Editor: As a former resident of New York state, in Maryland for over five years, I have a few comments on the current budget deficit and state taxes.
On Long Island, before we moved, our property taxes were two percent of the property's actual market value. Here in Maryland, our first-year taxes were less than one percent of the purchase price.
Due to the artificially inflated property prices on Long Island, the actual taxes were $5,000 there, and only $900 here. We also found savings on auto insurance and general living expenses.
Recent visits to New York and to Connecticut gave us another surprise. Gasoline prices were 10 cents higher on Long Island and in Connecticut, and 20 cents higher just north of New York City, than here in Westminster. Yet Peter A. Jay says that Maryland gas taxes are "one of the highest in the nation."
New York sales tax is also higher than in Maryland. We did find Maryland income tax to be higher than in New York, but on balance we are way ahead financially as a result of the move here, and as a bonus the friendliness of the people and the less frantic life style soon convinced us that the move was one of the best things we ever did to change our lives.
A Cry for Help
Editor: It was with great interest that we read Suzanne Wooton's Nov. 24 article on Spring Grove Hospital Center. The more we read, the more indignant we became.
During a 12-year period, our son was a patient at Spring Grove on several occasions. He preferred Spring Grove to private mental facilities. He was housed in Dayhoff, Brick Cottage 3 and briefly in the now-closed Hamilton Building.
The article spells out difficult situations all too vividly, i.e. the need for greater physical space, somewhat drab surroundings and many seriously ill humans who lend a sadness to the picture. However, it fails altogether to point out how hard the doctors, social service people, nurses, and aides work.
This quality of care, genuine concern and effort to help each individual was a continuous thread throughout all those years. We think mental-health workers are among the most dedicated individuals we have met. Their experiences are often discouraging and heart-rending and yet they continue to do their utmost.
Further, there is a failure to highlight those who respond to the mental-health care and are successfully discharged to half-way houses or supervised apartments. There are many of these people who return to normal existence.
One cannot base one's opinions on a one-time visit to a facility whose financial support has slowly been diminishing when the need is greatest.
However, we applaud the effort on the part of the newspaper to call attention to an often forgotten world of humanity crying for help.
Mell and Betsey Spragins.
Editor: The presidents of UMAB and UMBC are incorrect in assuming that simple merger of the two campuses will lead to "increased prestige" as a leading research institution. Academic excellence and preeminence in basic research are attributes which are won over decades, not overnight. They are won by fostering and nurturing expertise within, and attracting the same from without. Compare our sister institution in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, which enjoys a number of Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy, to the UMAB and UMBC campuses, which have neither.
It is further lunacy to suggest that granting agencies will be more powerfully persuaded to award research funding to the united campuses simply on that basis. Research grants are awarded primarily on the basis of research merit, and the fact of institutional merger will have little impact on those decisions. This rationale for merger shows that our leadership is sorely lacking in foresight and is instead focused on the "bottom line." If their attention were directed at the appropriate long term goals, that bottom line would take care of itself.
Dr. Paul B. Wolfe.
The writer is assistant professor of biological chemistry at the School of Medicine, UMAB.
Editor: One can hardly read a newspaper or watch a TV news program without being exposed to something concerning AIDS. It seems that the media and our legislators are more concerned with generally behavioral-type diseases that for the most part might be preventable by personal choice and life-style changes.
About 165,000 Americans suffer from AIDS; and another million have the HIV virus. The AIDS budget of the National Institutes of Health is about $800 million a year, while total spending on Alzheimer's disease, which afflicts about 4 million Americans is $245 million a year.
One wonders where are the sports idols, rock stars, etc., when it comes to raising money for research into Alzheimer's, cancer and heart disease. Why isn't more media attention given to Alzheimer's disease, cancer, heart failure and other disabilities
that are either inevitable or not preventable?
Edward F. Keska.
Back to Basics on Gun Laws
Editor: In a recent editorial, the writer suggested that our Founding Fathers would have changed or deleted the Constitution's Second Amendment if they were subjected to the same crime problems we are having today.
I highly disagree. What they would do, and in fact did do, was to deal out swift and harsh punishment to those who committed crimes.
Until we, the law-abiding silent majority, tell our bleeding-heart, liberal do-gooders to take a back seat and demand harsh punishment to fit the crime, our crime rate will continue to rise.
The cure for crime is very simple -- put the people who commit it in jail and keep them there. Gun laws are not an alternative, nor will they serve as a substitute for this simple solution.
Remember the 1940s and 1950s? You could walk the streets safely at night and not even bother to lock the doors of your house. Gun laws did not make the streets safe -- guns were even more available back then. It was fear of punishment that kept people honest.
Let's get rid of these psychiatrists and lawyers with all their theories, reasons, causes, and excuses, and get back to the basics.
Carl S. Justice.
Editor: Unfortunately in this country, a few charlatans are encouraged by the media into thinking they can be elected president. Fortunately the voters only elect one about every fourth or fifth time.
Quentin D. Davis.
Help them Survive
Editor: How can anyone remain silent about the dilemma thousands of our fellow citizens face trying to survive the winter without homes? If our government does not respond to basic survival needs of its most unfortunate citizens how can any of us hope that government will be responsive and effective in dealing with anything else?
In this era of cynicism our leaders would gain immeasurably if they at least guaranteed shelter and food for the homeless. Maryland, the Free State, could also become to be known as the Humane State if our government was the first to address the most basic human needs for food and shelter for its poorest citizens. We could be a positive example for the rest of the nation.
We have a lottery for a baseball stadium. Why can't we have a lottery for the homeless? We could also have a discretionary tax much like we do for the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund, earmarked for humans. It's a sad irony that plants and animals are the special dependents that receive state tax priority. I am sure that the people of Maryland would be most generous and that the homeless would no longer have to depend upon a charitable pittance. Only when our most unfortunate citizens can rely on their government will the rest of
us be proud to call that government their own.
If Students Paid for Education
Editor: In his Nov. 23 Opinion * Commentary article, John V. Brain writes, "we don't expect welfare recipients to fund the welfare system, and we can't expect students to fund the public (higher) education system."
As a student at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, I have to respectfully disagree with Brain. His analogy between the welfare system and public education wouldn't wash on the ground that the former is a temporary assistance to those who need something to eat and a place to sleep, whereas the latter is a permanent subsidy to middle class children who are making an investment in their future.
It is only reasonable that the students who are in college to increase their potential income be asked to pick up the total cost of financing their education. Currently, if two students graduate from high school, one decides to get a job at a local factory and the other seeks to pursue learning, say, Victorian literature, the former is taxed (heavily) to provide for the latter. It is simply unfair.
Second, his outrageous remark that the privatization of higher public education will leave the poor unschooled is without basis. Both the rich, the middle class and the poor who decide to go to college will simply borrow and sign IOU's. The collateral will not be on current assets, as he implies, but on future earnings. A poor student and a rich student who both study accounting for five years will owe the same amount of money and pay back from their salaries (over a period of time).
Third, his cheap shot statement that if higher education is to be privatized, why not sell all educational systems (from kindergarten to high school)? gets this response: The state has an interest in improving literacy, civility, good culture, democracy and potential tax base. In addition, various studies show that those with primary education are less likely to be on welfare, more likely to generate taxes for the state (through the income tax system), less likely to be incarcerated criminals, etc.
Finally, he challenges Professor James Dorn of Towson State University, the author of a piece in favor of privatization, to ask his students "what they would do if their tuition were tripled next semester?" I can guarantee Mr. Brain that Professor Dorn
wouldn't have to "keep his head down." Many of us will simply borrow cash from the banks who have more faith in our potential earnings that the author. Maybe then, as powerful customers with cash, we will be treated like kings and queens by the current educational system, which gives us poor education on ++ the ground that we are bunch of welfare recipients who aren't paying for the cost of their education, therefore, have no right to demand a quality education. As the old saying goes, beggars can't be choosers.
Abdul Rahman Abdi.