Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper deserves praise
During my time in government, County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper and I haven't always been on the same page. It's fair to say I've been one of her toughest critics, especially early on. But the more I worked with her, the more I saw and understood her commitment to Erie.
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Running for office myself, I learned more than I could have imagined, and have great respect and admiration for what she's accomplished. She's been a true public servant who has conducted county business with integrity and has always put Erie County first. We can pretend it's not true, but we're known for our "good ole boys club" here in Erie County. She's never been afraid to challenge the status quo and fight for Erie County's best interest - regardless of the consequences for herself. The scrutiny of being in the public eye is challenging, especially for women. She's been criticized unduly and more often than most men for the most inconsequential things, yet she kept her sights set on improving our lives.
From encouraging our elected delegation to work together, to securing millions of state dollars, from Blue Zones to guiding us through the pandemic - it's clear that County Executive Dahlkemper has been steadfast and had our backs. We were fortunate to have a leader and County Executive of her caliber. I encourage you to join me in thanking County Executive Dahlkemper for all that she has done for us.
Julie Slomski, Millcreek
Sen. Cruz should promote public safety, not politicize COVID
Australia's Northern Territory recently imposed a strict employment-based vaccine mandate requiring all workers, public and private, to get at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by mid-November or face a $5,000 fine and prohibition from going to work. Chief Minister Michael Gunner, stated "Anyone whose job includes interacting with members of the public needs to get the jab."
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who often focuses elsewhere during a crisis in his home state of Texas, like his infamous getaway to Mexico during last winter's statewide power grid failure, was once again focused elsewhere during a crisis. This time he was 8,000 miles away, during Texas's current COVID-19 epidemic of unvaccinated citizens. He tweeted that Australia's vaccination mandate amounted to "tyranny" imposed by a disgraceful and sad government and because "individual liberty matters," he stands with the people of Australia.
In a blistering Twitter response, Gunner pointed out Sen. Cruz knows nothing about Australians and evidently nothing about how to protect the lives of his own constituents since Texas has tragically experienced nearly 70,000 COVID-19 deaths while the Northern Territory has not had a single such death, and they've only had to shut down their economy for a total of eight days because, unlike Texas, they've done what it takes to keep their citizens safe and free to live their lives. He concluded by saying he was glad Australia was nothing like Texas on COVID-19, he didn't need a lecture from Cruz and if he stands against lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, he surely doesn't stand with the people of Australia.
Bruce Baldwin, Erie
Pennsylvania does not need more concealed weapons
At a time in which gun violence is at epidemic proportions, our legislature's Republicans seek to make the commonwealth even more gun-friendly than it already is as they push a bill which would allow individuals to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
The not guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case serves as a clarion call to arms for vigilantes of all ages, yet this does not give pause to the proponents of the further armament of society.
More: Pa. gun debate obscures the fraught racial history of the Second Amendment
We live in an era in which tempers flare over nothing, threats of violence and the use of lethal weapons are common, yet our leaders believe that society will be better off if more guns are brought into play to enable scores to be settled with lethal force.
If more guns made us safer, our country would not be one of the world's leaders in gun homicides and shootings.
Thankfully, we continue to have a sensible governor who will stand in the way of measures which threaten public health and safety. Imagine what Pennsylvania would become if that were to change in the next election and control of all branches of state government were turned over to the reactionary party which does not believe in truth, facts or science.
Oren Spiegler, Peters Township
Erie County needs to reform pretrial detention practices
On any given day, half the people incarcerated in the Erie County Prison are there for pretrial detention because they cannot afford bail. The purpose of bail is to ensure that the person shows up for a court appearance. The court rules require judges to take into account the person's financial situation and also provide alternatives to cash bail, such as release on own recognizance, unsecured bail (only has to be paid if person does not show up for court), and nonmonetary bail (reporting to the court or some other condition designed to ensure attendance at court proceedings).
However, in looking at preliminary hearings over four months in early 2021, I found that 62% of the cases imposed some type of cash bail - anywhere from $3,000 to $250,000. Presumably, wealthy people just pay the cash bail and are released.
Many of these cases will ultimately be dismissed, but with serious impact on the person who cannot afford to pay it, such as job loss, potential eviction, and disruption of the family. And who pays for this pretrial detention? The taxpayers of Erie County. Prison costs are estimated at $80 per day. The latest available statistics for the Erie County jail show a little over 1,200 incarcerated people, about 600 of which have not been convicted of a crime.
That's $48,000 per day to keep people in pretrial detention. Studies in New Jersey and Colorado found that lack of cash bail had virtually no effect on whether the person shows up for their court appearances. Erie County needs to take a serious look at the costs and "benefits" of pretrial detention and come up with a fairer way to handle pretrial cases.
Pamela Moore, Erie
Beast on Bay fundraiser earns high praise
Gratitude abounds! I'd like to honor Jim Dobrich, worker at Dobrich Electric. Understand, electrically I'm good. But Jim was the top fundraiser for the Beast on the Bay this year.
Former "jarhead" Jim did it in honor of our mutual dear friend, Blaize Michael Cheeseman. Praise to Jim. He is an inspiration.
Mark Amatangelo, Erie
Don't eliminate concealed carry permits in Pa.
In the past, if you were assaulted by 18-year-old criminals, there was a possibility they would risk a long prison sentence by carrying guns. If the Pennsylvania GOP bill to eliminate concealed carry gun permits were signed into law, there is a certainty they will be armed. And, if they don't actually use the gun in the crime, they cannot be charged with gun possession.
Would you feel safer with this law? I feel less safe just with those politicians still in office.
John Baker, Erie
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Letters: Readers weigh in on Dahlkemper, gun laws, bail reform and more