Pot PenaltiesAlthough not actually related in any...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Pot Penalties

Although not actually related in any way, I still saw a connection between three separate May 11 stories in The Sun. One story was about how a person with less than an ounce of marijuana will be spending probably two years in jail.

The second was about a rally by a number of disabled people pleading for federal money for home care.

The third lamented overcrowding of our nation's prisons due mostly to mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offenders.

People like Pamela Davis -- with her half-ounce of marijuana -- are arrested nearly a half a million times a year, according to the two top lobbying organizations, National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Drug Policy Foundation, at a cost of billions of dollars.

Under Mayor Kurt Schmoke's plans, hundreds of thousands of marijuana users would not be incarcerated in jails, but that substance would instead be "medicalized" or "decriminalized," saving the states and the federal government billions of dollars. That money could, in turn, be diverted to the needs of the severely handicapped.

Doesn't it seem more humane to free the handicapped from living in expensive institutions rather than to lock up millions of harmless pot smokers?

P. Pugh

White Marsh

Animal Shelter

I would like to commend The Sun for promoting the Baltimore City Animal Shelter. I currently volunteer at the shelter and see first-hand the help that it needs both financially and through volunteers.

For years, the city shelter has been battling pet overpopulation and animal abuse. The employees there are truly concerned for the animals' well-being while at the facility, as well as placing them with caring homes. Please think of adopting your pet from the Baltimore City Animal Shelter (behind Oriole Park), and of volunteering your time or services.

The Sun should be proud of its efforts in helping the shelter reach its goal of finding loving homes for hundreds of animals.

Linda Schwab

Towson

Hot Dogs and Rock

I take exception to the closing sentence of James Bock's May 7 article on Baltimore's Latino and Hispanic festivals.

While it is possible that "many Hispanics eat tacos and dance the merengue at both events," Bock's gratuitous coda serves to reinforce stereotypical images of Hispanics and Latinos as well as to undermine the philosophy behind ethnic festivals.

Such festivals provide a venue for people of all cultures to share experiences. Reducing ethnic groups to a cultural stereotype is a simplistic rationale for prejudice and exclusion.

Further, empanadas and salsa music are more representative of Hispanic food and music than tacos and merengue.

Jill Yesko

Baltimore

Lame Excuses

When will we ever learn from history? More than a hundred years ago, many women fought hard for abolition but did not live to vote. And though they proved their capabilities during World War II, more than 50 years later we still fight discrimination, lower wages and barriers in the military. Why do we have to throw the same lame excuses at the gay community now? When are we going to stop passing bigotry around and just stop it?

Seeing a decorated war veteran discharged for being gay made me ashamed and sick. This man fought and risked his life for the American ideals of freedom and human rights.

What freedom? What rights?

Susan L. Brown

Glen Burnie

A Needed Law

In his column May 12, James Kilpatrick sets forth about forty-eleven reasons why the Violence Against Women Act should be approved by Congress. Then, unsurprisingly, he reverses his field and says it's a bad piece of legislation and should not be enacted.

Over the years, Mr. Kilpatrick has buttressed his opinions usually in a thoughtful and well-defined manner. Occasionally he comes up with a clinker, which happens to be the case this time.

He bases his opposition primarily on the likelihood that the measure would overburden the federal courts. What he fails to note are the diversity and gaps in existing laws among the 50 states. A felony in one jurisdiction may be a misdemeanor in another; or worse, a complete absence of legal protection for certain kinds of assault.

Then, to compound these shortcomings, a few judges, like Thomas J. Bollinger of Baltimore County, not only criticize the law, which is OK, but then may leap beyond that to circumvent the spirit and intent of the statute.

Mr. Kilpatrick opines that the Violence Against Women Act will be passed by the Congress. Hopefully, he will be correct in this assessment.

Abner Kaplan

Baltimore

Sudbrook Middle School

I was totally shocked that Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden dropped funding to equip the new Sudbrook Middle School.

Although I believe the Sudbrook committee should have spent more time exploring redistricting as an option and the impact that Sudbrook would have on the entire northwest area, and I believe the motive for some of the controversy from the Pikesville community was an anti-redistricting motive and not a pro-magnet school motive, the fact remains that School Superintendent Stuart Berger's intent as well as the school board's was much broader in scope and had greater implications than Mr. Hayden apparently realizes.

Let's take a look at what the Sudbrook Middle School is supposed to accomplish:

* Alleviate overcrowding at Pikesville Middle School.

* Provide students in the western part of the county with a choice in their education.

* Allow students in the old Sudbrook boundaries to attend a neighborhood school if they desire.

* Alleviate some overcrowding at Franklin Middle as students choose the magnet program.

* Prevent Deer Park Middle School from becoming overcrowded in a few years.

* Prevent more parents from sending their children to private schools as they would not have a choice in schools and curriculum.

* Challenge other middle schools in the northwest area and the entire county to specialize in certain areas in order to attract and keep good students.

* Open up space in other northwest middle schools so that if a student wanted to attend a school outside of his or her school zone for academic reasons, the principal might have the space to allow it.

* Help diversify the student populations at the other northwest middle schools.

The reason Mr. Hayden wants to drop funding for Sudbrook Middle School as stated in the newspaper: Old Court Middle and Woodlawn Middle can alleviate the overcrowding at Pikesville Middle School.

I can't believe that Mr. Hayden was informed of all the goals that the magnet school program is trying to achieve. I did not make these goals up. Some of the goals have always been the intent of Dr. Berger and the school board while others evolved during the process.

I have had many discussions with school officials, school board members and other parents who have all formulated the same thoughts on the overall theory of magnet schools, especially Sudbrook Middle School.

I can understand that the county does not have the money right now to pump into the school system in order to solve all the problems. The only other solution is to try different and innovative ways to solve our school problems in Baltimore County.

Mr. Hayden, however, feels that it is best to solve our problems by keeping things the way they are.

Numerous studies by business interests have concluded that Baltimore County should concentrate on improving schools so that individuals and companies want to relocate to our county.

I do not feel that Mr. Hayden is cooperating with the school system in a positive manner. I hope that Mr. Hayden did not cut the magnet school funding because of some type of conflict with Dr. Berger.

There are individuals and groups very critical of Dr. Berger. I understand their concerns. I do hope, however, that everyone who reads this can agree that the county executive should support change in our schools and agree that county leaders should cooperate with each other.

If things are kept the way they are, I feel that nobody will benefit and all will suffer.

Philip Stoler

Owings Mills

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