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Balance the MPAEditor: A couple of years...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Balance the MPA

Editor: A couple of years ago the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) announced the first of a series of shocking operational deficits. Shortly afterward it was revealed by The Sun that the top officials who guided the MPA to that dismal predicament were rewarded with fat bonuses as "incentives" to do better.

Now, the most recent in successive deficit announcements was made by the new port director. His response is to reorganize out of existence 72 jobs from an already lean MPA.

Both solutions, bonuses and firings, were wrong. I wonder how long it will take the newest group of tyros who run our port agency to realize that economic impact is the most important goal of a port. Throughout the world, ports focus with diligence on how much business they can attract. This is the all-important primary function. Sure, budgetary considerations are important, but successful ports rightly make it secondary to drumming up new business.

The Port of Baltimore is capable of generating $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion in business every year. Now I ask, which is more important: economic impact of that magnitude or a $5 million operating shortfall? The bean-counters, like good little bureaucrats, concentrate on the deficit and then further cripple the MPA by cutting jobs. If they truly understood the function of ports they would avoid undercutting the Port of Baltimore's economic potential no matter what the cost. Instead they are doing exactly the opposite.

Donald Klein.

Baltimore.

'Now, Gorby?'

Editor: The exuberance of those attending the "free-at-last" festivities at the Lithuanian Hall on Labor Day was bubbling more briskly than the champagne. And God knows there was good reason. For over 50 years, the Baltics had been consigned to physical, emotional and spiritual bondage and oppression by the decree of two of history's most diabolical tyrants, Hitler and Stalin, and were forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940.

Shortly after Lithuania courageously stepped forward in March 1990 to declare its independence, President Bush began to act ambiguously about the authenticity of the Soviet annexation of the Baltics. He patronizingly urged little Lithuania to work it out first with Papa Bear. Since Papa Bear was the one who was sitting on Lithuania, this was a cruel and sardonic piece of advice, indeed. Many felt serious consternation about Mr. Bush's slavish deference to Mikhail Gorbachev.

Mr. Bush will, of course, be historically connected with the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations with the Baltics, but his luster will be dimmed by the fact that all the major nations of the world beat him to it.

When the principle of truth is as vivid and uncompromised as it was in the Baltic situation, America's fundamental conception of freedom should have been fearlessly confirmed and acted upon on behalf of the "captive nations." As it was, Americans felt diminished and embarrassed by the impression of our president peeping timidly from behind the curtain of history and whispering, "Now, Gorby?'

H. J. Rizzo.

Baltimore.

Why Encourage Poverty?

Editor: Carol Billett's Sept. 12 letter pleaded with compassion for donations of an ice machine and children's high chairs to the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen. But her letter served only to exasperate me, a donor to charities and soup kitchens.

What is the public expected to do? To keep on helping people who keep on having children when they cannot support the children they have already got?

Where are the fathers? Why aren't they providing for their children instead of both mother and father expecting the public to do so?

For this situation the whole of the United States pays the cost. Not only in the soup kitchens but also in the medical expenses for gynecological treatments and subsequent care of all sorts.

The State of Maryland requires that hospitals add unincurred costs to the bills of insured patients to cover the costs of non-paying patients. This has helped create the present crisis in health care.

Poverty is a terrible thing. The aged often find themselves penniless and homeless at the end of their lives through sheer adversity or bad luck. They are now too old to do other than eke out their miserable existence with the aid of charities.

But to encourage poverty from the cradle onward and make it an integral part of the scheme of things is a catastrophe for the future of America.

Peggy Wallis Harvey.

Columbia.

Be Done with It

Editor: Being from out of town, maybe the significance of whether Baltimore's new downtown stadium is called Oriole Park or Camden Yards is lost on me.

Why not call the new home of the Os "Oriole Park at Camden Yards"? Carve that in granite across the facade and be done with it.

Herb Muktarian.

Palo Alto, Calif.

Extortion

Editor: To hold over Israel's head the loan guarantees as a reward for land concessions is nothing short of extortion.

Land concessions should be a bargaining chip in peace negotiations as they were with Egypt, which resulted in Israel returning 91 percent of the territory it conquered in the 1967 war.

A loan guarantee is not a loan. It is a guarantee of repayment. Israel's record -- which differs from that of many other nations -- shows it has never defaulted.

If preconditions are to be asked for the peace treaty, then they should be asked of both sides. What stipulations have been demanded of the Arab nations?

Ellie Fier.

Baltimore.

The Sun in the Best Reagan Tradition

Editor: Is it possible that editorial writers disassociate from reality to such an extent that psychotic ramblings, like your editorial of Sept. 15 on the "downsizing" of the University of Maryland, are the result? If not, what other explanations are available for this bizarre piece?

Any careful reader of your page should scoff at the mere assertion that the merger of UMAB and UMBC will "cut millions in administrative expenses but . . . improve education offerings for students and open up vast new vistas for researchers on the two Baltimore-area campuses." Where do you see these spare millions coming from, in light of the fact that both campuses have already endured severe budget cuts? You have often criticized Reaganomics for its essential dishonesty, but it seems you have not cast off its rhetoric: that we can have everything we want, and we don't have to pay for it.

More embarrassing is your claim that the "glory years" of generous funding are now at an end. Strange, but people who have been in the University of Maryland System for a long time cannot remember these years. Were you there when I or my colleagues of long service were away? Can I take you on a little tour of one of the UM campuses sometime, to show you the many buildings in poor repair, the under-equipped laboratories, the inadequate library? Better yet, through its payroll records, to show you the large number of classes taught by part-time instructors paid menial wages and given no benefits? Would you like to see the dingy offices of the UMBC writing program, where on occasion three part-time instructors must have conferences with their students at the same time?

Better yet, can I take you on a tour of your own editorials, so soon forgotten by those whose short-term memory has shorted out? To what should be your chagrin, many readers will remember your campaign of 1988, when The Sun bemoaned the fact that Maryland, one of the ten richest states in the nation, was 37th (or thereabouts) in funding public higher education. Glory years? Let me suggest that at most the time span was six months, and that the building of a great university system like those found in Wisconsin and California takes longer than your attention span will apparently permit.

Now, riding the fashionable crest of fiscal responsibility, you talk in terms of the fat times being past for UM. Blithely, in the best Reagan tradition, you offer furloughs and program cuts as the solution to all our problems. No one can deny Maryland's fiscal crisis. The recession may make it necessary for the University of Maryland to shrink. But unless you and the citizens of Maryland are comfortable with closing down half of the campuses in the system (such that funding effectively doubles) you had best be shed of the illusion that in this environment, the quality of public higher education in Maryland will improve.

Stefan Martin.

Baltimore.

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