Civic life doesn't stop at the city...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Civic life doesn't stop at the city line

As a resident of Baltimore County, and in keeping with the logic of Mayor Kurt Schmoke's recent residence edict, I imagine I should cancel my memberships in and support of the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Baltimore Symphony, the Baltimore Zoo, the National Aquarium, the Science Center and the Walters Art Gallery -- given that these are Baltimore City-based institutions.

Fortunately for these institutions, I and most other non-city residents who likewise support them don't plan to follow the mayor's lead.

If this action of the mayor is a precursor of the type of leadership and thinking we can expect from a gubernatorial candidate, all of us, including those who live within the confines of Baltimore City, are in for real trouble.

This totally illogical and frankly racist action on the part of the mayor harks back to an experience I encountered in 1970.

In the late 1960s I was instrumental in organizing the City Mental Health Advisory Council and chaired that group for several years.

When I left my position as executive director of the Baltimore Mental Health Association and moved from 25th Street up the road to a facility located just north of the city line, I was forced to give up my chairmanship and membership on the council on the totally erroneous, nonsensical assumption that I couldn't be interested in the welfare of Baltimore City's mentally ill merely because of my job relocation to an area outside the city limits.

If the thinking and thought processes that lead to the mayor's directive and my own ouster from the advisory council are allowed to continue, the City of Baltimore is in for continuing rough times and the multitude of problems confronting it will never be adequately addressed.

One would hope for the kind of forward looking, innovative leadership our problems and our citizens demand and require -- not the kind of narrow-minded action recently exhibited by Baltimore's mayor.

Morris L. Scherr

Towson

Loan appraisals

I am extremely concerned about the White House and Treasury Department's inclination not to require professional real estate appraisals on residential real estate loans under $250,000.

The present threshold is $100,000. I can't imagine that our representatives would allow relaxation of the protective regulations that resulted from the savings and loan debacle of the late 1980s.

As important would be the exposure of buyers and sellers of residential property to transact at prices not representative of true property value.

The economic loss to sellers who depend on their equity for retirement, subsequent purchase of a home or who unknowingly pay more or sell for less than their property is worth could be devastating.

These types of regulations would inevitably result in a segment of sellers and developers taking advantage of unwitting citizens who must buy or sell a residential property.

James C. Hunter Jr.

Lutherville

Opera extortion

Subscribers to the Baltimore Opera Company who have reserved box seats and seats in the dress circle have been notified that if they do not make a specific donation in addition to their regular subscription they will not be able to get seats in the same area next season.

This is extortion. The opera company is taking advantage of the fact that those with seats in these areas have them as a matter of choice and are willing to pay the price.

The opera company seems to be proud of the fact that it did not raise ticket prices. But if would have been fairer if it had raised every seat a few dollars.

Our subscription is a gift from our daughters, who do not mind the extra money. But my husband and I will not be coerced in this unfair manner. We will not have our favorite seats next season.

athryn Newkirk

Woodlawn

Baltimore courts committed to paternity cases

I applaud the work of Judge David Gray Ross in developing a system for paternity establishment that works well in his jurisdiction. ("Prince George's judge takes new tack on paternity suits," The Sun, April 25).

The Circuit Court for Baltimore City has taken paternity establishment one step further by developing an administrative system, a concept supported by Judge Ross in the article.

Over 90 percent of the paternity establishments in Baltimore City are accomplished administratively. Hearing examiners for the Office of Child Support Enforcement interview the parties.

If a defendant acknowledges paternity, signs a notification of rights form and agrees to an amount of support, a consent decree is entered into by both parties and then submitted to a judge.

Although defendants in paternity cases have a right to a jury trial, if we have three jury trials in a year, that is a lot. Blood tests are available, although not on site, at any stage of the proceeding.

So, when Meg J. Sollenberger, director of the state's Child Support Enforcement Administration, stated that Baltimore City has failed to make a commitment to child support, she was grossly inaccurate.

Our Domestic Miscellaneous court dedicates four days a week to paternity establishment. The fifth day is a carry-over day. However, since most paternity establishments are achieved through the administrative process, our judges focus on enforcement.

Judge Ross commented on the Pittsburgh system, in which child support enforcement is handled by administrators. The article reported: "But judges here, reluctant to cede control, balked at the idea, [Judge Ross] said." I am not sure exactly what the judge stated.

The fact is, the Department of Human Resources drafted a bill which sought to create a statewide administrative procedure for the establishment and enforcement of child support orders.

The proposal was a modification of the current system in Oregon. However, the bill was not introduced by the administration because it was felt that it would detract from Family Court legislation, which was the primary effort this past legislative session.

Nevertheless, the Maryland Judicial Conference committee on Child Support Enforcement chaired by Judge Steven I. Platt of Prince George's County (Judge Ross and I are members) endorsed the administrative process concept.

In closing, it is my impression that judges statewide favor change and are willing to make the commitment.

Kathleen O'Ferrall Friedman

Baltimore

The writer is judge in charge of the domestic docket, BaltimorCity Circuit Court.

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