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Owings outrageI was outraged to learn that...


Owings outrage

I was outraged to learn that another historic Baltimore County landmark is threatened with destruction by developers -- the 18th century home of Samuel Owings (1733-1803), founder of Owings Mills ("Preservationists, developers at odds over historic site," May 29).

The plan is to tear it down or move it and replace it with a nine-story office building.

The father of 12 children, Samuel Owings was not only an enterprising colonial miller, operating at least three interlocked mills.

He was also a justice of the Baltimore County Court, a delegate to the Maryland Assembly and a colonel in the local militia during the American Revolution.

His house is in excellent condition and now serves as an elegant, thriving restaurant with 70 employees. Why destroy it?

We are not about to raze the Shot Tower, the 1840 House, Fort Garrison or Hampton Mansion in favor of constructing office buildings.

Like those, Owings' house has historical value as an important part of the heritage of Baltimore County.

Historically, it is the very heart of Owings Mills. Any developer who does not realize this needs to go back to school, do his homework and rearrange his priorities.

The developer's alternative plan -- move the house brick by brick to some as yet undesignated site -- also is completely unacceptable.

Just as a re-enactment can never be like the actual Battle of Antietam, so such a "translated" house would be a pretense rather than an original, missing much that was in the original and especially missing its important, original site.

What should be done is create a linear park of green space linking the sites of the original three mills and the Owings residence.

Such a park would be a source of pride for the Owings Mills community and praise for its developer. To build a nine story office building would be to erect a monument to crass stupidity.

I have been planning a tour of the Green Spring Valley and environs for members of the Baltimore County Historical Society next fall, with a visit to the Owings house. I would like to see it still there, its restaurant intact and able to serve us lunch.

The Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission, scheduled to meet tomorrow, should put the house on its landmarks list, and the Baltimore County Council should add its confirmation of that listing.

Charles J. Scheve


The writer is program coordinator for the Baltimore County Historical Society.

Must fire Henson

I do not believe I am alone in observing a troubling note of divisiveness in Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's re-election campaign.

I can ignore the manipulative and cynical implications of the "Makes Us Proud" posters displayed throughout many city neighborhoods. I cannot, however, ignore the overt racism expressed by Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III in his recent exchanges with Sun columnist Michael Olesker.

There are several issues at play that bother me. First, I am unhappy with the caliber of top-level political appointments Mr. Schmoke has gathered about himself.

There is scarcely an agency within municipal government that is not under scrutiny for serious mismanagement. The recent revelation of, at best, "shady" practices within the Housing Authority should have been sufficient reason for Mr. Henson's dismissal.

That Mr. Schmoke continues to express confidence in such administrators implies he is a poor judge of character.

Second, I am deeply concerned that Mr. Henson has not been publicly reprimanded in the wake of his egregious remarks to Mr. Olesker.

If Mr. Henson's comments do not represent the mayor's position, then I do not understand why he was not fired immediately. Unfortunately, the mayor's failure to repudiate or dismiss Mr. Henson suggests to me that Mr. Henson was delivering a racist message that expresses the mayor's position.

I hope Mr. Schmoke does not believe he will make Baltimore proud by campaigning on a platform of hatred.

I call on your newspaper and other local media to focus attention on this extremely pernicious matter and, in so doing, force

candidates for elective office to put themselves on the record against racism, in word and in deed.

Dismissal of Daniel Henson would be a positive statement by Mr. Schmoke that the "us" in his posters refers to us all.

Benjamin Feldman


City students need alternative career paths

In April I saw something that both saddened and upset me: a perfect sheet metal shop that housed every type of equipment that might be necessary for producing fine work.

The shop wasn't owned by a competitor and its picture isn't likely to be found in a trade magazine. I saw this shop while judging a sheet metal contest at Edmondson-Westside High School.

At first I was pleased that the youth in the area were able to work and learn in such a well-equipped environment.

However, I soon found that the shop, along with the welding and heating-air conditioning shops at Edmondson-Westside, had gone unused since 1987.

For eight years, these shops funded by Baltimore City taxpayers have sat abandoned.

The excuse for the abandonment was student lack of interest in Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA). I find it extremely difficult to believe that in such a diverse area as Baltimore City, there is such little interest in choosing a technical vocational pathway.

Not every high school student is meant to choose a college preparatory program, and those who do not excel academically should not be left without alternatives.

Yet after seeing these empty shops, I am inclined to believe that this is what is happening.

The problem could be remedied if just a few good guidance counselors, teachers and local residents would put forth the effort to attract students to technical career paths. Counselors need to present a full range of options to entering high school students.

Students who do not excel academically should not be pushed aside; they need to be made aware of the possibility of pursuing a vocational interest.

Also, able and experienced teachers need to be hired to teach in the VICA program. As a member of the Rotary Club, I believe that area residents would be willing to volunteer their time and assistance, as well.

My main disappointment with the abandonment of the VICA shops stems from the fact that area youth are missing a wonderful opportunity to get involved in a vocation that could prove quite profitable in the future.

Also upsetting is the blatant waste of Baltimore City taxpayers' money.

With help and guidance from school counselors and area residents, and with the hiring of able teachers, student interest in VICA would increase.

My goal is to see students who are not the most academically able become successful in the type of technical vocations that are absolutely fundamental to our nation's prosperity.

Mark Ridgeway


The writer is president of Total Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning in Owings.

Don't ban shows

As a street performer who has worked the boardwalk in Ocean City since permits were first available in the summer of 1990, I would like to clear up a few points.

In the beginning we just had to register with the city clerk's office and agree to limit our performing to certain areas.

By 1993 there was a printed set of six rules, which were expanded to eight rules in 1994.

Rule No. 3 specifically prohibits "sales of any product.' So anyone selling T-shirts is in violation of the agreement and subject to removal.

Rule No. 4 specifically states that the performer must represent himself only. So anyone representing any group is in violation of the agreement and subject to removal.

Rule No. 6 specifically prohibits "use of fire or other hazardous materials in performance.' So anyone juggling torches or knives is in violation of the agreement and subject to removal.

When Ocean City says that the new ban is to protect shop owners from unfair competition or resort guests from solicitation or dangerous performances, the argument just doesn't hold water.

What I provide as a street performer is fun, family entertainment at a price set by my audience, an audience that then visits the local shops in a happy mood.

Obviously the Rouse Company recognizes the value of such entertainment. Just look at Harborplace.

And if the Ocean City mayor and City Council are worried about crowd control and safety on the boards, how about moving the Jeep-dragged train one block west?

homas A. Lilly


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