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No HelpThe Rodney King verdict certainly was...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No Help

The Rodney King verdict certainly was a shock to many. But what happened after it did not help anyone.

Ministers shown on television trying to calm the situation in fact were inflaming the situation even further. Many so-called local spokespersons did no better with their words that were laced with racist rhetoric. The news media certainly kept pouring gasoline on the fire.

It is time we as a people started looking at ourselves as Americans in what might not be the most ideal nation but certainly is the most preferred by all others in the world.

The figure of justice is pictured as blind. But we can see what we do. We should try to put this fragmented nation together.

Philip E. Cvach

Towson

Penal Alternative

Today we have a number of somewhat poorly related conditions in our society crying for solutions which if synchronized could result in much improvement in our country, at little to no additional expense, and do much toward solving racial and class tensions.

Everyone speaks of the peace dividend and acknowledges that there is no need for much of our present level of "preparedness." Yet when practicality comes to bear, closing military bases is fought by those whose economic status would suffer by the dismantling of these installations and by the massive unemployment which would result from the release of tens of thousands of our military to civilian life.

The recent riots have once again focused our attention on unemployment, lack of opportunity presented to much of our minority population, poor levels of education and job skills, failure of our ever-growing welfare system, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, lack of family units, etc.

The ever increasing number of the incarcerated and rate of recidivism has caused one group to cry "law and order" and another to point out the failure of our penal system to do anything but teach amateur criminals to become real professionals.

Could we not convert our unnecessary military camps to installations for housing those who have committed less horrendous crimes and who are considered salvageable?

Could we not use many of our present military to teach trades and other subjects deemed appropriate so that these people could be returned to society as useful citizens and eventually even as taxpayers? Could we not also employ others from the military as guards about these camps?

The infrastructure of our nation is decaying while we pay ever increasing taxes which are being wasted in unnecessary military expenditures and unproductive incarceration. Let us turn both in a positive direction so that there can truly be light at the end of the tunnel.

Marion Friedman

Baltimore

County AIDS

I read with interest the headline, "AIDS hits home in Baltimore's black congregations," May 10. Baltimore County, like Baltimore City, has had a disproportionate number of AIDS cases reported among blacks.

The county population is 13 percent black, and 34 percent of AIDS cases are among blacks. The county Health Department is continuously working on outreach to minority communities.

What the article did not mention is the dichotomy that churches face with the issue of condoms and safe sex. Churches, by the very backbone of their foundation, avoid preaching safe sex.

We need to work with reality. The first message can be sexual abstinence and marriage with fidelity. The second message must be sexual responsibility, with condoms, for those who are sexually active.

Randy S. Berger, M.D.

Towson

The writer is director of the AIDS division of the Baltimore County Health Department.

Time Waster

Nancy Grasmick, the state superintendent of schools, touts the Maryland School Performance Assessment Test (given statewide the week of May 11) as a "forward thinking" program that will put our state on the national map as a forerunner in educational reform.

I'm not sure where she has been the last few years, but obviously not in the classroom. As one of many teachers chosen to administer this test to a random group of students, I can assure you that this is no panacea for what ails our school systems.

In actuality, it is, indeed, a major time waster.

My regular 8th grade students, for example, were losing close to 13 hours of valuable instructional time that should have been spent studying the events leading up to World War I in our nation's history.

But what were they doing instead? As part of this so-called assessment, 22 students were sitting in groups before me examining the middle digit of their third finger for the presence or absence of "digital hairs".

This is, allegedly, part of an activity on hereditary traits. But can you imagine what it's like for a veteran teacher to have to stand in front of 22 adolescents (half of whom I don't know) and ask them to take a hand lens and study the hair follicles on their middle finger?

Sadly, this test has a number of major flaws. First of all, there is absolutely no incentive whatsoever for these students to put forth any effort. They will never receive an individual score on their performance, nor will my 8th graders, who move on to high school next month, ever even see the summaries published of how their group did.

Secondly, how does Ms. Grasmick propose to finance the future training of school staffs on "how to read the data" collected and plan for new teaching strategies to insure success? At a time when lots of Maryland counties can't even pay their teachers the salaries they've already negotiated, where are traditional funds going to come from to pay for staff development?

I think Ms. Grasmick needs to go back into the classroom as a student, to study the psychology of test-taking and fundamental economics.

Dorothy W. Dowling

Ruxton

Don't Move HCFA, One Worker Says

I must respond to your recent editorial, "Bitter HCFA Fight." This editorial discusses the controversy over the future location of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in either Woodlawn or Baltimore City. You advocate the city site, arguing it is more convenient and has better mass transit and highway access.

Of course, you have the right to favor the city site; I would be surprised if The Sun favored anything else. However, I would argue that the supposed advantages of a city site accrue entirely to the city; there are no advantages to either HCFA or HCFA's employees.

Contrary to your assertion, the city site is not more convenient. If it were, the majority of employees would be happy to move there. We are not fools. We recognize convenience when we see it. However, the vast majority emphatically do not want to move to the city.

Most of us live in the suburbs, where there is little or no public transportation available. Highway access to the city is not superior. The roads leading to the city are already choked with traffic and getting worse. Most of us would see greatly increased commuting times. Mine would more than double.

It is important to remember that the new HCFA location will cost the government (that is, the taxpayers) about $100 million. In the county that money will buy an office complex tailored to the needs of the agency, plenty of room for expansion in the future, ample parking for all employees within easy walking distance of the buildings and essentially the same commuting patterns the employees now have.

It will also buy development and construction by Boston Properties and Knott Development, which have a proven track record in designing and building federal headquarters complexes. The architect, RTKL Associates, recently won an award for the design of the new Orioles baseball stadium.

By contrast, the same $100 million in the city will buy a high-rise building into which the agency will have to fit itself, regardless of its needs, because that is the nature of high-rise buildings. It will also buy no on-site room for expansion, leaving the agency in the future in exactly the same situation it is trying to correct now.

It will buy parking for only slightly more than half of the employees, with most of the parking fully a half mile from the building.

Finally it will buy the Rouse Company, with plenty of experience in building malls, but none in building federal headquarters buildings, and construction by Whiting-Turner, which also built the aquarium in the Inner Harbor. For those who haven't kept up, the aquarium will be closing its two most popular attractions in 1993 for over $10 million in unexpected repairs.

Now, where do you think the taxpayers will get the most for their money?

Roy R. Trudel

Ellicott City

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