Playing ball has its downside

Six years ago our family opened a business in Chestnut Hill called Herbiary (formerly The Apothecary Garden).  We feel very fortunate that the community has embraced our business and we have been able to grow our business even in challenging times.

While keeping up with current events in Chestnut Hill and seeing the infighting that takes place between the various acronyms (CHCA, CHBA, CHRA, etc.), I have bitten my tongue more than a few times.  As a business owner, I don’t want to offend or upset people who might patronize our little store.  But when I see an editorial in the local paper that talks about businesses who want to open without a variance having “virtually no motivation to play ball with the CHCA,”  [ “For Businesses, being a good neighbor is not necessarily a prerequisite,” March 22] I feel a need to speak up.

In Philadelphia, there are even more hurdles than in many other places with the archaic and confusing zoning code that regulates both what type of business can open in what area and what signage can be used.  Of course, these things can and should be regulated, but in Philadelphia it is a much more confusing process than it has to be.   While change is coming with a new zoning code, it will still be a challenging process to open a new business.

So, assuming a business owner does some homework and goes through the proper channels to get a use permit, sign permit, city tax ID to pay Business Privilege taxes, state ID to remit sales and payroll taxes, pay for workers’ compensation, insurance, and, of course, put money into developing whatever product or service he or she wants to offer, apparently that isn’t good enough around here.  To open in Chestnut Hill, the editor of the Local wants businesses to “play ball.”

With an attitude like that, people shouldn’t expect vacancies on the Avenue to disappear anytime soon.  Why would anyone open here when there are other communities who welcome businesses (and the jobs they bring) with open arms.  Determining what businesses open in the area should be clear in the zoning code itself, not in some arbitrary process of “playing ball.”

The community already has control over what businesses open in Chestnut Hill through the zoning code.  It also has  control through its wallets.  If you dislike the businesses that are opening, you can vote for change either through getting the zoning code changed or through not patronizing those businesses.

We have been fortunate to be a part of the community and continue to appreciate the wonderful people in Chestnut Hill who have adopted our store as their own.  Hopefully, other businesses will not pay attention to the editor of the Local and get the same opportunity and experience we have had.

Andrew Celwyn
East Falls

Racial profiling in Chestnut Hill

I recently got a call from a woman who identified herself as my neighbor and a member of neighborhood watch. She asked me whether I knew that there were “two black men” taking pictures of my house that morning. She said she had stopped a police car to report it, and had sent an email to the neighborhood watch list alerting others.

I am not on that list and so did not receive it, which was probably a good thing. I actually don’t know her name. Thankfully, the police had the good sense not to come onto our property and address the “black men.”

I was appalled. I told her that we were in the midst of a refinancing and that the two men were appraisers, who had our permission to photograph our house. I said I was sorry she came to the conclusion that she did based on race. She denied that.  She said it was the camera that raised her concerns. I would suggest that a man in a coat and tie with an iPad (the camera) and a clipboard, in broad daylight, is not a credible threat to our neighborhood.

I don’t have a quarrel with neighborhood watch, and I think that they play an important role.  But this behavior on the part of my neighbor is profiling. I hope that we can all draw lessons from the tragic story of Trayvon Martin and remember that good judgment and some basic humanity must underpin activism in neighborhood watch – in every neighborhood.

Pamela Laucks
Chestnut Hil

Thanks for the coverage of Pastor Ingram

Thank you to Lou Mancinelli for his March 22 article on my friend and colleague Pastor Andrena Ingram, who lives with HIV and speaks out about the disease. Over 25 years after HIV/AIDS first came to our national attention, it remains an epidemic marked by stigma and silence. But when has stigma or silence ever prevented or cured a disease?

The fact that HIV/AIDS has continued to spread over the past decades shows that it still has a powerful hold over us. We have not been able to deal with it in a way that serves our public health. This is probably because the behaviors that most frequently put one at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS involve sex and drugs, which are not easy subjects to talk about. But just because something might be uncomfortable doesn’t mean we ought to ignore it. This is as true in faith communities as it is in our households and other public and private settings.

I urge readers to study and support policies that help HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Yes, this means thinking and talking about behaviors that many people would rather not dwell on. But if two Lutheran ministers like Pastor Ingram and I can handle it and talk about it, then I’m not sure anyone else needs to be too squeamish.

After all, the point is to save and preserve lives. HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is a matter of public health in our commonwealth.

Pastor Martin Lohrmann
Christ Ascension Lutheran Church
Chestnut Hill

Church community is ‘heaven on earth’

Thank you for your article about the pastor of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, the Rev. Andrena Ingram (March 22 issue). As a member of the congregation and fellow recovering person, Pastor Ingram has helped me to feel a sense of trust in a pastor and in church that I have never had before. She inspires me to believe that “no matter how far down the ladder you have gone, your experience will benefit others (AA Promises).”

Her openness and vulnerability create a safe space for me and others to “come as you are,” as the banner says that hangs in front of our church. The diversity of people from different racial, educational and economic backgrounds, with stories of addiction and mental health issues right along side of those with doctoral degrees and American pie families creates a community that feels like a slice of heaven on earth.

All are valued equally and have a voice in co-creating our church life. Pastor Ingram’s leadership is at the heart of why our fledgling congregation, a church once on the brink of closing, has become a vibrant place to worship and a beacon of light in our community. This is what I have always been seeking in a church, and I am deeply grateful to have found it at St. Michael’s.

Kathryn Mariani
Mt. Airy

Slighted by a headline 

Please know the following is not about a grammar correction, but rather respect for an individual and the concept of social justice.  The heading of the March 22, 2012 Chestnut Hill Local Life section read “HIV-positive but an inspirational role model.”  Why the word “but” rather than “and”?  Would the paper write the same about a person with cancer (Pastor with breast cancer but an inspirational role model).  To use “but” implies a value judgment about Pastor Andrena Ingrams’ HIV status.  I read this heading ironically on the same day that I heard a nasty AIDS joke spoken by someone on Germantown Avenue.  I politely corrected the person and am doing the same here.  Such statements stand as verbal micro-aggressions  that are harmful for all.  Let’s work to be aware of how to support HIV positive individuals rather than inadvertently send out negative messages. Thanks.

Jeanne L. Stanley, Ph.D.
Chestnut hill