Don't Waste Time
Editor: The proposal by Del. Howard P. Rawlings to hav blacks referred to as African Americans in state law is a frivolous waste of the legislature's time when it should be giving serious full-time attention to the more important issues of the budget, gun control, air pollution, etc.
He is also presumptuous of the desires of blacks from Caribbean countries or specific parts of Africa by including them in his all-encompassing category of "African-American." He assumes these people are agreeable to being falsely identified against their wishes.
If you are a citizen of this country you are an American -- not an African-American, German-American, Irish-American, etc. The greatness of this country is that we are the "melting pot" of all races and are Americans first, last and always.
We need not give up our pride of origin, as witnessed by our ethnic celebrations at the Inner Harbor's Rash Field and Festival Hall.
Mr. Rawlings, Carl O. Snowden, Jim Williams of the NAACP and the media should be promoting a cohesive atmosphere instead of using a divisive identification that is provocative and could lead to ethnic strife that we see in Yugoslavia, the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey and elsewhere in the world.
Let us be proud to be Americans first and let our roots become part of the "melting pot."
James E. Haines. Baltimore.
Editor: Your editorial, "Hard Lesson for the Mayor," (Jan. 15 -- prompted me to respond.
It is unfortunate for the students of the city public schools, as well as for the citizens of both Baltimore City and Maryland, that you have chosen to criticize the courageous efforts of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to bring about lasting, positive change in the quality of life in Baltimore and in the state of Maryland.
Other than my deep desire to make a difference in the lives of the boys and girls in Baltimore City, the only other reason I accepted what some describe as a "mission impossible" was the strong commitment the mayor has made to education.
He has consistently proclaimed education as his No. 1 priority. Mayor Schmoke has recognized that true reform in our city starts with changing our patterns of thinking.
He has tried to redirect our thoughts about education by showing us that we can no longer tolerate funding inequities.
The mayor has tried to give us a new hope and a new self-concept by focusing on the successes of a school system which has been the stepchild of public education in this state for many years.
He has challenged us to aim high, to become "the city that reads."
Yet during this difficult period of serious budget reductions, he has been criticized for making a decision which he felt would mobilize the community to demand equal opportunities for children in our city.
He was forced to face the harsh reality that his dream for education in Baltimore must be deferred.
Those of us who work in public education are keenly aware of the preferred status which education has enjoyed throughout recent slashes in the city's budget. As a result of these most recent budget cuts, Mayor Schmoke has now been pushed to the point of forcing our libraries and public education to shoulder an increased share of the fiscal pain.
I would argue that, instead of learning a political lesson as you described, Mayor Schmoke has given us a "reality check."
He is telling us that we can no longer do business as we have in the past. He is telling us that unless we place our city and our school system higher on our list of funding priorities, we will have to face the fact that keeping the school doors open is a far cry from adequately educating our future citizens.
Walter G. Amprey. Baltimore.
The writer is superintendent of the department of education for Baltimore City.
Vote Them Out
Editor: The coming economic earthquake can be avoided i legislators heed history and common sense.
The tremors thus stirring, bankrupt city governments, welfare overload, budget cuts, rising unemployment, over-taxed citizens and an obscene federal debt signify a disaster unparalleled since the Great Depression.
Since the majority of our representatives are unwilling to take firm stand to cut spending and balance both state and federal budgets, it is time for citizens to vote them out of office. It is time for the political games to end, for the special interest groups to be quiet and for the greater good of the nation begin.
There are a handful of legislators in Annapolis who really comprehend the urgency of this impending doom. That they wish to cut special programs does not necessitate that they are uncaring toward the poor and needy. This certainly does not evidence their wish to penalize those who really work hard, e.g., teachers, social workers, and the like. But reality suggests that they are not shortsighted, rather they are wise. They react to the economic climate in a responsible way in order to protect the future for our children, by bringing our debt under control so that the poor may be fed, teachers may be rewarded and the elderly cared for.
I applaud Del. Ellen Sauerbrey, the House of Delegates minority leader, for prudent leadership. She speaks truth. She speaks for those of us who are distrustful of the way our money is spent. She knows frugality is a necessary component to government. She recognizes that as government over-taxes the middle class and soaks the rich, the whole will be eventually penalized.
She certainly is in the minority in Annapolis. And she is always up against the majority. Her wisdom and fiscal philosophy should be heeded.
uzanna Duvall. Towson.
Lock 'em Up
Editor: In his Opinion * Commentary article (Jan. 13), "Th Perverse Effect of Lock-'em-Up Justice," Neal R. Peirce concludes that incarcerating large numbers of criminals in the U.S. has not reduced crime, and therefore, alternatives to imprisonment should be explored.
Had Mr. Pierce looked a bit further into sentencing practices in the U.S., he would have found that 75 percent of all convicted offenders are being supervised in the community, not in prisons or jails. While citing that there are 426 prisoners per 100,000 population, he failed to note that 1,443 persons per 100,000 are on probation. These statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice hardly reflect a so-called "lock-'em-up" justice.
According to the Research Division of Maryland's Department of Legislative Reference, our state has a shocking probation record. Between 1985 and 1988 about 84 percent of persons adjudicated received probation. On the average 90 percent of drug offenders, 88 percent of those convicted of assault, 72 percent of those convicted of burglary and 66 percent of those convicted of rape were given probation.
Contrary to Mr. Peirce's belief that too many criminals are imprisoned, in Maryland it is evident that only the most serious offenders are incarcerated. Alternatives to prison are being utilized in the large majority of cases, both locally and nationally. If Mr. Peirce concludes that incarceration has failed to stop crime based on the numbers of criminals behind bars, then it would follow that alternatives to imprisonment have failed also.
The fact is that crime in the U.S. is out of control. The "get tough on crime" policy our government claims to be enforcing is a myth. Offenders are rarely behind bars on the first offense. Even after imprisonment, parole allows an avenue of early release. The median time served by inmates is about 45 percent of their sentences. Until our criminal justice system provides swift and sure justice with sentences not reduced by early release, public safety will continue to be threatened by violence and crime.
) Anne Furst McCloskey. Baltimore.
The writer is chairperson of the Maryland Coalition Against Crime.
Right to Choose
Editor: As chair of the Maryland Religious Coalition fo Abortion Rights, I wish to respond to the Rev. Blair Paul Raum's claim in The Sun (Jan. 21) that 30 percent of women who have abortions will suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The America Psychiatric Association would disagree. So would C. Everett Koop, past U.S. Surgeon General -- even though he was anti-abortion.
Isn't there far greater trauma for women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest who are denied abortions?
Under current Catholic teaching a Catholic woman has no choice in the matter -- even in the case of rape or incest.
The fundamental issue is not whether the A.P.A. or Reverend Raum is right on the complex issue of "trauma," but the individual woman's freedom to choose.
It is a matter of religious liberty. From the point of view of the individual woman -- any individual woman -- it is her God-given sovereignty over her own body.
I respect the right of the Catholic hierarchy to define its own doctrines and morals, though I find its rejection of abortion even in cases of rape and incest outlandish and totally lacking in realism and compassion.
As a member of a coalition which includes over 30 denominations and organizations just as sincerely and religiously motivated as the Roman Catholic hierarchy, I would point out that doctrinal Catholicism is only one religious point of view.
One can only hope that when the referendum on the right to choose comes round in November, Marylanders will see it as a fundamental matter of religious freedom and vote for each woman's right to choose.
* Rev. Matthew McNaught. White Hall.
Editor: A writer to the editor recently complained about senio 1citizens getting 'hefty discounts' and perks in the Baltimore County education system. Perhaps she never knew, or has forgotten, that these same older folks paid school taxes all their adult lives and continue to do so even though they no longer have any relatives in the system.
Perhaps the writer should consider how our older folks' taxes are wasted by the school systems now. The schools are expected to babysit children, provide them with breakfast so that lazy parents may remain in bed, have school buses pick up healthy, normal, active kids at their doorsteps rather than a central pickup spot and also bus kids (during school hours) to bowling establishments, etc. so they get exercise.
Outrageous! Pity the older tax payers rather than condemn them for going to school.
Hahni Lori Singer.