There's Nothing Wrong with WonksAll over the...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There's Nothing Wrong with Wonks

All over the country, including in The Sun, people are decrying the falling quality of our students, and calling for higher standards and better schools. For this reason, "The Wonk Factor" article (Today section, Aug. 13) is a disgrace.

By the tone of the article and perpetuation of the insulting term, you criticize candidates Bill Clinton and Albert Gore, among others, for (you claim) having a "preference for arcane policy details over back-slapping and baby-kissing."

You bemoan what (you claim) is their inclination to "scrounge around in universities -- havens for wonks" for cabinet officials. Heaven forbid!

All politics aside, The Sun should not be contributing to the anti-intellectual tide in this country.

Jeffrey Adams

Baltimore

What's funny about people that read and think being chosen to make federal policy?

"The Wonk Factor," a "humorous" piece in the Today section, concludes with the prediction that Messrs. Clinton and Gore may turn to universities more than to private companies in order to fill cabinet positions, thereby initiating a "Wonk Decade."

Such a selection process would probably be a good thing,

though, because a private company's interests might tend to be narrowed to that company's business concerns and business experiences.

To me, it is laughable to believe that persons with limited experiences can wisely and fairly govern a country as large, and as diverse and complex, as the United States.

And what could possibly be funny about people who read about pollution or resource conservation? (George Bush is not a Wonk because he fishes rather than "ponders fisheries policy.")

Who among us ever chuckles over the condition of the environment? (I doubt many ever laugh over Ellen Goodman and Meg Greenfield's columns, either.)

I would appreciate it if someone could explain to me what kind of humor was meant to be found in the article. I could not laugh with it and, fearing some readers might miss its transparent attempt to play upon the public's newfound skepticism of government leaders, could barely laugh at it.

Beth Williams

Onancock, Va.

Post-born and Pre-born

In her letter in The Sun of Aug. 16, Cynthia Price says, "As a nurse, I am well aware that science has acknowledged the pre-born as human," and later says, "I think it is absurd that pro-choice people do not recognize the pre-born's humanness."

I didn't think we needed science to tell us that when a human female is pregnant, she is carrying a human zygote, embryo or fetus. We all know that human gametes cannot turn into rabbits or snakes. And when human females give birth, they give birth to human babies. . . .

While there are many people who agree with Ms. Price that the fetus (as well as the zygote and the embryo) is a person with the right to life, it would be impossible to find consensus in science on that point.

But science is not the proper place to look for answers to such moral questions as the right to life, in both religion and philosophy. When one does look, consensus is found in neither place.

In a current college textbook on ethics, which I have at hand, there are writings by six philosophers on the subject of abortion. These philosophers are about evenly divided between pro- and anti-abortion positions. . . .

I am a member of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, which is an organization of Jewish, Protestant and other religious faiths that represent a wide range of beliefs on the issue of abortion. Because there are differing religious beliefs about personhood, we believe that the principle of religious freedom demands that the question of abortion should be decided by the woman with the help of her medical and her religious advisers.

I myself am an Anglican-Catholic who would like to see more concern in America and around the world for the rights of both pre-born and post-born children. For instance: There are 100 million street children in the world. What are their rights and who is protecting them? Many thousands of children die because of poverty and famine. What are their rights? Thousands of crack babies are in hospitals in the United States because there is no other place for them to go. Twenty-nine percent of American children have no health insurance; 20 percent live in poverty. What are their rights? Thousands go to poor schools where there isn't even enough money for textbooks. What are their rights? Innocent children are being shot in drug wars. What are their rights and who is protecting them?

Ms. Price ends her letter with: ". . . It gets down to whether we are going to protect the pre-born. If we leave it as a private matter, then we are not [protecting them] . . . . Without laws, anything goes." Aren't those statements terribly insulting to women? To me, Ms. Price seems to imply that women must be forced to have children. I disagree.

I was pregnant three times and have three children. No one forced me to carry those pregnancies to term.

I resent the implication that women are so frivolous and irresponsible that the government must step in to force us to do what is right.

I had children because I wanted to have children, and I do not believe that I am unique. When conditions are right, then most women want to have children.

If they don't, what kinds of mothers will they be? Forcing children on women who are unwilling mothers seems to me a form of child abuse. If the answer to my questions is adoption, then why aren't the thousands of crack baby hospital-boarders being adopted? Why aren't the 100 million street children of the world being adopted?

Lucille Coleman

Baltimore

GSA Right, The Sun Wrong on HCFA

The Sun's Aug. 15 editorial on the award of the contract for the new Health Care Financing Administration's headquarters to Baltimore County rather than Baltimore City was perplexing at best.

The Sun suggested that it was proper for the city to try to lure 3,000 HCFA jobs away from the county, but it was somehow improper for the county to try to keep those jobs.

We find that kind of reasoning incongruous, especially when one considers that the HCFA employees in question had sought help from the county because they preferred to remain in Baltimore County.

Equally important, The Sun seems to have overlooked the impact such a move would have on the businesses in the Woodlawn area that provide services and products to HCFA and its employees.

Dozens of small businesses, employing some 1,200 workers, depend on HCFA for their livelihood. In these tough economic times, they could ill afford to lose a customer of HCFA's magnitude.

We also were concerned by The Sun's assertion that "keeping HCFA in the county doesn't add much to regional development." We have always been under the impression that Baltimore County is part of the metropolitan Baltimore region. Has something changed?

We remain convinced that Rep. Helen D. Bentley, County Executive Roger Hayden and the Chamber of Commerce were correct in responding to the request for help from HCFA employees and Woodlawn businesses.

This was an unprecedented joint effort by government, business and labor to maintain the economic viability of an important segment of our region. We hope the lessons we have learned can be used to further strengthen the entire metropolitan Baltimore region.

William J. Crowley Jr.

Towson

The writer is the chairman of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce.

I take exception to your editorial of Aug. 15 concerning the Health Care Financing Administration. The implication of this article is that the decision to award the contract to the Boston/Knott development team was determined by factors other than the merits of their proposal.

Rep. Helen D. Bentley may have "pulled every little string" to ensure the safety and quality of life of the HCFA employees. If she did, it was out of concern for Woodlawn businesses, her constituents and to counter the well-organized city "machine."

Voters in other areas should demand the same intensity and devotion that Ms. Bentley showed HCFA employees during this process, especially after we were summarily abandoned by the Cardin/Mfume camps. It is with sour grapes that you label her efforts "nasty parochialism." Ms. Bentley proved equal to the task.

The General Services Administration should be proud of your assertion that it regarded this arrangement as merely a "real estate transaction." It made every effort to assure this would be no political decision, knowing that it would ultimately have to defend its choice against politicians.

Without this meticulous analysis, its ability to make judgments based on relevant criteria and an objective appraisal, HCFA may well have erroneously been sent downtown. It was through these efforts that the facts were discovered to weigh in favor of the Boston/Knott proposal.

The final assessment was based on the effect on the environment and the consequences of construction. It encompassed 16 major topics (ranging from geology and air quality to parking and safety arrangements) that were very often broken down into several subtopics . . .

You show little foresight when you say this decision will add to the "worsening gridlock on the Beltway." Locating the new complex in Woodlawn will add nothing to the traffic already in the area.

Anyway, I can't accept that the Maryland Mass Transit Administration will not accommodate the hundreds of HCFA employees who do take the bus to work every day. The resultant revenues will more than offset the additional cost of extending the bus terminal from Chadwick shopping center to the new complex less than a half-mile away.

As to the environment around the city site and the employees' "inordinate fear of relocating to the city," please refer to the recent stories in this paper about the mugging and stabbing of the Virginia tourists and the shooting of an innocent hot dog vendor and his helper.

You state that 45,000 people regularly come to the ballpark at night without problem. The massive police presence during the season is the only explanation for this temporary safety zone.

GSA's original consideration of this factor was indeed slanted toward the city site, and it is only through the efforts of the HCFA Employees for Woodlawn Committee that a more equitable, accurate analysis was made.

John L. Mauck Sr.

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the HCFA Employees for Woodlawn Committee.

Other Perspectives on Rent Court

University of Maryland law professor Barbara Bezdek and a team of law students sat in Baltimore City's Rent Court for four months and concluded that the courts are unfairly biased toward landlords and that she has exposed a huge leak in a fundamental principle of U.S. justice (The Sun, Aug. 16).

Ms. Bezdek presents several no-win situations she claims proves her point. She says the day in court is too long, accommodating the schedule of landlords who are there every day. Then she accuses the judges of cutting off tenants' dissertations and accuses landlords of being too quiet.

She accuses the courts of dissuading tenants from standing up for themselves, then accuses the judge of upbraiding tenants for leaving their pertinent paperwork at home.

Rent Court's function is to determine whether rent has been paid. It does not collect anything for the landlords, neither does it administer charity or understanding, although it does provide the paperwork for social services.

There is not time for each case to be examined profoundly and to listen to a lot of hearsay evidence if court is to proceed with any speed.

It is not the desire of landlords to evict tenants. The landlord almost always loses a month's rent, so it is expensive and time-consuming.

Some of the rents that are revealed in Rent Court are extremely reasonable for the size of the property rented. If the judgments are not done quickly and the landlord loses even more rent, there is only one way to recoup those loses, particularly on a large scale: raise the rents.

In a city like Baltimore, affordable housing is not something we should trifle with, especially since those who do pay their rent will shoulder the burden with the ones who don't.

And for a tenant who inspected a rental unit, approved and rented it, to suddenly find all sorts of things wrong with it after becoming delinquent in paying the rent, but no documentation of anything, is it any wonder the judge feels the timing is appropriate?

There are free avenues of help that are a phone call away, such as Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., which is a non-profit organization set up to help tenants through the system. Any city agency would direct tenants to BNI.

It is hard to see the justification for a person who is out of work and still cannot find the time to make a simple phone call to find out what to do to prepare for court. Even the court system itself will direct tenants.

Georgia Corso

Baltimore

I am a landlord in Baltimore City and I found the Aug. 16 article on Rent Court appalling. I cannot believe that such a biased opinion was located on the front page of The Sun.

I have dealt with tenants for 15 years and happen to find that it is quite amazing how well they do know the tenant/landlord laws (when it is in their favor of course). I also have been to Rent Court and was looked upon as the "guilty" one just because I was the one who must have money.

Tenants, who are adults, sign a lease agreement in which they agree to pay a certain amount of money for the privilege of occupying someone else's property. If there is a problem with the property, I am positive that the majority know that they are to set up an escrow account until the problem is resolved.

The study by Barbara Bezdek was quite one-sided. We all know that there are people who have lost jobs and cannot afford housing. Is this a reason to claim that Rent Court is not fair to tenants? It is quite unfortunate, but tell me how would someone who is jobless and without income set up an escrow account (as in the article)?

Believe it or not, there are landlords who will not be able to meet their mortgage payments on rental properties if tenants do not pay their rent.

Let me address the statement by Chief Judge Robert Sweeney, "Judges have come to me many times and expressed their abhorrence with the eviction process." Why? It is only fair that someone should be given their money when it is due. To some tenants, Rent Court is just a way to buy time. Some of them spend their money on anything but rent, and then all of a sudden "the roof leaks."

Jim Sapia

Baltimore

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