Taking back democracy

I have taken our democracy for granted. I thought it was so indelibly a part of our American identity, something collectively shared and revered, that it would carry on for as long as required. I now know that democracy has been undermined and degraded for so long and weakened into something so unrecognizable as to now have the face of someone I need not mention.

I decided I owe some of my time trying to repair the damage done to our democracy and seek others who are forging a path towards that end, such as Fair Districts PA. This nonpartisan group seeks to undo the devastating effects of partisan gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, a state that is the most gerrymandered in the country, which explains the chronic gridlock in Harrisburg and the unaccountability of our legislators.

Fair Districts PA supports important current legislative bills, SB22 and HB722. These bills establish an independent citizens commission to redraw district lines. This commission would be free from partisan and financial influence and reflect the actual communities they designate. Its website is very informative and defines a plan of action.

There is also Open Primaries, another nonpartisan go-to for democratic restoration. In the 2016 presidential primary, 26.3 million voters were shut out of the process, simply because they didn’t choose between one of the two political parties. It turns out that 43 percent of the country now identifies itself as independent. Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, along with 11 other states. Open primaries is working to institute nonpartisan primaries. This allows all voters to participate, regardless of party affiliation, and simplifies the process with all candidates appearing on a single ballot, with the top two candidates advancing to the genera election, as introduced in Open Our Democracy Act.

With the combination of a closed primary and partisan gerrymandering, Pennsylvanians can expect 5 percent of the voters to decide who represents 100 percent of the state. This isn’t democracy, but like democracy, our work to repair it should be nonpartisan.

Stephanie Mayes
Wyndmoor

 

More free speech

In your editorial, “Have we reached the limits of free speech?”(June 8) you point out abuse by a comedian of our constitutionally guaranteed right of expression.

Yet you give a free pass to the Smack-talker-in-Chief, whose calumnies number inviting a foreign nation to criminally hack the emails of his political opponent (“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”) and attacking the judiciary, thus triggering death threats against a federal judge (“If something happens blame him and court system”) after the judge ruled against his travel ban.

When a longtime civil servant, a Director of the FBI, believes his only recourse against such a pernicious executive, his former boss, the now President-for-the-time-being, is to share publicly notes of the inappropriate private conversations initiated by the President, we begin to more fully understand how the concomitant constitutional guarantee of a free press is no less than crucial to maintaining our democracy.

Thank you for raising the First Amendment issue and please raise it again and again.

Brian Rudnick
Chestnut Hill

 

A suggestion for Pastorius Park dog owners

When we moved to Chestnut Hill in 2009, I went with my children to Pastorius Park often. We’d picnic, explore, catch toads, climb trees, and meet friends. It was one of our favorite places. Allergies keep us from having our own pets, so getting to watch dogs run and play was a delight, too.

Unfortunately, about four years ago or so, the number of dogs and the increasingly casual supervision of some owners made it an unsafe place to take the kids. Picnics were clearly impossible – too tempting for even the best-mannered dog – and my toddler started getting charged and knocked over by “friendly” dogs on every visit. Dogs were so far from their owners that there was no way to do a quick check-in about which ones might be safe and which ones might be more skittish, and they were in all areas of the park. We stopped going.

When I read about people being bitten by dogs at Pastorius, it confirmed that abandoning the park was the right decision in terms of safety. Still, we missed the park we experienced for the first few years we lived here, so when I then read that the leash laws would finally be enforced, I was glad – for a time. Keeping dogs on leash is much better for many people, but it’s a sad loss for the dogs.

A fenced-in dog park also seems like a poor compromise. The ones I’ve seen are so hard-used that they become an eyesore, which would be especially noticeable in a small park like Pastorius. And fenced-in runs don’t look nearly as fun for the dogs as a big wide area in which to run free.

I am hopeful that a better compromise can be found. Last weekend we visited Rye, N.Y., which has a Town Park that is very similar in feel and size to Pastorius. A few years ago the town came up with a system that made both human and dog visitors to the park happy and maintained the beauty of the park itself.

From 6-9 a.m. every day, dogs can be off-leash in a very large, defined section of Rye Park. Owners who want to use the park this way pay a $25 fee to register their dogs with the township. Dogs must be current on all shots to be registered, after which they get a special license for their collar. Any dog can visit on-leash at any time. Signs about the system are posted prominently in the park, and rangers visit every once in a while to check that all off-leash dogs are registered.

When we visited with our friends and their dog, the neighborhood dog owners we met seemed very happy with the system. They gently enforced community norms with new visitors (us!) in order to make sure this off-leash time with healthy playmates could be preserved for their pets. The final details would surely need adjustment and input from a wide range of those who use and love Pastorius, but perhaps something similar would work here.

Jordan Bastien
Chestnut Hill

 

Look out for deals that are too good to be true

I’m sure you’re painfully aware of the barrage of clipboard wielding individuals on the prowl to see your credit card processing bill, PECO bill, your phone bill, etc. – all with the intention of giving you a ”better” deal. As a small business owner on the Hill (Hideaway Music), I see them all the time.

Normally, I show them the door, but this time I fell for it. I’m telling you this so that you don’t make the same mistake I did. I am also telling you this to make sure you understand the kind of company you’re dealing with when you deal with Verizon

A month ago, a smooth, fast-talking Verizon representative offered me a deal that I couldn’t refuse. I was paying $125 a month for phone and internet from Comcast. Mr. Verizon offered the same deal for $79 –  including taxes and fees. (I got that in writing!) When I got my first bill, it was $91. Okay, so it’s only $12, and I’m still saving money. But that’s not the point. Every penny counts with a small business.

So I called Verizon and what they basically told me (after an hour and a half on the phone) was ”tough.” They weren’t going to honor the original deal. The original salesman also promised a $250 gift card (I stupidly didn’t get that in writing). Good luck getting that!

The Verizon field technicians and installers that I worked with were great. But as far as their business practices go, they should be ashamed of themselves.

My advice is, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. As a small business, we can’t afford to be ”taken” by the big guys. One last thought (thanks to TV’s Jeopardy): The name Verizon combines the Latin word veritas, meaning truth, with the word horizon.

Truth? They must be kidding!

Brian Reisman
Hideaway Music

 

Cute advertisement

Thank you to the Chestnut Hill Local for allowing local health care providers to advertise! I saw an ad by Dr. Dawn Cute, chiropractor. Her ad spoke to my issues. Within the last few years, a local physician’s assistant (at a specialty practice) told me, “There’s nothing I can do for you.” Sometime after that I headed into Center City to one of the big hospitals. I received a diagnosis, good care and some techniques to relieve my pain but continued to suffer.

Then I saw the ad in the Local and met Dr. Cute at her Andorra facility. She treated my pain and my spirit like no other. Dr. Cute has multiple techniques to treat and heal pain and evaluate the underlying issues that cause pain and dysfunction. Very importantly, she takes the time to talk, to listen and treat holistically. I am very grateful for her and to the Local for running the ad.

Claire Waxman
Lafayette Hill

 

 

  • Travis Gold

    Jordan, while I do not agree with everything you said (I still struggle to see how letting dogs play off-leash has become such a polarizing issue in Chestnut Hill), I respect that your experience has been different. More to the point, your idea is a pragmatic one that I could imagine working if the hours allowed for dogs were reasonable enough. I don’t know if any constructive conversation will come of this (I’m gritting my teeth waiting for the ad hominem attacks from whoever posts next) but thank you for trying to see both sides of this and offering an interesting possible solution.

    • Francis Pastorius

      Travis, you can stop gritting your teeth. First, has it been mentioned that dogs off leash is illegal in Philadelphia? (sarcasm)

      Despite your belief, or anyone’s belief that they should be able let their dog run off leash at Pastorius… it’s against the law for good reason.

      I want you, and everyone to pause and think about that.

      No really… think about it. Illegal. Are we arguing about? people’s right to break the law? If you want that law changed, talk to city hall.

      Without going into too much detail, what brought me here was that, this past weekend my 3 year old was KNOCKED INTO THE POND by an over zealous (but not violent) dog. It was not funny, although his owner laughed, as did others with off leash dogs. My son is now terrified of going to the park.

      Can you imagine, Travis, how infuriated this made me? As you read this… is it possible your opinion on off leash dogs will change? Or is this akin to me trying to blow an oncoming train out of the way?

  • Joseph

    Jordan, I think that your plan deserves merit. Many have suggested a dog enclosure – which i think is a terrible idea (but probably where this is all heading). The problem with an enclosure is that it attracts dog owners from everywhere. I lived next door to 2 different parks that ended up with dog enclosures and the traffic increased significantly as did the wear and tear on the parks.

    Having hours for dogs in the AM, when most are not using the park with their families etc. makes sense. This also seems to coordinate with when many dogs are already being walked.

    It also makes sense to require the dogs to have a permit / license as this will stem the people from Montgomery county (where there are ample parks) and other areas from over using Pastorius. Charging for the permit will allow the FOPP to pay for much needed repairs and upkeep to the park.

    Even with this plan though, there needs to be adequate policing of the park to ensure the rules are being followed. Anyone found in violation should be fined, because otherwise… people will continue to ignore the law.

    How do we make this happen?

    • Krista Ardito

      cameras?

  • Krista Ardito

    Jordan Bastien I LOVE that idea!!!! Let’s push for it!!!

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