Thanks for Calm
Our mayor and police commissioner are to be commended for maintaining relative calm in Baltimore following the unjust verdict in the trial of the Los Angeles police officers responsible for the beating of Rodney King (despite the TV media's attempts to thwart their efforts by rehashing the rioting and chaos which ensued after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.).
Anne T. Freeman
The writer is vice chairperson of the Northeastern District Police-Community Relations Council.
In the City
I must congratulate The Sun for finally taking a stand on the Health Care Financing Agency fight. The only way to continue Baltimore's revitalization and provide employment for many city residents is to locate this vast facility downtown, where MARC and public transportation are available.
This location can go a long way to preserving our open spaces and easing beltway gridlock in the Social Security area of Woodlawn, as well as convincing many county residents that the downtown area is a viable and safe place to work.
Alan J. De Sa
Errors of Fact
The "Tell Me Why" column on your "Kids' Page" claims: "Few spiders are poisonous to humans. The only one in the United States is the black widow. So unless you know the spider is a black widow you can feel pretty safe with one."
Granted the question was, "Are black widow spiders poisonous?" Nonetheless, this statement is simply not true.
The brown recluse spider, which lives in the southeastern United States, produces a dangerous neurotoxin. It may be an exotic species but it is now "in" the United States.
This column is frequently sloppy in its science, due, I suppose, to its author's belief that children do not need rigor. And perhaps he means, in this case, to prevent children from being needlessly afraid of spiders.
But he performs no service by ignoring one danger completely in order to allay those fears. It is as if he told children: Pit vipers have wedge-shaped heads, so if a snake's head is the same size as its body, you're safe -- completely ignoring the deadly coral snake, which is not a pit viper.
I have come to accept that your paper no longer has copy editing (only a few days ago you quoted a police officer as saying that once a suspect was "down on the ground, you don't keep wailing on him.") But errors of fact, particularly dangerous ones, are not in the same class.
Karen M. Davis
In his customarily sardonic style James J. Kilpatrick metaphorically tries to kill the messenger who brought him bad news. The object of his invective is Lou Harris, a reputable and popular pollster.
The venerable columnist charges Mr. Harris (May 4) with conspiring with the American Council for the Arts in designing questions for a survey designed to elicit answers favorable to the council.
Now Mr. Harris has been conducting polls for years on end, but no one, as I recall, has ever accused him of going to bed for an employer. Were he to do so he would be out on the street quicker than you could say deviation from the mean.
Mr. Kilpatrick gives the back of his hand to the majority who believe that the quality of life in the community is enriched by the presence of museums, theaters and concert halls.
In this and other questions cited by the venerable journalist, the respondents clearly had the option to express negative as well as positive answers. Yet, when the replies were on the positive side, he would have you believe the brain power of those pollees could be likened to that of a Neanderthal. Contrariwise, when the majority sided with Mr. Kilpatrick, he would have you believe their intelligence compared favorably with that of an astrophysicist.
More than that, he egregiously indicates that Mr. Harris interrupted the survey when it had not been finalized, an unheard of action.
Your recent columns ridiculing those legislators who did not adopt the "tax-tax-tax" line proffered by our politicians shows how shallow your researchers are.
A cursory look at the Baltimore City school system's budget will show the excesses that these legislators are not yet willing to accept.
According to the 1990 city school budget, the education fund pays for three secretaries and an office assistant to support two piano tuners, their supervisor and another musical instrument repair technician; secretarial salaries alone for the musical instrument department totaled $81,415 in 1990.
Another secretary which had been requested was not allowed by the budgetary reviewers. One wonders how these people stay busy; the school system only has about 100 pianos.
Perhaps the department is designed so they'll always have a fourth for bridge or canasta.
Then, there is the biggest rip-off of all, a matter which is never discussed in the hallowed pages of your newspaper, concerning the unused sick day carry-over and conversion programs treasured by the school system's administrative staffers, who years ago conned the city into allowing them to accumulate their unused vacation and sick days.
These city employees are allowed to receive compensation for this cumulative unused time, to be paid at the rate then being earned, at the time of retirement.
The administrative staff of the city schools have managed to get their relaxation through the use of their overly liberal sick and personal days, and, in doing so, they have hoarded away $108 million worth of unused vacation time, for which they will want compensation.
At a loss at what to do with this dinosaur, the budget department merely refers to this obligation as "unbudgeted."
And the real atrocity is that the debt's growth rate is at 11 percent per year.
All of this does nothing to help solve the problem of how to educate our children, help them become self-supporting members of society, nor help the city.
Yet, when our responsible legislators attempt to question "quick-fix" solutions, such as raising taxes, your editorialists mock them.
Howard H. Conaway Jr.
Studying Decriminalization of Drugs
I think it is important to answer several inaccuracies in Jeffery A. Schaler's letter to the editor published May 12. Contrary to Mr. Schaler's belief, the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission has spent a great deal of time investigating the issue of legalization/decriminalization of drugs.
The issue has been discussed during the course of our public hearings throughout the state. Commission Chairman Neil Solomon participated in the Baltimore City Insurance Coalition's debate regarding the legalization/decriminalization of drugs.
Dr. Solomon visited Needle Park in Zurich, Switzerland, where drugs are allowed to be sold and used openly. From his interviews with government officials and residents, Dr. Solomon concluded that this experiment is a disaster.
Almost 50 different studies about legalization/decriminalization were reviewed by staff. The commission was aided in its efforts by the Governor's Executive Advisory Council's publication of a pamphlet called "What IF," capsulizing the arguments for and against decriminalization/legalization in a clear and concise fashion.
A statewide telephone survey of adults 18 years of age or older conducted for the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland College Park in 1992 found that almost 80 percent of those interviewed were against the legalization of marijuana.
A speaker's series sponsored by CESAR and open to the public included a presentation by Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, assistant professor of politics and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Dr. Nadelmann is one of this country's leading proponents for the legalization of drugs.
The May 4 meeting of the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission was, as are all commission meetings, open to the public, and included open discussion from those in attendance.
Those members of the commission present, 43 out of a possible 55, felt they were knowledgeable enough regarding the issues to make an informed decision against the legalization/decriminalization of drugs in Maryland.
Floyd O. Pond
The writer is executive director of the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Commission.