Archive: March, 2013
Like their owners, too many pets are obese. A recent survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats were overweight or obese. As with humans, improper diet and lack of exercise largely are to blame for this epidemic of excess.
Owners of overweight pets can help their pets achieve a healthier lifestyle by making better food choices and adding daily exercise to their routines. Walks, runs, or play times are good. But for dogs and cats in shelters, these simple changes can be extremely difficult to implement.
Shelter staff do their best, but lack resources to hire sufficient help. National animal groups give shelters little of what they raise - just 1 percent in the case of the Humane Society of the United States. So, by dropping off a bag of healthy food, volunteering to walk dogs, play with cats, or simply donating to a local animal shelter, donors and volunteers can make sure that homeless dogs and cats stay healthy while awaiting adoption.
Sometimes the old ways had meaning that, sadly, is being lost in our increasingly genderless world ("On further review, girl can play," March 15).
We used to teach boys to honor the strengths, and protect the inherent differences in girls. We raised men who shielded their wives and daughters from the particular harm that can come to a woman because of her physical and emotional differences - not because she was weak, but because she was differently made and wired.
Allowing a young girl into the rough and tumble battle mind-set of football only reinforces to boys that they do not need to take particular care of women, but are allowed to knock her down on a football field and be rewarded for it. Is this really what we want our boys to learn about life? Do we want husbands and life partners who have no sense of respect for a woman's physical and emotional differences? The archdiocese's decision is not a step forward at all.
Imagine that a choice must be made among six massive development proposals, ranging from $400 million to $900 million in capital investment. The agency charged with this important decision has no urban redevelopment experience, has not engaged consultants in the fields of architecture and planning, and is not accountable to the city in which the development will take place. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, that is the situation with the state Gaming Control Board in its second effort to pick a casino site for Philadelphia. Things did not go well the last time, and the board appears to have learned little from the experience - if the highly variable quality and generally unclear architectural presentations of the casino license applicants, who followed the board's vague and incomplete requirements, are any indication.
Now is the time to enhance the design requirements that applicants must meet to ensure this project makes a positive contribution to the redevelopment of the city. The gaming board needs to obtain advice from qualified design and planning experts, and it must recognize that it is in the urban-development business, as well as the casino-management business.
Philadelphians are counting on culture to fuel our economy, educate children, generate tax revenue, and build our quality of life. Yet, we have slashed the Cultural Fund budget in half from $3.2 million in 2010 to $1.6 million today. That means we invest just $1 per year per citizen.
So the fund is making nearly impossible decisions on funding ("Cultural Fund awards 244 grants: Friction emerges over handling of W. Phila. group," March 7). It's basic math: with less to go around every year, many vital community cultural programs no longer make the cut.
Over the last 20 years, City Council has been smart to invest in arts and culture, since the region's cultural sector provides 44,000 jobs, and returns $3.3 billion in yearly economic impact and $169 million in taxes. But while vital to our economy, arts and culture organizations are vulnerable. Attendance rose 5 percent during the recession, but this couldn't make up for much deeper cuts in government and corporate support.
As unions are under fire from every corner of the Republican Party, and with governors pushing for right-to-work laws that translate to lower-paying jobs with fewer benefits, union members have been called goon thugs, and worse. Unfortunately, with their disruption of Mayor Nutter's budget speech, municipal workers fell into anti-unionists' trap. By refusing to let the mayor speak, they did nothing to advance their grievances and, instead, suffered a setback in the public eye.
Unions should be noted for negotiating fair and equitable contracts, not for bullying their opposition into doing what they want. At a time when the GOP is trying to cut everything but money for the rich, we union supporters need to work together to preserve the middle-class. It would behove unions to compromise, regroup, and fight another day when the economy is stronger.
- Ron Costello, Warminster
The opening this month of six centers offering free, one-on-one financial counseling to low-income individuals and families comes at a critical time for Philadelphia, a city with high poverty and persistent unemployment. Thanks to a $3.3 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project — one of only five in the nation — these centers will help individuals map a pathway out of poverty. The aim is to increase financial stability by boosting income, decreasing debt, and improving access to saving and asset-building opportunities.
Nationally, such centers have a proven track record — as in New York City, where some 19,000 people were able to reduce debt by more than $9 million and save more than $1 million over six years. Here, counselors will help clients reduce debt and build savings by correcting credit histories; advocating for lower fees and penalties to creditors; negotiating payment plans, total debt owed, and interest rates; and creating budgets. Counselors also will link people with social services, like foreclosure prevention services, job placement support, and utility assistance.
Citizens should have tools to help themselves — and a good first step would be to call 855-346-7445 or visit www.Phila.gov/financialempowerment to schedule a free financial counseling session.
A recent news report implied that graduates from art-focused schools aren't able to repay their college loans, but that's not reflective of what we're seeing at Moore College of Art & Design.
At Moore, 99 percent of bachelor of fine arts students receive some amount of financial aid in 2012-13, a significant portion of which is funded by the college. Moore students' loan default rate is among the lowest at 4 percent, well below the national average of 13.4 percent. This low rate, particularly given the average loan amount for those who borrow, is a result of our success in preparing students for inspiring careers in the fields of art and design.
Our students receive intensive, personalized instruction in small classes, providing the skills they need to compete in the workforce. We also require a 240-hour internship as part of our career-focused education. This internship, which we subsidize for every student, plants the seeds early for the dogged determination necessary to maintain a lifelong commitment as artists and designers. Our high job placement rates speak to this.
An Inquirer analysis of the care provided by Philadelphia not-for-profit hospitals painted only part of the picture (Nonprofits eyed for city revenue,” March 5).
By focusing on the approximately $70 million in charity care provided each year by the city’s hospitals, the analysis ignored nearly $378 million in unreimbursed health care services received by patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and other government-sponsored programs. Because these programs pay hospitals less than the cost of care, hospitals must absorb the difference. Hospitals also cover patients’ unpaid obligations (about $150 million annually) for their health care services.
As a result, Philadelphia not-for-profit hospitals contributed more than $600 million in unreimbursed care during fiscal year 2011. According to the Inquirer's analysis, that’s more than five times the worth of any real estate taxes that might be collected — and a great bargain for the health and productivity of Philadelphia.