We’re all only customers in Chestnut Hill

Many denizens of the Hill remember, I am certain, the little Gemeinschaft that the Hill once was. True, there was some exclusion, but both the denizens of the West and of the East had most of their existential needs satisfied by the small shops and restaurants on the Avenue. Shopping, dining out, was facilitated by the availability of several parking lots on both sides of the Avenue.

Parking operated under a barter system that can be classified as “community serving community.” Free parking was granted in exchange for patronizing the various merchants serving the community. And this civilized system served the community for many years.

But the little Gemeinschaft on the Hill has changed. Jean Baptiste A. Karr was wrong; he observed that “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose .” Change is real. It is discontinuity without continuity.

Change did first occur when the system of “community serving community” regarding the usage of the parking lots was replaced with the offensive externality known as the “PA Kiosk Alternative.” Parking on most of the lots on the Hill changed into a legal cash transaction with a municipal agency. The old little Gemeinschaft opened its doors to municipal supervision in an area that had been for so long a community affair.

The citizens of the Hill had to absorb the new expense of shopping on the Hill, particularly when going out to dinner if they parked their cars on lots with kiosks. And the relationship between Hill residents and merchants changed.

And recently, another event reflects the continuing un-community like change on the Hill. On a particular parking lot, more than a dozen parking spaces are now reserved for a particular business. One cannot miss the vertical metal signs indicating reserved for the staff and for customers of that business. So, the new thing on the Hill is the reservation of parking spaces. For business, not for Hill residents. When I drive by in search of a parking space and see those reserved signs – with or without parked cars – I miss the old little Gemeinshaft on the Hill.

Jean Baptiste Karr was wrong. Living conditions do change. They do not stay the same. The “community serving the community” is a thing of the past. Today the new system is “business serving business.” There are no denizens. There are only customers.

The consequence is that, unfortunately, the malls are now a more attractive alternative to shopping on the Hill. Except for people with disabilities, there are no reserved parking spots. And some malls even have high quality restaurants.

Diamantino P. Machado

Chestnut Hill


Give us more data

I am visiting my niece, It is May 24, 2014 ­– and I have just finished reading your lead story on the Philadelphia schools ­– a subject that I am not unfamiliar with. My niece attended city schools as did her brother. And, their mother taught in the city schools – but chose to leave to teach in Virginia – primarily because of terrible school management.

So, I have read your article, which left me thinking it is just another “she says, he says” story – an annual tale about school funding. As a newspaper, you have a responsibility to go beyond such reporting. At the very least, you should provide your readers with tools that they can use to better understand how their schools are operated – so they can make well-founded discussions with school and city officials.

I saw no figures about total levels of school funding and how it might fare in the next school budget year. Beyond the basics, however, there is a great need for you to illuminate the finances and practices of the Philadelphia school system. Follow the money. Tell people how funds are spent and wasted.

To foster an informed public discussion, provide your readers with some comparisons with other school systems outside of Pennsylvania. And provide basic data on school systems operations: ratio of non-teaching public school employees to total student enrollment; ratio of teachers to total student enrollment. How has this changed over time?

As one tool for making comparisons on operational efficiency of Philadelphia schools, you might look at the school budget of Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. Its budget is online in fine detail. It could be quite insightful. Fairfax County schools face the same challenges as the City of Philadelphia in terms of serving lots of students from lower income families, tons of immigrant students, learning challenged students – as well as everyday problems that schools routinely face.

For budget details, test scores, curricula, grading practices, etc., see: www.fcps.edu/index.shtml

Give your readers some real data to use!

Mark H. Crawford

Annandale, Virgina


Keep ads off of libraries

I’m writing to argue about allowing advertisements on library buildings. My family thinks it’s unfair to have signs about restaurants, advertising products, or advertising of any kind on such a beautiful building such as a library. I’m only 10 years old, and I love to read. The library is a place I go to relax.

Who would want to even go to a building with advertising written all over it anyway? I have a good reason to argu, because libraries are a home to adventures and fairytales. Don’t we have advertising on enough? Or do we still need more? Humans are ruining everything with our man-made products. Libraries are supposed to be welcoming and kind. What’s welcoming about a sign for eating at McDonald’s?

You tell me. I love our public libraries, such as Lovett and Chesnut Hill. I don’t want to go to the library just to see millions of signs everywhere. The librariess are just fine without them. Who would even be dumb enough to buy the things they put up anyway? It is a bad idea to allow this here, and I hope you will take this into consideration.

Bernie Mattson

Chestut Hill


Here’s to Frank Salemno

It was an honor and a pleasure to get a haircut from Frank Salemno. He is truly missed and may he rest in peace. But be careful who you slap on the head up there, Frank. Don’t want to get the big guy irritated.

Tom Hemphill

Chestnut Hill