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Dismaying ArticleI read Arthur Hirsch's Feb. 9...

Dismaying Article

I read Arthur Hirsch's Feb. 9 profile of Armstrong Williams, "Black and Right," with incredulity and dismay.

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The banal and wholly self-serving comments of Mr. Williams regarding his upbringing in South Carolina and the role of race represented a cruel and mindless transmogrification of truth and reality. . .

It is difficult to understand during the national observance of Black History Month which has its theme, "Reflection on 1895: Douglas, DuBois, Washington," why prominent and expansive coverage is given to Mr. Williams.

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His views are completely anathema to the overwhelming majority of 32 million black citizens. They constitute a colossal affront to the sacrificial and assiduous efforts of black citizens 130 years after the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery in our nation to achieve equality of opportunity and socio-economic and educational excellence in the American social order.

Mr. Williams does not command attention in the print and electronic media because of any seminal or remarkable contributions, but because he mirrors the negative, invidious and execrable views of the adherents of white racism.

At the time of Mr. Williams' birth 40 years ago, his native South Carolina, led vociferously and obstreperously by Sen. Strom Thurmond (described by Mr. Williams as "Strom's my man"), was enormously successful as a rank segregationist and racist state.

A preponderant number of black South Carolinians were kept in a virtual state of peonage, socio-economic impotence and competing with Mississippi for the ignominious distinction of being at the nadir of the educational totem pole of our nation's public schools.

This past and present historical condition is well documented but Mr. Williams, a self-proclaimed lover of books, refused to acknowledge the rampant racism and societal exclusion which denied black South Carolinians a chance for equity, excellence and wholeness in their lives

. . . I find it disconcerting and disquieting that The Sun chose not to focus on black pioneers and contemporary stalwarts in the struggle for an inclusive society and our nation's time honored principle of liberty and justice for all. . .

Samuel L. Banks

Laurel

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The writer, a Baltimore public school administrator, is a past national president of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History.

Kudos

What a wonderful distraction from the O. J. Simpson trial -- there are actually other things going on in the world: I'm writing to tell you how much I enjoy Kathy Lally's reports from the Moscow Bureau of The Sun.

Her story from Kstovo, Russia, on political campaigning (Jan. 26) is a classic, especially the description of the ribbon-cutting of the veterans' home that had been used as a dormitory by the chicken factory and now housed the new residents, five improbably small, wrinkled women in their 70s and 80s.

Not to be outdone, Will Englund's reports are equally fascinating. I clip them all and send them to my daughter who lives in Idaho.

Yvonne Aasen

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Severna Park

Priorities

Barry Rascovar is being quite reasonable when he says (column, Feb. 12) that it makes more sense to cut spending first and then taxes.

However, there is evidence that cutting some taxes by some amount actually increases government revenues.

This may seem to defy logic, but it has to do with what people do with their money and the way it flows through the system.

It is not a straight line thing, or else we could conclude that eliminating all taxes would produce a government awash in money.

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However, I do not trust the legislators in either Annapolis or Washington to follow through with cutting taxes, even assuming they do cut spending.

Their record is clear: Temporary taxes become permanent, tax rates go up, and spending increases to meet or exceed revenues.

At least cutting taxes first would provide us with a little relief, and might help force elected representatives to cut spending because the money just is not flowing in.

George K. Reynolds

Rossville

I Was There: 'No Sweetheart Deals'

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As president of the Maryland State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police and the former president of the Prince George's County FOP, Lodge 89, I would like to share with your readers my perspective of the events which occurred several years ago in Prince George's County which led some to believe that lavish and extraordinary benefits were given to police officers and other employees.

Beginning in late 1990 and through 1992, the FOP and the Prince George's County government were locked in vicious combat over budget cuts necessitated by revenue decline and the loss of state aid.

Our members were asked to make concessions and they were adamantly opposed. We ran radio and television ads in major media outlets, and threatened to do much worse.

All around us, however, terrible things were being forced upon workers in our jurisdiction and elsewhere.

Three hundred county employees were fired, the county's anticipated deficit became worse ($86 million) and the state reduced local aid by more than expected.

Very reluctantly, we agreed to give up merit increases and defer cost of living increases. As a front-page headline read, "FOP votes to save jobs -- not raises."

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In exchange for the salary and other pay concessions we made, we gained pension improvements and fought for the protection of our employees by insisting on a "no-layoff and no-furlough" clause. After a long, expensive and tedious battle, we thought our troubles were finally over. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

In 1992, as the country's economy became even worse, Maryland's deficit was expected to exceed $400 million.

State aid to Prince George's County was reduced by another $60 million. Three hundred employees were terminated, many of them with 17 and 18 years of service. A county-wide furlough program was implemented (excepting police and fire staff) and all non-union employees had their salaries unilaterally reduced.

Non-public safety unions and non-union employees complained that they were being treated unfairly and forced to bear the brunt of the entire fiscal crisis alone. Their argument had merit and they had horrendous examples of senior employees (16 years of service or more) being terminated, while labor employees with less than five years retained their positions.

As a way to avoid additional layoffs, we worked with the county to develop a retirement incentive program for public safety employees and this program was ultimately extended to other county employees as well.

The unions benefited from this plan because it improved our overall pension plan.

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The taxpayers benefited from the plan because senior public safety employees, most with higher salaries, were retired, while police officers on the streets, firefighters fighting fires and paramedics staffing ambulances were not laid off. It was also designed to help minimize the likelihood of senior employees being fired, regardless of their years of service.

From my perspective, the county did anything but "give away the store." It negotiated hard to reduce its expenses and manage its way through difficult times.

I do not believe for a minute that any county official involved, including Mike Knapp or Frank Stegman, acted at any time with their own self-interests in mind. They worked hard to treat all employees fairly and to prevent service disruptions, work slowdowns and stoppages and hundreds of additional employee layoffs.

We worked hard to keep the benefits we had and protect our members. There were no "sweetheart" deals; in fact, much of what we did was a bitter pill to swallow. Ask any employee who was there, as I was.

Darryl A. Jones Sr.

Annapolis

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The writer is president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police.


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