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Letters to the Editor, 6/17/02

Monday, June 17, 2002

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Forbes magazine, you're nuts: I'm 21 and I love Pittsburgh

I would like to respond to the Forbes magazine ranking of Pittsburgh as the worst city for young singles ("No Place to Be Single," June 8 Business). I think Forbes is way off on this.

Clearly they know nothing about this city, except for a few statistics about population and job growth (which are not necessarily any indication of what to expect in the future). They obviously do not realize how much culture and art there is in Pittsburgh. Unless the people who did the ranking personally visited and spent time in every city on the list, they cannot claim to really know what they are talking about.

I am 21 years old and I love it here. The fact that a lot of people over the age of 65 live here has no effect on my social life, nor does the fact that we have lost population. Besides, I think Forbes missed the fact that only a fairly small portion of the people who left last year were young, and that, in fact, half of them were over 65!

They also obviously are unaware that Pittsburgh added jobs last year even while most cities lost jobs, not to mention that Pittsburgh had more venture capital last year than Phoenix or Portland (which seems like a sign that we are getting startup companies here, which will mean jobs).

Forbes magazine was completely out of line in speaking badly of Pittsburgh without really knowing the city. Its claim that our cost of living is not low enough is clear evidence that they did not do proper research.

Stanton Heights

A tangled web

I marvel (no pun intended) at David Broder's gross exaggeration and mischaracterization of "Spider-Man," as being insensitive to the devastation of 9/11 ("A Creepy, Crawly Film," June 6).

I was certainly befuddled and bemused by his quirky prose that rambled on about hyperbolic distortions aimed at nothing more than an attempt to decimate a fictional iconic hero and defile the extraordinary efforts put forth by Columbia Pictures. Broder's intent to garner support from the public concerning alleged insensitivity to the surrealistic terrorist attacks of 9/11 and resulting devastation, some eight months plus, is a futile attempt toward undermining the monumentally successful collaboration of creator/writer/illustrator Stan Lee, et al.

Nevertheless, the movie is purely fictional, regardless of any similarities between events of 9/11 and its aftermath. The celluloid flick was marvelously depicted on screen. If there wasn't a disclaimer that was made prior to the viewing of the film or an apology after the film, I guess this may set the stage for lawsuits, but that's another story, one that Mr. Broder can scoop.


Make up your minds

Regarding your June 4 editorial "Locked Up: It's Too Late to Reverse Course on SCI Pittsburgh":

My husband has served as a corrections officer at SCI Pittsburgh for 11 years and I have become very involved with his union, the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officer Association. In my capacity as a union liaison, I testified May 29 in front of the state Senate Judiciary Committee on employee issues. It was obvious that some individuals had a difficult time comprehending the issue at hand.

The real issue brought to the attention of the senators on the Judiciary Committee was the inability of the Department of Corrections to make a decision concerning the closing of SCI Pittsburgh. The last four years have been a roller coaster ride for the employees. Now the department has extended it by another two years leaving us to still wonder, "Should we stay or should we go?" This is not a plan; it is a Band-Aid.

This issue is not about a longer commute for the employees. Understand that the employees displaced will be taking the revenue that we generate out of Allegheny County. We are also the hundreds of volunteers who fight your fires, deliver food to the elderly and coach your children's Little League teams. Since the well-being of the employees is not paramount, then maybe the PG editorial board should at least consider the effect overcrowding has on the safety of the inmates.

If the Department of Corrections is looking to save money, why doesn't it fire the statisticians who estimated this year's inmate population would drop by 288 when it has already increased by over 1,200 to date, not to mention the 1,700 parole absconder warrants outstanding? If the "Chester Arthur era" institution is so inefficient, then why has the Department of Corrections spent $100 million in taxpayer funds in upgrades and renovation over the last 20 years?

I find it absurd that someone would attack our elected officials from Allegheny County as they try to save a nationally accredited institution that need not be closed. I am grateful to those elected officials for taking the time to join us in our efforts in stopping the Department of Corrections from making what countless people believe would be a colossal mistake.


Reservoir saviors

With respect to the June 10 article about the new water filtration plant at the Highland Park Reservoir ("New Water Plant Triumph of Community Involvement"), I wanted to add to the list of people that ought to be thanked.

Aiding the wonderful work of the Highland Park Community Club and Project Leader David Hance was the great leadership of some other elected officials. Our state representative, Joe Preston, who is also chairman of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, played a critical role in the project. Of course, nothing like this could have been accomplished without the significant leadership and guidance of the mayor, Tom Murphy. He and his predecessor, Mayor Sophie Masloff, rejected the easy ways out. Their willingness to be creative in accomplishing a mutually agreeable plan made the entire project possible.

We in Highland Park, and I think all of the city's residents, should be proud of this project. It is an example of the good things that can be done when people of good will and ingenuity work together for the betterment of the community.

Highland Park

By rejecting real debate over drilling-rights auction, John Oliver invites suspicion

I am writing in regard to the June 10 letter from Andrew McElwaine, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council ("Secretary Oliver's Integrity Shouldn't Be Attacked Over Auction"). Leaders of nine other large corporate environmental groups also signed the letter. The message of the letter was basically in support of John Oliver, secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

It stated: "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 Secretary John Oliver."

First, I was one of those people who "attacked" Mr. Oliver, but I think this is a severely twisted way for Mr. McElwaine to look at the events. And, it was not just "some individuals." I represented the Pennsylvania Environmental Network; I am the immediate past president of that statewide grass-roots organization. We have been working in coalition with the Allegheny Defense Project, GreenWatch, the Sierra Club, Penn Future, the League of Conservation Voters and others to address the issues surrounding Mr. Oliver's plans to auction off of a half-million acres of publicly held land to the oil and gas industries for extraction.

Second, it was not Mr. McElwaine, the Audubon Society or the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy that forced the open debate on this complex issue. They sat quietly while others placed the pressure on Mr. Oliver and never called for a suspension of the auction so that open debate could happen. They were all too happy to see their friend Mr. Oliver ramrod the auction.

While I agree with Mr. McElwaine that open debate is healthy and welcome, the opportunity for that debate did not happen. We met on two occasions with Mr. Oliver about his plans and the lack of public input. It was his attitude that he was going to forge ahead with the plans, and that while he probably should have included the public in the discussion, his mind was made up.

We do applaud Mr. Oliver for postponing the auction, but we are not happy with the DCNR "dog and pony show" that was the outcome. The public is invited to come over a seven- or eight-hour period to hear what the DCNR is doing and to make comments one on one. But there is no opportunity for all to hear what anyone else has to say. It is not a "public meeting" and certainly not a hearing. This decision was made in secret over 18 months and a series of meetings with industry officials. No environmentalists were invited. No environmental impact statement was done. Even Mr. Oliver's own DCNR Environmental Advisory Board was not consulted. When the people who were left out of the decision-making process asked for a list of the industry "players," we were denied the information. We were told it was "policy," set in 1997 by Mr. Oliver himself. So, naturally, we decided it was worth looking at Mr. Oliver's interests in making policy that would keep information secret that should be public, especially when public lands are going to be taken.

I am not going to address in this letter all the reasons why our coalition thinks this auction is harmful to the environment. That debate is happening elsewhere, despite Mr. Oliver. I am not going to reiterate all the financial holdings Mr. Oliver has in big gas and oil companies. PG staff writer Don Hopey did an excellent job of noting that in the June 10 article "Mineral Auction a Done Deal." What I would like to point out is the lack of democracy, the decision, yet again, on environmental issues that are made at a table, behind closed doors, without the voices of the real environmental conservers.

The groups in our coalition have been working aggressively for many years and from many angles to protect the air, water, soil and pristine places that replenish the souls of our citizens. Our funding comes in large part from grass-roots memberships, not industry. And we are not dependent on "Growing Greener" grants offered by the state Department of Environmental Protection and DCNR. We should all be working together to protect our environment. Our agencies, DCNR and DEP, are not doing that, even though these protections of "public lands" are guaranteed in the Pennsylvania Constitution.

If Mr. Oliver thinks his integrity has been attacked, all he has to do is release the names of the industry groups he has been meeting with in secret. If he is untarnished, he has nothing to hide. These 500,000 acres belong to the people of this commonwealth.

Green Party Candidate
for Lieutenant Governor
Jersey Shore, Pa.

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