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Public HousingI am writing with some concern...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Public Housing

I am writing with some concern about the city's plans to reconstruct the Lafayette public housing project. I absolutely believe that we need to rebuild all the public housing in Baltimore City. My concern is that we are just going to put a new facade on an old and failed system.

If we are just building housing and not changing the mechanism by which it is operated or have no long term goals, we are only helping these people for a brief period of time.

We are in effect deceiving them by giving them a false sense of hope that their quality of life will change. In the short term it will, but where will they be in five or 10 years?

Can we envision a city with no public housing? Are we really pursuing urban renewal or are we just stuck in the same failed way of thinking?

In my opinion, we need to develop a system that gets people as independent as possible as soon as possible.

There are many successful examples of urban renewal around our country, and in fact one of the best is in West Baltimore. Sandtown-Winchester is a great example of what we can do.

With the city about to take on the Lafayette projects, I want to know what are we doing to insure that we are not putting a new face on an old devil.

Has the city talked to any of the numerous people with a successful track record in urban renewal, like Habitat for Humanity, James Rouse and the Enterprise Foundation, New Song Church in Sandtown, Joe Ehrman and The Door or Bob Lupton in Atlanta? The list goes on.

As a taxpayer, a city resident and someone who feels that public housing in America has basically been a crime against humanity, I am asking that we do this project right.

Let's do some research and really try to solve some problems. We may not know now exactly what will work, but we all know what won't work. Let's not settle for mediocrity or less.

Jeff Zenger

Baltimore

Housing Seniors

I am writing in response to your Dec. 15 article, "Baltimore Co. Council members battle over assisted living centers for seniors."

Baltimore County is second only to Dade County, Fla., in the growth of the aging population. As the daughter of an 85-year-old mother as well as a legislator who has served on the National Task Force for Long Term Care and other panels, I am deeply concerned that Baltimore County is dragging its feet on easing zoning restrictions for the establishment of assisted living group homes for seniors who don't require the expensive care of a nursing home.

Last year, when Gov. William Donald Schaefer proposed capping the income of Medicaid recipients in nursing homes, my office was flooded with more than 5,000 letters and calls from family members of nursing home residents and from the residents themselves.

They were terrified that those whose incomes were slightly above the cap but way below the private pay rate would be out on the streets because our state had no safety net or state facility.

Because of the sorely strained Medicaid budget, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is now talking about legislation which would set up an appraisal process to evaluate nursing home applicants to see whether they need the heavy care or only the care offered by, for example, an assisted living facility.

The evaluation would apply to applicants on medical assistance as well as those paying for their own care.

Certainly I am a strong proponent of housing seniors in the least restrictive and least costly environment. However if there is no assisted living facility available, once again we are leaving our seniors who may need help with everyday tasks but may not need nursing home care without any place to call home.

As the largest subdivision in the state without a single assisted living home, Baltimore County must act quickly to ease its onerous restrictions so these facilities will be available to those who need them.

Paula C. Hollinger

Randallstown

The writer is a Baltimore County state senator.

Boycott Laurel

I read with interest the articles regarding Jack Kent Cooke's desire to move his football team to Laurel, and that perhaps this move will seal our fate -- or should I say coffin -- in obtaining a team in Baltimore.

When I moved to Baltimore from Chicago over 30 years ago, one of the obvious positives in Baltimore was its support and love for its baseball and football teams. It was magic.

If it is true that in the smoke-filled backrooms Mr. Cooke has been blocking (no pun intended) our efforts for an NFL franchise, then perhaps it is time for Baltimore to take away what he seems to be most worried over -- fans and money. We may have lost the Baltimore Bombers, but he can't do anything about a Baltimore boycott.

Think about it! A grass roots movement complete with bumper stickers, slogans and protests at local Baltimore stations that carry their games. And for any football-holics, the Philadelphia Eagles are just a two-hour drive away.

Well, I've made the pass, Baltimore, is there anyone who will carry the ball?

Diane Mahoney

Baltimore

Stomping Lorenzo

This is in response to Suzanne Wooton's Dec. 10 article, "Was Lorenzo victim of a 'vendetta'?"

What a breath of fresh air! Finally we are beginning to hear from the great silent majority who does not harbor a party line of hate espoused by the narrow-minded labor unions' self-serving agenda.

Without the public asking questions, it appears by their actions that the Department of Transportation's administrative law judges have succumbed to the will of ALPA-IAM (Air Line Pilots Association and International Association of Machinists).

These unions would eliminate anyone from the free marketplace whose concepts are different from their own. This serious breach of duty by the DOT to carry out its public mandate is unacceptable.

Our country needs any and all legitimate contributions to its free market in order to continue unparalleled growth from entrepreneurial efforts. Frank Lorenzo should be accorded the same treatment as anyone else.

W. Redd

Church Hill

Needle Exchange Sends Wrong Message

The Maryland General Asssembly is about to be put into a political Catch-22 situation regarding the passage of legislation that would allow Baltimore City to institute a needle exchange program.

City officials have been trying to sway both the public and the legislature into believing that if they don't support the needle exchange program, then they they are not serious about stopping the AIDS epidemic.

I hope our lawmakers are concerned enough to ask two major questions: First, is a needle exchange program really necessary? Second, how effective will it be?

One of the more troubling justifications for a needle exchange program, other than the shortage of treatment resources, is that clean needles are necessary to protect those who "cannot stop using drugs."

This argument implies that treatment will not work for some addicts, and that society must accept and support their continued drug use. I find that hard to accept.

The proposed goal of needle exchange is to reduce the spread of the HIV virus among IV drug users, who are, in part, responsible for the spread of AIDS. Use of contaminated needles is not, however, the only cause, nor is it the most threatening.

Currently, the greatest increase in the spread of AIDS is from heterosexual contact. This occurs primarily through the transmission of the virus from IV drug users to their sexual partners.

Clean-needle programs are unlikely to modify the irresponsible sexual behavior of IV drug users. Irresponsible and self-destructive behavior is synonymous with being an addict and is very hard to change without long-term treatment.

In the New Haven, Conn., needle exchange program, which Baltimore officials used as a model, they found that less than one-third of the participating addicts practiced safe sex.

In addition, the New Haven program experienced a 60 percent drop-out rate, which means that the government is now putting thousands of new needles into the streets for addicts to continue to share and possibly sell.

Also, it is important to point out that Baltimore has over 35,000 addicts, and New Haven has a population that totals only 30,000. It's therefore difficult to draw parallels between the two cities.

The support of a needle exchange program puts government in an awkward position of supporting and even facilitating drug use.

This is extremely dangerous, given that demand reduction is now accepted as the best method to control our drug-abuse problem. Demand reduction involves prevention, education and treatment, especially for the chronic addicts.

In order for education, prevention and treatment programs to work, society has got to give a clear message that drug abusers must stop using drugs. The support of a needle exchange program sends a mixed message to both addicts and to our children.

Therefore, I believe that the needle exchange program has negative -- rather than positive -- benefits, and I hope that the General Assembly sends a clear no-use message to all who are using drugs and to all who may be thinking about it.

Michael M. Gimbel

Towson

The writer is director of Baltimore County's Office of Substance Abuse.

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