More ChoiceMaryland ranks 49th out of 50...


More Choice

Maryland ranks 49th out of 50 states in having the least democratic, most restrictive ballot access laws. So why did the state Senate vote against ballot reform?

Because opponents feared the measure "would harm the two-party system by making it easier for fringe candidates to get on the ballot."

Really? Was the two-party system at risk prior to 1967, when Maryland's tough ballot access laws were enacted?

Do other states with more democratic ballot access laws report the difficulty that the senators feared? Certainly voters would like more choice on election day.

It is unfortunate that the entrance requirements for independent and third party candidates are set by politicians who have a vested interest in limiting the number of candidates on the ballot.

John Clapp


Information Age

"A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both . . .

"A people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." -- James Madison, from a letter to W. T. Barry, 1822.

The belief that an informed citizenry is the bedrock of our government is as true as it was in the first part of the 19th century. Yet Congress, at the end of the 20th century, would have us believe otherwise.

Operating under the assumption that they have a "mandate from the people," Congress has been hurriedly cutting federal expenditures without fully examining the long-term impact of these cuts.

The members of the 104th Congress are considering drastic cuts in the programs of the Government Printing Office. This includes dramatic reduction in the Federal Depository Library Program (H.R. 1024).

GPO and the Federal Depository Library Program are responsible for gathering and distributing thousands of documents, produced with our tax dollars, to public, academic and special libraries all over the United States and its territories.

Many of these documents: public laws, transcripts of committee hearings, House and Senate reports, and the Congressional Record, help to create the informed citizens whom Madison referred to.

The would-be technical wizards on Capitol Hill insist that all this information is available in electronic form, so that paper versions are duplicative and no longer needed. This is simply not true.

Programs providing free public access to select government information, like Maryland's own SAILOR or Congress' THOMAS, are the exceptions not the norm. Much of the information that the federal government produces is still available only on paper and only through the Federal Depository Library Programs.

If this is indeed the information age, as political and business leaders claim, and if information is power, why does Congress want to limit the public's access to government-produced information?

Bill Sleeman



Allow me to disagree with Cape Canaveral astronomers who, when the ultraviolet telescope aboard space ship Endeavour zoomed in on a quasar, cheered and said the quasar was near the "edge" of the universe, 60 sextillion miles away.

Our universe, as we know it, is part of the Milky Way, made up of planets, their moons and billions of stars, best explained in the Bible as "more than all the sand upon the seashore."

Beyond the Milky Way is the Andromeda galaxy, even greater than our Milky Way. And beyond Andromeda, who knows?

Between here and there, not above or below, right or left, or front or back, only "beyond," there are no edges and no corners. Not even beyond 60 sextillion miles away.

Frank Novak



I thought the dispute regarding the subsidized school lunch program was settled when the Republicans stated their support for increasing funding for this program.

But here is Rep. Benjamin Cardin at Owings Mills Elementary School, following similar forays by President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton attacking Republican plans to reduce funding. "It's clear the Republicans are trying to abolish these programs," said Mr. Cardin.

Shame on Mr. Cardin for misrepresenting the facts of this argument and shame on The Sun for perpetuating this campaign of disinformation. Very simply, the Republicans want to slow the annual rate of increase and the Democrats want to increase the annual rate of increase.

Stephen A. Hall


Feeling Better

Recently, The Sun reported that Baltimore's population will probably drop to fewer than 700,000 people for the first time since World War I.

Michael Olesker and various individuals writing to The Sun have lamented this situation, citing all of the factors which contributed to the middle-class flight from the city.

Gubernatorial candidate and WBAL talk show host Ellen Sauerbrey even encouraged her listeners to call in to talk about what drove them from the city.

Granted, there are negative forces at work in Baltimore. At the same time, we should not write off Baltimore's enduring tradition of vibrant and proud neighborhoods.

Many people of good will and determination continue to give of themselves in various civic associations, churches, parent teacher organizations, etc., to make Baltimore work.

We are writing to share with your readers one example of the positive efforts that citizens are making: the current work of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development across the city, and especially in our neighborhoods in Northeast Baltimore.

BUILD has decided to concentrate on an often neglected aspect of city investment -- our own neighborhoods. We have clustered ourselves into 12 groupings of BUILD churches and other affiliates in various parts of the city.

Our cluster of 11 Northeast Baltimore BUILD churches began meeting almost two years ago to talk about what is facing our congregations.

When we first met, we posed very fundamental questions, such as, "Do you intend to stay or to run?" We are pleased to report that all responded that they were here for the long haul.

We believe that people in our churches and neighborhoods can unite to knit our city together, that we must and can develop those long-term relationships which are necessary to assure not only the survival but the prosperity of our neighborhood-oriented city.

We meet on a regular basis with the leadership of the Northeast Community Organization. We are developing relationships with public school teachers, principals, parents and students, as well as with officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the staff and patrons of various recreation centers here in Northeast . . .

Our goal is to join with our fellow citizens at the grass roots level to develop a Baltimore neighborhood investment agenda (with associated budgets).

We intend for this agenda to set the tone for the upcoming citywide elections. We have already made well over 1,000 contacts with citizens across the city. They have spoken about education, housing, recreation for youth, crime and other issues.

As the spring progresses, we will be researching and refining the agenda. We will also be developing a "neighborhood-oriented" budget to implement the agenda . . .

As people become aware that their issues are driving the political campaign, they will become truly "empowered."

They will once again take responsibility for their own lives and neighborhoods. They will refuse to be dominated by social, political and business forces whose interests might not coincide with their own self interest.

Baltimore, the city of neighborhoods, will be renewing itself.

Avis Ransom

Edward Sommerfeldt

The writers are members of BUILD action teams.

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