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  December 25, 2008 Issue                                       

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Chestnut Hill Local
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From our readers

Library director not so ‘charming’ in Holmesburg

In response to the Dec. 18 interview with Siobhan Reardon, director of the Philadelphia Free Library “New president brings vision to struggling library system” by Sabina Clarke, I don’t think that your reporter would find Ms. Reardon so “refreshing” if your community’s “Chestnut Hill Free Library” was on the chopping block. Plus, how can Reardon be interested in a “more significant outreach program” when she’s closing community libraries?   Additionally, if interested in working with teens, what about our Holmesburg teens?   

Siobhan Reardon told Ms. Clarke that the shuttering of library branches has been in the planning for five years.  Here’s the quote: “Although admitting that the decision to close the targeted libraries was an “extremely painful one,” she added that it needed to be done and was five years in the making”.

So, which is it?   Did Mayor Nutter order the closing of eleven branches because of the failing economy or did the Free Library of Philadelphia REALLY have this “master plan” to downsize the system for the past five years?   Why didn’t the Mayor know this?   

It seems very strange that the administration is readily available to negotiate in keeping the ice rinks open and assuring that the Mummers strut their stuff on New Year’s Day, but when the topic of avoiding the shuttering of the 11 libraries is mentioned to him there’s no room for discussion, and as he personally told me on Dec. 8, the libraries will close

Elsie Stevens


Vision of disaster

Sabina Clarke’s puff piece on the new library director, Siobhan Riordan, avoids all the hard questions about her decision to close library branches.

But in it, Ms. Clark does at least finally admit what we critics of her decision have been saying for weeks, that she and Mayor Nutter have been misleading citizens by saying that the decision is about saving money in difficult times.

Advocates for the library have proposed alternatives to shutting branches that would save the same amount of money: reducing hours in all branches, finding corporate sponsors for them, and organizing volunteers to help the professional staff at the libraries.

But the Mayor and Ms Riordan won’t even help develop these alternatives. As she admits in your article, the library has wanted to shut these branches for five years. Her vision for the library is one with larger central and regional branches and fewer branches.

And that is why, while pleading poverty and closing branches, the library is planning expansions that will require significantly higher staffing than they have now. Make no mistake that pursuing this vision will require further branch closing in the future.

Ms. Riordan’s vision, however, doesn’t fit the reality of our city of neighborhoods in which branch libraries provide a place for kids to study after school; for seniors to keep their minds active; for job seekers to get information and internet access. Our libraries are community centers and avenues of upward mobility for our young people.

In a city with few public school libraries — something director Riordan admitted recently she did not know — and in which it can be dangerous for young people to travel two miles to a nearby library, our neighborhood libraries provide a vital  service that cannot be replaced.

The vision of a new central library is a lovely one for the 21st century. But it would be both unjust and shameful to pursue it at the cost of neglecting the branch libraries that serve the citizens of this city who, in terms of access to information resources, are still living in the 20th century.

That’s what Sibon Riordan, and Ms. Clarke, don’t understand about our city. While Ms. Riordan’s courage in pursuing her vision is admirable, she is pursuing a vision that will lead to disaster.

Marc Stier
Mt. Airy


Mountain bikers have rights, too

I am writing in response to Erik Werner’s letter on mountain bikers in the park. [Dec. 18] While well written, it does not address the real issue. Years ago when the Friends of the Wissahickon decided which trails should be designated for each user group, there were no mountain bikers on the board. The Fairmount Park Commission, as always, took the FOW as the sole authority for the park instead of just one of many advocates. While they do great work in the park, as much as they like to think so, they do not own it.

As a resident and taxpayer of the city, I have the same right as every other citizen to use every square foot of the park, as long as I do not jeopardize anyone’s safety. From your story it seems as if the riders you passed were not riding aggressively, nor did they harm you. In fact, as you describe, they took the courtesy to stop and talk to you while you decided to play local cop.

In my opinion, their only wrongdoing was to slightly inconvenience you for a few seconds. Is that a crime?

Until there is another vote on designating trails by user group, and mountain bikers are fairly represented, I argue the validity of the trail user designations. As for a tax, why only mountain bikers? Why not equestrians? Why not all user groups? Why not a tax for grumpy hikers? You know why, because it is a PUBLIC PARK!

Tim Woods
Chestnut Hill


Get what you pay for

In response to “Christmas traditions in a non-traditional year,” [Dec. 18] by Ed Budnick:

 Ed — you better check out you microeconomics book or maybe you just don’t value your time or your community? Main Street offers value not found at the big box store!

As a kid who started to work at O’Donnell’s Stationery at the age of 6, I learned very quickly that Chestnut Hill had lots of great shops and that the businesses and the community supported each other, much of which I believe still goes on today even with all the choices our customers have.

My Dad always taught me to offer the customer value. He said, “Franny, we have a lot of smart customers. Customers who really know value and that their time is money.” 

He didn’t need to show me that the shops in Chestnut Hill sell more than just products.  In Chestnut Hill you really get what you pay for — service, selection and value.  Price, Ed, is for the bottom feeders. There is always a lower price — but at what terms? And at what expense? 

Home Depot dollars don’t funnel back to the community. Heck, when folks buy at my toy store, the dollars go to the local bank, local taxes, to pay my local help, who buy locally, dine locally. Sure the shops could be open more hours, I agree — but throw away tradition and not support the business community for a couple bucks? Ed, you get what you pay for here in Chestnut Hill — so do the folks who wait in lines at the Home Depot, Walmart, and Produce Junction.  Maybe next year you should try the dollar store!

Enjoy your Holidays.

I’ll be on the Hill for Holidays!

Fran O’Donnell
Owner of O’Doodles
Main Street Manager
Chestnut Hill Business Association

A prayer for Private Buckley

P.F.C. Charles J. Buckley, U.S.M.C., Air Group 13, 1st Marine Group, killed in action, 21 December 1968, Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam.

Chestnut Hill will always remember its son … that proud young Marine … a beautiful park dedicated … honoring his memory … Northeast Side Germantown Ave. and Hartwell Lane … shaded by trees … pebbled paths … benches to sit on … abounding with flowers … meticulously maintained.

I stand in front of the beautiful bronze plaque … embedded in stone … surrounded by American flags … my head bowed … a tear in my eye … respect … remembrance … of that proud young Marine … and of all the other troopers who gave their lives … for the cause of freedom … in the Vietnam War. I offer a silent prayer.

Tom Woodruff


Thanks to a very Good Samaritan

This past Sunday morning my wife Marissa left the house to go to her friends for coffee, and on the way home she decided to stop at the Acme at Germantown and Sedgwick for some groceries. When she got to the register, she realized that she was not only still in pajamas, but didn’t have her purse with her.

A woman behind her offered her credit card for Marissa to use, not wanting her to have to go through going home and back to the store in the chilly weather. My wife accepted the offer of total trust and help and took the woman’s name and address down. On my way out an hour later, I brought a check to the Good Samaritan’s home in Chestnut Hill. Her name is Phyllis (I won’t include her last name just in case she is stalked in supermarkets by scam artists for the rest of her life), and we would like to publicly thank her for her gesture. Maybe it was the holiday spirit that moved her, but I suspect she is kindhearted every day of the year. Thanks Phyllis!

Rich McIlhenny and
Marissa Vergnetti


Thanks for benefit

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who donated to and attended the benefit held for my family at the Venetian Club on Friday, Dec. 12.  It was very uplifting to see everyone and to be reunited with many I unfortunately hadn’t seen in years. I couldn’t ask for more of a boost and enjoyed talking until my voice completely disappeared.

Special thanks go out to Clint Hornberger, Dave Duncanson and Mike Cover for organizing; Dave Bowes and Matt Flannery for their excellent food prep; Six Pack and Aardvark for the entertainment that was so enjoyed; my extended family for all their hard work and for being there when we needed you; and everyone who kept me in their thoughts and prayers during surgery.

Thank you and God bless you all.

Marc Bagwell and family