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Urban BlightNo one but your veteran columnist...


Urban Blight

No one but your veteran columnist Michael Olesker and City Housing Commissioner Daniel Henson can be certain just what was said by each during their recent exchange regarding "abandonment" of lower Park Heights. I am not sure that anyone but the participants really cares.

However, no one can doubt the essential truth of Mr. Henson's assertion that "white flight" has been the major culprit in the dramatic economic and population decline of Baltimore and other Eastern cities since the 1950s.

It is true beyond question that Jews and other whites abandoned vast areas of Northwest Baltimore, prompted largely by fears of integration -- just as tens of thousands of Christian whites abandoned middle-class neighborhoods in Northeast and West Baltimore for the same reasons.

Mr. Olesker himself has discussed the phenomenon of white flight on many occasions, in a variety of contexts.

For years Michael Olesker has proven a sage and sensitive observer of social forces changing Baltimore. It is clear that he truly understands and cares about the city.

However, he has proven uncharacteristically thin-skinned in overreacting to Mr. Henson's comment.

It is certainly not racism to state the obvious, that race has been the dominant factor in patterns of urban relocation at least since passage of the fair housing laws a generation ago.

The significance of the Henson- Olesker spat is to draw attention to issues that should not divide us but should bring us together in seeking solutions.

The impending mayoral contest provides an opportunity to address anew issues of urban blight.

Baltimoreans who have been admirers of the different political styles of Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke can only hope and urge that the candidates and their advisers will rise above the temptation to play to our worst racial fears as their campaigns heat up.

Michael A. Pretl


False Colors

A decade ago, state police cars were safety yellow. They were visible, to show an agency that was easy to find when needed.

Then they were changed to tan, which was still distinctive and warm, although the color tended to fade into fog.

Now the cars are being changed to dark green and black. This is the color of military camouflage. This shows a department that wants stealth, to catch the unwary, not to serve and protect the needy.

Let's keep the tan.

J. Martin


More Engrams

It is obvious that we need more Sara Engrams in this mixed-up world. Her commentary May 21 was perfect. We are here to be friendly, to be helpful, to be there for each other. That's what we were put on this Earth for.

When I become king -- make that queen -- I will see that Ms. Engram's column is required reading everywhere. It might make people think. It might do some good.

Please, Ms. Engram, keep writing more of the same. Maybe it will sink in.

L. Geary


Punishment for Atrocities

After reading your series on the Honduras situation, I wadriven to wonder why, if the perpetrators of German atrocities in World War II were hunted down and punished, those responsible for the cover-up in Honduras should not likewise be punished.

Your article related that Ambassador Jack Binns' reports were ignored, overlooked and altered. After a June 1981 report he was called back to Washington and told to "stop human rights reporting except in back channel." Who ordered this?

Who are these powers behind the throne? How are they allowed to dictate over and above the powers of the president and Congress?

The public has the right to know just who is running this show and let them know their actions are not wanted, accepted or appreciated.

We try to elect people who are honest, ethical and have integrity. Instead we seem to excel in finding world-class hypocrites.



Judge Eldridge and the Bereano Case

I am writing with regard to your editorial concerning my participation in the Court of Appeals' decision not to suspend Bruce Bereano's law license under the interim suspension rule.

Your editorial contains both misstatements of facts and omissions of important facts.

For example, the editorial states that I have attended Oriole games with Mr. Bereano.

As I informed your reporter when she asked about the matter, I have never gone to an Oriole game or any other sporting event with Mr. Bereano or as Mr. Bereano's guest.

On one occasion, when I was invited to attend an Oriole game by former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who has two season tickets, I discovered upon reaching the ballpark that Mr. Bereano was also attending the game with a group of people in his adjacent seats.

I was not, however, a guest of Mr. Bereano, and I did not occupy one of the seats for which Mr. Bereano apparently had season tickets.

Your editorial also states that I "admitted" that I was "a Bereano friend of long standing." What I told your reporter when asked about this is that friendship is a matter of degree and takes various forms. I pointed out that I was a "friend" of Mr. Bereano's in the sense of knowing him for a long time and respecting him as a lawyer.

I also pointed out to your reporter that we are not close friends, that Mr. Bereano has never been to my home and that we have never socialized together except for my giving some lectures, followed by dinner, for a law school class taught by Mr. Bereano.

The editorial claims that Mr. Bereano asked "three judges of the Court of Appeals to write letters to the federal judge on his behalf," that the three judges refused to do so, and that "two of those three judges recused themselves again, as was proper. Judge Eldridge did not."

The facts, as I told your reporter, are that Mr. Bereano asked more than three Court of Appeals judges to write letters to the federal judge on his behalf. For example, Chief Judge Robert Murphy was also asked to write such a letter and declined.

The reason for the two judges' recusing themselves was not that they had been asked to write the letter. The reason was that both judges had been told they might be subpoenaed as witnesses in the federal trial, that a subpoena had actually issued for one of the judges, and that both judges had discussed their potential testimony with Mr. Bereano's lawyers.

Although neither judge ultimately was called as a witness, it was the degree of their involvement in the particular matter which was the reason for their disqualification. No other judge of the Court of Appeals had any similar involvement in the federal case.

Finally, your editorial omits to point out that it has been the practice on the Court of Appeals for disqualifications to be taken up by the entire court.

The matter of which judges should sit in Mr. Bereano's case was taken up by the court at a conference during the first week of June. It was the consensus among the seven judges of the Court of Appeals that Judges Howard Chasanow and Irma Raker should recuse themselves and that I should sit in the case. Your reporters were informed of this procedure both by Chief Judge Murphy and by me.

I have always disqualified myself when a matter personally involving a close friend has come before the court.

For example, I have always disqualified myself in any case personally involving Governor Mandel. Neither I nor the other members of the Court of Appeals believed that I had such a relationship with Mr. Bereano that required my disqualification.

John C. Eldridge


The writer is a judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

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