are bad, I do so wish Mr. Byers and his wife had a personal defense handgun when they stopped for ice cream that evening.

In the San Diego High School shooting, if Andy Williams had been confronted by armed school staff immediately, I suspect he would have given up immediately. When caught, he had again reloaded and cocked the hammer, but he surrendered to armed force. Most criminals are cowards, as President Bush said, and will not attack when resisted.

Recently a man fired a shot outside the White House. Immediately he was surrounded by guards with guns -- lots of guns, semi-automatic pistols, machine guns, men with scoped rifles. If the professionals know that these guns are necessary to adequately protect that house, perhaps we should learn to protect our homes and schools the same way. If machine guns are good to protect the White House, why not my house?


Blame to go around

I agree with Robert Hazo ("Ariel Sharon, Fuel on the Fire," March 5 Perspectives) that on the basis of his past actions and statements, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not look like much of a peace maker. Nevertheless, persons elevated to power and responsibility sometimes surprise their critics.

That said, I object to Hazo's less-than-impartial lashing of Sharon and Israel as the perpetrators of all the problems in that Middle Eastern area. I use the word "all" because he does not mention, even in passing, the contributions of the Palestinians and their Arab supporters to the overall problem and the current impasse. Hazo would do better to try and understand Israeli as well as Palestinian needs and dilemmas and to engage in reasonable dialogue rather than diatribe.


Get over it

When are the Post-Gazette and the people who write these letters to the editors about the Florida elections going to quite complaining about people being turned away and votes not counting? Can anyone produce a single person who was turned away who was properly registered and had proper identification when voting?

As far as votes not being counted, one must properly fill out the ballot and check it over before placing it in the box. This is something that all voters should know prior to voting. If a person can not take the time to register, then take the time to properly fill out the ballot in such an important election as was this one, then can any one really say they were not allowed to vote or that their vote did not count? Were any voters who properly voted disenfranchised? No.

To all those folks who could not understand the ballot in Florida: Next time, ask for help. It is available.


Use tobacco settlement to help seniors with prescription drug costs

Pennsylvania has a unique opportunity to address one of its most pressing health care crises. It should set aside a portion of its $11 billion in tobacco settlement funds to provide prescription aid to seniors and others without drug coverage. Waiting for the federal government to act is not an option, especially when the drug cost problem grows worse with each passing year.

Current state programs are strapped to help those in need. In 1990, more than 500,000 seniors received help from PACE, the state's pharmaceutical assistance program. Less than half that number gets help today. PACE participation is just 37 percent of what it was in 1990 because of mounting drug costs and rigid income ceilings. Only 15 percent of those eligible for Pacenet, a second tier of prescription assistance, even enroll because of high deductibles.

Pennsylvania seniors now pay more for prescription drugs than they do for direct physician care. Those without prescription insurance pay 50 percent to 67 percent more than those with drug coverage. This is a health care crisis that deserves our immediate attention.

House Democrats want to use a portion of that state's tobacco settlement to expand drug coverage to 400,000 seniors by eliminating Pacenet and its costly deductibles and expanding PACE. We also recognize that skyrocketing prescription costs are a considerable problem, which is why we want to give the state power to negotiate reasonable prices and secure deeper discounts and rebates from drug manufacturers for seniors and others in state-sponsored prescription programs.

Because of our advocacy over the last year, the House passed tobacco legislation in January that includes a scaled-down version to use a portion of the tobacco funds to help seniors pay for their prescription drugs. We think that's a start. But the process of hammering out the final details of any plan is far from being complete.

Pennsylvania has provided more than $3.2 billion in prescription assistance to low-income seniors over the last two decades and our prescription programs have been hailed as national models. That doesn't mean we should stop working, especially when we have such a great opportunity to do even more.

Beaver Falls

Editor's note: State Rep. Veon, the Democratic whip, represents the 14th District.

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