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50+ for WomenEditor: On June 19 The...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

50+ for Women

Editor: On June 19 The Sun published a very well-written article by Jean Marbella on how older men laid off from their jobs were being helped by 50+, a support group formed to network and create new opportunities for older workers.

Since then, numbers of women have called to ask if 50+ also helps women. Some demanded to know why 50+ doesn't help women.

Of course 50+ does help women as well as men, and many women as well as men have called to offer help to 50+. The focus on men was unfortunate. It is true that more men than women have been affected by middle-management layoffs, because in the past more men than women have filled the ranks of middle-management. But 50+ is absolutely non-discriminatory, and although we began by focusing on managers and professionals, we hope soon to be able to help all older employees who have lost their jobs -- not only to find employment, but also to go into business for themselves. We are also attracting a large number of those who have elected early retirement, but are eager to find other jobs or opportunities.

50+ is not a charity which offers "help" in the usual one-way sense of helping the sick and the poor. We plan to be a self-help group that mobilizes our mutual resources to network, brainstorm, jawbone, incorporate, negotiate and vote. We understand that America respects those who help themselves and succeed, and we intend to do both -- women as well as men.

John Brain.

Baltimore.

The writer is founder of 50+.

Painful Apathy

Editor: Where is the show of pride in country when four out of ten eligible Marylanders are not registered to vote? Where is civic pride when 67.6 percent of eligible Marylanders did not bother to participate in the 1990 general election? Real pride in country comes from being committed and engaged in actualizing the principles upon which this nation was founded, not empty rhetoric.

A recent analysis of voter registration and population data showed that none of the state's subdivisions had a growth of its electorate in keeping with its growth of voting-age population between November 1988 and March 1991.

In fact, the state's net total of registered voters decreased 186,794, or 8.1 percent, between the two time-periods. Except Carroll, Calvert and Charles counties, 21 subdivisions had net losses of registered voters. The greatest erosion occurred in Baltimore City, where the electorate declined 19.2 percent. Montgomery County's electorate eroded by 8.3 percent, Howard's by 7.9 percent.

It is not enough to feel angry and helpless. Many individuals do feel political alienation in the American mass society, but the abdication of the right to vote makes them even more powerless. There is power in the vote. There is even more power when citizens organize into groups and get behind particular issues and candidates who articulate and advocate their interests.

The shifting of many fiscal responsibilities and policy decisions from federal to state and local governments under the "new federalism" of the Reagan-Bush administrations and the establishment of a conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court lend added impetus for a new brand of political activism in Maryland. Citizens are urged to take more personal responsibility for shaping the destiny of the polity. Real pride in country, and in community, comes about when citizens roll up their sleeves and become involved in dealing with common problems.

Herbert H. Lindsey.

Baltimore.

Helper Dogs

Editor: An otherwise fine article on helper dogs for the disabled (June 21) was marred by use of the pejorative and largely discredited phrase, "confined to wheelchairs," to describe some of the participants.

Such expressions as "confined to a wheelchair" and "wheelchair bound" -- in addition to being trite and literally inaccurate -- are considered by a great many disabled persons to be extremely insulting. It is for these reasons that the AP Style Manual, for example, cautions against their use.

Of greater utility and more neutral effect are the expressions, "wheelchair-user," and "uses a wheelchair" -- as in "Mr. Smith, a wheelchair-user since an accident left him paralyzed . . ." or "Mr. Smith, who uses a wheelchair . . ."

In addition to being more literally accurate, these constructions emphasize that a wheelchair is no different than many other things which simply compensate for a physical disability. We would never refer to someone as "eyeglass-confined" of course; we speak instead of him or her "wearing glasses." Similarly, one is "using" a wheelchair.

ndrew D. Levy.

Baltimore.

A Hare Replies

Editor: Your editorial, "Harebrained Policy in Carroll," was aptly named. Since I am one of the "hares," allow me to apologize for being so naive where legal process is involved and also offer a few words for clarification.

You praise State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman for being "alert" and "courageous" for giving the Carroll County commissioners much-needed advice on the illegality of advising inspectors to avoid nit-picking in their enforcement of zoning laws.

"Courageous?" Since when did it take courage for anyone to counsel a commissioner? I haven't shot anybody in months!

Since Commissioner Julia W. Gouge's duties frequently take her out of the county, no doubt she was absent the several times we talked about zoning enforcement. Although [Commissioner President] Donald I. Dell and I agreed in principle, I was not aware at the time that a memo had been sent and was concerned upon reading . . .that Mrs. Gouge was not aware of its existence.

The next time the full board was able to meet, they approved my suggestion that in the future any matter involving a change in policy be formally voted upon and the decision recorded in the minutes in open session. Three minutes later, the long arm of coincidence was stretched to the limit of truth when Mr. Dell was called to the phone by Mr. Hickman, who talked of the very same thing.

Speaking of coincidence, tucked directly below your editorial was another, "Ticket Fever," in which you scolded two police officers for ticketing motorists for expired license plates while parked at Mondawmin. This ridiculous situation shows exactly what Mr. Dell and I were trying to say: "Better observe the spirit of the law, rather than the letter. . .."

lmer C. Lippy.

Westminster.

The writer is vice president of the three-member Board of Commissioners of Carroll County.

Highway Votes

Editor: I see that Sen. Barbara Mikulski voted against expansion of the federal highways. Then she turned around and voted to support the billboard industry to allow advertising on our highways.

Evidently she does not look for beauty on our highways. She just likes to look at the pictures on the billboard signs and the campaign contributions she gets from the industry.

'Mary Kathryn McCracken.

Baltimore.

'Agony' on Parks

Editor: The Sun took a cheap shot at the Maryland General Assembly. In an article and an editorial ("Picking a fight with Schaefer" and "Assembly Extends the Agony," June 23), The Sun accused the legislature of "political irresponsibility" in "kow-towing to parks interests" by recommending that any remaining funds from the latest round of budget cuts be restored to Program Open Space as a first priority.

The Sun's rebuke of legislative leaders who are rightfully attempting to salvage the devastated Program Open Space is somewhat puzzling, considering its many years of support for Open Space as one of the most creative, innovative land preservation programs in the nation.

By way of background, Program Open Space is funded by a 0.5-percent real estate transfer tax. In its 20-year history it has generated more than $300 million and preserved more than 130,000 acres of land. It is a perfect example of a pay-as-you-go program in which tax revenues are used to purchase open space lands in proportion to the rate of development in the state.

In the fiscal year just ending, approximately $50 million, virtually the entire allocation for Program Open Space, was diverted for budget reduction. Severe cuts have already been made in the new fiscal year allocations and if deficit projections are as grim as feared in 1992, virtually all funds for state and local park acquisition and development will have been wiped out for two or more years.

Even with the knowledge that the budget crisis affects all operations of the state, a very disproportionate share of the state's budget deficit is being paid by Program Open Space revenues. Approximately 0.5 percent of the entire state budget is generated from the transfer tax for open space purposes, yet it has already made up more than 10 percent of the state's budget deficit.

Further, to completely raid Program Open Space funds is a breach of faith with Maryland taxpayers. This is not a question of "kow-towing" to special interests or a question of parks vs. Medevac helicopters or parks vs. baby formula. Rather, this is a question of good faith with the taxpaying public. Taxpayers believe their transfer tax will be used to purchase parks and preserve open space and that their quality of life will be enhanced by this fund source. But none of these revenues is going for that purpose.

Citizens and local government may begin to question why even have a state transfer tax for open space preservation, when none of the fund is used for its intended purpose.

The state has a very strong interest in protecting its natural resources. This goal is supported by citizens and the legislature alike. Restoring funding and faith in Program Open Space is important to Maryland. The Sun has performed a grave disservice to effective legislative action by calling this "bumbling leadership." Contrary to The Sun's opinion, it is certainly the prerogative of the legislature to prioritize how a very modest amount of savings might be redirected to programs of state importance.

Richard J. Dolesh.

Ellicott City.

The writer is a member of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association's Legislative Committee.

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