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Letters to the editor

Thursday, March 16, 2000

Under Zappala, the county DA's office has served the public well

By focusing on the win/loss column, the Post-Gazette failed to give proper attention to the total perspective of a modern-day prosecutor's office ("Zappala Taking Hits for Recent Court Losses," March 8).

Under Mr. Zappala, the district attorney's office has become involved in several highly worthwhile programs within the community that have benefited large numbers of people. The current district attorney's office has significantly expanded pre-existing intergovernmental relationships and established new programs and lines of communication with appropriate organizations.

The chief homicide prosecutor, Edward Borkowski, is one of the most dedicated and conscientious individuals we have worked with. The jury verdicts in some recently publicized cases notwithstanding, he and his colleagues have demonstrated a high level of trial court competence.

Inasmuch as the Allegheny County Coroner's Office recommended that the district attorney pursue homicide charges against Jeffrey Cooperstein, John Charmo, Jeremy Witherell and Steven Tielsch -- and furthermore, provided the forensic scientific evidence in those cases -- the critics of the district attorney's office regarding those cases could just as easily cast blame on our office and question our professional expertise. The fact of the matter is that we would be prepared to set forth and defend our medical and scientific findings in any of these cases before learned groups of our peers.

Jury verdicts do not serve to retroactively alter scientific realities. They simply reflect the collective feelings of a small group of people at a given moment in time based upon all kinds of facts, circumstances, conjectures, emotions and personal feelings.

We function as an autonomous office and not as an arm of the prosecution. Accordingly, we have had occasional differences of opinion regarding a few cases over the past several years and quite likely we shall have other professional disagreements in the future. Nevertheless, we are pleased with the high level of professionalism that Mr. Zappala has created in his office and we commend him for the increased sensitivity and awareness of community problems manifested by the district attorney's office since he assumed his position.

CYRIL H. WECHT
Allegheny County Coroner
Downtown


Air fare turbulence

The Post-Gazette has run a series of national advertisements for United Airlines titled "The Informed Traveler." The March 7 ad asked the question, "What Will Happen If United Acquires US Airways?"

I have an increasing concern about the negative effects of a lack of competition in this market. For instance, I need to travel to St. Louis later this spring. I checked with US Airways and discovered that the best it could do was to put me on Flight 272 nonstop from Pittsburgh to St. Louis for a round-trip cost of $868 per ticket. Knowing that others have received a better fare from Cleveland, I inquired about travel between that city and St. Louis. The good news: The fare for the exact same dates was only $147.50 per ticket. The bad news: I'll be driving to Cleveland, where I'll board Flight 4393 on an airline called "US Airways Express-Chautauqua Airlines" and fly direct to Pittsburgh, where I'll board -- you guessed it -- Flight 272 for nonstop service to St. Louis. All this for one-sixth of the cost of taking the exact same plane to the exact same city at the exact same time.

I spoke with three or four US Airways representatives, none of whom admitted to seeing anything the slightest bit ludicrous in these arrangements.

The ad asking "What Will Happen If United Acquires USAirways" was a full page. I'd suggest that you get someone from your sales department over to United and talk to them about buying a whole insert. They've got a lot of explaining to do.

DAVE CARVER
Crafton Heights


Save our schools

In response to Pittsburgh school board member Jean Fink's March 13 letter, "School Board Members Represent the People and Should Have Significant Input": wish to thank her for saying so well what we who live, work, pay taxes and have sent our children to public schools all our lives have always known.

Who in this city is listening? How much noise has to be made before someone hears? We need elementary schools in every neighborhood regardless of who lives there. Kindergarten through fifth grade should be in the pupils' own neighborhoods.

ROSEMARY GEYER
Bon Air


GOP money talks

Money is a powerful motivator. Last week the new Republican administration successfully demonstrated how influential financial support and lobbying efforts can be with the repeal of Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ergonomics (workplace safety) rules ("Senate Votes to Repeal Ergonomic Rules," March 7).

It took 10 years for regulations requiring businesses to take steps to limit repetitive-stress injuries on the job to become finalized. The rule was designed to protect individuals so they can work in a more healthy and effective way. Yet, business lobby groups resisted the regulations. These same businesses contributed substantial amounts of money to the Republican party.

It isn't hard to see the connection between the business lobby and the GOP. What is hard to believe is that our government is so easily influenced by this lobby. It is apparent by the repeal of ergonomics that the government is choosing money over the health and safety of millions of workers.

AMY L. HOUCK
Shadyside


Editor's note: The writer is a student in the Health Law Certificate Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.


Better battles to wage

In his March 3 letter ("Unnecessary Procedure"), Greg Hartley once gain advocated for his pet project: the elimination of male circumcision without medical justification. By virtue of the eloquence and style of his writing, I will stipulate that Mr. Hartley, director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, is intelligent. He might even possess a prodigious intellect.

Having so acknowledged, let us look at the state of the world. Throughout the globe, there are people suffering and dying because of diseases such as AIDS, cancer and ebola. Throughout the globe, there are people suffering and dying because of starvation, poverty, homelessness, civil war and genocide. With all of this suffering, maiming and killing going on unstopped or unpunished, should we not be applying our individual and collective intelligence to eliminating these myriad scourges of the human race?

Why is Hartley instead so concerned with what other men have at the ends of their penises? Why is he more interested in the "right to genital integrity" and intact erogenous zones than in the right of the oppressed of this world to be free from the killing zones?

RICH LOPICCOLO
Monroeville


About the Frick archives

Your March 10 editorial "Frick Fragmentation" is based on a serious misunderstanding of underlying facts related to the Frick Family Archives and the efforts of The Helen Clay Frick Foundation to make the information in those archives accessible.

You cite the argument of Arabella Dane, a Frick great-granddaughter, that Miss Frick's will stated that " 'all of her tangibles' were to be kept at Clayton." That statement is not correct. There is no document, including Miss Frick's will, that mentions the Frick archives or directs how she wished them preserved after her death.

You also assert that the settlement "agreement does not call for any involvement by anyone here in southwestern Pennsylvania." You base this on a statement from a spokesperson for one of the parties involved in the litigation. But it appears that you did not take the time to review settlement documents or discuss them with a representative of The Helen Clay Frick Foundation.

Those documents clearly describe the role to be played by the University of Pittsburgh. Your willingness to rely on the factually incorrect statements of those pursuing a personal agenda through the guise of pending litigation is unfortunate. We believe the settlement agreement has the full support of the public interest in charitable matters.

The settlement agreement will result in a significant benefit to the University of Pittsburgh and will make the Frick archives for the first time readily available for scholarship study.

I. TOWNSEND BURDEN III
Secretary
The Helen Clay Frick Foundation
Point Breeze


Sunshine is nice, but we would return for our hometown's warmth

It was gratifying to see the your "Census Shows Changing Racial Makeup of County" article on March 13.

My husband and I, along with our then 5-year-old daughter, left Pittsburgh in October 1988 and moved to Florida. My son, newly graduated from Penn Hills High School, went on to college, but never liked Florida and has been in Pittsburgh ever since. It was a no-choice situation because my husband was laid off from the now-defunct Eastern Airlines and could find work in other areas. I was caught up in the shutdown of Westinghouse Electric.

My daughter is now a senior in high school, ready to graduate in a few months, and my husband and I are dreaming of returning to Pittsburgh soon. Of course, we still have lots of family there and visit whenever we can. In spite of the warm winters here (that is the only thing we do like about the Orlando area), Pittsburgh is still home. We prefer the change of seasons. If the weather gets rough a few times, well, that's all part of it.

We are not able to retire yet, so we will be looking for work, but Pittsburgh's job picture is looking pretty good. I'm sure from what we have seen over the last few visits that a home will not be hard to get either. We had been hearing over the last few years that former friends and friends of friends were slowly making their way back "home" and it's encouraging to know that these moves are being noticed.

I pull up the Post-Gazette Web site often and it's just my way of getting reacquainted and keeping in touch with the city that I love.

WENDY BETTS
Winter Springs, Fla.




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