Penny SaverEditor: I find it almost impossible...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Penny Saver

Editor: I find it almost impossible to believe that there are people complaining that the postage hike went only to 29 cents instead of the "easier" 30 cents.

Whatever happened to the adage, "A penny saved is a penny earned"?

Carol Chesney Meyers.

Towson.

Runaway Growth

Editor: We're fortunate that Gov. William Donald Schaefer, in his 2020 Report and implementing legislation, has taken up the mantle of leadership in addressing protection of the Chesapeake Bay and runaway growth by:

* Channeling growth where the infrastructure exists;

* Protecting forested areas critical to ground water recharge, clean air and temperature moderation;

* Conserving our resources;

* Seeking to provide the kinds of policies and tools critical to restoring the bay;

* Recognizing that urban centers are what gives life-blood to the region.

We certainly don't have such legislation and zoning either pending or in place in Howard County that would accomplish any of these objectives. Yet our county and others wail that the state would usurp their powers. Since Howard County has failed to exercise leadership in effectively managing growth, there is no cause for complaint.

Instead, our government is seeking to undo the few controls we had achieved. It has started by lifting the growth cap, arguing that as long as real-estate development is in a down mode, there's no need to worry about protecting the land and water.

What a strange way to make public policy -- seek any excuse to undo those mechanisms which control runaway sprawl and make Howard County a better place to live, in the naive hope that it will stimulate economic growth. We should be viewing this lull as the best opportunity we will have to move forward with an aggressive growth-management policy and to demonstrate the ability to effectively manage our own land-use affairs.

No, the bill isn't perfect, but it is responding to a critical need we are not addressing here in Howard County -- managing growth.

Joyce M. Kelly.

Ellicott City.

The writer is president of the Howard County Citizen's Association.

Short Week

Editor: I would like to comment on Peter Jensen's Feb. 7 front page article, "Md. Workers Get Reprieve, Short Week."

Caring, committed state workers give public service to various branches of our needy society in a full-time capacity. A good many work beyond the required time, receiving neither comp time nor overtime pay.

Would the proposed denial of pay raises and terminated jobs (let's be honest about "layoffs") solve the state deficit? Would it be emotionally satisfying or financially solvent for state workers to join the ranks of the unemployed and others whom they serve?

The 35.5 hour week is in lieu of pay. In other words, state workers enter state service willingly taking less pay than their counterparts in other states or in private industry in the state of TTC Maryland. State holidays were granted by previous administrations for the same reason. The pay scale for Maryland state workers ranks 40th in the nation. (Our governor's salary is the second highest in the nation.)

Many state workers supported the governor prior to the election and voted for him. The changes that occurred within days of his re-election have cause utter confusion and outrage.

Mary Cox.

Cambridge.

A World That Works for All

Editor: It is not hard to join the reporters and the military experts in their elation, and even pride, over both the technological sophistication and precision of the weaponry being used in the gulf war, and the high degree of cooperation of the allies in this action.

It is, however, hard for me to consider humans to be civilized when we can muster all this technology and cooperation only for purposes of killing each other.

Think what the same level of funding, use of technology and international cooperation could produce if used in the pursuit of a better life for all peoples -- of a world that works for everyone.

Joan K. Parr.

Baltimore.

Music Costs

Editor: My great interest in classical music causes me to take a serious interest in everything that I see in the media about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and other close-by orchestras.

My wife and I attend performances of the BSO and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. A few weeks ago, we all read that insufficient funding support had caused the BSO to cancel its next big tour.

Then I read an interview with BSO's concertmaster, Herbert Greenberg, in which he bemoaned that tour cancellation and, in various ways, said that the orchestra should do more touring, not less.

Now, I've just read that the BSO has fallen 20 percent short of its 1991 phone-a-thon goal and that this year's goal was the same as had been raised last year. So, even though the goal was not increased, it was not met.

I keep thinking back to the last contract demands of BSO's players. And now, its principal violinist is bemoaning the tour cancellation. Sadly, that causes me to wonder what the players' next contract demands will be. During the intermission of a recent performance, I heard worrisome rumors about that.

I wonder if any of the BSO players are neighbors to any of the white-collar workers who, until last week, worked at Westinghouse?

David Mason.

Baltimore.

Museum Fees

Editor: As Martha Sweatman said in her letter of Feb. 6, it is too bad that the Baltimore Museum of Art is charging for its fall show of Monet paintings.

Oh for the good old days when such wonders could be presented free to the public. We should have the budget of the National Gallery of Art to permit us to do so. Unfortunately, the vagaries of economics in most cities today do not permit such freedom.

The costs of such a show are almost unbelievable: Crating, transportation, insurance etc. are positively prohibitive. That is why our wonderful museum staff exerted extraordinary efforts for some years to exchange our Cone collection gems with those of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston.

We owe them a great debt of gratitude for the show they will unveil this fall. You don't have to fly or take the train to Boston to see these.

And when you think that this couldn't be done without a $2 admission for members and $6.50 for nonmembers, it doesn't seem such a high price to pay, certainly no more than a movie and less than the theater or a concert.

It seems to me the museum deserves praise for this show, not brickbats. Smart Baltimoreans, if they have not already done so, will immediately sign up for membership at the BMA. It's the best deal in town.

Marjorie H. Bright.

Baltimore.

Trivializing the Vacant House Problem

Editor: The Sun's concern about vacant houses owned by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) is totally misdirected. It shows a startling lack of understanding of why these units became vacant and why they were not immediately turned around. Your Feb. 9 editorial ignored continued success by the HABC in restoring vacant houses and lacked important insights and historical perspective.

The problem of vacant houses is not a result of morale or mismanagement. It is rather a sign of the federal government's policy of neglecting American cities.

Before cuts killed the federal program to renovate abandoned row houses, the authority rehabilitated about 2,500 vacant units between 1970 and 1983. But these units needed subsequent work to avoid deterioration. However, from 1983 to 1989 the federal government provided the Housing Authority with absolutely no money to repair these houses.

To complicate the issue, most of the once-renovated buildings had not received a major overhaul of their structure and systems. They had been given, for the most part, only cosmetic repairs so they could be brought to code and occupied quickly. This made the buildings vulnerable to the wear-and-tear brought on by large families and easy prey for vandals when families moved out.

The shortsightedness of federal policy eventually became obvious and the Department of Housing and Urban Development gave us funds to renovate scattered-site houses under what is known as the Comprehensive Improvement Assistance Program (CIAP). But by then, much of the damage had already been done.

By 1989, the HABC had boarded up more than 200 vacant units because there were no resources to renovate them. The problem would have been worse, had not the authority taken funds from its own reserves to rehab 120 other units at the cost of roughly $3.2 million. So contrary to the impression created by your editorial, HABC had been fighting this problem and continues fighting it today.

Your editorial discusses 300 vacant units, but pays no attention to the size of the Housing Authority. While we take seriously any vacant unit, it is important to understand that these 300 are out of more than 18,200 units HABC manages, including the 2,600 in scattered sites. So these vacants represent less that 2 percent of our total inventory -- and we feel it is only fair that you put the numbers in context.

Your editorial also chose not to discuss efforts to resolve the vacant house problem.

In 1989, Baltimore was awarded $3.3 million in CIAP funds to renovate 100 of the units and another $3.3 million in 1990 for an additional 100. This year we will restore another 100 vacant houses. In fact, many of the houses which appear abandoned to you are currently on the drawing boards or already under contract and will be the focus of work in 1991.

While the restoration of these properties cannot be done without adequate federal support, we must remember that providing affordable public housing for our low-income citizens -- many with economic and social difficulties far more severe than suffered a decade ago -- presents a fundamental challenge to all of us and HABC has accepted that challenge. But to create the impression of willful neglect or calculated deviousness by this agency as the cause of vacancies is to trivialize the problem.

Robert Hearn.

Baltimore.

The writer is executive director of HABC.

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