R8 preservation depends upon budget deal

Mt. Airy Times-Express and Germantown Courier, August 6, 2003 The R8 Chestnut Hill West Train is still in danger. Although the recently approved SEPTA budget for the current fiscal does not eliminate the R8, further cuts are likely if SEPTA does not receive substantial additional funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Moreover, the new budget calls for severe cuts in services on R8 line, beginning in September. About Half all R8 Chestnut Hill West trains will be eliminated. SEPTA proposes to cut off-peak, weekday service on the line from twice an hour to once an hour. Inbound rains to Center City will run only once an hour beginning at 9:11 am. Outbound trains from Center City will run only once an hour except between 4:17 and 6:33 pm. Moreover, on weekends, trains will run only once every ninety minutes. The Northwest Campaign for Public Transportation believes that these cuts are, … Continue reading

SEPTA and Snidely Whiplash

Published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 2003 The villain in this transit drama could be state officials or the “heroine.” Philadelphia-area residents are watching the theatrical melodrama “Saving SEPTA, 2003,” and Act IV has begun. The scene is set in Harrisburg, with Gov. Rendell, House Speaker John Perzel (R., Phila.), and Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill (R., Lebanon) in starring roles. Perched at the edge of our seats, we are waiting to see whether these three characters will redeem themselves, rescuing our flawed heroine, SEPTA, and saving the communities she serves. Act I began when the trio threatened our heroine by passing a budget that cut appropriations by $11 million. We were left wondering whether Rendell, Perzel and Brightbill were black-caped villains who wanted to force workers, widows and children from jobs and schools accessible only by public transit. Or were they good men who, in a moment reminiscent … Continue reading

The R8: We are not out of the woods, yet

Chestnut Hill Local, July 3, 2003 Everyone in Northwest Philadelphia took a deep breath on hearing that SEPTA was proposing a new budget that did not call for the discontinuation of either the R8 train or the C bus. There is no doubt the effort of so many citizens in Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Germantown, and East Falls to petition and lobby for our train and bus lines had much to do with this decision. The efforts of our political leaders—State Senator Schwartz, State Representatives Washington and Myers, and Council members Miller and Nutter—to lobby for our train and bus lines should be commended as well. Yet before we get carried away congratulating ourselves, we need to read the fine print of SEPTA’s new budget. To look at it closely is to see that we are not out of the woods yet. The threat to the R8 remains extremely serious … Continue reading

Why we may have to fight

It is not easy for those of us who came of age politically during the Vietnam War to support any war, let alone one that does not respond to an imminent threat to our country. We know that war is horrible, even for the victors. And we distrust those who tell us that war is necessary, especially when we can see alternatives. These are healthy instincts. They account for the opposition of many people to President Bush’s determination of go to war against Iraq in order to disarm Saddam Hussein. But even our best political instincts have to be checked against the truth of the situation we face. Unless Saddam changes direction and agrees to disarm, war is likely to be the best response to our situation. What are the alternatives to war? The first is deterrence. We can prevent Saddam from using weapons of mass destruction to pursue his … Continue reading

Misunderstandings abound in Cecilian Village project

Chestnut Hill Local, January 18, 2003 The dispute over the Sisters of St. Joseph’s (SSJ) proposal to place 49 units of low-income senior housing in the historic Pelham district of Mt. Airy has, as it should, generated a great deal of debate in this papers’ letters columns as well as in many private discussions. But along with reasoned argument and debate have come some serious mistakes and misimpressions about what is at issue in this dispute. I would like to correct one of them here. The most serious—and indeed appalling—charge that has been made in this debate is that WMAN is acting to protect the interests of well-off and mostly white homeowners who fear that the proposed project will bring low-income and mostly black senior citizens into their midst. This claim has been a sub-text in some letters to the editor that have recently published. And we have heard reports … Continue reading

A new supermarket for Mt. Airy

Mt. Airy Times-Express, May 9, 2001  A New Supermarket for Mt. Airy Position Paper on the Proposal for a New Acme Supermarket In Our Community  West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN),  Mt. Airy USA, (MAUSA), South Mt. Airy Task Force (SMATF)  Mt. Airy needs and deserves a new, first-class supermarket. Why? A supermarket in our community is a necessity for neighborhood residents, especially those who come to the existing Acme on foot or by bus. Mt. Airy has the buying power to support a new first-class supermarket.  Today, a majority of Mt. Airy residents do their grocery shopping elsewhere—often outside the city—where they have access to new stores that, unlike the current Acme in Mt. Airy, are clean, well-designed, stocked with fresh food, staffed by trained, courteous employees, and able to provide many of the services found in the best contemporary supermarkets. Not only will a new first-class supermarket be a much … Continue reading

Lani Guinier and American political principles

The withdrawal of the nomination of Lani Guinier to be assistant attorney general for civil rights is a sad reflection on the skills of the members of the White House staff who failed to either foresee or prepare for the onslaught against her. It is an even sadder reflection on the unprincipled opportunism and, in  some cases, hypocrisy and demagoguery, of her opponents, who grossly misrepresented her record. The saddest part of the whole affair, however, is that we will not see the issues raised by the nomination of Professor Guinier debated in front of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate. Such a debate would have provided an extraordinary opportunity for public education on the principles of American politics. And it would, I think, have shown us that it is not Professor Guinier, but her opponents, whose arguments betray a striking misunderstanding of the constitutional, political and moral traditions of … Continue reading

How to fight the politics of racism

The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 20, 1990 Racism is widely–and rightly–thought to have been a major factor in Jesse Helms’s victory over Harvey Gantt in the North Carolina Senate race. But the way in which racism was important is rather different than commonly understood. Many white voters were encouraged to come to the polls by the racially tinged Helms campaign. But few people voted against Gantt just because he is an African American. Most of the voters in North Carolina who are influenced by racial considerations would probably not vote for any liberal democrat, black or white. Indeed, exit polls show that Gantt won 35% of the white vote. This is only a few percentage points less than white candidates such as Jim Hunt received in his 1984 race against Helms or Bob Jordan attained in his unsuccessful race against Governor Jim Martin in 1989. The real damage that racism did in … Continue reading