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Judge BellMayor Schmoke and state Sen. Walter...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Judge Bell

Mayor Schmoke and state Sen. Walter Baker want to speed up appeals in capital cases at the state court level.

I suggest that those Maryland voters who have an opportunity to vote for the retention of Court of Appeals judges examine the records of those judges.

In particular, the voters of Baltimore City should consider denying Judge Robert Bell a 15-year term on the Maryland Court of Appeals. I doubt that there will be any executions in Maryland as long as Judge Bell can influence the court.

Judge Bell may be an honorable person, but many people are unhappy with the direction of Maryland's highest court in the past decade.

I examined decisions of the Court of Appeals over a four-month period and could not find any case where Judge Bell had voted to uphold a criminal conviction. One has to go back to the late Rita Davidson to find a judge of similar disposition.

I know that someone will accuse me of taking a cheap shot or ask how I would like to be a criminal defendant appealing a conviction with the knowledge that one of the judges hearing my appeal must face the voters. My advice to them is: Don't be a criminal defendant.

The Maryland Constitution gives the voters an opportunity to grant or deny Court of Appeals judges a 15-year term. The voters need not be a rubber stamp for the special interests that automatically tell us to vote yes to all judges.

John P. Greenspan

Wheaton

Free Air Time

I am in receipt of a Sept. 4 Mikulski for Senate fund raising letter that dishonestly states the following:

"My Republican opponent has announced that he's going to invest at least a million dollars in radio and television advertising attacking my record."

I'm certain Alan Keyes wishes he had a million dollars to mount a credible media campaign.

If Barbara Mikulski's positions are so strong, why does she fear sharing a free hour of commercial TV with Alan Keyes? Instead, she raises money for commercials to monopolize the airwaves.

Since Barbara Mikulski calls herself a Democrat, it's too bad she demonstrates so little faith in democracy.

Bob Fallin

Baltimore

Question 6

I am 17 years old. If I were pregnant and considering an abortion, I would talk to my mother about my situation.

I'm lucky to have a strong relationship with my family, to have a family that would support my choice during a very difficult time.

I can think of friends who aren't so lucky. Too many people of my age could not safely talk about abortion at home. For them, parental notification would be dangerous, not just uncomfortable.

Question 6 would do two good things. The law encourages parents to be involved when their daughters face this decision. But it also protects a minor when it wouldn't be safe if a doctor contacted her parents.

No one should have her health put in danger just because she isn't at least 18. No adult should have the government decide such an important question for her, either. I will turn 18 in time for the election and I will vote for Question 6.

I hope Maryland voters will do the same. In the future, I hope the government won't have the power to make this decision for women.

Juliet Randall

Towson

School Choice

For an example of how far out of touch the Bush administration is on education reform, consider the latest findings of a study by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (The Sun, Oct. 26).

On the matter of "school choice," which has been the cornerstone of the president's education package, the overwhelming majority of parents who were polled rejected "choice" as an option for their children, rejected vouchers for private schools and rejected marketplace competition as a school reform strategy.

These parents know what they're talking about. Reports of various "choice" programs around the country are beginning to show what skeptics have feared all along: Because the number of spaces at "preferred" schools are so much smaller than the number of students who would benefit from them, it is the students who end up competing for the schools rather than the schools who compete for the students.

This puts the preferred schools in the enviable position of being able to select the best students while casting the rest in the role of "losers."

This outcome is virtually guaranteed when you consider that the students who have the most to gain from "choice" often lack the persistent and articulate parents who would be most likely to pursue such options for their children.

The president's market-driven education program is flawed because it assumes that unsuccessful schools will eventually shut down. But in reality they cannot shut down since their students will have no place else to go.

And having lost their better students to "choice," along with the education funding that attaches to such students, these schools will be in even worse shape than before. So what kind of reform is this?

The only school policy worth pursuing is one which insists that every student should have a decent educational opportunity.

The parents in the Carnegie study understand this fact, and it is for those who are in charge of future education policy to follow their lead.

Howard Bluth

Baltimore

Weinberg Foundation's Work Criticized

If Bernard Siegel, president of the Weinberg Foundation, had paid closer attention to the needs of the poor for the past 30 years, he would know who Pablo Eisenberg is, and he would know what the Center for Community Change and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy are all about.

In addition to his 17 years as president of the CCC and his role in founding the NCRP, Mr. Eisenberg served as deputy director of the Research and Demonstration Division of the Office of Economic Opportunity, deputy director of field operations for the National Urban Coalition, vice president of the National Neighborhood Coalition, president of Friends of VISTA and was one of the founders of the Jewish Fund for Justice.

Mr. Siegel's ignorance of Mr. Eisenberg's historic impact on the efforts to alleviate causes and conditions of poverty is an indication of his own inability -- and that of the Weinberg Foundation -- to carry out the foundation's stated mission to alleviate suffering among the poor.

Moreover, the foundation's refusal of grants to any organization which criticizes it goes against the deepest grain of our nation, and tries to negate our freedom -- indeed, our obligation -- to engage in constructive criticism as a way to solve problems.

The poor in our country are angry. If they have the means and the courage, they will articulate their anger as criticism. The Weinberg Foundation's proscription against criticism aims to cut out their tongues.

The lack of diversity in the make-up of the Weinberg Foundation's decision-makers compounds its inability to understand what is going on among the poor. As long as they do not have to deal with and negotiate with anyone "different," they are protected from new ideas, new methods, new approaches.

Just as everyone knew the emperor had no clothes, it is clear to us that the Weinberg Foundation has no idea how to seriously tackle the problems of poverty. It seems to prefer playing with the founder's fortune without analysis and without strategy.

If the Weinberg Foundation is to be effective in its mission of service to the poor, it should re-think the way it approaches this deep, pervasive problem. It should consult with Mr. Eisenberg and others who have worked with this problem for decades. And it should abandon its patriarchal, paternalistic and discriminatory attitudes and policies which are at the heart of why people are kept poor.

We have three suggestions for Mr. Siegel. They are (1) join the philanthropic "family" of foundations and other "giving" groups and see how much he has to learn; (2) hire some professionals to prevent the foundation from making foolish funding errors; and (3) put out some requests for proposals and engage in the healthy processes of give and take.

Our whole community will benefit from maturation within the Weinberg Foundation.

Richard V. Cook

Grenville B. Whitman

Baltimore

Abortion Signs

I was pleased to see that 20 to 30 "Vote for Question 6" signs had sprung along the 33rd Street corridor. Later, I was disheartened when I saw that every one had been taken down.

While I understand that occasional lawn-sign destruction is an expected part of any campaign (and is undoubtedly practiced by advocates on both sides), I find the systematic destruction of signs troubling. . . .

Bill Berger

Baltimore

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