Reform Too ToughSara Engram normally writes for...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Reform Too Tough

Sara Engram normally writes for these editorial pages with clarity and thoughtfulness on important matters about social policy.

Her recent (June 4) comments though, on Sen. Barbara Mikulski's "tough love for welfare" reform program add confusion to what should be considered a high level of ignorance.

Senator Mikulski's proposals, which take aim at "those on the margins of its society -- particularly young families that are poor and vulnerable," are tough all right.

The charge that these proposals are downright unfair -- tough! Tough love! That rhetoric we expect from the new ruling majority in Congress, but not Senator Mikulski.

Why has she so opportunisticly jumped on the narrowly defined social welfare reform bandwagon? Ms. Engram's uncritical report speaks to the terribly misguided debate about welfare reform in our society.

The demand for self-sufficiency lies at the core of the senator's proposal. But we ask self-sufficiency of no one else in our country.

When we seriously discuss welfare reform, the context should stress social security, fair and decent values and the commitment and responsibility to a common good by and for all Americans.

Senator Mikulski, as a graduate of Maryland's School of Social Work, was trained to know better than to offer up such invidious proposals that tough it out with welfare candidates.

This contract turns an indifferent eye to the poor while they are harshly mugged in the dark alleys of what passes for meaningful welfare reform.

This contract robs them blind of what little decency and social security they have. The call for self-sufficiency has simply become a code word for divisiveness, discrimination and smug self-satisfaction with having "made it" in a world only partially and conditionally generous.

We shower the middle class and affluent families, the captains of industry and corporate America, agribusiness and the military complex with countless programs that are meant to contribute to the social good.

We pay with our taxes and fiscal policies to underwrite countless

programs that create dependency by giving tax breaks, deferred payments, outright giveaways, massive subsidies and economic investments -- all in the name of our social contract for the common good -- to the non-poor.

The vast array of programs enjoyed by every middle and upper class family in this country, as well as the business climate of America, dwarfs by both size and amount of money all the social welfare programs on which Senator Mikulski picks.

If Senator Mikulski wants to rise above sheer demagogy and above values that squander and waste our sense of common good, then she needs to rethink her notions of self-dependency.

She shouldn't pick on and bully those individuals and families who originally elected her and who she, as a social worker, represented at one time as a fierce and dogged advocate.

Her quest for votes and power in the Senate is no substitute for hard-headed and warm-hearted thinking about social policy for all Americans.

David Kandel

Baltimore

On the Boardwalk

I support providing Ocean City with the legal authority to ban boardwalk soliciting or any other activity that interferes with the public's right to travel on the boardwalk.

The boardwalk is a great asset that facilitates non-motorized and tram travel from 27th Street to the inlet. Soliciting often draws large crowds that block the boardwalk, making non-motorized travel slow and difficult.

Not owning cars, student workers often use the boardwalk to walk or bicycle in the morning to work.

Not having to deal with lights, intersections and catching the cool ocean breeze rather than exhaust fumes makes boardwalk travel more pleasant and healthier than Baltimore or Philadelphia avenues.

With southern Ocean City being so congested, the city has a legitimate right to take measures to keep the boardwalk open for pedestrians, bicycles in non-peak hours and trams.

Although there are stores on the boardwalk, most customers enter rather than stand in the middle of the boardwalk.

Except for the oldest part of Ocean City below the pier, the city has wisely limited stores to one side of the boardwalk, leaving the scenic ocean side open for travel.

Furthermore, these stores pay taxes which help maintain the

city's infrastructure and services.

Jeffrey H. Marks

Baltimore

Stop Blaming

Recently a dispute broke out in the pages of The Sun and in the broadcast media involving claims and counterclaims of racism and anti-Semitism as a result of a telephone conversation between two prominent members of Baltimore's African-American and Jewish communities.

Speculation is on-going concerning the question of whose version of events is the true and accurate representation of what actually happened when Sun columnist Michael Olesker telephoned Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson.

It is the observation of the BLEWS, the Black-Jewish Forum of Baltimore, that this on-going speculation will bring neither truth nor light to the darkness in which so many dwell in our city and this region today.

Like many cities and metropolitan regions, Baltimore and its environs suffer under the burden of deep and complex problems. We must seize the excellent opportunity we have to reflect on our city's response to its various crises and to discuss what direction we should take in the future.

To continue to blame this group or that one for the current state of affairs is to allow ourselves to be divided at a time when a search for unity would be a wiser and more constructive use of our time and resources.

In truth, unless we set aside animosities and come together in common cause, we will all pay the price, as poverty, economic deprivation, crime, violence, inadequate housing and other societal ills grow and spread their evil influence like a cancer through our community.

Indeed, those who impose policies that worsen our plight can only be pleased to witness minority and oppressed groups fighting among themselves as their situation grows more desperate.

As we approach the future, the BLEWS calls on public officials and journalists alike, in public remarks and writings, to focus on solving the problems that plague our city and our region.

Let us learn from history, certainly; but let us be liberated from its stifling grip. Let us be free to find new ways to work together to overcome its legacy. Let us move forward together into a future of cooperative endeavors among people of different backgrounds to achieve a better future for all.

@Charles G. Tildon Jr.

Baltimore

I= The writer is president of the BLEWS executive committee.

Learning Lessons

What lesson is to be learned from your June 25 editorial, "Lessons Still to be Learned"?

It is intellectually irresponsible to equate a young Baltimore priest's reference to "the Jews, the people who killed Jesus" in a homily with Michael Jackson's exploitation of anti-Semitic language in song lyrics and a Polish priest's sermon promoting anti-Jewish views.

The young Baltimore priest has apologized both in a telephone conversation and in writing to the Jewish woman offended by his words. He has vowed to watch his speech to avoid the impression of anti-Semitism.

The Polish priest, according to news accounts, admits no fault. Michael Jackson's account is an exercise in self-pity. There is no parallel between the Baltimore priest's response and the other two.

Furthermore, we do not know the context of the Baltimore priest's remark.

He himself does not recall exactly what he said. No one other than the aggrieved woman has been reported to have heard his words as a denunciation of the Jewish people.

The fact that the gospel that Sunday spoke of the disciples being gathered in a locked room "for fear of the Jews" makes it credible that he intended a historical explanation of the disciples' fear, not a general denunciation.

We do have the words of Jackson's song and quotations from the Polish priest's sermon and know they are explicitly anti-Semitic.

I have heard this priest's homilies since he came to the cathedral. Far from revealing bigotry or moral arrogance, they have been distinguished by priestly humility, as he unfailingly associates himself with those who must strive for Christian virtue, charity and compassion.

In his counseling of parishioners, I attest he shows the highest respect for those of other faiths.

The Sun has published three different articles in five days publicizing our priest's remark. Is it he, or The Sun, that stirs up "the poisons of the past"?

What about the sexism, intended or unintended, of your editorial's own words, "man's insensitivity to man"?

Evelyn Barker

Baltimore

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