Shame on Ackerman

Well, dear poor Arlene Ackerman, the former Philadelphia school superintendent, is again going after the public's money to help her survive after her scant million-dollar severance payout ("Ackerman files for unemployment benefits," Wednesday). Her departure sounds like a voluntary retirement from the system to me. Hundreds like me took a voluntary retirement offering in June that was far less lucrative than Ackerman's and we were not eligible for unemployment. In fact, I am still awaiting the payment for my unused sick and personal days. Did Ackerman already receive hers? It's been five months and counting for me, and I'm told I should be patient as the payroll department is understaffed due to budget cuts. Maybe Ackerman's payout was too big to delay, and now she wants even more. Shame on her.

Gloria Finkle, Philadelphia

Lawmakers should give, not take

I read with interest about Pennsylvania legislators getting a 3 percent cost-of-living increase in salary for their part-time attendance in Harrisburg ("Pa. lawmakers to get a 3 percent raise next week," Saturday). They are taking this increase while so many Pennsylvanians have lost their homes, cannot feed their children, or daily have to decide among buying gas for the car (if they still have one), putting food on the table, or getting medicine. This is the season of giving. When will the politicians stop taking? In these hard economic times, shouldn't the legislature give to those in need rather than take a pay raise?

Barbara Vetri, Philadelphia

How to keep an endorsement deal

Ndamukong Suh, the Detroit Lions defensive lineman who stomped on an opposing player's abdomen during a Thanksgiving Day contest, has been suspended for two games by the NFL ("Suh appeals suspension," Wednesday). But what about his endorsement deal with fast-food restaurant Subway, home of the famous foot-long sandwiches? Perhaps Suh can make amends by adding the following tagline to his commercial appearances:

"Foot stomps on bellies, bad. Foot-longs in your belly, good. Eat at Subway!"

Vin Morabito, Scranton

Schools must live within their means

The article "Older towns feel greater burden of property tax" (Monday) speaks about the high cost of school taxes. In considering the remuneration for teachers, is it any surprise?

An Oct. 31 report by a state mediator recently formed the basis of the latest contract for teachers in Cheltenham. Although he acknowledged economic problems, including difficulties in raising revenue, decreasing property values, and "a looming crisis" regarding teacher pensions, nevertheless, teachers with a master's degree and 14 years of experience receive $89,867, not to mention health and dental insurance and other benefits. Not too shabby.

Considering the high level of unemployment and the economic difficulties facing people in the private sector - those whose taxes pay for school budgets - teachers' unions and school boards should be negotiating reductions in the level of pay or the numbers of teachers. They must follow a principle that we learned from our parents and follow in our families: Live within your means.

Leonard Paul, Elkins Park,

Erosion of people's rights

Alan Garfield's justification of Congress' power to make people buy health insurance is that "there is no constitutional right not to buy health insurance" ("Perfectly legal to mandate the purchase of insurance," Sunday). He is correct. Neither is there a constitutional right to not brush your teeth, nor to not watch I Love Lucy reruns.

The problem with the professor's argument is that, if you agree with his premise, the only rights we have are those that are explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and the right to trial by jury. The other rights that we assume we have, such as, to use his examples, the right not to buy broccoli or GM cars, are ours only because Congress has not yet seen fit to mandate their purchase as it has with health insurance.

Whatever one's position on health-care reform, civil libertarians of all stripes should be concerned about the erosion of our rights should the mandate stand.

Andrew Terhune, Philadelphia,

Vote out pols who can't do their jobs

Caroline Baum did a fine job with her commentary about the supercommittee ("For supercommittee debacle, there's blame to go around," Monday). Yes, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failed, and the deficit grows. Who should we blame? Congress? Republicans? Democrats? President Obama? George W. Bush? Grover Norquist? The answer is: Blame ourselves. Baum is correct! We put these people in office and they are not able to do their jobs. We must now do our job and vote them out at election time. Any change is better than what we have.

AnnRae Sheller, Haddonfield,

Renewed meaning to Sunday Mass

I liken the changes to the responses at Mass to the restoration of a favorite piece of fine art in which new details emerge and give renewed meaning to the piece ("Catholics adjust to new-old responses," Monday). Mass on Sunday was a refreshing experience if we took time to listen to the words and not concern ourselves with making the right response.

John P. McCann Jr., Upper Darby

Electricity shopping is worth the time

A letter on Friday says "shopping for electricity is not worth the time, effort, or hassle." I hope the writer would consider that by choosing certain electricity suppliers, customers can get 100 percent renewable power (mostly wind). My husband and I now have that at about the same cost or slightly less than for Peco Energy, and we can literally breathe easier, knowing that we are not adding to the greenhouse gases that are creating havoc with our planet as well as causing asthma, heart attacks, and deaths due to air pollution. The coal-fired plants that produce a large portion of Peco's electric power are slowly destroying us.

Sue Edwards, Swarthmore

Don't divide Haverford Township

I am dismayed to read that the 166th House District could be divided in two ("Philadelphia would lose, Chester County would gain under state redistricting plan," Nov. 1).

My understanding of the Pennsylvania Constitution is that redistricting is done when a municipality exceeds 61,000 residents. Haverford Township has fewer than 55,000 residents, so why would we now allow Harrisburg to divide our township? Article 1, Section 16 of the Constitution states that "unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward shall be divided informing either a senatorial or representative district." We are a strong, unified township that has been one legislative district for many decades. It makes no sense to divide us now.

Kate deRiel, president, League of Women Voters of Haverford Township

A gullible electorate

Cynthia Tucker makes a good point about the need for intelligent leaders ("An ill-timed resurgence of America's anti-intellectualism," Sunday). As with many - if not all - political movements, emotion is the cause; in this case, shame. The world is a complex place and effective, proper action requires both intelligence and emotional stability. An electorate embarrassed by its inadequacy in the face of these difficulties is easily swayed by the simplistic rhetoric of "know-nothing" candidates.

John Brodsky, Swarthmore,