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Letters to the editor

Friday, October 20, 2000

When it comes to lying, voters should take a look at themselves

There has been a lot of criticism of Vice President Al Gore for exaggerating or even lying to us. Many people are basing their decisions about the election on this issue of credibility. I would never say lies the candidates tell us are unimportant, but I think the lies we tell ourselves are more serious.

We demand that the candidates come up with solutions to the health-care problems in this country, but we lie to ourselves when we refuse to admit that there are only two ways to provide universal health care for all our people. We can mandate that all employers provide health care, with the government providing for the unemployed. Or we can have the government provide it and pay for it with our taxes. There is no viable alternative that covers everyone.

The market doesn't work in this area. It hasn't worked in the last 50 years, and it never will. We can't pretend that tax credits and tinkering around the edges of our system will fix it, which is all we allow our candidates to propose.

And if you think either of the presidential candidates can fix the educational system in this country, you are lying to yourself again. As long as we insist that the federal government stay out of the financing and the control, it will never get any better. None of those countries that outscore us on tests relies on local control or vouchers.

By the way, if we're counting lies told by the candidates, then George W. Bush told us a whopper. In the first debate he said Mr. Gore had outspent him in the campaign. That's a lie. Mr. Bush has spent more than $100 million in the primary and general election campaigns. That is more than any presidential candidate in history. And if you think your priorities will be more important to him than the priorities of the people who gave him that $100 million, you're lying to yourselves again.


The big picture

While the issues of gun control, abortion, capital punishment and the environment are important and must be considered, we have to look at the big picture in this year's presidential election. How will our next president be part of the system of checks and balances with the Congress? How will he affect foreign policy? How might he change the makeup of the Supreme Court?

Don't get hung up on single issues, because many of them come in the form of campaign promises, which are nothing more than that. On the county level, Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey promised to cut property taxes by 10 percent. Look what happened ("Roddey Regrets He Can't Cut Tax," Oct. 18)!


Doesn't work that way

Larry Erlich makes an interesting statement -- "No gun, no one would be dead" -- in his Oct. 17 letter ("Dead Because of Guns"). Shouldn't we use that thinking in other situations? No knives, no stabbing deaths. No alcohol, no drunken driving deaths. No drugs, no drug overdose deaths. Wait, we already have illegal drugs. Hmm -- how is that supposed to work?


Pay more for poor service?

Recently I noted that the Port Authority intends to increase fares for public transportation ("Bus Fare Will Rise, But How Much?" Oct. 14). I would be against any increase in fares.

First, the Port Authority should focus on increasing the quality of service on the existing routes. Frequently buses are not on schedule. My experience is that only one in four drivers calls any streets or stops. Many are discourteous.

Last month my wife and infant daughter were denied access by a driver who had pulled up to the red light at an intersection. The bus was only 15 feet from the regular stop, where many of the drivers end up stopping anyway. But as the driver looked at my wife, not even opening the door, he mouthed the word, "tough," through the glass and pulled away.

Having observed Port Authority buses regularly running the red light at the corner of Bayard and Craig streets, my family and I have learned to be very cautious. I was nearly hit by a bus running that light while I was standing in the crosswalk.

I have witnessed drivers not waiting for elderly passengers to be safely seated before accelerating. Poor service from surly bus drivers who lack basic courtesy has little chance of encouraging the public to use the buses, much less pay more.


Purposeful parents

As the proud mother of a test-tube first-grader -- although, oddly enough, I am neither a yuppie nor an athlete -- I have learned to brace myself when stories of other IVF children hit the various media. Sally Kalson's column "Will Designer Genes Ever Fit All?" (Oct. 4) prompts this letter.

All parents who conceive their children through technological means -- whether they include lifesaving as one of their motives or not -- are purposeful parents. These are children we not only wanted very much to have, but also went through hell to have. The same can be said of adoptive parents, who in many cases endure two hells in a row: the first of technology, the second of time and attenuated hopes.

Children of purposeful parents are never afterthoughts, accidents or mistakes. For some reason, this disturbs people. This is why our motives are called into question.

It is good and necessary for a society to be ethically conscious, and I applaud questioning and debate about all technologies, including medical ones, for their effects. Some aspects of genetic technology frighten me, as the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. What I do not appreciate is, what seemed to me to be, an extended analysis of the motives of people who want to have children.

Yes, parents who conceive by IVF have motives. So do the parents who want a boy after four girls to carry on the family name or inherit the farm, or a girl after four boys to win the beauty pageant in which Mom was a runner-up 10 years ago. If you eliminate all possible motives on the part of parents, you ask that all children be unwanted, be complete accidents, conceived with no thought of the future. This is not particularly good for society, either.

Ms. Kalson writes: "Of course, there's always the ghoulish prospect of people growing embryos for replacement parts . . . for themselves in a bid for immortality." I submit that a necessary component of all human reproduction, no matter how it is achieved, is "a bid for immortality." Some of us simply have to bid higher than others.

Squirrel Hill

Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission has a responsible plan for the region

I am writing in response to the Oct. 11 Midweek Perspectives piece by Court Gould, director of Sustainable Pittsburgh ("A Plea for Regional Leadership"). Mr. Gould asserts that the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission has not considered land usage in the development of its short- and long-range plans. Those assertions and others argued by Mr. Gould are false.

SPC began the development of the 2025 Transportation and Development Plan three years ago. We began that effort by involving 10 task forces representing the diverse interests of our region and expanded it to include the creation of local public participation panels in each county.

Those efforts culminated in extensive public input and comment. Local citizens, local government, economic development professionals, transit providers, state and federal agencies and conservation interests all participated.

Combined, they represent the collective talent of our entire region in its ability to plan and program transportation funding with economic development projects and realize the biggest bang for the buck for the people of our region.

"Sustainability" is not a new concept for SPC. Whether it's called "sustainability," "growth management," "smart growth" or "quality neighborhoods," SPC has dealt with these issues in a regional manner for years through special corridor studies, pedestrian/bicycle studies and long-range planning. From Waynesburg to Pittsburgh and Kittanning to Cranberry, our planning process has led to frank, open discourse and the conclusion that basic philosophies on this issue differ greatly throughout the region.

Our plan is the culmination of the collective expertise, needs and cooperation of an entire region. The plan cannot reflect the view of one particular organization or interest group, but must reflect a consensus of regional views that is workable. The adopted 2025 Transportation and Development Plan incorporates a regional vision of our area that is realistic and financially deliverable, as required by federal law.

SPC serves as southwestern Pennsylvania's official forum for regional collaboration, planning and public decision-making. It's the meeting ground for our diverse regional interests and serves as a catalyst for regional cooperation. Our 25-year transportation plan and economic development efforts combine to nearly double our region's growth expectation over the next few decades. Without our plan, our region is forecasting 8 percent growth. With our plan, growth expectations double to nearly 16 percent.

As a result of our diverse regional interests and needs, it is impossible for our plan to be universally accepted. For some, it will never go far enough. For others, it will always go too far. But to say we lack a plan, a planning process or that our regional process doesn't involve land use considerations shows a true lack of regional understanding.

Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

Editor's note: The writer also is chairman of the Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners.

It's never OK to get

behind the wheel

once impairment starts

The Oct. 9 editorial "Immoderate Move" is another irresponsible Post-Gazette commentary bemoaning the "loss" of social drinkers' rights.

The new 0.08 blood alcohol concentration law does not attack social drinking; it addresses drinking and subsequent anti-social driving.

The editors seem to miss the fact that social drinkers need not stop drinking: just don't drive once your BAC reaches 0.08 or above. Any drinker (social or "hardened drunk") starts to become impaired for driving at that BAC. Pretty simple, huh?


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