Black folks' mayorMy wife and I are...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Black folks' mayor

My wife and I are native Baltimoreans. We were born, raised and educated in Baltimore, and we have worked all of our lives in Baltimore.

Our kids are grown, and we were contemplating a move back to the city. But the "baseball cards" about the tenure and candidacy of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke have made me rethink those plans.

The mayor has suggested that these cards are a new approach to reach out to new voters. Despite his dismal record as mayor, he has created on these cards a fantasy that is incomprehensible.

He talks about new jobs when the city has lost thousands of jobs. He talks about a reduction in crime when crime is worse than ever. His record of failure, businesses leaving and malaise, are there for all to see.

Most upsetting is the use of the African liberation colors on these cards and on Mr. Schmoke's campaign signs throughout the city.

Baltimore has always been ethnically diverse, yet, rather than capitalizing on diversity, he sends a message that he is only mayor of the black community. If I were black, I would be upset that the mayor assumes black people will vote as a bloc.

Baltimore needs every citizen -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American -- to make the city work.

The mayor's decision to focus only on African-American citizens is insulting to the rest of the citizenry, to other ethnic minorities and to the black community.

He is telling me that he is only mayor of part of the citizens and that I am really not welcome in the city of my birth. We are all the worse for this decision.

William I. Weston

Columbia

Series was great

Your series on torture in Honduras was great investigative reporting.

We in Amnesty International are working to release prisoners who are jailed because they are the religious or political opposition. We are opposed to torture and work to eliminate it.

I hope that many will read your articles and learn from them.

elvin N. Cohen

Baltimore

Talked nonsense

In his "rejoinder" extolling the Baltimore City public schools (June 18, "Wake Up, Get the Facts"), former Assistant Superintendent Robert Rinaldi is talking nonsense, and if he doesn't know it he ought to.

I talked with a woman whose daughter was in the ninth grade at Northwestern this year.

Early in the fall, she had become concerned because her daughter was bringing home no books. She went to meet with the girl's teachers to find out what was happening.

After considerable discussion, she managed to get the algebra teacher to disgorge a math book, but none of the other three teachers had anything to offer. The English teacher was teaching (if you can call it that) from mimeographed handouts.

There is absolutely no excuse for the betrayal of Baltimore school children evidenced by the situation at Northwestern.

The self-serving hype of Mr. Rinaldi's commentary is an insult to those children and to every citizen of Baltimore.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam

Baltimore

Policy doesn't make sense to suspended teen

Earlier this year, I was suspended from school. I had left the school grounds without permission -- which, according to Baltimore County policy, is a Category I offense. So the school administration gave me a one-day vacation.

Actually, it turned out to be an extension of my spring break. And for what was supposed to be a punishment, my day off was rather pleasant.

I woke up late, watched a little television, ate at Burger King. I never thought I would find myself enjoying my punishment.

But as I reflect on the logic behind my suspension, I have to admit the whole situation seems ridiculous.

I took some time off from school (I actually left to go home and complete an assignment due next period, i.e., to do homework). But as punishment, I received more time off.

Removing students from situations that may be dangerous makes sense. However, in some cases the goals of the suspension contradict the goals of educators.

Administrators want students to attend school in order to learn. But students who commit offenses like mine -- or other Category I offenses, such as truancy and lateness -- are already not fulfilling the administration's expectations.

Suspending them does not remove the students from troublesome situations, but rather creates a paradox in which the administration is attempting to achieve its goals by acting against them. It does not make sense.

Granted, the reaction of parents is an important part of school punishment. But more effective means of punishment must exist that still produce similar parental responses.

For example, give the students detention periods during non-school hours, during which they would be required to make up missed work and perform other duties around the school.

In addition, notify the students' parents so that they may take the necessary disciplinary action. That way, the administration would fulfill its educational goals at the same time it met its disciplinary objectives.

While it is a punishment in the eyes of administrators, suspension can be a reward in the minds of students who commit these types of offenses. Until Baltimore County officials recognize this and revise their policies, their administrative actions will in many cases contradict their educational goals.

David Glazier

Owings Mills

Statue doesn't detract from court's gravity

How delightful -- a debate about the artistic merits of a sculpture!

The brouhaha over "Baltimore Federal" is a textbook example of self-engrossed people engaged in attempting to dictate public taste in order to increase their own sense of self-importance.

Words like "First Amendment," "freedom of expression" and "censorship" suddenly start tinkling in the background. Whoa! Maybe this piece is perfectly placed in front of the federal courthouse after all!

Of what real value are the art criticisms of federal judges? They barely glimpse the sculpture while driving underneath it to their reserved parking spaces in the courthouse basement. Lighten up, guys! (Yes, there are no women federal district judges in Bawlamer, hon).

Regarding the argument that a bomb exploded near the statute would turn it into deadly shrapnel: Have you ever tried to park near the sculpture?

Only mail trucks and TV news vans get anywhere close to it. Plus, the sculpture, which is made of welded, centimeter-thick steel plate, would probably deflect more of the blast than all of the building's flower beds, pine trees and plate glass windows combined.

Any U.S. marshal who says otherwise is simply kowtowing to the powers-that-be.

So what if some of the federal judges don't like the sculpture? The value of art is not purely aesthetic but also partly in the discussion it provokes.

The controversy itself is the best reason to keep this particular artwork exactly where it is.

Louis Brendan Curran

Owings Mills

The sculpture outside Baltimore's federal courthouse has long been the stimulus for criticism from those who do not share the artist's tastes.

Without debating those tastes, I note that children seem to appreciate the sculpture's bright colors and irregular contours.

When I worked at the courthouse as an assistant U.S. attorney, I had occasion to participate in many proceedings in which the range of less-than-noble human conduct was displayed.

AAfter leaving such proceedings, it was refreshing to see children playing on and around the sculpture. In fact, I think the sculpture xTC helps to humanize the courthouse and make it a less frightening place for the young.

Whether they were visiting the courthouse because they had some connection to the victim or perpetrator of a crime, or because they were about to become small, naturalized citizens of the United States, the children seemed to find the color and general playfulness of the sculpture lightened what must have been large and scary occasions.

Although recent events in Oklahoma City demonstrate that the concerns of the court's security personnel are genuine, those concerns should not be used as a mask for artistic criticism.

The federal courthouse is a place of unquestioned dignity and authority. The presence of a whimsical, child-friendly work of art does not detract from the seriousness of the business that is conducted inside.

William D. Quarles

Towson

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