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Public TVThe Feb. 1 Opinion * Commentary...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Public TV

The Feb. 1 Opinion * Commentary piece by your editorial writer, Michael Burns, negating the importance of public television, was extremely disappointing and, because of his position, reflects negatively on the editorial judgment of The Sun itself.

Mr. Burns' thesis is that public TV is not unique and that taxpayer support, presumably for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which now amounts to about $1 per person per year, should be discontinued.

He cites a few examples of Maryland Public Television's successes, such as "Motorweek" and "Wall Street Week" to claim that "there are any number of public TV shows that commercial stations would love to offer."

This suggests that public television has pre-empted most good shows so that the networks are reluctantly left with the sleazy talk shows like Geraldo, Sally, etc., which feed on extreme examples, usually sexual, of human relationships; the soap operas where adultery and fornication are continuously offered and, let us not forget, the prime-time shows, which promote violence when not exploiting sex.

I think rather that network TV remains a "vast wasteland" in doing what it has always done -- attracting the mass audience in whatever way possible -- while public broadcasting remains an oasis of quality programming.

It is network TV, which Mr. Burns defends, that continues to prompt Congress to propose mandatory incorporation of the "V-Chip" in new TV sets to help parents control the violence to which their children are exposed.

Mr. Burns is on firmer ground when he cites cable (e.g. The Discovery Channel) as providing diversity and quality programming.

However, 40 percent of homes do not have cable, not only because of lack of universal access but because of cost. The Discovery Channel and most of the other quality channels are provided as part of a package which costs $460 per year in my neighborhood, a severe burden for low-income people to bear.

If a person watched public TV just two days a year he would get his tax money's worth, both the federal and the average state contribution, if the cable rate quoted above is used as a standard. The rest of the money public broadcasting requires comes from voluntary contributions and underwriting.

Public television used to be called Educational TV and it essentially still serves that function. Just the availability of quality programs for children on a commercial-free basis is worth the minuscule federal support it receives.

This support provides the seed money for a miraculous federal-state-private cooperative effort in funding public television.

Public TV should be publicly protected and nurtured as we do our public schools and libraries.

Harry Brodie

Baltimore

Postal Mission

The Sun Feb. 24 had a report about the "new, user friendly" post office in Buffalo. This is apparently a new approach which will be nation-wide at great cost and expense.

Packaging is all very lovely, and it is convenient to be able to purchase packing materials and pretty stamps at the Post Office.

However: Give us surly clerks, ugly stamps and let us get our packaging elsewhere, but please deliver our mail on time.

It should not take a week to receive a letter from my daughter in Buffalo, which has happened. It should not take eight days from my sister-in-law in New Jersey, which has happened. I should receive bills in a timely fashion.

Notices on some bills say, "Allow five days for your payment to reach us on time."

The Postal Service is not here to charm us, greet us, package us and provide art. It is here to get our mail from one place to another quickly and efficiently.

When that has been accomplished, all these other glamorous items can be added.

Do you remember two deliveries a day, one on Saturday, none on Sunday or holidays, except Christmas, when there were two? We paid three cents for a first class stamp, then.

Let's take care of first things first and not try to fool people with fancy packaging. It's fraudulent.

Priscilla W. Armstrong

Baltimore

Truth Found

I do not question Michael Economos' talents as a painter and a teacher (story on Maryland Institute, Feb. 15). I acknowledge that Picasso was a very great painter and a perceptive thinker.

Picasso may once have said that truth lies at the bottom of a well. But Democritus said it first -- in the 5th century B.C.

John Stoneham

Baltimore

Handicap Plates

Pamela McDonald's Feb. 18 letter raised some important questions about handicapped licensed plates. She was particularly interested in criteria used to "obtain this special consideration" and noted that she has "yet to see a single person emerge from or get into one of these vehicles who has any visible handicap."

As a physician working with physically disabled patients. I will try to answer these concerns.

In Maryland, a patient has a physician complete a form which is then sent to the Motor Vehicle Administration. Typically, the physician will certify that the patient needs a cane, crutch, walker or wheelchair.

However, a patient with a heart or lung condition which makes it difficult to walk long distances also qualifies. Thus, some patients will not have a "visible handicap."

Unfortunately, by providing the license plate to the car, which is not disabled, rather than to the patient who is disabled, it is all too easy for any member of the disabled patient's family to park in a handicapped parking space and bound out of the car, thereby taking a handicapped parking space away from a person who truly needs the space.

Instead, the Motor Vehicle Administration should issue a large photo ID with a picture of the disabled person on it.

This card would be placed on the driver's side --board inside the car, only when the disabled person is traveling in the car.

The car would be ticketed if the car was parked in a handicapped parking space and the disabled person in the photograph was not among those getting in or out of the car.

Leon Reinstein, M.D.

Baltimore

Too Few Taxes or Too Many?

The kind-spirited letter of James Thomson Jr. (Feb. 25) deserves all the reinforcement it can get. I, too, am retired, live in a congenial neighborhood of the city and suffer no anxiety attacks about my next meal.

When young, I was taught a strong sense of community responsibility. I still have it.

Like Mr. Thomson, I think we older citizens should shoulder our share of the cost of a civilized society along with everyone else -- especially these quite well off.

I don't believe I pay too much in taxes. I receive a sophisticated array of services (and relatively few potholes) for my money.

For better schools and job training programs for poor people, among others, I'd agree to still a bigger tax.

The madness now rampant in Washington, with its demand for lower taxes, seems selfish and destructively individualistic. It's time to reach for that spirit of community that embraces the whole nation as our joint responsibility and our combined achievement.

Richard Franklin

Baltimore

In his letter, James C. Thomson tells us that he is living very comfortably on his savings, investments and pensions. He says that he really doesn't need the Social Security benefits he is receiving.

However, Mr. Thomson, like many other people who are comfortably well-off or wealthy, may relinquish his Social Security benefits to the trust fund for the payment of benefits to folks in circumstances less fortunate. No one forced him to apply for the benefits.

Or he could have donated the money to the U.S. Treasury for reduction of the national debt to help relieve the future tax burden on the younger generation he is concerned about.

Or perhaps he could donate the money to some charity that helps the poor or disabled who have no Social Security benefits.

Instead he took his own Social Security benefits, even though he doesn't need or want them.

Now he wants our leaders in Washington to solve the Social Security deficit problem by perhaps taxing benefits more, reducing benefits, eliminating cost-of-living allowances or raising the age of eligibility (which would not affect him).

Indeed, he does not pretend to know the solution, but he continues to take his own benefits, no doubt, because he deserves them.

William J. Ziegler Sr.

Ellicott City

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