Fulbright's flawOne only needs to examine the...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fulbright's flaw

One only needs to examine the life of former Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright to see how racism affects a person.

Regardless of the number of people who were Fulbright scholars, regardless of his principled opposition to Vietnam, Mr. Fulbright couldn't get past his Southern upbringing and Southern political ties to see how unscholarly and inhumane his opposition to civil rights legislation was.

He didn't rise above his racism.

McNair Taylor

Baltimore

Arbitrary vote

Recently, Baltimore City's Board of Estimates made a ruling which exemplified why it is nothing more than a cruel joke on every citizen of our city.

Without going into complex details, I'll simply say that a particular developer, Patrick Turner, has been planning to renovate a large vacant building in the Little Italy section into a luxury apartment building. Residents of Little Italy have been attempting to keep this from happening.

In order to proceed with his plan, Mr. Turner had first to get the approval of the residents of Little Italy. At a meeting of the Little Italy Community Organization on Jan. 23, they voted unanimously to reject his plan.

Ordinarily, this would have been sufficient to keep Mr. Turner from proceeding with the project.

However, since he was seeking city and state financing, the Board of Estimates on Jan. 25 voted on whether Mr. Turner should be lent some $285,000 from the city to help finance this venture.

Since the necessary approval of residents had not been obtained, the matter was moot, and the Board of Estimates should have turned down Mr. Turner's request.

However, Public Works Director George G. Balog, Deputy City Solicitor Otho M. Thompson and Acting Comptroller Shirley A. Williams all voted in favor of this project.

The lone dissenting vote was cast by City Council President Mary Pat Clarke. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke did not attend the meeting.

Mr. Turner can now proceed with his project.

To say that this decision was a slap in the face of every resident of Little Italy would be an understatement.

The Board of Estimates is the authority which decides how the city's budget is spent as well as making other important rulings. It is composed of the mayor, the president of the City Council, the comptroller -- all elected officers -- and two mayoral appointees.

On any matter, a majority vote is required. Why is it not obvious to everyone that one person, the mayor, controls this board? I'm certain that in any vote, the two mayoral appointees vote as the mayor votes, giving him complete autonomy in all matters.

Legislators should start thinking of revising the charter so that all of this power is no longer held in the grasp of just one person.

Louis P. Boeri

Baltimore

Selling off art

The disappointing news that the Maryland Institute, College of Art is planning to sell the Lucas collection is far worse than when Johns Hopkins University sold its duplicates from the Peabody Library in 1989 to bolster the endowment fund of that institution.

At least there were still complete sets of everything left here in Baltimore.

To sell the Lucas collection would not only diminish the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Gallery, it would help diminish Baltimore's reputation as a cultural center.

Baltimore has already lost too many people and jobs. Do we want our cultural heritage to leave as well?

I am appalled but not surprised at the institute's poor judgment. When this idea was first announced in 1989, it was thankfully shot down.

Unfortunately, it was not allowed to rest in peace but was resurrected four years later after the institute spent a considerable sum to build dormitories and to renovate the main building on Mount Royal Avenue.

Now they need money to increase their endowment (which has grown to $9 million from $5 million in 1990), lest their educational objectives not be met.

What are the institute's educational objectives? Shouldn't exposing their students to some of the finest art the world knows be one of them?

How does decimating the 19th century holdings of the Walters Art Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art fit into this?

How can Maryland Institute students see the collection left by Lucas and given by his friend Henry Walters to the Maryland Institute if it is dispersed?

Also, what kind of example is being set here for other collectors, who might be considering leaving their collections to a Baltimore institution? First Hopkins, now the institute plans to sell some of its bequests.

I personally know several collectors who are now doubting as to whether they should leave anything to Baltimore.

One man said to me that because of this, "Baltimore deserves nothing." The institute should not imperil future bequests by proving him right.

I support the effort by the BMA and the Walters to keep the Lucas collection here. This sale should not be allowed to happen.

Even if the state must step in and assist in some way, this collection cannot leave Baltimore. The short-sighted view taken by the institute is a breach of public and private trust and must be prevented.

C. James Troy, Jr.

Baltimore

Gunning for Big Bird

As angry white males in Congress bash away at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, one wonders how many angry women resent such an assault on the one part of the media they could trust to teach their children something more uplifting than the violence, sex and mayhem that dominate commercial broadcasting?

I imagine there are quite a few who have a problem with the idea of House Speaker Newt Gingrich riding down Sesame Street blazing away at Big Bird with an AK-47. They may wish to tell him so when the next election comes around.

The voting booth is one place where an angry concerned woman counts just as much as an angry white male.

John D. Venables

Towson

Population loss in Baltimore must be halted

According to his spokesman, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is "making progress" on issues designed to stem the tide of taxpayers fleeing Baltimore City.

Apparently, there are thousands of residents who fail to see this progress from the rear-view mirror of a moving van.

The population decline to Baltimore City among middle-income residents is not a new trend. Had the mayor taken an aggressive approach to bringing business and residential investment into the city, we might well have come closer to breaking even. Economically and politically the mayor would have been hailed as a hero.

As it stands, the flight of families and businesses to safer, cleaner and cheaper suburbs has accelerated, and we have few new investors to take their place.

The past year has demonstrated the inability to City Hall to adopt a pro-active approach to restoring Baltimore's vitality. Our economic development mechanisms seem to lack a clear mission.

The proposed incremental property tax for new homeowners was tarnished by its reduction to a political favor for an Inner Harbor developer. Participants in a city-wide housing auction found themselves tied up in red tape and by countless delays in obtaining their homes.

The refrain from City Hall that "the numbers lie" has grown stale, whether regarding census data or test scores in Tesseract schools. Shuttered stores, boarded-up houses and abandoned churches are not lies. They are symbols of the real losses in our city.

We have no choice but to get back to basics in the delivery of services, from education to trash collection to policing our neighborhoods.

This is what our present and future fiscal health ditates and what our residents and businesses deserve.

Townes C. Coates

Baltimore

The writer is president, Citizens United for Revitalization of Baltimore, Inc.

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