Banneker Program Doesn't Achieve Diversity
After reading Edward L. Heard Jr.'s op-ed article (July 19) on the University of Maryland College Park's (UMCP) blacks-only, non-need-based scholarship program (the Banneker Program), I am compelled to comment.
This is especially important since I do not believe The Sun has provided the citizens of this state adequate information about the Banneker Program or the lawsuit challenging it.
Initially, Mr. Heard is correct in indicating that in order to justify the continuation of the Banneker Program, UMCP will have to prove that there are continuing effects of institutional discrimination against blacks at the university.
However, in several other respects Mr. Heard's article is misleading.
For example, the article implies that the Banneker Program is part of UMCP's diversity efforts. If it were really intended to foster diversity, why are Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and whites with diversity-fostering attributes not considered?
In fact, College Park President William E. Kirwan testified that the only reason for the Banneker Program was to satisfy the Department of Education's desegregation requirements, none of which, incidentally, involved a blacks-only scholarship and all of which expired in 1989.
Importantly, both the Federal District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals have found that the Banneker Program is not aimed at achieving diversity and UMCP did not create it for that purpose.
However, the state could convert the Banneker Program into a legal diversity scholarship program very easily if its leaders wanted to and had the political courage to do so.
Mr. Heard also says that the legal attack on the blacks-only criteria of the Banneker Program challenges its fairness. It does not; it challenges the constitutionality of a program that sets aside monetary benefits of as much as $50,000 or more for each of at least 20 incoming black students every year, irrespective of financial need and irrespective of whether they are Maryland residents or U.S. citizens.
Overall, UMCP spends well over $600,000 per year for thBanneker Program, and the vast majority of that money comes from Maryland taxpayers and UMCP student tuitions and it does so at a time when the state and university are facing severe budgetary problems.
Under our constitution, Congress, and not state educationabureaucrats, have the legislative power to set aside public funds to benefit one race if that would be "fair," and Congress has not sanctioned the Banneker Program.
Two sentences in Mr. Heard's piece are particularly instructive and troubling. In referring to the Banneker Program, he says, "Why mess up a good thing, something that only strives to match the educational opportunities afforded to most white youths?" He also says, "The University of Maryland, unlike many other schools, has done more than the required minimum to desegregate the state's education system."
The second sentence is absolutely correct. UMCP has met -- indeed exceeded -- every black undergraduate enrollment goal set by the federal government and its black student retention rates have continued to improve.
It also awards a significant number of academic scholarships to blacks under the Key Scholarship Program, which fosters the enrollment of highly qualified incoming students regardless of race.
The record is replete with evidence of UMCP affirmative action programs and achievements in the areas of recruiting and retaining black students, and that record clearly shows that UMCP is a fully integrated campus.
The few examples of acts of continuing discrimination at UMCP alleged by Mr. Heard were not perpetrated by the university and directed at students, and it is hard to imagine how a blacks-only scholarship program would correct them. If they have occurred, 14 years of the Banneker Program has done nothing to stop them.
Once a university has done what is required to integrate its campus, which UMCP has done, any continued monetary benefits directed by the school solely to students of one race, be it black or white, is an affront to the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
That is the reason the lawsuit challenging the Banneker Program will eventually "mess up a good thing." Maybe in 1954, when there were no blacks at UMCP, the Banneker Program may have been a "good thing," but certainly not now when up to 15.5 percent of the incoming freshman at UMCP, one of the state's most selective public universities, are black.
Lest anyone be troubled by Mr. Heard's concern that needy blacks will not be able to attend college if UMCP's blacks-only scholarship program is dropped, he or she should know that the program is not need-based.
Moreover, it affects less than 5 percent of the blacks on campus and the vast majority of the financial assistance provided to UMCP students is directed at needy individuals through other programs.
Based on a cursory review of the 1990 Banneker Program selectees' applications, including their addresses and high schools, it appears that most selectees could afford to attend college without Banneker scholarships.
If Mr. Heard really wants to help needy students, he should support the transfer of all the Banneker Program funds to be used solely for the poorest state residents' educations instead of being given to what are often reasonably well-off or out-of-state students or even to recent black immigrants to this country who may not have faced the discrimination or poverty many U.S. blacks have in the past.
In conclusion, UMCP must justify its blacks-only scholarship program to the courts as a lawful remedial effort under the U.S. Constitution.
If it cannot, the program must end. So far, UMCP has not provided -- and I have not come across -- any evidence to indicate that the university will be able to meet its burden of proof.
Until the suit is finally decided, Maryland taxpayers and students will apparently be forced to continue to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to support an unjustified, unwarranted and unconstitutional program at UMCP.
They will also end up paying for legal representation that will cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to defend an impossible position for what could be years to come.
The citizens of this state should be aware of that.
Dissemination of this information is especially important now because the university is currently soliciting public comments concerning the continuation of the Banneker Program and your readers should be made aware of both sides of the issues before submitting their views to UMCP.
The writer is father of the plaintiff and co-counsel in a suit challenging the constitutionality of UMCP's Banneker Program.
In its editorial of July 28, "Can Schmoke Stop The Blight," The Sun failed to take careful aim at urban problems. It used a shotgun instead, and this scattershot technique completely missed the mark.
The discussion of the mayor's proposals to improve code enforcement mentioned only the move to open up rental registration files.
The Sun completely overlooked proposals to make the current citation ordinance a more effective and tougher weapon by eliminating the warning notice, expanding the reach of the citations, and, in some cases, increasing the fines.
The Sun criticized housing court but completely ignored my meetings with the state's attorney and District Court to address these very issues.
In discussing housing accomplishments, The Sun mentions the Nehemiah program in West Baltimore, with no mention of Nehemiah programs also in the pipeline for East Baltimore and Cherry Hill.
There is no reference to successes under the state-funded Partnership Rental program, or the hundreds of units created through the activities of the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the Baltimore CDFC -- the Community Development Financing Corporation.
There is simply no truth to the claim that the HCD is stockpiling blocks and blocks of city owned vacant houses. This a myth which has been repeated so frequently that it has take on a life of its own.
In fact, there are 671 vacant properties owned by the City of Baltimore, out of a current total of 6,300 vacant houses citywide.
Of the 671 the city owns, 302 are tied to specific development projects. These are the housing opportunities of the '90s for low-income Baltimoreans and will be replaced or restored as homes for low-income home-buyers and renters throughout Baltimore. They have not been abandoned.
Of the remaining properties, 99 will be demolished, leaving 270 boarded-up structures in the city's inventory.
Many of these properties had been sold at a very low price for renovation under the city's Rehab Express program in the early 1980s.
Many of the individuals who purchased those homes could not afford the renovations, and a number of those properties were returned to the city's inventory.
We have developed a disposition strategy for them, including innovative financing with the CDFC to transfer these properties to individuals and developers; use of the government's new HOME and HOPE programs, and rehabilitation for sale to low-income owners.
We are also making progress in dealing with privately owned vacant houses using powers given to us under the new Vacant House Receiver section of the Baltimore City Code.
Under this legislation -- approved last year by the City Council -- my department can join with a neighborhood association to get property rehabilitated by a court-appointed receiver.
This allows the city to bring abandoned houses back to useful life, while encouraging property owners to repair derelict properties.
Since the first of the year, HCD has been working in partnership with the Community Law Center in this effort and currently has 61 cases in various stages of litigation.
The Sun laments that the city deals only with "larger companies" and "big packages" for development projects, ignoring smaller efforts in neighborhoods such as Washington Village, Reservoir Hill, Penn North, West Arlington and Govans.
Although there have been a number of such neighborhood-based activities, The Sun has routinely neglected to cover them as news stories, and so, in the eyes of The Sun, they don't exist.
The Sun was correct in writing that housing is a vital part of making this city work. While we recognize the central importance of housing to our city, it is also important to let the public know of our many partnerships, which have resulted in turning vacant properties into productive uses.
Robert W. Hearn
The writer is commissioner of the city Department of Housing and Community Development.
Teach Kids Street Safety
The death of young Sam Hulett has shocked and saddened the Baltimore community.
The Baltimore Sun has had excellent coverage of the facts relating to this incident and its effects on our community. At the same time, there is a disturbing trend in your columns and editorials which provide no information on how to prevent injuries to children.
Your editorial (July 25) states, "What makes the Hulett misfortune so wrenching and so real is that there is no ready answer. There are a million kids out there, a million cars, a million curbs. Police can lower speed limits but they can't outlaw accidents. Some 8,000 American children die accidentally each year." John Eisenberg (July 24) writes of silence and states, "the only thing the rest of us can do is offer our thoughts and hug our own kids just a little tighter this morning." Dan Rodricks (July 24) writes of the quiet language of parenthood and "the prayer that says: God, don't let it happen to me."
By all means parents should hug their children and pray for their safety, but they must do more. In this case, silence can be deadly. Parents must teach their children how to cross safely!
According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, children should learn street safety as soon as they are ready to walk outdoors. But they need your help. Kids learn traffic safety by watching and doing. Go for walks with your child. Be a role model. Teach your children the following steps to cross the street and don't let them cross alone until they demonstrate the competence to do it alone:
1. Stop before the curb. Never run into a street!
2. Look for traffic left, right and left again. Teach children who don't know left from right to look "this way," "that way" and "this way." If the view is blocked by a parked car or tree, slowly move out just until you can see and look for traffic left, right and left again.
3. Wait until traffic is clear. Then cross.
4. Keep looking both ways until you've crossed safely.
In the light of Sam Hulett's death, parents should ask their children which streets they cross alone and to show them how they cross the street. It is an obligation for The Baltimore Sun to not only report on pedestrian fatalities, but to educate the public on how to prevent them.
Fred B. Shoken
Deploy the Military to Save Our Cities
I was thankful to read in your paper that the NAACP was sponsoring an anti-crime meeting to discuss the available alternatives for increasing police protection in the East Baltimore area.
Baltimore needs immediate assistance in providing additional police to protect its citizenry and visitors.
Baltimore, Washington and other major cities are in a state of siege as a result of drugs and a system which creates monsters who do not have any values. Witness the daily murders in the streets and the innocent women and children who are caught in the cross-fire not only in Baltimore but around the nation. The solution is two-fold and within our means.
First, Mayor Kurt Schmoke should request the Congressional delegation and the president for the transfer of military personnel currently stationed in Maryland to the worst sections of the city. These troops could be dressed in police uniforms or be undercover.
It is interesting to note that many people who object to using the military are usually living in the suburbs and don't have to face the violence and fear for the lives of their loved ones. What a tragedy that we allow our fellow human beings to be subjected to such conditions when we have the resources.
It is clear that the federal government is reducing its aid to the cities and thus we should use those resources which are currently stationed in our state and neighboring states. After all, what are these troops currently doing that is so important that we couldn't transfer them to the real war zones? Once order has been restored, these military resources can also be used in the city for more peaceful roles.
Secondly, we have to save those kids who are caught in this system by continued funding of programs that provide role models, job training and the maintenance of stable families.
As the federal government reduces its involvement, it will be up to the states to either fund current programs or devise more effective new ones. Thus, it is critical that the state legislature listen carefully to the governor on the impact of cutting the budget in these areas.
The cities represent the soft underbelly of the system and if we neglect to direct resources into those areas, then we can expect not only more killings in the city but a spread into the suburbs. Crime knows no boundaries.
I would remind my more conservative friends that if we fail to save those city kids now who are approaching the crossroads, then we should be ready to pay at least $25,000 apiece each year to keep them in jail and live with the consequences of their actions which will include murder, rape and robbery. Time is running out as each year brings forth a new crop of lost youth in our cities.
What are we waiting for? If we truly want to save our cities then we need to demand immediate action from our elected officials. We don't need a study group or a blue ribbon panel; we need an outraged citizenry to demand that existing resources be put to use that we are currently paying for through our federal taxes. The president as commander-in-chief could give the order tomorrow without any approval and Congress could push the legislation through in record time if they knew their jobs depended on it.
The Sun also has a responsibility to save the city and to give this issue a true focus by keeping it on its media agenda and using its influence to effect a change.
While we debate, you can expect to read about more horror stories in the city and the spread of this violance to the suburbs. I would urge all readers to contact their elected officials today and The Sun to make their opinions known.
It is up to all Marylanders but especially those who live and work in Baltimore to demand that their city be made safe and to save a whole generation at risk.
John S. Pantelides
Wayne Dougherty (letter, July 24) uses a familiar tactic in defense of guns by equating a gun ban to banning other death-causing things such as automobiles, planes, butter knives, etc. Mr. Dougherty also praises the benefits of guns as self defense.
Statistics show that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used against a family member or friend, and seven of those individuals are killed for every intruder.
The General Accounting Office and Harpers Research found that 138,400 people were shot at by children under six in the last decade in the U.S. Guns in the home are more a danger than a protection.
About 27,000 gun deaths in the U.S. in 1991 can attest that we have a gun problem. Gun control is not a gun ban. Reasonable people, outside of the gun lobby, are certainly correct in singling out guns and advocating stricter control over their access are availability.