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Bad IdeaFrightening resolutions have been introduced by...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Bad Idea

Frightening resolutions have been introduced by Maryland State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and by House Speaker Casper Taylor.

These complimentary resolutions are calling for a "Conference of States," which on the surface may seem simple and harmless.

However, if you look carefully into this matter, you'll discover that a meeting of the states fully sanctioned by the state legislatures has the power to turn such a conference into a Constitutional Convention by resolution, and therefore would have the ability to suspend our present U. S. Constitution.

The resolutions (H.J.R. 10 and S.J.R. 6) state: "For the purpose of directing that the State of Maryland participate in a Conference of the States for the purpose of restoring balance in the federal system."

Virginia and Utah have already passed this dangerous resolution, but as we citizens must understand the Conference of the States is not necessary.

Our U. S. Constitution already contains language in the 10th Amendment which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Del. Martha Klima has introduced a resolution this session (H.J.R. 13) that would strengthen our U.S. Constitution's 10th Amendment.

This resolution, which I fully support, restates the existing constitutional language that was composed by our founding fathers in order to restore the original strength and intent of the 10th Amendment.

It is commonly known as the "Tenth Amendment Resolution." Fortunately, it has passed in Colorado, Hawaii, Missouri, California, Pennsylvania and Michigan, and we should all pray that our legislators will support it here in Maryland.

I would also like to add that Senator Miller's dangerous push for a Conference of the States may appear to be a Democratic Party concept, but it is actually a bipartisan effort headed by Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah.

. Dee Merriken

Federalsburg

Parole Process

I am writing in reference to your Feb. 15 article, "As inmates plead for freedom, victims watch."

The law passed by the General Assembly in 1994 permits a victim's family or the victim to attend the parole hearing of the attacker. This law, however, does not do enough.

In a few cases, the victims were allowed to sit in an adjoining room, and their only way of hearing the proceedings was through faulty intercoms and walkie-talkies. They could not otherwise participate.

Even though it may be seen as an "adversarial proceeding" to allow victims or their representatives in the hearing, it is important for the decision-maker to hear what has happened to the victim or the victim's family since the crime.

For instance, a prisoner who is charged with shooting his wife may be paroled because of old age or because he has served a substantial part of his term.

Without the testimony of the victim, the parole board may never know that the victim is still being threatened by the prisoner, even while the attacker has been incarcerated.

Although prisoners should not be tried again for their crime, it is important for the parole board to hear any information about contact between the prisoner and the victim since the crime. Such testimony could save the victim from future anguish or harm.

For this and other reasons, victims should be allowed to actively participate in all phases of the parole process.

Sarah Hess

Boston

Not Enough

Lanvale Street, just north of Penn Station, has 10-hour parking meters (25 cents per hour) between Maryland Avenue and Charles Street. They are designed for commuters on the MARC train -- primarily commuters to Washington, D.C.

Until a few months ago, Lanvale Street between Charles and St. Paul streets also had 10-hour meters, but they were switched to one-hour maximum, and, not surprisingly, are now little used, as this is a residential neighborhood where few go to shop. But that's another matter.

The problem is that 10 hours is not sufficient to take the train to Washington, put in a full day's work and return to Baltimore; most commuters need at least 11 or 12 hours.

The remaining 10-hour meters run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but many commuters arrive at a meter before 8 a.m. and deposit their 10 quarters whenever they arrive, even though their time will expire before 6 p.m.

So what does the city do? It regularly tickets these cars between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., after their owners have paid for 10 hours' parking.

Is that really necessary? Is it really, in the long run, an efficient way for the city to raise money? Or might it be just one more reason for working people to move to the suburbs?

Henry Cohen

Baltimore

Foot in Mouth

Thank you for the Feb. 21 "Schmoke: Foot in Mouth" editorial. Your statements about the "it's federal funds, not city or state funds, so why worry" attitude are absolutely on target. Do the pols think that federal money grows on trees? . . .

Your editorial staff has pleasantly surprised me in the past year with several independent, responsible economic viewpoints. Do I detect a bit of fiscal conservatism?

Carl Huppert

Baltimore

Fire Fighters Union Not Hostile to Minorities

The article by Larry Carson detailing the plight of minorities in the Baltimore County Fire Department (Feb. 26) causes me great consternation.

As president of the Baltimore County Fire Fighters Association, I categorically reject the assertion made by Guardian Knights President James Artis that our union exhibits "a quietly hostile attitude" toward our minority members.

Our association represents all bargaining unit members of the Baltimore County Fire Department. We do so in a fashion that is blind to the color of one's skin or gender, and we are fully accepting of a member's religious, political or sexual preferences.

The Fire Fighters Association supports equal and fair treatment for all of its members. The operative phrase is equal and fair treatment. Every employee should be afforded both a work environment that is intolerant to prejudice and discrimination and the opportunity to compete for advancement within the department.

However, we vociferously oppose any group's receiving preferential treatment in terms of hiring or promotional practices. Our stance on that issue is firm and unwavering.

As an aside, we congratulate Capt. Mark Garrett. He successfully prepared for the exam, competed and was selected for promotion. There was no favoritism or preferential treatment. He earned the position, and we are pleased for him and his family.

Further, our association is the exclusive bargaining agent for the uniformed members of the fire service, and we oppose allowing any organization encroaching upon that right, including the Guardian Knights.

Specifically, regarding the proposed agenda of the Guardian Knights, I offer the following observations.

Certainly we support training all personnel in fair practices and conflict resolution. We support hiring and retaining the most qualified candidates regardless of race, creed or gender to protect the citizenry we serve.

The Baltimore County executive selects the fire chief, who is, in turn, confirmed by the County Council. I find it egregious that any fraternal organization would suggest that it should be included in a selection search committee for the fire chief's position.

Recognizing that the fire service is a para-military organization with the fire chief as the ultimate authority on personnel and disciplinary matters, we absolutely reject having a fair practices administrator report to an outside agency. Conceptually, we do not oppose the creation of this position; however, it should be subordinate to the fire chief.

Lastly, I am perturbed at the assertion that not enough black fire fighters are assigned to the Woodlawn and Randallstown fire stations.

The assignment of fire fighters is premised on transfer rights, which are explicitly defined in our labor agreement with the county. Very simply, based on seniority, individual fire fighters chose their assignments. To imply anything else is absurd.

In conclusion, the innuendo and commentary that the union is hostile to either the Guardian Knights or our minority members is offensive.

I honestly believe the Mr. Artis owes his brother and sister fire fighters, officers and EMS personnel an apology for his statement.

Kevin B. O'Conor

Cockeysville

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