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Letters to the editor, 1/22/00

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Our region should not extinguish its provincial flavor

I am writing to share my thoughts as generated by reading the Jan. 19 article "Historic Review Commission Under Fire for Fifth/Forbes Vote."

Pittsburgh has a dismal track record in the area of urban planning and redevelopment. In my mind the Fifth and Forbes plan has all of the trappings of the dismal 1950s- and 1960s-style planning fiascoes known as Allegheny Center and East Liberty Circle.

Pittsburgh City Council member Jim Ferlo's arguments for disbanding the Historic Review Commission are sound and reasonable. They should be seriously considered and acted upon. Mayor Murphy has become too reliant upon the "power of eminent domain" and has become a boorish bully with the PG as his lap dog.

I believe that if the ultimate goal is to revitalize Downtown and attract new residents to that area, it is the development of the riverfronts that will provide the type of stimulus needed to achieve it. The desired business growth will develop organically once the people arrive as the real needs are established based on lifestyle.

I am not a city resident, but I do make the effort to visit Downtown and the Strip District so that I can patronize shops like Nicholas Coffee, Wholey's and Eide's Entertainment, not the mall and chain stores like Old Navy, Lazarus and Starbucks.

Also, how much "upscale" can this town truly support? Real Western Pennsylvanians want and appreciate the character that only the local businesses provide and the transplants that I know find it refreshing. Our region should not extinguish its provincial flavor; it is the very thing that should be emphasized. It will be highly sought as the age of national and global assimilation and homogeneity continues.

My parents live in Dunnellon, Fla. In their backwater town, they helped form a Pittsburgh Club that is currently 75 members strong; their first membership drive netted 90 positive responses. Any time one of the members returns home, they bring back an empty suitcase that they overload with Mancini's bread, Iron City six-packs, Isaly's chipped ham and Eat'n Park Smiley cookies. This is not an isolated case.

Don't kill it, grow it!


Amateur chefs broke lots

In the article "Last Allegheny County Commissioners Bow Out" (Dec. 28), Commissioner Bob Cranmer is quoted as saying, "To make a good omelet, you have to break a few eggs, and I think we broke a few in the past few years."

I guess I never thought I'd live to see the day that the combination of one or more of the following could be thought of as merely breaking "a few eggs":

Terminating hundreds of county employees and notifying some of them by inhumanely sending a letter to their homes.

Cutting income by 20 percent without making the corresponding decrease in expense, with just a few of the net results being an inability to perform basic services and damaging the county's bond rating, which still hasn't recovered.

Nearly completely depleting a $76.6 million "nest egg" of reserves left to Commissioners Dunn, Dawida and Cranmer by the previous administration

It is because of this "omelet" that the voters correctly decided that there had to be a better way. Good luck, Jim Roddey, and be reassured as you begin a new era in Allegheny County government: You can't do worse than what the taxpayer has been subjected to during the past four years because of the actions of a few amateur "chefs."


He helped the children

Your excellent coverage of Tom Foerster's death and funeral omitted the fact that Mr. Foerster raised more than $2 million in about 25 years for the Free Care Fund at Children's Hospital.

In fact, he has raised more money for the 70-year-old fund than any other individual, money that has helped many indigent families to pay for costly and life-saving medical care. Two individuals who helped Tom the most in this endeavor were Walter "Corky" Alberts, former assistant police chief of Allegheny County, and Joseph Cappy.

The Free Care Fund was initiated by The Pittsburgh Press in 1931 and later operated by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Editor's note: The writer is a retired public service director of The Pittsburgh Press and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A guiding light

Several years ago, early one afternoon, Tom Foerster called to tell me that the Lemington Home for the Aged was unable to pay its utility bills. He went on to say that if utility services could be continued for a brief period of time, he had a plan to save the home.

Later that afternoon, in his office, he formed a small committee. The committee was instructed to contact black churches, business people, lawyers, foundations and utility companies.

Following Tom's plan of action, a substantial amount of money was raised and placed in a trust fund. Again as he instructed, the income from the trust was used, and is being used, to help pay the home's operating and management annual costs.

The Lemington Home for the Aged is a viable nursing home for the aged. In addition, it now has a child day-care center. Tom Foerster was not only a great man and a caring politician, he was also a good businessman.


Editor's note: The writer is a retired chairman of Duquesne Light Co.

Keep Frick papers here

In 1879 Henry Clay Frick was approached by a good friend and neighbor, Benjamin Ruff. Mr. Ruff had quite an idea - to purchase an old canal reservoir a few miles upstream from Johnstown and create a new fishing and hunting club, which was all the rage at the time. Mr. Frick signed on, and in that year the infamous South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club was born.

For the next 10 years, the club owned a breathtaking lake and offered some of the finest scenery that Western Pennsylvania had to offer. The club's membership grew to include some of America's most powerful men. The club itself was a private affair, yet it found itself in the middle of one of the largest scandals of the late 19th century: the Johnstown Flood of May 31, 1889.

After a night of incredible rainfall, the club's dam burst, with more than 2,209 killed as a result. While Mr. Frick and his fellow club members were seen by many as responsible for the great flood, it is sometimes forgotten just how much these men helped in organizing the relief effort.

Much of Frick's relationship with the story of the 1889 flood and the South Fork Club is documented in the archival material stored at the Frick Art and Historical Center in Point Breeze.

To understand the post-Civil War industrial boom in Western Pennsylvania, one must understand Frick and his legacy. That legacy is shown not only through his beautiful home, but is also documented in the archival collection at the Frick Art and Historical Center. We cannot allow Mr. Frick's legacy to be forgotten, and we should not allow this archival collection to leave its Pittsburgh roots and move to New York.

1889 South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club Historical Preservation Society
St. Michael

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