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There's no need to travel to see EMG's 'reality'

In a recent article about Educational Management Group Inc., the company seeking a $5 million no-bid contract from Baltimore County schools, teacher Daniel Scroggs said that EMG's technology "can send students on virtual field trips without leaving the classroom" ("Board questions value of 'virtual field trips'," July 12).

If that is the case, why couldn't EMG have sent Baltimore County school administrators on a "virtual field trip" to the Super Bowl? Most of us watched it on low-tech televisions.

As a Baltimore County teacher, if I wanted my students to learn about the Bahamas, EMG would do a satellite linkup, and we'd watch it on a monitor. Why do top school administrators need to fly to those beaches to hear "live" sales presentations?

Let EMG use its own technology to give its "virtual sales pitches" in Towson. Then we'll see how many administrators line up at board meetings to fight for EMG.

Ken Shapiro


Generous side

Just a short point about the meaning of charity, prompted by William Safire's July 6 Other Voices column.

The basics required for human existence -- food, shelter, health care -- belong to the citizens of the world by right, because they are human.

Therefore, justice demands that people have the means to secure these necessities of life. Those without means include those who are elderly, infirm, disabled, very young and certainly the unemployed in an economy built on 6 percent unemployment.

When the government provides welfare, that is justice, not charity. Justice is mandatory.

Charity, on the other hand, is voluntary. And in our book, we don't distinguish between "the deserving" and "the undeserving."

We'd like to err on the generous side.

Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J.

Alexandria, Va.

The writer is president, Catholic Charities USA.

GOP being mean

Someone was buying stamps the other day at the Belair post office, and the clerk gave him a book of stamps that had pictures of Richard Nixon on them.

The buyer asked if there were other stamps he could get. The clerk retorted, "Anybody whose picture is on the stamps is better than who we have in the White House right now."

That kind of mentality floors me. President Clinton is a much better president than some we've had in the recent past.

It is the Democratic-bashing that the Republicans have been waging since the last election that is aiding in dividing the country this way. Republicans have been downright mean.

They say the president is weak and ineffective, yet they blame him for everything that goes wrong.

Even when he does something they like, they say that he is finally listening to the Republicans and don't give him credit.

For example, a person in the unemployment office the other day trying to get an extension of his benefits was told that there were no more extensions. The person automatically blamed the president when in reality it was the Republican Congress that did this.

Granted, Mr. Clinton is no saint, but what president has been? He has pushed for the crime bill, which Republicans watered down by giving block grants.

He has been decent with environmental legislation, reforming the way federal government does business by streamlining regulations and manuals and forming a team structure. He tried to do something about health care, but the Republicans shot him down.

The Republicans should lighten up. They not only are making themselves look bad by all this bashing and meanness, they are also doing a great disservice to the American people by dividing us into hate groups.

Rochelle Bellman

Bel Air

National lottery

With the national budget a problem and the budgets of social programs being paired back, we need another source of income -- a national lottery.

A national lottery would help some of these problems. How does a five-year plan sound?

Jack Wallace


Clarke has fans

I am writing regarding the July 12 article, "A difference of degree in mayoral campaign," about mayoral candidates Mary Pat Clarke and Kurt L. Schmoke.

I'd like to correct some wrong information.

Reporters Joanna Daemmrich and Eric Siegel said many of the unions and other civic clubs have yet to make endorsements, but that Mr. Schmoke has some already.

I would like to note that Mrs. Clarke also has some endorsements (which Clarke campaign officials failed to mention to the reporters) and wide support from community organizations such as the Morrell Park Democratic Club, which announced its position in the early summer.

In addition, she has historically had union support.

Mrs. Clarke has received wide support from the citizens she visits every day.

She is well received in every area of the city, which is as important as an endorsement from an organization.

Proof of her support includes the numerous volunteers who help her every day.

In addition, the enormous number of large signs and smaller window signs all over the city prove her support base of citizens is strong.

Mrs. Clarke has a clear and outlined plan on education, crime and jobs for the city.

Each resident of Baltimore knows or will know these positions as the information is made available by their neighbors who support her and work for her.

Odette T. Ramos


Risks of proposed zoning change

An extremely critical proposal presently is working its way through the Baltimore County government that concerns speeding up requests for zoning changes governing land use.

Presently, the allowed use of a piece of land can only be changed by the County Council once every four years except in exceptional circumstances. Even under exceptional circumstances, there are only certain times that changes are allowed.

The decisions on exceptional circumstances are made by jjTC non-elected body. There is an appeals process and the option of putting controlling stipulations on an approved land use change.

The newest proposal would represent a dramatic change, allowing property use to be changed at any time by a vote of the Baltimore County Council, with no appeal possible.

The theoretical purposes of the proposal are to allow land use changes that could expand economic development, be more efficiently processed and not be liable to reversal on appeal once a change has been approved by the council.

Those are the advantages of the proposal. However, by having the council rather than county agencies make decisions on land use, there is an increased possibility for injecting politics into the process.

Leaving these decision in the hands of elected officials is a double-edged sword. It increases accountability to the public but it also increases the risk of politics affecting the process.

Another disadvantage is the diminished opportunity for community input into land use decisions.

To address this problem, holding formal meetings mandated by law on each proposed land use issue would be ill-advised. It would create a logistical nightmare due to the large number of such issues that might occur at any one time.

Les Pittler, chairman of the committee appointed to draft the proposed change, said of the new law that "the good it can do far outweighs any theoretical problems."

But the problems inherent in the proposal are not "theoretical." They are real. The risk of injecting more politics into land use decisions and the problem of getting community input must be addressed.

By not being able to have as much input and by losing the right of appeal and other stipulations, communities are giving up a lot. They need to know that this will be monitored closely by every elected and appointed official involved in the process so that the theoretical good in this new law can be realized.

Mel Mintz


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