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The Mail 1/28/15

Pennies from Heaven

"Your 'Rain Tax' Dollars at Work" (Mobtown Beat, Jan. 6), Van Smith's outline of the plans to spend funds raised by these controversial fees, doesn't appear to have drawn much of a response from readers—which is surprising, considering how often the rain tax is publicly condemned.

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For example, in "When it Rains, It Pours Tax Dollars in Maryland" (Forbes, January 2014), Travis H. Brown bemoans this "most oppressive" tax: "Maryland is the only state in the country that taxes the amount of rain that falls." This opinion has been widely published and is echoed by frustrated Marylanders. Yet Jennifer Herzog of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said that one hundred municipalities in the U.S. impose stormwater runoff fees on taxpayers. So I Googled "rain tax" to find that Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado are among states using these fees to address dirty water. USA Today's March 2010 article, "Cities slap fees on storm runoff," explained how the EPA, finally attempting to comply with the Clean Water Act of 1972, had issued new regulations limiting the amount of pollutants that can be washed into waterways. The feds have forced the states to come up with plans and funds.

USA Today, not known for addressing complicated or obscure issues, spelled it out back then: Kansas, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Iowa were assessing fees six years ago because "Storm water—from roofs, roads, parking lots, farms—carries oil, manure, sediments and sometimes raw sewage" into local waterways. The tax is not based on the amount of rainfall, but what happens to rainwater after it lands on your property, something property owners do have some control over.

Change your gutter spouts so they don't end in your driveway or the curb. Show you've reduced the amount of polluted stormwater that runs off your property by installing a rain garden or rain barrels, etc., and your fees should go down. While it's not your fault that the sewage plants are outdated and overused, it's gonna take a lot of money to fix those old plants, and we all flush toilets, so . . .

And this is all old news! Yet Brown a year ago and many people today still complain that Marylanders are the only ones paying taxes on rain. Why are these lies so hard to set straight?

I blame legislator Douglas Bruce who killed community support in Colorado by calling stormwater fees a "rain tax"—smearing the idea with stink as effectively as fecal coliform overflowing a sewage plant to permeate your backyard stream.

I can walk to the Gwynns Falls in Leakin Park, but I can't even let my dog or my daughter go near the contaminated water. Let's change this, fix your backyard stream, and we'll save the bay. Don't let Bruce, Brown, or your angry neighbor convince you to think in slogans. Do your own research. Challenge it if you find it unjust, if the rates don't fall after remediation, or if the money isn't being used effectively.

Heather Hooper
Baltimore
Cop Out

After reading the commentary by Matt Loftus ("Ask A Cop," Jan. 13), I am somewhat confused as to why society should ask a cop for the truth about their misconduct. How is it at all possible to weed out the idiots and evil-doers when cops back up or reinforce one another, which is what Loftus was telling us?

However, in an effort to fight police brutality in the black community, the National Bar Association (NBA) has plans to file open-records requests in 25 cities, to study allegations of police misconduct. The association calls police brutality the new civil-rights fight of this era, an issue that disproportionately impacts the black community.

The NBA, the nation's oldest and largest national network of predominately black attorneys and judges, will present its findings to the public and the U.S. Attorney General's Office. According to the NBA, Dallas, Texas, tops the list of police misconduct, with more than 60 unarmed black men killed by the Dallas Police Department since 2001.

Leo Williams
Baltimore
FROM THE WEB, FACEBOOK, AND TWITTER

Awesome obit! the kind of sad remembrance that is actually fun to read. Gil Watson was one of a kind.

When the rest of us aging Baltimore Sun reporters and editors die, we can only hope that Rafael Alvarez will still be around to write our obituaries.

–“AL Forman, Managing Editor, VoiceOfBaltimore.org,” Jan. 21

Coates's piece was fascinating, well-researched, and moves the conversation forward. Unfortunately, I missed his talk at Loyola (Go 'Hounds!). But, I'm struck by one line that stands out: "The fundamental feature of American racism in this country is plunder—one group taking from another."

Agreed, but aren't reparations the exact same thing? Taking from one group to give to another? The danger is group think (my term, as used here), that a societal ill is projected on group A (i.e. poverty), which is caused by group B (at various points in history), so let's just have group B pay recompense to group A.

I find this entirely inconsistent intellectually and practically with solving problems of race, class, and poverty. Why? Because groups aren't devalued, impoverished, plundered—individuals are. You empower individuals and families, you empower groups (however classified). Sociology is great for understanding and interpreting trends and putting policies in place to identify and ameliorate problems. But it's very dangerous to project sociological concepts onto individual problems–the two systems don't match up. In my opinion, reparations would do more harm than good.

Regardless, Coates is a smart and insightful guy and I look forward to reading more of his work.

–“Holmesianesque,” Jan. 23 

you know I come from that era were the game wasn't about stupidity but about making things happen you didn't know that drugs was being sold due to the fact of the players respected the community and giving back wasn't an option'

now all it is is a whole bunch of senseless violence and a sense of disconnection to the community which is causing people to move away and not return even to help save what can be salvaged as a community.

people are crying out for help that's why im writing to whomever will listen but what I do know is with me and with men like me such as Sean Colbert who is the chairmen of (M.O.V.A) which is a reentry program for ex offender men.

–“Buddyrow,” Jan. 22

Completely missing the point and deeper themes of the film.

–“Holmesianesque,” Jan. 23

Oh, Katzman. Where to begin? A predictable review for the lib party line...ignore the reality of the world we are living in for the world you wish you had...compare American soldiers to terrorists with the same old moral equivalency trap...blood for oil, etc. Yawn. The film is not pretty either in it's portrayal of the man or his actions...and yes, Kyle—like many Americans—was a Christian and had his prejudices for sure (note to Katzman...many non-Americans are also prejudiced, and I would guess even more so in the Muslim world today). Having seen the movie, I would say it's probably a pretty accurate and honest portrayal presented by Eastwood, showing...or at least hinting at...Kyles's flaws as well as his heroism. And yes, protecting the lives of your fellow soldiers qualifies you as a hero. Is the movie perfect? No. Was Kyle perfect? No. Is it a pretty damn good movie showing the horrors and tragedy of war as well as the ambiguity? For sure. Katzman—stop being such a lazy-ass reviewer and next time don't just parrot Michael Moore. Yawn.

–“macTeague,” Jan. 23

Pratt management denigrates its critics to mask its inability to justify destructive plans. Hayden might note that Central was designed to LOOK like a department store, but her plans ignore the vital point that the library was designed to FUNCTION like a department store—with its "merchandise" visible and accessible instead of hidden away in basement stacks.

The City Paper supported Pratt management's deplorable tactic by labeling David Yaffee one of Pratt "management's harshest critics" ("harsh"?) and describing him as "facing ouster" from the Friends board, when he was merely omitted from a re-election slate. A group of us (not ACORN) successfully argued (in the presence of a Parliamentarian hired by the Friends) that the by-laws permitted nominations from the floor. David was not reelected until the next year, although other floor nominees won. (The Friends' by-laws, thus, democratically provide for input from the membership. This stands in stark contrast with the self-perpetuating Pratt Board, which choses its successors with no public input.)

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Furthermore, David does not advocate a "cluttered, stuffed library shelf"; he supports an orderly library with public shelves instead of excess meeting rooms.

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You report "Hayden grimaces and literally puts her head in her hands when Yaffe's name is mentioned." Her reaction highlights what is wrong with Pratt management. NO ONE in Baltimore cares more about public library service than David. If Hayden could bring herself to realize this, she would benefit from his help instead of inaccurately dismissing him as "focusing on a single aspect that is not even understood."

I am sick of Pratt administrators attacking critics and of journalists underscoring these attacks.

–“Jane Shipley,” Jan. 23

It's so great this installation, and the artist, is getting recognition—the work looks fresher than ever. I would be curious what the artist and/or author would say about how the work fits into the Pattern & Decoration movement context from the 70's/80's. . . what Holland Cotter, art critic for the New York Times called "the last genuine art movement of the 20th century," when he also said, "and not-quite-beauty is exactly what saved it, what gave it weight, weight enough to bring down the great Western Minimalist wall for a while and bring the rest of the world in. Let the art historical record show, in the postmovement future, the continuing debt we owe it for that." Indeed!

–“lfadams,” Jan. 25
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