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Letters to the editor: 6/10/02

Monday, June 10, 2002

Secretary Oliver's integrity shouldn't be attacked over auction

We are writing with regard to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' recent proposed auction of oil and gas leases on state forest lands lying above a geologic formation known as the Trenton-Black River.

In particular, we applaud the department's decision to delay the auction pending further public comment, as well as the effort to hold public outreach and education forums. We hope that in the future the department will continue to seek public participation in major policy decisions such as the Trenton-Black River auction and will, over time, set in place long-range plans for the conservation of biological diversity on public land.

While an open debate on complex issues is healthy and welcome, we regret that some individuals used the Trenton-Black River auction to attack the integrity of department Secretary John Oliver.

Secretary Oliver's reputation for honesty needs little defense from us. His record of distinguished public service speaks for itself. He was a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. For 20 years he led the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy through a period of remarkable growth and accomplishment.

As the state's first and only Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources he has put his own unique stamp on that agency. His legacy includes both high ethical standards and intolerance for deceit or deception.

We look forward to a better understanding of the safeguards to be placed on oil and gas drilling in the state forest system through an open process of public participation.

Pennsylvania Environmental Council

Editor's note: This letter was signed also by R. John Dawes, executive director, Western Pennsylvania Watershed Protection Program; Cindy Dunn, executive director, Audubon Pennsylvania; Josh First, director, The Conservation Fund, Pennsylvania Office; Ron Freed, executive director, Pennsylvania Habitat Alliance; P. Randolph Gray, executive director, The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Chapter; Brian Hill, director, The French Creek Project; Walt Pomeroy, executive director, Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers; Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive officer, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy; and Noble Smith, director, Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement.

Living wage is no answer

Karen Christopher's June 3 letter ("Welfare Reform Has Not Been Successful in Relieving Poverty") is typical of the self-righteous, liberal left wing that feels an overwhelming need to try to solve the problems of the welfare class and to foist the burden onto society.

The living wage decision passed by City Council was the right one; you cannot legislate a higher standard of living. Raising wages will only push companies to find lower cost alternatives and locate in lower cost environments. An axiom of basic economics is that an increase in minimum wages increases unemployment.

In order for welfare reform to be successful, welfare recipients need to have accountability for themselves and their families. In other words, educate yourself before you have seven kids. Government bureaucrats and over-efficacious, self-serving sycophants who try to improve their own sense of self worth by "helping" the poor should focus more on themselves. If they want to help, make a donation.

Franklin Park

No absolute rights

I am writing in response to the May 16 letter "For 'the People' " written by Michael A. McGinnis in response to the May 14 editorial, "Trigger Happy." The letter writer falsely suggested that our constitutional rights, including those guaranteed by the amendments, are absolute rights.

In a collective society, the good of the whole must be assured. In a democracy, the majority makes decisions that affect every person; absolute freedom is not possible in a society in which the minority must abide by rules and laws that its members do not necessarily agree with. There are limits and restrictions on all our rights and in every sphere of our lives, both public and private.

Our right to bear arms is currently one of the most hotly debated topics because of the public safety issues that are connected to it. All of our constitutional rights are important, and while I agree with Mr. McGinnis that the amendments exist to "ensure that the federal government [does] not usurp the rights of the states or the people," the individual rights that are protected must never supersede the good of the whole, the right to life, liberty and protection of the estate of the people collectively.

Some Americans view the right to bear arms as a natural right, while others fear the destruction that irresponsible gun ownership brings upon our society at large.

When a particular personal freedom (even one protected by the Bill of Rights) poses a threat to the welfare of others, that right must be limited. And this happens.

Mr. McGinnis is ill-informed in his belief that no other amendment has yet to be reasonably limited by law. He states, "If we can have 'reasonable limitations' on the Second Amendment, why not have 'reasonable limitations' on the First Amendment or any other right guaranteed by the Constitution?"

There are limitations on other constitutional rights, including the First Amendment. Our right to free speech is restricted in instances when it could endanger the welfare of others. For example, we are not permitted to call out "fire!" in a crowded public space if, in fact, there is no fire, as this particular manifestation of free speech may create chaos or incite a riot that could threaten the life, liberty, happiness or personal property of others.

Squirrel Hill

Not law-abiding citizens

Tony Norman writes ("Too Many Neighborhoods Unable to Escape Cycle of Violence," June 4), "In those neighborhoods, there never seems to be a shortage of men eager to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms -- a prerogative that will help them violate the commandment against murder."

Would someone please tell Mr. Norman that existing gun laws are not enforced and that these eager men exercising their "right to bear arms" probably have never been or never will be law-abiding citizens that this Second Amendment was intended for. These "men" choose not to go to school and learn something, or to get a job.

Braddock Hills

Christians ignore the poor

In a June 1 letter ("Rights Are From God"), Allen Wakefield quotes presidential candidate Allen Keyes as saying that God gives all rights. One thing Mr. Wakefield overlooks is that social conservatives like Keyes also have discussed responsibilities.

The Rev. Billy Graham once stated that there are over 200 biblical verses about aiding the needy. These verses are routinely ignored by American Christians.

In my own life, I have contact ("face-to-face") with over 60 "Christians" four days each week, and every one is a Social Darwinist. I have also noticed that people whose views on theology, politics and social issues are opposite of the Christians (including Islamic militants) do assist the working poor.

Charles Darwin's largess was aimed at helping the poor improve their lot. In Luke Chapter 18, Jesus Christ tells a "rich young man" to "give all to the poor." In America, "Christians" who are not in poverty would rather be tortured to death in this life and tormented in Hades in the afterlife than obey that directive.


Patience and cooperation helped us after the storm

The macroburst that battered the Pittsburgh region during the evening of May 31 brought much pain and devastation to many local residents -- especially those in eastern Allegheny County. With the loss of a life and scores of injuries, this storm will go down as one of the most violent in local history.

We would like to thank our customers for their patience and cooperation as Duquesne Light's storm team worked through the weekend to repair extensive damage to our delivery system. In the hardest-hit areas, repair crews had to reconstruct the wires, poles and other large sections of our infrastructure. In the West Mifflin area alone, 24 poles were sheared off. In total, the storm damaged more than 200 of our power lines and 65 poles.

Providing major support to that restoration effort were crews that we brought in from neighboring utilities from Ohio, Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. We've provided similar assistance to many of these utilities in the past and always stand ready to help when needed. Similar support was provided by electric contractors we brought in, including Sargent Electric and tree-service companies, including Asplundh, Lewis and Nelson.

Local municipalities, police, firefighters and emergency personnel in the hardest-hit areas also played a critical role in our restoration efforts. For example, West Mifflin municipal workers and firefighters helped clear downed trees away from our equipment and set up portable lighting so work could safely continue around the clock.

We also appreciate the media's assistance in helping us to get storm-related information out to customers.

We're especially proud of the response of our employees -- both those on the front line and those behind the scenes -- who worked around the clock until all of our customers were back in service. Providing a safe, reliable and secure source of electricity at a fair price is the driving force behind our Back-to-Basics focus on Duquesne Light customers. Even storms like the one that tore through here on May 31 will never dampen that commitment.

Duquesne Light

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