A Family's AgonyI would like to touch...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Family's Agony

I would like to touch on an issue that has gained much of my attention. The issue is Dr. Henry Foster, President Clinton's nominee to become U.S. surgeon general. I want to share with your readers a real life story that happened to my family . . .

Thirteen years ago, my mentally handicapped sister was placed in a private club to work as a dishwasher. We, as her family members, were assured that she would be safe and treated as any other employee.

My sister was not being treated fairly by any means. She was being raped and threatened by two other employees.

Nine months later, a beautiful baby boy was born. Our family was faced with an extremely difficult decision. We gave the baby up for adoption. A large part of our hearts went with this child.

Later, when the child was eight, he died in a house fire. Our family thinks of this horrible tragedy every day.

My family felt it would be best to have my sister sterilized after this because we feared for this horrible crime to repeat itself. So, before any person can criticize Dr. Foster (or any other doctor) for sterilizing a handicapped woman, they better have lived the agony that at least one family lives with every day.

I would like to add, I do not recall seeing one of the protesters now standing in front of the White House standing in the courtroom or in the adoption line when this happened to my family.

Pauline Elliott

Pasadena

Minimum Wage

I question raising the minimum wage at this time.

Raising the minimum wage in America will only improve the standard of living in foreign countries. It will do nothing to put the millions of unemployed Americans back to work.

The higher the minimum wage goes, the more American business will look to foreign countries to manufacture products to be sold in America.

Our government talks about our place in the world economy, yet it isolates American business from that market by imposing laws that other countries do not.

It makes one wonder if the American people are in control of their government, or if it is being controlled by foreign lobbyists.

James G. Klein

Baltimore

A Better Life

Since when do we have to earn the right to feel?

Ginny Phillips' Feb. 2 letter castigates a welfare mother for wanting what she acknowledges wanting for her family -- a better life.

Ms. Phillips rationalizes that since she works, she has the right to want safety, health and education for her family. Welfare recipients, on the other hand, have not earned that right to want.

Before Ms. Phillips, like so many other Americans, casts her judgments about the type of individuals who receive welfare, I suggest she do some research.

Seventy five percent of all welfare recipients stay on welfare for under two years. What does that tell you? They don't want to be on it.

And like Ms. Phillips, they want to work, they want to provide for their families, they want to be safe from stray bullets.

So why aren't they working? Because not all jobs offer day care, health care or salaries above the poverty level.

Before Ms. Phillips aligns herself with the punitive hysteria sweeping the country, I suggest she do her research about the real issues facing welfare recipients. Since when is wanting a better life a crime?

Erin Hodge-Williams

Baltimore

City Tax Rate

Michael Olesker's Feb. 12 column on the flight of the middle class out of Baltimore was insightful and correct in attributing at least a part of the problem to Baltimore's crushing property tax rate.

My wife and I once considered moving back into the city, to Canton or Fells Point, but we were discouraged by the high property taxes. One part of the solution to Baltimore's ills would be to make the tax structure more competitive.

Mr. Olesker's article also touched on the public housing situation. The real tragedy of public housing is not the alleged segregation but the fact that public housing concentrates poor people in areas where there is little hope of finding a job.

Most new jobs created in cities are white-collar or administrative jobs. Because of high facility-development costs in urban areas, most new manufacturing jobs are created in suburban or exurban areas with little access to public transportation.

Bottom line: The poor living in public housing in cities are effectively shut out of economic growth that could mean jobs.

The time has arrived to rethink our public housing policies, because what we have is clearly not working and, in the long run, perpetuates the poverty it is supposedly curing.

John Louis Busch

Baltimore

Why No Sit-Ins?

As a member of the "amoral alien" community in the Baltimore region, I feel I must respond to Richard Rodriguez (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 20).

Even after delving into the squalid cesspool of a mind which is mine as a mark of the superiority bestowed upon me by my English birthright, I have failed to uncover the reasoning behind such an essay.

I read the piece many times and still cannot find a single reference to that moment in history where guns were held to the heads of those writing the contracts for the British editors invading the American magazine industry, or to the heads of those consumers buying the magazines.

I find no record of a threat of diplomatic action against the United States should she fail to boost the tabloid content of her television programs, nor threats of violence from gangs of umbrella-carrying troglodytes yelling, "Yoiks, tally-ho and toodle-pip!" against those viewers who choose to change the channel.

If the American consumer chooses to replace his home-made pap with "the dross of London," then surely the British have gained a foothold in the market; they're giving the customers what they want; they're profiting from their own hard work. Man, this is the American way.

If the targets of Rodriguez's piece were to have been anything but English, there would already be people staging sit-ins on basketball courts all over the country; there would have been calls for resignations ringing out on campuses and in boardrooms from Washington D.C. to Washington state.

Thankfully it is relatively easy to shake off Rodriguez's lecture in morality from the country which gave us talk shows and Bobbitt, O.J. Simpson and Chappaquiddick: one half can be dismissed as fetid Anglophobia; the other is simply drowned out by the ear-splitting rattle of pots and kettles.

Tim Marshallsay

Glen Burnie

Vengeance

Baltimore stands to lose $40 million in housing-related funds due to the new Congress' slash-and-burn approach to the domestic budget.

This threat, affecting 1996 spending, comes on top of congressional plans to take back millions of housing dollars already appropriated for 1995.

As community leaders who work together to promote bank investment in neighborhood development, we are appalled by the anti-housing, anti-city, anti-people direction of the newly elected majorities in the U.S, House and Senate.

While there is much that banks and other private investors can do to help meet credit needs in Baltimore, so-called market forces will never solve the problem of low-income housing.

The success of bank programs depends on partnerships that include government agencies and community-based groups, whose shoestring budgets are partly dependent on block grants.

Federal funding aside, the Senate leadership doesn't even want banks to be involved in low-income housing: Republicans are sponsoring legislation to gut the Community Reinvestment Act, which since 1977 has nudged lenders to do business in struggling neighborhoods.

Taken altogether, the planned cuts in domestic programs will result in more structural decay, more homelessness, economic collapse and crime, especially in urban neighborhoods.

Budget slashers claim they are economizing for the sake of future generations, but what about thousands of Baltimore's HTC children who are already ill-housed?

It is clear from other items in the "Contract with America" that the real agenda is not economic prudence but political vengeance: tearing down housing, education and nutrition programs, while giving the Pentagon billions more than it requested.

It's time for those of us who care about cities to find our voices and protest.

George N. Buntin Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is president, Maryland Alliance for Responsible Investment.

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