Pride in Baltimore's Hispanic AchievementsEditor: I read...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Pride in Baltimore's Hispanic Achievements

Editor: I read with pleasant feelings and surprise your editorial about the Russian community of Baltimore. I am surprised, however, at your long-standing lack of interest in another, larger, older community which is now close to 40,000 in strength. I am referring to the Hispanic community.

I have not often seen editorials -- or even feature articles -- on this community, its trials and tribulations, its newspapers or restaurants. I have not often read about the successes of this community but I have often read about its school drop-out rates, its illegal aliens and its high crime rate.

Yet the Spanish community, too, has its newspapers (Coloquio, El Mensajero), its restaurants (Rio Lisboa, El Bistro, Spanish Meson, Thompson's, La Puerta del Sol, La Hacienda, Torremolinos, Tio Pepe).

It also has over 31 clubs and organizations representinHispanic countries from Argentina to Venezuela, churches of all denominations, a Hispanic Library Foundation (which donates books to the Towson State University and the Enoch Pratt libraries), a Hispanic Cultural Association (which leads the community in the Columbus Day parade) and a Federation of Hispanic Organizations (which has been organizing the Hispanic Festival for 16 years).

The community also has a youth-oriented volunteer organization the East Baltimore Latino Organization, which organizes a festival in addition to tutoring and helping Hispanic students to adjust to their new environment.

There are night clubs and discos featuring Latin music where the community gathers on weekends -- Tapas Bar and House of Jose. There are doctors, lawyers, college professors, architects and other professionals, whose businesses and practices are thriving and making the community proud.

I think it is important to remind Baltimore of this.

Just as the Russian community is proud of its achievements which you so justly praise, so the Hispanic community is proud of its achievements. We want you and your readers to know about them.

Javier G. Bustamante.

Baltimore.

The writer is editor and publisher of Coloquio.

Praise for Shane

Editor: I want first and foremost to express my appreciation for the excellent journalism of your correspondent in Moscow, Scott Shane. There have been several articles carrying his byline over the past several months that have reflected a keen insight and well developed understanding of Soviet politics.

His sensitivity to the nuances of politics and propaganda have made him one of the best informed and sanest voices coming out the area. His article, "From Perestroika to Crackdown: How Could It Happen?" which appeared in The Sunday Sun Jan. 20 is a fine example of the clarity with which he views the situation and intelligently conveys this information to his readers.

Secondly, I want to commend The Sun for continuing to highlight the dramatic and frightening turn of events in the Soviet Union. Certainly there is every reason to give primacy to coverage of the gulf war; but the heinous repression of the Baltics represents an action which, I believe, will have a much greater impact on our own national security than even the gulf war.

A return to Stalinist terror and unbounded defense of imperial power will surely lead to broader internal instability within the Soviet Union. It is not only the Baltics that have rejected the discredited and despised communist hegemony. Can the West sit passively when all the factors that once gave rise to the Cold War re-emerge? I hope not.

Vincent B. Boris.

Columbia.

What's Wrong

Editor: What is wrong with our legislators in Annapolis? Every time they try to pass a bill requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets and take out medical insurance against accidents it is defeated. In the meantime taxpayers are paying an exorbitant amount for medical bills when they are in an accident.

Motorists must wear a seat belt, so why shouldn't cyclists be required to wear a helmet?

I think it's about time that our so-called lawmakers act with more responsibility instead of giving in to the lobbyists all the time. I as a taxpayer demand it.

Raymond S. Burnett.

Baltimore.

School Plans

Editor: In reading your editorial, "Schools Without Bureaucrats?" (Jan. 19) I found myself completely puzzled by state School Superintendent Joseph Shilling's proposal to cut his staff by 70 percent. As an educator at the classroom level, I applaud him for an initiative that is long overdue in education, where class sizes swell, materials fall short and specialist positions keep increasing.

However, Dr. Shilling is now sending mixed messages to the schools.

Cutting his bureaucracy shows a concern on his part for an education department laden with red tape and regulations. Yet his new Maryland State Performance Plan (MSPP) is already overburdening schools with more paperwork.

Cutting his staff also shows he wants to empower the schools and promote school-based management, yet as a result of his MSPP, I feel that once again I have been dictated to by his office as to what is best for my students.

Instead of working toward a plan most beneficial to them, I have been forced to accept the MSPP and to focus on that plan which will make my school get the best report card. Accountability is necessary, but this report card is now becoming too important.

I feel powerless over a plan that I will have to accept, parts of which seem beneficial neither to student, parent nor teacher. Through MSPP, attention to teaching will once again become attention to test preparation.

Declining student test scores will not be improved by Dr. Shilling's idea of more testing, especially when students have no incentive to pass them. In school-based management, I feel most teachers would not choose this course of action.

Cutting his staff is certainly a step in the right direction. Yet I wonder, will his staff be large enough after the cut to handle the mountains of paperwork generated by his newest educational performance plan?

Patricia Wajbel.

Phoenix.

A War Surtax

Editor: Like it or not, America is at war. After a lengthy prelude and the failure of all diplomatic initiatives, President Bush joined battle with Iraq. As expected in a vigorous democracy, there have been anti-war protests and demonstrations.

However, the general mood is one of strong support for the president's actions. It is heartening to see this support in the yellow ribbons, the U.S. flags and songs written for the soldiers in the trenches.

There is no doubt that oil is a central factor in the crisis. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the future of the entire world and the economies of all nations are tied up in the resolution of the conflict, and that oil is at its root.

While symbolic support is essential for the morale of the nation, I suggest that as Americans, we show our support in more tangible ways. One way would be through conservation of this precious commodity, oil.

We could all lower our thermostats, and be watchful of our use of energy. We could cut down on the use of electricity by turning off unnecessary lights, by using the stairs instead of elevators whenever possible, by taking shorter showers, by walking or using bicycles for short trips where possible, by driving less, and consolidating trips when we do have to drive. In the long-term perspective, of course, we should be turning to the use of alternative energy sources such as solar power.

My other suggestion is more painful. Since the battle is about oil, and since it is enormously expensive (between $500 and $700 million a day by one estimate), I suggest that a 5-cent "war assessment" be collected on every gallon of gas or oil used by us until the war is over, to help defray the enormous cost of this war that will enable an unimpeded supply of oil.

I believe that these are two ways in which we can express our support to the brave men and women of our armed forces in the gulf and also make a solid contribution to the national coffers lest the national deficit grow even larger because of this war.

Vijay M. Abhyankar.

Forest Hill.

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