It is not right to ‘bash’ union guys

“In your anger, do not sin” is in Psalm 4:4, and Paul quotes it in Ephesians 4:26.

I was angry reading how you bashed trade unionists as a result of your being bashed by a hurricane (“Important issues pondered in cold and dark,” Nov. 8). I understand how you reacted, but being understandable that you were hurt by the storm doesn’t make it right to bash people who had nothing to do with the storm. I don’t even find that understandable.

I was out helping others in that storm, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many other union brothers and sisters were also. I remember another Bible verse written by James (actually “Jacob,” I believe) — “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger… James 1:19.

God bless you!

Dan Homan



Mural work in Chestnut Hill was a great experience

I am so happy the Local was able to do an article about our recent public art project in Chestnut Hill.

The article inspired me to write this letter. I would like to reiterate my deep gratitude to the community for all their support. I live in Spring Garden and even though I direct a citywide program, I have had surprisingly little interaction with Chestnut Hill – we have gotten close in that Mt Airy is building quite a collection of outdoor art – but this was a new and very positive experience.

From the support and vision of Karen Boyd to the generosity and tenacity of Richard Snowden, as well as other business leaders, residents and passersby, the support was much more than I had anticipated. I too became enthralled and loved driving up to watch people watch Ann painting the mural with such passion and intent.

One day in fact, about 25 people were watching her work and when she turned around they broke out in spontaneous applause. Moments like this make me love our city even more. But there is one aspect of this mural I want to underscore. This was a total community endeavor in that the community raised the funds for the project. And while Mural Arts was able, as we always do, to contribute many in-kind things, we could not have done the mural without people’s support – both in terms of finances and time.

Karen gave us a great start because she had been raising money for years. But it was really Bowman Properties, with it’s larger gift which was catalytic to the fundraising process, and the Bowman employees who helped smooth the way for Ann and our project manager and provided a beautiful community reception after the dedication. I thank them and the BID with Seth Shapiro who followed suit with fundraising and the residents from the area who closed the gap.

There is a term being used around the country now that I mentioned at the dedication, the phrase is “social practice.” It is used by curators, academics, and artists and means that the process of creating the work has equal value to the object itself and that what happens afterwards has equal value. Many fascinating public art projects are being created with this idea in mind.

Speaking with curators a few weeks ago about our newer projects they indicated that a project like the Chestnut Hill mural as well as other projects we are doing certainly fall under this category, and they felt we should be proud of this exemplary practice. I am proud of that. We have come a long way since the early days of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network.

But I am prouder still of the connections we have made with community members over the years and certainly this project was no different. The momentum around this project that was sparked and stirred by Karen Boyd, Richard Snowden, Seth Shapiro, Bill Valerio, our curatorial panel and others, was palpable – your community opened the door so we could do the work.

Sometimes inspiring things occur because we decide to put aside our differences and work together for the greater good and in our case, something truly beautiful, inspiring and long-lasting was the result. In a world where sometimes there is not enough beauty, this was a glorious moment.

Thank you so much Chestnut Hill!

Jane Golden

Executive Director

Philadelphia Mural Arts


If we didn’t have unions we would have to invent them

Several statements in the Nov. 8 Local article about the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy are inaccurate.

The headline (page 17) that “Fortunately, PECO guys are not trade unionists,” is incorrect. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represents linemen and others.

The assertion that union and city workers could not clean up after Sandy is flip, belittling and makes no sense. If PECO employed enough workers to clean up after a hurricane our electric rates would be astronomical. It is efficient for out-of-town crews to help during disasters.

PECO workers restored our power within two hours and called three times with updates. I know not everyone was so fortunate, but electrical and tree work is dangerous and takes time.

In normal circumstances city employees also do a good job given limited resources. Whenever a tree blocks a street in my neighborhood (East Mt. Airy) or garbage is dumped, workers come within a day or two to clean up.

The article played into the now often-heard bias that working people and unions are the cause of societal dysfunction. This analysis is superficial and stops us from looking at deeper causes, including infrastructure disrepair and the debilitating U.S. wealth gap (75 percent of wealth is owned by 10 percent of the population).

While every organization, including unions, has problems, there are uncountable, but sadly often forgotten union accomplishments that help society: Unions helped end child labor, improved consumer and work-place safety, gave us living wages, fought for rights we all value and made it possible for many of us to rise to the middle class. Unions helped democratize the country by organizing people to help themselves – be it for healthcare, 40-hour workweeks or representation.

Antje Mattheus



Union remarks unwarranted

It was unfortunate that Len Lear was without power for 50 hours. But given that so many people lost so much more for so much longer – like my niece on Long Island (11 days) – while others lost houses, cars and their lives, his was a very small price to pay, let alone to devote all that space to.

But it was his disparaging remarks about trade unionists and city workers with which I took umbrage. As a former shop steward for Local 2187, AFSCME, I saw city workers up close. Of course, I saw those who just took their pay for a non-productive day. But what group of people anywhere does not have its share of maladroits?

Please don’t tell me journalism is excluded. So to castigate city workers and trade unionists with such demeaning remarks, as did Mr. Lear, was beyond the pale. Does he think the utility workers of whom he spoke so highly, and deservedly so, are non-union?

One would hope that in the future he would put his fertile mind and the space he has to share it publicly in a more uplifting manner.

Lawrence H. Geller



Laugh, sigh over hurricane article

Just a short note to tell you how much I enjoyed your article in the Local this week (“Important issues pondered in cold and dark last week,” by Len Lear, Nov. 8). It made me laugh, sigh, ponder and almost shed a tear. The style of writing speaks to me. When I read the part about the storm edibles, I asked myself, “What would he have done had he been out of power for 150 hours?” It is my belief that we are in store for more bad weather in the near future. Please stock up with imperishable foods. I don’t want anything to stop those articles from coming.

Betsy Thompson



‘We have our hospital back’

Two recent, and one not so recent, events prompt me to recount them for readers of the Local.

The first is to comment on my tour of Chestnut Hill Hospital’s new ER, ICU and surgical suites: absolute “state of the art.” The ER, with its private cubicles, equipped with emergency apparatuses and arranged in what CHH’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Scanlon, calls “the racetrack configuration” (central staff area with rooms around entire perimeter), facilitates staff access while providing privacy and comfort.

The ICU is similarly arranged, except that a nurse workstation situated directly between each pair of rooms provides direct observation and care on a one–nurse-to-two-patient ratio. And, for the record, CHH’s own Dr. William McClenahan received a special award from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for his initiative in establishing the first hospital intensive care unit in America!

The second prompt was Barbara Sherf’s letter in the last issue of the Local, recounting a very favorable ER experience. And the third was my own experience of a few years ago. Having suffered a previous TIA (transient ischemic attack, or “little stroke”), I was well aware of what was happening upon the recurrence of sudden loss of strength and a feeling of weightlessness in my right leg. With my wife, Lynn, at the wheel, we motored to a nearby community hospital, which had been certified as a “Primary Stroke Center.”

At the ER we gave information to the receptionist that I was experiencing stroke symptoms. We then spent nearly one (yes, 1) hour waiting to be seen. The rest of the work-up and subsequent admission for overnight observation was by the book, and fortunately, all was well.

However, a subsequent TIA led us to the Chestnut Hill Hospital ER, where we were directed immediately to a treatment cubicle and just as immediately worked up with physical blood tests, CT and neurological consult, providing a marked contrast to the above.

Today, with its own certification as a Primary Stroke Center, CHH is geared to even more rapid and definitive diagnosis and treatment. Upon admission to ER, a “stroke alert” goes out to the appropriate team to provide all of the above on an expedited basis, with the addition of a face-to-face consultation with a Jefferson Neurologist, via “Jeffy,” a robot linked directly to Jeff. Both Penn and Temple Cardiology are present on site, and an affiliation with Temple Orthopedics is pending.

So why bother to publicize all this? Simple. It’s no secret that we as a community have gone through a period in which our confidence in Chestnut Hill Hospital was tested by changes in governance, staff morale and facilities that were visibly deteriorating. The state of the hospital today is vastly and palpably improved, not only in facilities but also in the notably high morale of all (from front door to OR) personnel.

This enthusiasm for top-level performance is validated by the Joint Commission on Accreditation’s recent report card citing the hospital as a “Top Performer” (among 4 percent nationally) on Key Quality Measures two years running. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the energy and vision and dedication of its administration and governance.

I think we have our hospital back.

Burton A. Fleming, M.D.

Chestnut Hill

Ed. note: Dr. Fleming is a retired psychiatrist and former Chestnut Hill Hospital staff member as well as the first medical director of the Horsham Clinic.


A miracle on Germantown Ave

I boarded the 23 bus at the Chestnut Hill newsstand at about 7:45 a.m., having just left the physical therapy practice at the top of the hill. I had that week’s Local fresh from the newsstand. I was taking a short ride to Allens Lane, near my home.

After getting off at my stop, planning to go into the Wawa for some forbidden goodies, I reached into my side pocket to get my wallet. I realized it was not there. I looked for the bus, but it was quickly heading up the hill towards Mt. Pleasant Avenue on its way to downtown Philadelphia. I thought, “Oh no. There goes my wallet, I.D. and recently withdrawn handful of twenties.” I assumed it was gone forever.

When I got home I called my wife to share my loss with her, hoping that she could be of some help (long distance from her job in Horsham.) She called the Chestnut Hill Community Association to see if she could get a number for the newsstand, then SEPTA to see if there was possibly a lost and found. Neither effort led to any promise.

I needed to cancel and reorder a bank card from Citizens Bank. Later that day, my friend took a break from his work and drove me to the bank. After completing the transaction in the bank, I was prepared to take the bus home, for the second time that day.

Leaving the bank I saw a bus. I tried to run to get it, but I missed it. The next bus came by in around ten minutes. When I got on that bus, I recognized the driver as the same one earlier. I looked over in dismay at the seat I had occupied earlier, the first seat facing the front. Lo and behold! I could see a slight view of my wallet jammed between the seat and the outer sidewall of the bus.

I grabbed it! Everything was there – the cards and the cash. I could not believe that the wallet rode downtown and back at least twice without being seen. My father, who is now deceased over twenty years, used to ride the 23 trolley back and forth from Chestnut Hill to South Philly as a daily routine. I thought that maybe he was looking out for me and had somehow concealed the wallet until I was able to get back to find it! Thanks, Dad. There is no other better explanation.

Frank Root

Mt. Airy