What a great piece of baseball writing by Charlie Vascellaro, I want to live in section 8!

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Wow. . . What a great piece of baseball writing by Charlie Vascellaro! ("The View from Section 8," Feature, Oct. 10) I WANT TO LIVE IN SECTION 8! For all 81 games too!

I sit here in Tulsa, Okla., reading this article online, and I can only say that Charlie's writing made me feel as if I had the good fortune of being present for those games against Boston and Texas and New York, and that I got to scream "O" with the rest of the gang during the anthem . . . and I felt pride in the fact that the Orioles beat the Rangers (who are pretty popular here in Oklahoma) and that the statue garden was a reality now . . . just another reason to come back east again and visit Baltimore and see it for myself.

Congratulations to the Orioles on this great season, to the city of Baltimore for loving your team, win or lose, and to City Paper for having such a gifted writer that can transport someone 1,500 miles in their mind in the 10 minutes it took to read this article . . . obviously a labor of love.

Thank you, City Paper, and thank you, Charlie Vascellaro! Let's go, O's!

Janie Harris


Tulsa, OK

A More Perfect Union

The article by Baynard Woods entitled "Schooling the System" (


) in the Oct. 10 issue of the

City Paper

had some inaccuracies. The Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) supported the Chicago Teachers Union in their effort to negotiate a fair contract. The teachers in Chicago actually went on strike because their mayor, Rahm Emanuel, was cutting funding for resource teachers (music, art, physical education, etc.) and was withholding pay they had earned. They also wanted more books, better class sizes, and school buildings that were not falling apart. The focus of the strike was that teachers wanted better working conditions for themselves and better learning environments for their students.

The BTU contract does not contain anything related to merit pay, nor would the BTU support a contract that had merit pay included. Merit pay does not allow for everyone to receive any kind of pay increase. All teachers have the opportunity to receive a pay increase by earning Achievement Units (AUs) through student learning, contributing to the community, professional growth, and more. AUs are not just earned through an evaluation.

The BTU also negotiated into our contract a safety net that allows us to request an audit of the evaluations of teachers at schools where ratings have drastically changed from year to year. The BTU has conducted a review at several schools, and several evaluations have been overturned as a result of our oversight. Our contract is not about making education cheaper, and it is our hope and desire to attract and retain high-quality teachers and [to] pay teachers the salary they greatly deserve.

The mission of the Baltimore Teachers Union is to work for the betterment of the teachers and PSRPs [Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel] of Baltimore City by organizing, supporting, and enforcing the terms of negotiated agreements and by becoming a powerful political force which influences the direction of education in the Baltimore City Public School System and improves the academic achievement of children. It is extremely important that we continue to speak out for justice and fairness for all of our members.

Marietta English



Baltimore Teachers Union

Editor's Note: Although the 2010 BTU contract does not use the words "merit pay," the Achievement Units (AUs) system in the contract has been commonly considered a form of merit pay and adheres to the same basic concept: pay increases for defined units of success or merit. City Paper stands by the story.

Murder Ink Message

Anna Ditkoff's "Murder Ink" (

) is chilling and disturbing. I read it weekly with a sense of disbelief and upset. I remind myself that these are my brothers and sisters in our city: This year to date, 170 have died. Madame Mayor: Where is your outrage at this loss of human life? Please speak to your city, with compassion, with leadership, and give us the sense that We are One in this.

Leslie Robin Kassal


Pretty Vacant

In "Know Your Blights," (


) published October 10, 2012, you report that "Baltimore City has around 16,000 vacant and abandoned properties, many of which attract vagrants, drug and prostitution activities, rats, and other nuisances." I am curious as to the source of the 16,000 number. I believe that HCD uses a figure in that neighborhood, but the Census Bureau's number of vacant units is much higher (perhaps the difference between "units" and "properties" is at issue).

In one Census document, "The 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates," the number of vacant units is cited as 57,230, with 18,885 listed as "For rent, for sale only, and rented or sold, not occupied."

"All other vacant units" total 38,345.

In another Census Bureau document from The American FactFinder website, the number is listed as 46,782 (

). These data derive from the 2010 Census, rather than from the American Community Survey.

In any case, the number seems to be much higher than 16,000. From a percentage perspective, the difference is rather large: 19.3% (using 57,230 as the numerator), 15.8% (using 46,782 as numerator), 12.9% (using 38,345 as numerator), or 5.4% (using 16,000 as numerator). A journey through East, West, or Northwest Baltimore calls in to question the 5.4% figure, does it not?


Of course the City would not promulgate a smaller number for political purposes.

By the way, "vagrants?" There are hundreds of people who can't find housing and sleep in abandoned buildings (in part because the shelters are full 100% of the time); not all are beggars, as the OED requires in its definition of "vagrant." The word has acquired a pejorative connotation, not apt in this context, I think.

Jeff Singer


Editor's Note: Our source for the 16,000 figure is the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (