Public Transportation Deserves Fair Chance
Peter Jensen's concern that our state is paying too much to underwrite public transportation as opposed to building roads (Perspective, Oct. 10) relies on specious reasoning.
He has fallen into the trap that most critics of public transportation make: that the expense of operating public transportation must be equal to or less than the money that customers are willing to place into the fare box.
The basis for this misconception is that the cost of various transportation systems can be easily reduced to a dollar figure for each traveler.
In fact, all of our transportation systems are supported by such a web of governmental subsidies that it is very easy to mistake that the economic choice of taking a car or bus to work is based on the difference between the cost of gasoline and bus fare.
Take the example of the hidden costs of traveling by automobile. There are the costs of building and maintaining roads, police patrolling those roads, loss of open space to parking lots, air pollution and medical and automobile insurance.
(Insurance rates are higher than for other forms of transportation, based on deaths per mile traveled; automobiles have been shown to be the least safe means of transportation).
Another misconception commonly made by public transportation critics is that public transportation rarely adds to economic development.
As a dramatic counterpoint to this belief is the Baltimore Metro system. The corridor serviced by the Metro has seen growth over the past 10 years at a greater rate than the rest of the Baltimore region.
The civic leaders of Glen Burnie apparently feel that the Central Light Rail will have the same effect; they have been loudly requesting a spur of the light rail system to serve downtown Glen Burnie.
Mr. Jensen makes a good point when he notes that ridership on public transportation has steadily decreased over the past decade. However, I believe this is due to the fact that our public transportation system is still incomplete.
Baltimore would benefit greatly from expanded public transportation that served not just select corridors, as the light rail and Metro systems now do, but the entire metropolitan region.
I challenge Mr. Jensen to revise his article to reflect not just the cost at the gas pump or the fare box but to untangle the web of county, state and federal subsidies to try to reach a cost-per-passenger-mile for the various means of transportation.
Taking this approach, I am certain that he will find that public transportation, even with the recent increased fares, is still a less expensive way of getting from point A to point B.
Andrew W. Gray
Peter Jensen is making a journalistic career out of trashing mass transit. Obviously something is sacrificed in terms of objectivity when he is willing to quote a highway contractor to make his point.
If he feels that mass transit is inefficient he should at least acknowledge that roadways have a huge advantage over subways and railroads in terms of sheer mileage, the status quo, effective lobbyists and funding.
Mr. Jensen's article failed to mention that recently proposed expenditures published in The Sun Sept. 30 favor roadways 66 percent to 33 percent.
Clearly mass transit is not going to attract passengers without a level playing field. A lack of effective mass transit means noncompliance with federal ozone-reduction standards, which will lead to a lack of money for his precious highways.
This may be the best thing for the environment, but it has led to a hue and cry over Baltimore being unfairly penalized without the recognition that highway construction has created much of the ozone air pollution problem in the first place.
Washington should not be considered in the same category as Baltimore, since it is accessible via a credible subway. . . .
Neil Peirce has a better grip on reality. His column (Opinion * Commentary, Oct. 18) demonstrates how highway construction to and from the "outer crescent" suburbs benefits the affluent and contribute to urban blight.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the northern terminus of the light rail line, which ends two miles short of the Hunt Valley business community. This means that many entry-level unskilled factory positions remain beyond the reach of unemployed city residents without cars.
Extending the light rail is a fairly economical proposition, particularly since a railroad right-of-way already exists.
However, in the same area an extension and interchange involving Warren Road is being built that will cost millions and won't have any tangible benefit besides improving commuter access to I-83.
A proposal to extend the light rail north must wait somewhere down on the wish list in relative importance to the need for highway bypasses to bucolic hamlets such as Hampstead, Manchester and Hickory.
In this light it is no surprise that Robert Latham of the Maryland Highway Contractors Association urges the construction of more suburban highways as a cure for air pollution in his letter to the editor of June 3.
This is a proposition that virtually no one believes. Perhaps not even Mr. Latham, since he never has the courage to identify himself with that organization but instead issues his correspondence to The Sun as the executive director of Marylanders for Efficient and Safe Highways. The self-serving nature of these epistles should be readily apparent.
Paul R. Schlitz Jr.
A careful reading of the Maryland Catholic bishops' letter on the care of the sick and dying shows a basically balanced, nuanced approach to complex, difficult human issues. The Oct. 15 Sun article did not do justice to this approach.
While the letter is clear and unambiguous in its condemnation of euthanasia, it is built more around principles than definitive, absolute prohibitions in situations other than euthanasia.
It avoids statements like "always" and "never," even in regard to such basic decisions as artificially provided food and water.
It counsels the virtue of prudence in sorting through the complex factors involved in human decisions. The following excerpts illustrate my point:
* ". . . No patient is obliged to accept or demand medical care otreatments which have no beneficial effect; indeed, the application of useless medical interventions can be wasteful and detrimental to the common good."
* "A seriously ill patient is not necessarily obliged to employ every possible medical means, even those which promise some benefit."
* "No general statement of principles can take into account all the particular facts and circumstances of every possible case . . . in diverse settings, different courses of action may be consistent with the same moral principles."
Though there is a presumption in favor of supplying food and fluid to persons in a persistent vegetative state, "No one can provide a universal answer to that question, appropriate for all possible cases."
The bishops' letter walks the fine line between saying too little and saying too much to people struggling with life and death decisions.
It offers guidance, not absolute answers, to some of the most vexing human questions that arise in our world of technologically advanced health care. It deserves careful, serious study.
In It Together
I was appalled by the letter to the editor from Garland Crosby (Oct. 13) implying that the black community should disown, disavow and disconnect from an entire generation of young black males.
This would mean that black people should advocate policies which admonish and stigmatize a large segment of its population. He justifies this irresponsible assertion by the amount of crime he has read or seen in the media committed by this cohort of young black males.
He continues to state that the church is no longer a social force in the community and is unable to effect change. I assume he is implying that the black community has lost the value structure it once had, and moral or charitable solutions to crime cannot be arrived at through this medium.
A generation is defined by Webster as roughly a period of 20-25 years. Let's say Mr. Crosby did not mean a range this wide. So I am assuming he identified this group of young black males as those between the ages of 17-34.
There are approximately 31 million black people in this country. Between 7 and 10 million of these individuals are young black males. There are about 1 million men and women of all races imprisoned in this country. Even if there are 2 million more criminals roaming the streets of our society, this is less than half the number of people he wants us to write off.
I am just as frustrated with the high propensity of crime as Mr. Crosby is. But to infer that all young black males are bad is shocking and thoughtless.
The black community and society at large must work to seek solutions to the problems of crime and not categorically denigrate one sector or the other. We are all in this together.
!Wesley E. Williams Sr.
I read an Oct. 19 article in your newspaper describing the
results of a "gang fight" which sent a 15-year-old boy to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Supposedly, this confrontation took place because the "gangs" held opposing views on racial tolerance.
I am 14 years old and a student at Dulaney High School. I live in Mays Chapel across the street from the victim. He is my 16-year-old brother's best friend and a good companion to both of us. Your report is inaccurate.
You made this incident appear as though it were a fight between rival gangs, but in fact it was a senseless and unprovoked act of violence by 10 prejudiced, cowardly thugs against a single individual whose views differed from theirs.
Our friend tries to stop racism whenever possible. He is a fine student and a "straight edge" -- someone who is against drinking, smoking and drug abuse.
This is my first experience with a newspaper article that describes events I am familiar with. You disappoint me. You made this cowardly act by a group of self-centered, conceited, abusive punks sound like nothing more than the gang-related violence we read about almost daily. You made it seem as though the victim and we, his friends and fellow students, were nothing more than rival gang members.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And truth is what you are supposed to report. I hope that in the future you will get the facts straight and report them in an unbiased manner.
In his Oct. 9 letter, Bob Kambic suggested that Congress require gun clubs to teach safe gun-handling to city youths. For many years the National Rifle Association has offered educators the "Eddie Eagle" firearms safety program free of charge.
This nonpolitical program is appropriate for levels K through 6, and includes a teacher's guide, handouts and work books.
We have offered to provide certified instructors to teach the NRA basic firearms safety course in several school systems. This course teaches firearms safety techniques only and does not permit the use of live ammunition.
I know of no local school system that has taken advantage of either offer. In today's "politically correct" climate, school systems reject anything published by the NRA without regard to its merit.
This bias is not limited to the school systems. Recently our association hosted a two-day charity trap shoot to benefit Bea Gaddy's Family Center. Despite our press releases, the "politically correct" press and most of the broadcast media chose to ignore the event.
Fortunately, radio stations WPOC-FM 93 and WCBM 680 AM did broadcast announcements, and WBFF-TV Channel 45 sent a camera crew to cover the benefit.
Stories and information highlighting the positive aspects of gun ownership and the shooting sports are usually not considered newsworthy.
John H. Josselyn
The writer is legislative vice president of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore.
In an editorial Oct. 20 relating to the question of whether the portrait of Spiro Agnew ought to be displayed in the State House in Annapolis, you commented that Mr. Agnew was not convicted any crimes, but only pleaded nolo contendere. It is my recollection that he was in fact convicted, upon his plea.
You also stated in the editorial that "history is history." This is an accurate statement, and the record reflects a conviction. Let's not revise history.
Spiro Agnew cheated the taxpayers of the state and the country. While mouthing pompous platitudes about "law and order" in the campaign of 1968, he was soon to be a convicted felon, and his boss, the since resurrected Richard Nixon, escaped conviction only because of a controversial pardon.
If the Agnew portrait is to hang, let us place an asterisk next to it, like was done to Roger Maris' home run record for so many years.
Irwin E. Weiss
Tilting against the Archdiocese
On Sept. 26, you published an article by Michael Ollove about Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell, and on Sept. 29, you had a follow-up about the Police Department's stopping their investigation of Father Blackwell's alleged abuse of a male minor.
A pervasive tone is present in both articles, that, in some way, the Archdiocese of Baltimore did something reprehensible in removing Father Blackwell from his administrative duties; and the Sept. 29 article ends with a suspicion voiced by some parishioners that Father was treated unfairly.
I am delighted that Father's reputation is now buttressed by the decision of the Police Department, just as I was disheartened by the minor's allegation, and by the allegations against Father Thomas Smith. . . .
But The Sun's tilt toward an implicit indictment of the archdiocese and a benevolence toward the complaints of the parishioners confuse me. Had the archdiocese kept the allegations quiet and had The Sun uncovered the allegations and the cover-up, would The Sun not have written an indignant expose against the archdiocesan policy?
Certainly, such articles have appeared throughout the country; and I have not been overwhelmed by the sympathy of The Sun for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The archdiocese was silent [in a previous case], and I detected non-agreement by The Sun in its reporting of that decision.
That decision was wrong, and a change was needed. The policy now is disclosure and removal of the priest from his work in the parish until the whole truth is determined.
God grant that no other priests will have to undergo what Father Smith and Father Blackwell have endured.
But I wish The Sun would decide what it really would like to see the archdiocese do: disclose and remove; or cover up and maintain the status quo. To swing from position to position so that the archdiocese is always wrong betrays a bias in The Sun that is not honorable.
Under the present policy both priests were treated the same way; neither was treated unfairly. But I add a cautionary conclusion: In light of what some priests have done, all now walk under a common cloud; every priest is now open to being targeted by accusations, legitimate or not.
That's a real burden, and I, as a priest, have no joy in carrying it. It has unmistakable repercussions in how I approach children with whom, all my priesthood, I have shown great love to and have been blessed in receiving great love from.
Need I add in these tragic days -- a thoroughly Christ-like love?
!Rev. Walter J. Paulits
The Gender Bias in Education Today
When ideological bias meets gender bias, it is clear George F. Will loses sight of the facts ("Big Nurse Wants to Heal Us," Sept. 23).
If Mr. Will finds the American Association of University Women (AAUW) radical, how does he describe the American revolutionary groups of the 1960s?
For over a century, AAUW has promoted education and equity for women and girls. No doubt we were considered radical in 1885 when we released our first research study debunking the popular notion that college was damaging to women's health. We've come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go.
The conservative columnist would have us believe that women have gone far enough and we should just stop belly-aching about non-existent problems like sex discrimination and sexual harassment.
But if there is such a thing as sexual harassment or gender bias, we should stop relying on government, accept some responsibility for our actions, renounce the permissive '60s, and it will go away.
It is clear from his simplistic solutions that Mr. Will needs to read our research before offering advice.
Last year, AAUW released a comprehensive report synthesizing all existing research on girls and education. "The AAUW Report: How Schools Shortchange Girls" documented pervasive gender bias girls face from pre-school through 12th grade in their textbooks, testing and teachers.
More recently we released "Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America's Schools." The survey's startling findings revealed four out of five students had experienced sexual harassment in school. Although sexual harassment takes its toll on all students, girls are harassed more frequently and suffer more devastating effects. . .
Mr. Will reassures us that women are no longer disadvantaged because more women are going to college now than men. A care ful look, however, uncovers the sad fact that women are still trapped in traditionally underpaid pink collar jobs. The average woman today with a college degree earns as much as a man with a high school diploma.
And men are still two-thirds of all medical students and 87 percent of all surgical residents.
Women are far behind men in subjects vital to a workplace that becomes more technologically advanced with each passing day. Although women are getting more bachelor degrees, men receive 70 percent of natural science and engineering degrees and 84 percent of physics degrees. . .
What is surprising is that he would erroneously claim that either of our reports called for new federal funding. Nowhere in the 40 recommendations in the "AAUW Report" or in "Hostile Hallways" will you find an appeal for federal funds. Rather we call for enforcement of Title IX and the implementation of sexual harassment policies.
The long-awaited gender equity in education bills pending in Congress are a vital first step forward in leveling the playing field for girls. The legislation encourages teacher training, recruiting female math and science teachers, and providing training and technical assistance to combat sexual harassment.
There are many pieces to this omnibus package, most of which calls for incorporating gender fairness techniques and practices into existing education programs.
Although we welcome new funding, only one bill actually calls for additional money and that is to restore the Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) program, which was gradually drained of all life and money during the Reagan-Bush years.
These bills are a far cry from Mr. Will's vision of a gender equity bureaucracy dispatching gender police to drag little boys off the playground. . .
We can no longer afford to look the other way, because when we ignore bias and harassment, we condone it. Education reform must address these problems, because we cannot achieve excellence in education without equity in education. . .
But government cannot do it alone. Everyone, from parents to teachers to television executives, has a responsibility. Our children are not learning to sexually harass and adopt outdated gender roles in a vacuum.
Gender bias is societal, but if schools don't become part of the solution, then they remain part of the problem.
We can make schools more equitable -- and should. Because the lessons our children learn in school, they will carry with them to the workplace and throughout their lives.
The writer is president of the American Association of University Women.