Philly's soda tax a hit or a miss?

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The city’s 1.5-cents-an-ounce tax on soda and other sweetened beverages has produced $25.6 million in the first four months of the year, below projections.

Workers feeling soda-tax pain

Had Inquirer business reporter Joseph N. DiStefano interviewed me for his story about Philadelphia’s reviled beverage tax (“So far, tax is OK,” Tuesday), he would have learned that the job loss carnage I predicted long ago has hit my union with a vengeance — 155 of my hard-working members of Teamsters Local 830 have been laid off as a result of tanking sales of beverages in the city due to this onerous tax. That’s 155 Philadelphia families who are now struggling to make ends meet.

And that’s just our job losses; there have undoubtedly been hundreds of additional layoffs at the beverage companies, supermarkets, and convenience stores throughout the city, just as predicted.

Teamsters Local 830 and our beverage-industry partners hope to prevail in court and kill this economically destructive tax. Let your anger be known; go to www.axthebevtax.com to learn how.

Daniel H. Grace, secretary-treasurer, Teamsters Local 830, Philadelphia, dgrace@team830.org

It pays to wait for the proof

As a pediatrician, vice chair of the board of the Food Trust, and a person concerned about public health issues, I have long supported Mayor Kenney’s tax on sugary beverages. I have been concerned and worried about the vehement and often ill-informed pushback from the beverage industry. Your story showing that businesses were not hurt by the tax in the first quarter of this year should be a warning for our times — let’s wait until we have some facts and listen to the data before we get hysterical.

Barbara W. Gold, Philadelphia

Kenney’s tax plan doesn’t add up

Mayor Kenny will insist that he was correct in funding pre-K (wink, wink) with the soda tax, even as it goes down in flames (“City says predicted revenues to fall short,” Wednesday). His projected income has not hit the mark since its inception, and now that these figures are short, he will continue his flag waving that this is good for the children (wink, wink again), when he is just putting a Band-Aid on the real issue — funding the city pensions shortfall — let alone the 10 jobs created to the tune of $310,000 to “continue spreading information on how businesses can register and remit payment.”

This issue is an embarrassment to such a great city. The mayor should admit he was wrong and tighten City Hall’s belt.

Michele Recupido, general manager, Locust Rendezvous Bar & Grille, Philadelphia, Locustrendezvous@verizon.net

Fighting anti-Muslim hate

Last weekend, the anti-Muslim group ACT for America organized dozens of hateful rallies nationwide targeting Muslim communities (“Rallies against Islamic law draw counterprotests, too,” Sunday). One such rally was in Harrisburg.
As an Iranian-American Muslim, I am appalled at this obscene act of racism during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Such rallies seek to vilify Muslims at a time of heightened anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.

This extremism is not isolated to rural areas and remote towns; Muslims have been subject to discrimination and hate in our very own Philadelphia. I was subjected to such an incident this year on my way to class at the University of Pennsylvania.

I have found solace by working as the Philadelphia chapter captain of the National Iranian American Council, which stands for the rights of Iranian-Americans and improves understanding by promoting peace and speaking out against hate groups.
Compared to the tens of thousands of Americans who protested the Trump administration’s immigration ban last winter, ACT’s rallies were poorly attended.

I will speak out against the discrimination of people because of their skin color, faith, or background and will reject racism and fearmongering at every turn. Will Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and our president do the same?

Aria Ghahramani, Philadelphia

Congressmen under fire

The baseball-playing Republican congressmen gave interviews in which they were clearly shaken about being shot at (“Target: GOP,” Wednesday). I hope that their experience will develop their sense of empathy for people who live in neighborhoods in which gunfire and shooting is a common part of everyday life. Perhaps they will be better able to understand the fear, anxiety, helplessness, and anger that growing up in such an environment can cause. Perhaps they will better understand why those Americans overwhelmingly favor gun control legislation, and perhaps these congressmen will now support commonsense gun-control laws.

P. Rubin, Wynnewood

Ban assault rifles

Congressman getting shot at — listen to how they described being in an open field in the crosshairs of an assault rifle. They said they had nowhere to hide and felt as though they were in a killing field. Perhaps now they can know how the innocent children in Connecticut felt when they were in the crosshairs with nowhere to hide.

Members of Congress need to come to their senses and stand up for a ban on assault rifles. Hunters do not need assault rifles, and no one needs an assault rifle to protect himself or his family. They need to help stop this killing. These guns are in the hands of people committing crimes, and it needs to stop. Congressmen and women need to stop being so cowardly.

B. Gruber, Collegeville

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Thank God the Capitol Police were there to protect our Republican congressmen. Too bad there weren’t any around at Sandy Hook Elementary School. When will Congress accept the responsibility for limiting the kinds of guns and the amount of ammunition available? We are past the days of muskets and militia-building.

J. Larry Carroll, Cherry Hill

Guns in wrong hands

When will legislatures stop giving the National Rifle Association everything it wants? They should stop worrying about campaign funds and job security. Where is their concern for innocent citizens, including children playing outside, walking to school, or finding and firing an unprotected gun. We’ll never eliminate gun violence, but we could certainly reduce it and save lives.

The majority of Americans support the Second Amendment and believe, as do I, that law-abiding citizens have the right to own and use firearms. The majority also understand that our government will never take away this right; there are too many good people owning guns for hunting, self-protection, and collecting. But to allow gun-show purchases without a background check is just stupid. The NRA appears to want to allow anyone who wants a gun to own one, whether background checked or not.

Government needs to approve sensible controls to protect our citizens from this growing violent culture.

Robert Turnbull, Hatboro

Public needs to demand change

The shooting at a congressional baseball practice is the country’s latest mass shooting — the 154th this year. What will come of this?

A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would establish universal background checks and increase the penalties for gun fencing and illegal trafficking. Could it pass Congress after this shooting? Not likely, with Congress and the White House being heavily funded by the NRA.

In the Pennsylvania House, however, Bill 1400 would require background checks for the sale of all firearms, including semiautomatic rifles like those used in Alexandria, Va.; Sandy Hook, Conn.; and Aurora, Colo. This bill has bipartisan sponsorship and would help make us safer.

Call your state representative to support Bill 1400. It is up to all of us to help stem the tide of gun violence.

Tom Buglio, Gun Sense Chester County, West Chester

Coming to grips with depression

As the husband of a woman who was diagnosed as a manic depressive (bipolar now), I must thank sportswriter Frank Fitzpatrick for his column about former Major League Baseball player Jimmy Piersall (“Jimmy Piersall: What a trip,” Sunday).

My late wife suffered terribly from that terrible mental disease, as did all members of her family — not just for the shenanigans she took part in, but for the endless hours, days, and weeks we spent trying to cover up all of her activities while she was in the manic stages of her life. Seven times, she ended up being hospitalized in mental wards of private or public hospitals. She experienced terrible electric and chemical shock therapies.

When she was well, after coming out of the hospital, and when she stayed on her prescribed Lithium, she was as normal as we could expect. But when she stopped taking it, she became manic again, and I and/or my sons had to deal with it. This made for very uncomfortable and costly solutions to keep her activities quiet.

Mental illness remains a difficult subject for many. I hope Piersall’s story, told with kindness and empathy, will be read and understood by all of us.

Sy Levy, Plymouth Meeting