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   April 24, 2008 Issue                                       

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Chestnut Hill Local
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Philadelphia, PA 19118
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From our readers

Prior knowledge of the news?

This is not to dispute the opinion piece Ed Feldman wrote last week [“Opinion: April Surprise,” April 17]. Although characteristically verbose, Ed is entitled. But how did he know in advance that the Butler article would be appearing on page one of the Local? He referenced that fact himself. And he had to know in advance in order to prepare his lengthy treatise. Obviously, no laws were broken, no statutes violated, but I do question why anyone in the community should have advance knowledge of what’s running in the Local on page one or anywhere else in the paper.

Tom Hemphill
Chestnut Hill


Editor’s note: The Local is an open community newspaper. The Butler story broke on Tuesday, April 15 and was in the Inquirer on Wednesday. Feldman called on Thursday and asked if we were doing a story. I said we were. He asked if it would be on page one and I said most likely. If I had changed my mind, I likely would have amended Feldman’s piece indicating the change with brackets.

As a policy we do not share the contents of a story with anyone, even the subjects or sources beforehand. In the case of the Butler story, the contents were already a matter of public record.  Feldman had no special privilege. If anyone had called to ask if we were doing a piece on Butler, I would have said yes. 



Where to begin?  That is the question plaguing me as I read the April 17 issue of the Local. The last issue of the paper before the annual meeting and the close of elections for CHCA board members and bylaws changes contains, on the front page, yet another plug for Barack Obama (see picture and story of Caroline Kennedy) and a report of a Chestnut Hill resident who has been sentenced to jail for failure to file income tax returns. 

The story already had been reported in the Inquirer but the Local saw fit not only to print it in a prominent position but also to publish a letter to the editor and an opinion piece by Ed Feldman that I believe comes perilously close to libel. Reading between the lines there is a not so subtle hint that Chip Butler might well be guilty of misuse of Chestnut Hill Community Fund monies.

Interestingly enough, editor Peter Mazzaccaro in an opinion piece on page four wonders who is to blame for the shallowness of the current political reporting.  “It’s hard to fault the news business for trying to sell papers,” he states. What was the motivation behind placing a crime story on page one?  I am aware of persons who did not file tax returns and owed substantial sums to the IRS and they were never threatened with jail — only garnishment of wages. What is going on?

If my memory serves me correctly, Chip Butler has given many hours of his time to the CHCA, most notably, in my day, to the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee.  He did not deserve to be so publicly humiliated.

The venom that seems so prevalent in CHCA affairs will prove fatal to both the community organization and its newspaper.  Let us hope that the Local will help heal the wounds instead of exacerbating them.

Mary Jane Shelly
Former associate editor
Chestnut Hill Local

Editor’s note: The Local chooses front-page stories we believe will be most interesting to our readers. We do not believe that printing news constitutes humiliation. The Local did not fail to file taxes for five years, press charges against Mr. Butler or sentence him. Furthermore, printing such a story is important to set facts straight in a neighborhood where rumor spreads fast. The public has a right to the facts of a public case. We don’t make judgments about who “deserves” to be the subject of news and who doesn’t.


Barry Club Memories

Thanks for the wonderful story and background information on The Commodore John Barry Club, commonly known as The Irish Center. I remember fondly many great nights at the center, and a very memorable trip with them and Mayor James Tate to Ireland in the early 60s. The Mayor, his wife and children celebrated the Tates’  wedding anniversary onboard over the Atlantic. My grandfather and uncle played fiddles and flutes for the celebration and it was all great fun, in spite of the fact that we departed Philadelphia Airport during one wicked storm!

Marianne Caven
New Castle, DE


Make a difference, Join the CHCA

If you find Chestnut Hill a beautiful place to live, to work or just to visit, I urge you to join the Chestnut Hill Community Association. By no means is it perfect! But your participation, in whatever manner you choose, will allow it to become a better place through your ideas about its strengths, its deficiencies, its possibilities and its opportunities.

Whether you agree with what the Community Association is doing, or not; whether you agree with what is printed in the Local, or not; the Chestnut Hill Local and the Chestnut Hill Community Association provide all of us both the structure and the means to communicate our ideas to one another and to put them into action to make our community a better place and more of a community. It is the most direct means we have of determining  the kind of community we will have in the future. It is important! You are important!

Join now, if you have not done so. Or renew your membership! And vote! Let the community know your ideas!

Your vote, your efforts, and your attention to what your elected representatives say, (and then do!),  will make a difference. It will make THE difference!

Do not allow  yourself to be swayed by dulcet tones and sweet nothings. As Buddha is quoted as saying,  “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who has said it, even if  I have said it,  unless it agrees with your own reason, and your own common sense.”

Ann Ward Spaeth
Chestnut Hill

Crosswalks here favor fleet of foot only

I recently visited Washington, D.C., and was shocked at what I found there. The pedestrian crosswalks had timed “Walk” lights that tick off the seconds one has in which to reach the other side, just as at the top of the hill in Chestnut Hill. But in Washington they allow one a leisurely 60 seconds to make it to the other side!  Thank heaven such slothfulness is not allowed here in Chestnut Hill!

In their infinite wisdom, the traffic engineers have set the crosswalk on Germantown Avenue at the top of the Hill (between the Sovereign Bank and the train station, etc.) for a brisk 12 seconds. But, in a brilliant attempt to catch and flatten tardy, unwary or, dare I say, elderly pedestrians, the light for cars turning from Bethlehem Pike onto Germantown Avenue is set to turn green when the crossing pedestrians are only at the six second mark. The light in fact allows pedestrians only six seconds to cross Germantown Avenue before being struck by oncoming cars. I am a still-fairly-sprightly 54 year old, and I have to sprint to make it across ahead of them. And, judging from their perplexed responses to my rude hand-gestures, the oncoming drivers are completely unaware that they are plowing into legally crossing pedestrians. This must be what keeps Chestnut Hillers young and alert.  Let us all be thankful we don’t live in Washington…

Tony Fisher 
Chestnut Hill


“I’d rather have cancer than weeds”

Recently I saw a woman spraying her front yard with Roundup. I suggested the spray was harmful. “They say it’s safe, and I have to get rid of my weeds.” It appears she would rather risk cancer than weeds.

We are told Roundup is safe yet Monsanto covered up the toxic effects of PCBs and dioxin then intimidated claimants and falsified scientific data to continue marketing their products. Vietnam veterans settled a case for $180 million because Monsanto misrepresented Agent Orange’s toxicity.

When FDA veterinarian Richard Burroughs alleged Monsanto and the FDA suppressed the adverse effects on cows of rBGH, a growth hormone, he was fired so the truth would not be known. New York’s Attorney General got Monsanto to change their advertising for Roundup’s glyphosate after research showed it was not safe or biodegradable. Children are at high risk because herbicides on lawns may be absorbed through the skin. Keep in mind that skin “patches” deliver medicine. Pesticides and herbicides are meant to kill; therefore they are never totally safe. No one knows their long-term effects. Is it accidental that cancer rates are increasing, and populations of beneficial birds, bees and bats are decreasing as the use of herbicides and pesticides rises? Is it worth the risk to our families? After all, why would a company who makes $3.8 billion a year and spends $3.6 million on lobbying cover up any risks?

Sandra Folzer