Some Questions about War
Editor: Now that we are setting the desert on fire and calling it peace, perhaps we can raise three questions.
* In 1990 there were more than 300 murders in Baltimore. How do we tell folks, particularly young people, that violence should be the last resort, while we forsake negotiations and attempt to bomb Iraq back to the Stone Age?
* With the air war costing at least a $500 million a day, will there ever be any money to house the poor?
* Freedom of the press is a constitutional right. Why do we allow the military to control all the information? Who elected them? Aren't reporters embarrassed to be playing the role of Pentagon water boy?
7+ So many questions. So many particulars.
Editor: A recent letter suggesting that a theme park be built in Curtis Bay is, at best, a Mickey Mouse idea.
For the past eight years, I've had the honor of serving as a City Council representative for the Sixth District. Curtis Bay area is one of the anchors in our district.
The citizens of Curtis Bay have a keen interest in their neighborhood and in our city as a whole. They have often demonstrated to me a desire to be involved, a willingness to speak their minds and the courage to represent their views in a candid and forthright manner.
Curtis Bay is a strong, viable and an integral part of our city. I resent the notion that it be "razed and bulldozed."
Joseph J. DiBlasi.
Editor: Your editorial, "Averting State House Layoffs," accepts the key fallacy in Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to save $183 million by imposing a 40-hour work week on more than 40,000 state employees -- the extra hours might add up to the equivalent of 5,000 extra workers.
But the state has no intention of hiring any 5,000 workers. We've been in a hiring freeze for six months. By that logic, does this mean that, if we increase the work week by nine hours instead of 4.5, we could not hire 10,000 workers and thereby save $366 million? This sounds like a bonanza for the state. If we upped the hours some more and didn't hire 20,000 workers, we might be looking at another surplus.
I am a long-time, 40-hour state employee who is angry with the governor's executive order. The 35.5-hour week was offered years ago as the state's desired alternative to an acknowledged need for a pay increase in many positions. People in these positions patterned their lives, including elder- and child-care, around this implied contract.
Imposing these extra hours without added compensation is unjust. Imposing them with less than one month's notice on families, especially single parents, is insensitive. And imposing them in the name of phantom cost savings is ridiculous.
I also take issue with the statement that in the 1980s, "state workers came to expect healthy cost-of-living raises." Since our cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) failed to equal inflation in six of those 10 years, including two years of zero COLAs, and we accumulated an 18.9-percent loss against the total increased cost of living for that period, I wonder if The Sun has redefined "healthy."
State employees, like other Maryland citizens are willing to do their fair share toward overcoming the budget problems. But people don't seem to remember that in terms of spending priorities over the past 15 to 20 years, we've often been the easy solution when money was wanted elsewhere. The proof is in our salaries, which lag well behind both inflation and comparable positions in the private sector. State employees are "giving at the office" and out of our paychecks every day.
Editor: The endorsement by The Sun of state School Superintendent Joseph Shilling's plans will be applauded by many. As your editorial noted, layers of bureaucracy can stifle local initiative and limit the quality and scope of classroom teaching.
Unfortunately, The Sun's editorial confused certain reorganization plans with the superintendent's goal of changing the way his department does business.
Removing the correctional education and vocational rehabilitation programs from the Department of Education will certainly refine the scope and nature of the superintendent's responsibilities. However, those actions will not define the way the "new" education department will operate in terms of its relationship with local school systems.
Most of the staff members assigned to correctional education and vocational rehabilitation are neither "bureaucrats" nor "educators," but primarily involved in providing direct services to individuals throughout the state.
In the case of correctional education, teachers, counselors, librarians and others work daily in prisons to assist individuals achieve the skills necessary to re-enter society. Vocational rehabilitation counselors provide direct services to individuals with disabilities, assisting them to achieve economic and personal independence. If there is any analogy to be made between these staff persons and the education bureaucracy, it would involve defining them as "classroom teachers."
The superintendent's plan is dramatic, innovative and is sure to influence the quality and scope of education programs in the state.
Meanwhile, there are some other agendas which deserve careful and thoughtful review and study. The vocational rehabilitation program's 70-year history in this state of providing responsive, personal and quality services to individuals with disabilities needs to be preserved as plans are made to place it elsewhere in state government.
Similarly, a nationally recognized program of effective and productive correctional education should be preserved and promoted as plans are made to integrate it within the Department of Corrections.
Patrick W. McKenna.
Editor: My husband Joe, a 20-year employee of the Baltimore City Police Department, a Vietnam veteran and Marine Corps reservist has been called to active duty in Saudi Arabia. Joe is proud to serve in this time of need and I am proud of him and the many like him who have temporarily given up the comforts of home to perform their duty when America called their name.
This mobilization has had a significant financial effect.
Joe saw the reserve as a way to supplement our family income. Although his military pay will substantially increase, the loss of his police salary will cause our monthly income to decrease about $1,200. Additionally the change of our health care benefits will cause major inconveniences as well as additional cost.
When I or our son, Billy, now six years old, need health care, we will have to go to a military post like Fort Meade or Aberdeen, or participate in the Champus medical care program. That federal program is not as comprehensive or as economical as city benefits. In my opinion, this puts an unreasonable burden on families already stretched to their financial limit.
In October, Councilman Joseph (Jody) Landers, D 3rd., introduced a City Council resolution asking the Board of Estimates to review health care benefits of city employees called to active service to ensure that they continue to receive the same level of health care protection. This is not an unreasonable request.
Lynda M. Kundrat.
Price of Peace
Editor: We the people of the United States are blessed. Other than Pearl Harbor we have never been attacked on our home soil. We have been to war many times helping our friends and the oppressed. Most of the fighting we have been involved in took place in other lands.
Now we have a maniac like Saddam Hussein trying to follow in the footsteps of Adolph Hitler. Had we intervened when Hitler first became an aggressor in Europe we might never had to fight World War II.
Peace doesn't come cheap. I lost quite a few of my comrades in Europe during World War II. They paid with their lives so we could live in peace.
We have protesters who live in our country in safety. They burn our flag and object to our involvement in the Persian Gulf.
I say stand up for our flag, our country, and for our men in the gulf or leave.
Editor: I would like to address the criticism of Lithuanian independence in Nick VanSant's Jan. 22 letter. By comparing Lithuania to South Carolina, Mr. VanSant concludes that Lithuania should suffer continued Soviet occupation.
Despite a few superficial similarities between Lithuania and South Carolina, the vast differences destroy the comparison.
Lithuania possesses a distinct historical and cultural awareness separate from the Soviet Union. Lithuanians speak their own language distinct from Russian, Ukrainian or even the other Baltic languages.
In early European history, Lithuania existed as an independent nation, and later as a separate state in union with Poland. Once again from 1918 to 1940, Lithuania enjoyed independence. Only the invasion and continued occupation of Lithuania by Soviet troops prevents Lithuania from currently enjoying democracy and independence.
It would be more appropriate to compare Lithuania to Ireland than to South Carolina. Both Lithuania and Ireland have populations of about 3.5 million and an area of about 27,000 square miles. Ireland won its independence from Great Britain only in 1921.
Would anyone deny Ireland's claim to independence?
Perhaps other successful, yet small European nations do not deserve independence either. Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands are all physically smaller than Lithuania.
The unavoidable conclusion remains that Lithuania deserves to be judged not by its size but by its commitment to a democratic and independent future.
Mark J. Teel.
Editor: I am interested as to what Prof. JoAnne Brown meant in her statement to Jean Marbella: "All those people from World War II, the so-called good war, they're going or gone."
As a member of this generation, I not only did all that I could for the war effort in World War II, but will do so now.
If I interpret Ms. Brown's statement correctly, and maybe I have ++ not, I want to assure her that I, and many of my contemporaries, are neither "gone" or planning in the near future to be "going."
We are a font of knowledge and wisdom gathered over many years.
Editor: As we enter the second month of the Gregorian Calendar, perhaps we should give some thought as from whence comes the name. "Februarius." The Roman festival of purification, was celebrated at this time. It must be obvious to all that a festival of purification is just what this old world needs -- from Capitol Hill to the shores of the Severn River.
J. Bernard Hihn.