Legislators ought respond to constituentsI fear for...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Legislators ought respond to constituents

I fear for the survival of our democratic form of government. As a citizen who takes an active interest in the legislative process in Annapolis, I am shocked by the responses, or lack thereof, to letters written to my so-called "representatives." This past session was especially bad.

I wrote letters and lobbied on Monday nights during the past legislative session on several issues. In particular, I sought to stop the passage of House Bill 610 (a bill removing all employees of the Maryland Department of Transportation from the state merit system by 1996). I testified before both the House and Senate committees hearing testimony on the bill.

Those who are supposed to represent me sent me letters telling me the bill had passed the House of Representatives, but did not bother to tell me how they voted. I called two of my delegates at their local legislative offices. Of course, I only found answering machines. Del. Martha Klima (R.-Baltimore County) never responded.

The really outrageous part of this story is the response I finally received from Del. Gerry Brewster (D.-Baltimore County). He told me to "contact the Department of Legislative Reference" in Annapolis if I wanted to know how he voted!

He did not feel obliged to inform me of how he voted. Nor would he bother his staff to inform me. After all, I am only a constituent of his legislative district. Never, in all my letters or in conversations in Annapolis, did I ever get a straight answer from him!

The money paid to these legislators in salary and perks is wasted if we cannot get honest responses to our letters or phone calls. The citizens of Maryland deserve better!

Ed Custer

Parkville

Ostrich mayor

Less than amusing was the article (June 17) regarding Mayor Schmoke's daughter leaving our Baltimore City public school system to attend Roland Park Country School.

While thousands of Baltimore city children must endure daily violence in a school system that is becoming the envy of Attila's hordes, the mayor's salary, paid to him by the parents of these same children, enables him to protect his children from the very conditions he pledged to eradicate.

While acting as our "ostrich mayor," he is ignoring the problems in our public school system, but has managed to solve the problem in his own back yard.

Jean F. Scolati

Baltimore

Sister Souljah, Clinton were both wrong

Sister Souljah's much publicized remarks trouble me because they suggest a tenacious conviction that there exists a white conspiracy, that all whites secretly collude to deprive blacks of their rights.

A white plot, Sister Souljah seems to say, can be thwarted if blacks stop killing blacks and instead kill whites.

In the first respect, she is correct that in order to facilitate greater opportunity in more of the black community, black-against-black violence must cease. However, all violence engenders violence and to encourage violence against anyone, black or white, merely hinders reconciliation and perpetuates the gap between the two races.

Bill Clinton was wrong to launch a denunciatory attack on Sister Souljah herself because in doing so he dismissed her as a marginal radical, insulted Jesse Jackson and promoted the perception of black-white relations as adversarial.

Mr. Clinton should have decried Sister Souljah's approval of violence, while acknowledging that she was a valid voice for frustrated black youths, thereby assuring the Rainbow Coalition of his commitment to addressing the anger and alienation prevalent in the United States.

We should not argue over whether Sister Souljah's comments were justified or not, whether she should have said them or not. Rather, we should accept that her words are the thoughts and feelings of many Americans and should endeavor to understand and change these attitudes through peaceful behavior and generous actions.

Katherine Saral

Baltimore I am writing in response to the article in which the new Baltimore County public school superintendent mentioned he wanted to change the current alcohol and drug expulsion policy.

The new superintendent and the public should know that, because of a cooperative effort between the public schools and the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse, the alcohol and drug policy has changed this past school year to better address the individual needs of our students diagnosed with substance-abuse problems.

Beginning this past school year, any student expelled for an alcohol or drug violation is referred to the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse for a chemical dependency evaluation.

The results of that evaluation are used by the school system in determining whether a student needs rehabilitation or education. Either way, the student must abide by this recommendation in order to return to school. This is in addition to the other educational requirements needed to be reinstated.

This change in the policy allows for the schools to continue their tough stand on alcohol and drugs and now adds a very compassionate and individualized treatment plan to address the student's substance abuse problem.

It truly is the best of both worlds in addressing this very serious problem. I support allowing this current policy to continue. Before making any additional changes, let's see if these recent changes can make a difference.

Michael M. Gimbel

Towson

The writer is director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse

To make government work, get involved

There are two homeless men who sleep in the alcoves at Scarlet Place Apartments near Harborplace.

I've seen them every day this week as I walk to work in the morning. Each day I feel intense sorrow and disappointment in myself and society for accepting homelessness in any form. For me they highlight the lack of social responsibility of our government.

Solving the many problems of society is not easy nor can it occur rapidly, and I do not set myself forward as having the answers.

However, I do know that changing the direction of government demands citizen involvement. People must take an active interest in the direction taken by our elected representatives in order to make them aware of our concerns.

I have seen citizen involvement succeed with the recent passage of a bill which prevents expansion of incinerator capacity in Baltimore.

This bill was citizen-driven and would not have been passed without the direct involvement of many concerned individuals and neighborhood associations. They make their council representatives and the mayor aware through letter writing and telephone calls.

Passage of this bill was not easy, and the people who dedicated extensive amounts of time to the cause are to be commended.

Mayor Schmoke is also to be commended for his willingness to listen and his decision to support this legislation. Our government must be held responsible for its actions; only then will it respond properly to public need.

The government exists for the people. The people are not without power, but they must make a conscious decision to use their power.

I urge everyone to make a difference in society by getting involved -- vote in the upcoming elections or join your community association. Even if you are only able to make a phone call and express your views, it will have an impact on how government performs.

Jennifer A. Forquer

Baltimore

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