Getting It Right
Now that the balanced budget amendment is on the back burner, I appeal to The Sun and the other responsible U.S. papers to launch a campaign to inform readers of the technical differences between an amendment and a law.
We need to know that the framers of the Constitution deliberately made it difficult to pass amendments because they are not appropriate in most cases.
A law can be changed. It can be rescinded. It can be time-limited. All these things make it possible to refine and improve legislation, whereas it is most difficult to change or rescind an amendment.
If we don't get an amendment 100 percent right on the first try, we could regret it forever.
With a balanced-budget law, our government would not be immobilized in the event of an unforeseen catastrophe or threat.
With a balanced-budget amendment, our country might be annihilated before a way to respond to the unforeseen could be devised.
Sara Lee Woolf
Nearly two years ago, following Gov. William Donald Schaefer's Second Annual Cancer Summit Conference, the "Coalition for a Smoke-Free Maryland" was formed.
Among the principles adopted by this group were restricting access to tobacco products by young people as well as reducing the harmful effects of environmental tobacco smoke (passive smoking).
We can share a great sense of joy and exhilaration that today, thanks to the concerted efforts of a number of individuals and organizations, Maryland has created a nearly complete "smoke-free workplace."
As most readers know, tobacco is the only legal product which, when used as directed, kills its consumers.
Nearly 7,000 Marylanders die annually from using tobacco and 1,000 will die in 1995 merely from being subjected to the noxious and deadly fumes emitted by tobacco products and those who exhale them.
On March 27, Gov. Parris Glendening signed into law legislation allowing the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Workplace Ban to become effective immediately.
With only a few exceptions, limited to the tourism and hotel/restaurant industry, Maryland now has one of the toughest workplace protection laws in the country.
Our new tobacco control measures will assure a safe and healthful environment to approximately 96 percent of Maryland's work force.
This is a remarkable effort and a major public health victory for our citizens.
Thousands of lives will be saved as a result of this effort, and the quality of life for Maryland families will be enhanced by reducing illness associated with second-hand smoke.
Employers will save money as total worker productivity increases and worker illness diminishes. In addition, state health care costs will decline and medical payments will be reduced.
While we have not yet won the "war on tobacco," at least for the present time, we can all take a deep breath of clean, fresh and healthy air. We have won this battle and I, for one, am proud to be a Maryland resident and a Maryland worker.
I am proud of our governor and our legislature and hope that this current agreement will lead to other joint activities which will decrease minors' access to tobacco products and further eliminate tobacco use -- the No. 1 cause of cancer in the state of Maryland.
Martin P. Wasserman, M.D.
NB The writer is Maryland secretary of health and mental hygiene.
I write to support Stephen and Carol Beard (letter, March 11), lest they continue to think they are the lone middle-income city dwellers.
I, like them, am not classified as wealthy and opted to live in an area which allows access to all of the amenities that the Baltimore midtown has to offer.
It is wonderful to be able to walk to work, the Lyric, Meyerhoff Hall and Camden Yards. Yet another advantage is being able to shop in neighborhood stores and enjoy a relationship with local vendors.
However advantageous these amenities are, the extra costs incurred by city dwellers are disproportionate. Higher municipal taxes and inflated car insurance rates act as serious deterrents to potential home buyers.
While acknowledging that car insurance is outside the domain of the city government, it is reasonable to expect a level of fiscal management that reflects the appropriate responsibility to the tax base.
The continued erosion of the city population can be construed as evidence that this may not be the case.
What is it going to take before the city government responds to the demise of this once vibrant city?
The inference from your March 11 editorial, "A Shrinking City's Possibilities," is that Baltimore is a dying city. Let us not wait until rigor mortis sets in before we react to the ebb of citizens to the suburbs.
The issues facing Baltimore are not unique. City crime and intolerant insurance company management are both issues facing many municipalities both here and in Europe.
It is how these issues are dealt with that differentiates cities that truly wish to recuperate from those willing to be suffocated by
Elizabeth A. Boylan
As an employee of Bell Atlantic, I take exception to some of the information included in your March 11 editorial, "Telephone Rings for Baltimore."
True, 600 workers are moving into the Pratt Street building. True, the jobs are in a technical field which will help Bell Atlantic meet the competition. False, these "new" employees are candidates for city living. Most of these employees are being relocated from existing Bell Atlantic buildings, such as the Chesapeake Complex in Silver Spring and the Hunt Valley building on Shawan Road.
The Pratt Street building has housed Bell Atlantic workers since 1977. In recent years many jobs have been moved to outlying areas, such as Silver Spring and Hunt Valley, to make use of "company-owned facilities." Leased space is being vacated to save money.
What Bell Atlantic-Maryland intends to do now is shift some jobs from Silver Spring to Arlington, Va., to make room for people moving out of Pratt Street. Then another group from Silver Spring will move to Pratt Street, filling the "600 vacancies."
Most of the employees moving from Silver Spring live in Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties. Many already commute from Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland. Will Bell Atlantic pay to relocate these employees? For the most part, no.
Are the employees unhappy with the idea of a 60-90 minute commute? Yes. Do they have a choice? Not if they want to keep their jobs.
Not only will this create unhappy workers, but heavier traffic on Interstate 95 and additional air pollution. These employees are going from a 15-30 minute commute, with free parking, to spending long hours in the car, plus $8-$10 a day to park. They're not going to want to spend any more time in the city than they have to, so Harborplace and other city businesses won't reap any great benefits.
Yes, the city may benefit temporarily from these jobs. But don't get too excited, Mayor Schmoke: Pratt Street is a leased building.
Poor Old Horse
How ironic it was that a poor old horse had to die on the street less than one mile from the circus at the Baltimore Arena.
The circus could have handled the problem.
It had a veterinarian on duty and it also had the means to transport the horse to safety.
Didn't anybody care to let the circus know? I think not.
Example for Lucas
I am certain that you know by now that the photograph of the extraordinary 1883 Mary Cassatt painting, "Jeune Femme en Noir," which adorned your April 4 article on the George A. Lucas Collection, is not and never has been a part of the distinguished collection.
It is owned by the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore and for decades has been on permanent loan to and displayed prominently and appropriately at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The only interruptions have been when the Peabody has chosen have the painting on view in exhibitions at other worthy sites here and abroad.
Your unintended but serendipitous Peabody reference brings to mind the sensible solution, hammered out by Lt. Gov. Melvin Steinberg and President William Richardson of Johns Hopkins University in 1990, to the double-whammy of Peabody's chronic operating deficits and woefully inadequate endowment.
Peabody and Hopkins merged in 1986, but title to the art collection and the endowment remained in George Peabody's original 1858 corporation.
A year from now, title to the 302 art objects in the Peabody Collection, including the Cassatt painting, will be transferred to the state of Maryland in exchange for the $15 million purchase price, paid into Peabody's endowment from the state's Peabody Institute Fund, upon certification by the Peabody and Hopkins that they have in hand at least an additional $15 million to match that fund.
Peabody and Hopkins must present, too, at that time a plan to raise yet another $30 million in Peabody endowment.
All of these funds must, of course, be maintained as permanent endowment, of which no part may be expended at any time to underwrite operating deficit. Peabody and Hopkins will commit as well to maintain the Peabody as a conservatory of music, its mission after all, well into the 21st century.
I bring this up because rather than hyperventilate about the proposed Lucas sale, which the directors and officers of the Maryland Institute have determined, upon the advice of separate counsel, each of unquestioned talent and reputation, is not only permissible but is likely required in furtherance of their fiduciary duties, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Gallery might well explore a solution which would enable the institute to be fairly compensated for its collection, which after all it owns lock, stock and barrel, and would assure as well that the citizenry of Maryland will continue to have available to it at minimum those parts of the Lucas Collection which from a curatorial standpoint are most important, individually and collectively.
Two wise and generous spirited community leaders were able to do this splendidly and to great effect just five years ago.
It seems to me that was a lesson well worth learning and
Henry R. Lord
The writer was chairman of the board of the Peabody Institute from 1984 until 1991.
Affirmative Action Editorial Was 'Brutal, Misguided'
Thank you for your editorial of March 26, "Expanding Affirmative Action."
At a time when there is growing confusion and outright misunderstanding of the proper role of affirmative action in American society, your editorial was timely and, indeed, quite provocative.
However, I am not sure if your editorial can be viewed as a positive and constructive effort to clarify and abate this confusion and misunderstanding, or whether it has design or potential to also muddy the waters on this most serious American problem.
First, your editorial attacks and condemns our new governor, Parris N. Glendening, and Democrats in the General Assembly for "not only working to save affirmative action in its present form . . ." but also for "trying to expand it."
You conclude, albeit without any rationale, that, "This is bad politics."
Second, your editorial embraces the House of Delegates' proposal to raise the affirmative action goal for women's and minority business enterprises from the present 10 percent to 12 percent and summarily concludes, "That's more realistic, if the Democrats insist on raising the stakes."
You further expressed the view that the "likelihood" of the state's "existing MBE law expiring in June," or a new law "deemed by judges to be unconstitutional," "increases as the percentages of the set-aside increases."
As your editorial so rightfully admits: "Despite some problems, the MBE program has been good for the state's minority communities, thus good for the state as a whole."
Hence The Sun, or any other right-thinking and forward-looking persons, should not be so quick to abandon our minority businesses and surrender to the large white male-owned businesses and Republicans in the General Assembly who are bent on either killing the state's present MBE law or raising the participation goal from the present to percent to a mere 12 percent.
When one considers that women's and racial minority-owned businesses constitute over 45 percent of all Maryland businesses, a mere 12 percent MBE goal is patently inadequate and indeed unacceptable to our MBE community.
If there has been past discrimination by the state and its prime contractors against women's and minority-owned businesses (and there are countless expert studies which document such), then The Sun and other responsible institutions, including the General Assembly, must advocate and put in place an MBE program which gives our MBE firms a full and complete remedy for the state's past unlawful discriminatory procurement policies and practices.
Neither the state's present 10 percent MBE goal, nor the House's proposed 12 percent goal, can be said to mirror the percentage of women's and minority-owned businesses within the state and possessing qualifications and interest in doing business with the state.
Even Governor Glendening's proposed 18 percent goal is inadequate, if we are to do real equity and justice and help nurture and develop strong and viable women's and minority-owned businesses.
The landscape and character of Maryland's business community have changed substantially within the last 10 years, and it is no longer in the state's long-term best interest to have a 90 percent set-aside for large while male-owned business.
When one considers that the state's present 10 percent MBE participation program permits MBE firms holding state contracts and subcontracts to subcontract part of their contract work back to large white male-owned firms, the exact MBE participation ZTC level in state contracting falls substantially below 10 percent.
Since several state studies show that large white male-owned firms receive 95 percent of the state's prime contracts, only sexism, racism and ethnic bias can fully explain why large white male-owned businesses and Republicans in the General Assembly are fighting to kill the governor's effort to expand the percentage of business which the state seeks to award to women's and minority-owned businesses.
We support and applaud Governor Glendening and the Democrats in the General Assembly for having the insight, courage and leadership to propose and fight for an "expanded" piece of the state business for women's and minority-owned businesses.
The Sun's editorial attack on Governor Glendening was brutal, misguided and indeed totally unwarranted. Governor Glendening, as Prince George's county executive and now as governor, has proven to be a great supporter of women's and minority economic development.
It would be tragic if The Sun or any other persons are allowed to attack and condemn the governor for pursuing a legislative policy which finally seeks to bring real integrity, equity, justice and opportunity for our women's and minority business community.
Arnold M. Jolivet
The writer is president, Maryland Minority Contractors
Spotlight on Kenwood is Unfair
I am very upset by the recent media bashing of Kenwood High School. Yes, we have problems. But we should have never been compared to the situation at Patterson High.
Everything is blown out of proportion and taken out of context. We have a pregnancy problem -- but so do high schools nationwide. If you compare numbers, we have one more than Chesapeake, three more than Perry Hall.
I'm not defending this, but at least our day-care program allows young girls to complete their education, whereas in the past girls quit school and boys went on as if nothing had changed.
How can we expect teen-agers to clean up their act when affluent elementary schools in Towson and Howard County hire pregnant, unmarried teachers?
Actions speak louder than words, and we are living in a society of moral decay, a decrease in family values and a lack of parenting.
Regarding test scores: How can this be blamed on Kenwood? Students don't arrive there until ninth grade. Let's look at the feeder schools, elementary and middle. My children went to Kenwood and passed all the functional tests the first time (as do many other good students).
Kenwood Principal Frederick W. Cogswell may have a good agenda, but using the media only cut off his nose to spite his face.
As far as attendance at Kenwood is concerned, my children have excellent attendance records. Let's examine the reason some kids are not coming to school -- it's the parents' responsibility.
I have heard teachers say students are coming in late, not at all or sleeping during the first few periods because they worked late the night before. They are not prepared for class and they don't do their homework.
Where are parents' priorities?
We have to quit blaming school systems and take back the job of parenting. We spend many more hours with our children than teachers do.
We must exercise discipline, teach respect for authority, teach that school is a priority and work as partners with teachers and schools.
E. C. Lowers
Your editorial "Teachers to the Rescue at Kenwood" (The Sun, March 28) does a great disservice to both teachers and administrators in Baltimore County.
Instead of attempting to bring these two sides together in a realistic effort at making life better for students in the eastern section of our county, your editorial further polarizes the two parties in a scapegoating debate.
For starters, you do not understand this community.
You portray Essex as a dysfunctional community where "garbage" goes in and "garbage" comes out. To make matters worse, you categorize this area as a "decayed community." Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I spent 17 years teaching in this area at a feeder school for Kenwood. These were the happiest years of my life and I loved my job, as do most of the teachers currently assigned to Kenwood.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, loving the job is simply not enough. No longer can a teacher stroll into a classroom five minutes before the students arrive and depart five minutes after they leave.
The good teachers at Kenwood should be required to put in a minimum of two extra hours at this school because of the area's socio-economic climate.
Obviously, they should be paid accordingly. Those teachers who are unable or unwilling to make this commitment should be offered a transfer to a school of their choice. Bad teachers ought to be released unconditionally and not allowed to spread their bad morale to other schools.
The "Catch-22" comes in deciding which teachers are "good," which are "unable or unwilling" and which are just plain "bad." The wisdom of Solomon is needed in these cases.
Surely, a committee of administrators, teachers, former students and parents ought to be very closely involved in any final decisions as to who is fit to serve and who is not. No one person should be asked to make such a decision.
Too much wasted time has been spent perpetuating the alleged rift between faculty and administrators. It is time to move on. Hopefully, your next editorial on Baltimore County schools will focus more on the cooperative attempts between administrators and faculties and less on the derisive divisions.
Wouldn't you really rather be part of the solution than another contributor to the problem?