Legislature's smoking vote a 'disgrace'What a disgrace...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Legislature's smoking vote a 'disgrace'

What a disgrace it has been to witness what our so-called public servants have done to weaken the workplace smoking ban . . .

You can't argue with the facts -- second-hand smoke kills.

When the regulation was first announced, a lot of legislators whined that they couldn't comment on it and that it should be left up to the courts.

When the courts finally gave the green light and said that the ban should be implemented, Annapolis panicked.

Are they so spineless that they can't stand up for what is right, or are they afraid that their tobacco money well might go dry?

Of course the tobacco lobby tried to get bar and restaurant owners upset by claiming the smoking ban would ruin their businesses. This is a lie and they know it.

Wherever there have been similar bans across the country, business has not been affected. In fact, often it has increased.

If there were evidence to the contrary, you can be sure the tobacco giants would be waving it around.

How dare these politicians play with the health of the citizens that they are suppose to be serving and protecting.

They complain about Maryland's high cancer rate, which has been linked to smoking. They complain about high health-care costs, which are caused largely by smoking-related illnesses. But they don't have the common sense or integrity to do what's right . . .

Bravo to the few senators and delegates who voted their consciences. It's a shame they can't work in a "corrupt-free" workplace.

ichael Barrash

Baltimore

Equality now

I read Farai Chideya's article "Equality? I'm still waiting" on the Other Voices page March 15.

Farai Chideya states, "The 1980s brought economic growth again, but under President Ronald Reagan there was a backlash against affirmative action. The black middle class lost ground."

Chideya stated this in comparison to the 1950s, '60s and '70s. That is wrong.

During the 1980s more African-Americans became members of the middle class than in any other time period in U.S. history.

Kent Zia Erman

Baltimore

Role model

Never have I been more moved by an obituary than that of Josephine Agnes Fenwick, written March 10 by Fred Rasmussen and quoting her neighbor, Mrs. Mary Taylor, a retired Towson State professor.

May I suggest your rerunning it -- on your front page. It should be required reading in every public school in Baltimore.

Indeed, here is a role model worthy of a nation.

This 96-year-old heroine was born and lived her entire life in her family's 170-year-old clapboard house without running water, indoor plumbing or central heating.

Nor were these things necessary for her to live long, lead a productive life and thrive.

"Denied entry into the local schools because she was black," Miss Fenwick learned to read at a Methodist mission school and not only could read and write but read the newspapers daily and was up on current events.

Her obituary said her independence was an inspiration to her Bare Hill neighbors. It is more than that. It is an inspiration to all of us.

"A retired domestic . . . known for her red hats," Josephine Agnes Fenwick had something even more beautiful than her flawless complexion. It was the beauty of her soul.

Here was a real lady. Hers is a story untouched by drugs, depravity or deviation. Far too often we venerate these things. Or excuse them.

"She was feisty and independent," says Mrs. Taylor, and worked for private clients until she retired. Baltimore should erect a statue to Josephine Agnes Fenwick.

How many of our nation's ills would disappear overnight if we followed in her footsteps!

Joan Warner Davidson

Sykesville

Vera Hall 'out of order' at housing hearing

The Baltimore City Council's March 7 Housing Committee hearing could best be summarized as a joke.

Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, who chaired the committee, fought to protect Housing Commissioner Daniel Henson and his eight assistants by insulating them from any questions that would have resulted in discomfort, difficulty or embarrassment to the Housing Authority.

Mrs. Hall would interrupt the questioners by stating that their questions were out of order or they had spoken beyond their allotted amount of time.

Any questions referring to the Sept. 23 federal inspector general's audit report of the Housing Authority were immediately considered out of order.

Questions regarding the findings of this report or requests for detailed explanations were discouraged. Seeking answers to these questions was the very reason this hearing was called for in the first place.

Mrs. Hall, who was more concerned with political posturing than obtaining the truth, spent more time asserting her authority over City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and fellow Councilmen Lawrence Bell, Martin O'Malley and Carl Stokes.

When Councilman O'Malley tried to prod Mrs. Hall to get the hearing directed to the issues, she ruled him out of order.

The frustration concerning her chairmanship was summed up when Councilman Bell accused her of "orchestrating a charade process."

Mrs. Hall gave preference to the Housing Authority by giving it as much time as it wanted to justify its actions, accuse the inspector general's report as inaccurate and brag about its use of minority contractors to do the "emergency work."

The authority was allowed to rattle on and on. Virtually nothing was said of the $25 million spent on the renovation of only 1,000 units, of the $150,000 spent on eight four-wheel drive vehicles for management's take-home use, the illegal transfer of $3.3 million of community development block grant money into public housing accounts or the myriad other questions regarding the misuse of federal money.

Mrs. Hall would listen to what she wanted to hear. She would allow grandstanding and cheering, but if applause followed a critical remark directed to the Housing Authority, she wasted no time reminding the crowd that such outbursts only eliminated the limited time available for the hearing.

The prejudice of Mrs. Hall as chairman was clearly demonstrated when a woman, after waiting six hours, calmly began to voice her displeasure of the Housing Authority.

After a brief period of time, Mrs. Hall interrupted her and stated she was out of order.

Although the woman was not finished, and never raised her voice, Mrs. Hall signaled for her forcible removal by the police officers present.

One of the officers approached the woman with his hand on his pistol. In split seconds, President Clarke stepped in front of the officers and backed them down.

The woman speaker was emotionally upset and the council was on the brink of a riot.

The selective control of Vera Hall, the virtual dismissal of the federal audit, the inability of councilmen and individuals to ask the relevant and poignant questions made this whole hearing a farce.

The charade orchestrated by Vera Hall leaves me with the belief that she was out of order and she was out of touch.

Hans Stubenhause

Baltimore

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