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Constellation FateI am one of those who...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Constellation Fate

I am one of those who think the Constellation should be put in dry dock to help preserve her, as has been done with H.M.S. Victory in Portsmouth, England.

As I said in my April 4 Opinion * Commentary piece, I believe a dry dock could be constructed in Harborplace at Constellation's present location and designed so that at first glance it might seem the old warship is still afloat.

Louis F. Linden, executive director of the Constellation Foundation, wrote in his April 14 Opinion * Commentary piece that "[H.M.S.] Victory is not in dry dock by choice but by necessity. She suffered bomb damage during the blitz in World War II and was put in dry dock to keep her from sinking."

Although Victory was damaged by a German bomb in 1940, by the time of that attack she'd been in dry dock for 18 years.

In January 1922, Nelson's flagship was placed in dry dock after the Society for Nautical Research determined she could no longer remain safely afloat.

Government help and a public appeal helped restore the ship to its present magnificence so that the British claim Victory to be "the world's most outstanding example of ship restoration."

Mr. Linden is correct that government funds will be needed to keep Victory in good shape in perpetuity -- but isn't his foundation similarly asking for government funds to help restore Constellation?

The costs of maintaining a wooden ship are always high, whether the ship is in water or out. Repair and restoration on Victory are constant, as they have been on Constellation since the sloop of war was towed to Baltimore in 1955. Between 1970 and 1978, the stern of Victory was largely rebuilt from keel to poop deck, and new techniques are constantly being tried.

Though Mr. Linden is in error in saying a German bomb led to the dry docking of Victory, there was a maritime accident that was a factor in leading to the dry dock solution.

In 1903, Victory was accidentally rammed by H.M.S. Neptune, damaging the ship's side at the spot near where Nelson was killed.

Such a mishap could happen to Constellation, given the high intensity of waterborne traffic in Baltimore's harbor area. This is yet another good reason why the sloop of war should be intelligently protected.

Christopher T. George

Baltimore

Our Problem

I predicted that the worst shock was still to come in the Oklahoma City tragedy. What if the bombers turned out to be Americans?

What if they weren't the mustachioed "Middle Eastern" villains we were so quick to fantasize, but simply American gun nuts, the kind with the hate-slogans on their bumpers ("Lee Harvey Oswald, Where Are You Now?," etc.), the kind who actually claim constitutional right to beat and stomp and kill anyone in their way, women and children first, violent and uncontrolled men (always men) who reject any restraint whatsoever in their behavior?

I think we are in denial about what is happening to us in America.

Right here in Baltimore, when two Guilford grandparents were murdered, we jumped to the conclusion that it must have been a black intruder. But the killer was their own grandson.

I think it is time for a hard look at where this new religion of total

self-indulgence is taking us, this anti-social rush to the lawsuit, to the fistfight, to the shotgun murder on the neighbor's own doorstep.

We have lost our sense of community. We need to learn how to get along with people who aren't just like ourselves.

Michael Kernan

Baltimore

Board Trips

I would like to provide additional information about the value of national conferences for public officials, in response to your news story of April 16.

As your story indicated, board of education members from Maryland recently attended the annual National School Boards Association conference in San Francisco. Similar opportunities are provided for county and municipal officials by their national organizations.

As part of its new board member orientation, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education urges board members to avail themselves of training opportunities which will assist them with the challenging responsibility they have assumed.

Boards of education members, who have tremendous demands on their time, are to be commended when they take advantage of this extensive in-service opportunity.

The recent conference provided exposure to education ideas as diverse as those expressed by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and former Secretary William Bennett.

Board members were able to select from over 80 clinic sessions covering such issues as programs for students at risk, technology education, and special education student inclusion.

Two Maryland school systems and several board members show-cased successful Maryland programs at the conference. Additionally, school architecture and other goods and services were exhibited.

I regret that constraints of time and money limit the ability of all board members to further their knowledge on which to base the decisions they must make on behalf of Maryland students.

Susan R. Buswell

Annapolis

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

Subliminal Plea?

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's decision to showcase former Gov. Spiro T. Agnew's portrait in the State House reception room is just plain weird.

The reception room is also known as the governor's reception room. It is where visitors and guests wait until they are ushered in to see our chief executive, or until the governor emerges to see them.

It is also where most of the bill signings occur, along with executive news conferences, meetings of the Board of Public Works, receptions and other high level events. In other words, it provides an elevation and a dignity to many occasions because of its historical and stately setting.

It is simply impossible to hang the portraits of all the former governors in the reception room. In fact, there are portraits of non-governors there, such as King Charles I, who granted Maryland's charter and was beheaded -- two events that are presumably unrelated.

His queen, Henrietta Maria, also has her portrait hung there. Our state is named in her honor (we could have been called Henriettaland).

The point here is that in selecting portraits for the reception room, which belongs to all the people, choices have to be made. It is simply absurd, as Governor Glendening pleads, that he is just trying to fill in a blank page of history by hanging Agnew's portrait in such a place of honor.

There are no blank pages, and Paris Glendening is no Mikhail Gorbachev heroically restoring our past. Maryland history has never sought to ignore or gloss over the Agnew administration, nor to circumvent his tragic nolo contendre end. The scandals are a well known part of American history.

So why did Governor Glendening do it? He could have hung Agnew's picture anywhere. If he wants to emphasize Agnew so much, he can put the portrait in his own living quarters at the Governor's Mansion.

Had he wanted to upgrade a past governor worthy of such consideration, he could have selected Gov. Oden Bowie, the last resident of Prince Georges County to be elected governor. Actually, Gov. Oden Bowie's grandson is now chief clerk to the Maryland Senate, so such recognition would have emphasized historic continuity.

Perhaps Governor Glendening's message was subliminal, a plea be honored in the future despite any misdeeds of the present. It does give many hope that this too will pass, and that someday the portrait of Ex-Governor Glendening will hang where it deserves to be displayed. In the meantime, the blank spaces of history we need to fill in have more to do with how our governor's self-promotion as a fiscal genius in Prince Georges County came to be so undeservedly accepted until just after the last election.

Howard A. Denis

Chevy Chase

The writer was Helen Bentley's running mate in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1994.

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