Lost SensesHow times change! Who could have...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Lost Senses

How times change! Who could have guessed that the Republican Party, the party of "family values" and "law 'n' order," would now choose to attack our major icons of law and order, i.e., the FBI, the Texas Rangers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, while at the same time presenting the case of a man whose family values extend to having sex with 11-year-old girls?

Has the party of former President Ronald Reagan lost its senses under the current leadership of Rep. Newt Gingrich?

John D. Venables

Towson

New Blood

I applaud The Sun for recognizing in its July 6 "Run, Run, Run" editorial that the Baltimore City Council "needs new blood . . . [and] new ideas."

I concur that "wholesale change" led by those just entering the political arena will invigorate the council by casting aside those outdated practices that stifle the city. However, your assessment that "the comptroller's race is Julian L. Lapides' to lose" creates an oxymoron that must be dismantled.

When Joan M. Pratt announced her candidacy on April 20 for comptroller of Baltimore City she stated that "we have come here today not to oppose any man or woman but to propose new ideas that will better serve all the citizens of Baltimore . . . today, tomorrow and into the 21st century."

Ms. Pratt's platform of new ideas for the comptroller's office are to establish an office of performance measurements and evaluations; establish a citizen advisory review board on fraud, waste and abuse; reorganize the department of audits and create a conference on economic empowerment.

A native Baltimorean and a product of the Baltimore City public school system, Joan M. Pratt is a certified public accountant and an astute businessperson with over 20 years of experience in auditing, accounting and taxation.

Just as The Sun has proposed "new blood . . . [and] new ideas" for the transformation of the council, the citizens of Baltimore are demanding the same in order to transform the comptroller's office.

Joan M. Pratt is the "new blood" professional with the new ideas that are required to make this transformation a reality.

Denise Coleman-Baker

Baltimore

You Forgot One

Sun staff writer Kris Antonelli needs to be educated about how many service academies there are.

In a July 14 article, "Senate panel votes to ease academy service requirement," she mistakenly repeated her oft-written assertion that there are three federal service academies.

Actually, there are four; the one she continually neglects to mention is the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

Established in 1876, the Coast Guard Academy provides career officers for the nation's oldest armed force afloat, the U.S. Coast Guard.

Like the other three academies, cadets spend four years undergoing a rigorous academic, athletic and military regimen. Upon graduation, the newly commissioned Coast Guard ensigns must serve their country for a minimum of six years.

Unlike the others, there are no congressional appointments to the Coast Guard Academy; admission is based solely upon merit, not politics.

Many people are surprised that such an academy exists, which is probably due to its size -- an average enrollment of 800 cadets on 125 acres of land. But, as a 1985 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and a visitor to the other three, I assure Ms. Antonelli that my alma mater is every bit as difficult to get through as the "Big Three."

She may also be surprised to know that the Coast Guard Academy has some local roots: from 1890 through 1910, the academy was located at Curtis Bay.

So, please, Ms. Antonelli, include mention of the smallest but equally prestigious service academy in your future articles.

Wayne A. Muilenburg

Ellicott City

The writer is a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Light Rail's Honor System

As the administrator of the Mass Transit Administration (MTA), I would like to take this opportunity to reply to the July 4 letter written by Richard Williams, a visitor from the state of Massachusetts, regarding an experience he had on the Central Light Rail Line.

Mr. Williams was issued a citation for failure to exhibit proof of payment on a return trip he made on the light rail.

Please allow me to explain more about the MTA's proof-of-payment system. Since its opening in May, 1992, we have been diligent in trying to educate the public that the Central Light Rail Line is a barrier-free, proof-of-payment system.

This type of fare collection system requires that MTA police officers randomly board trains and make fare inspections. When requested, all passengers are required by law to produce the appropriate ticket, weekly or monthly pass, or transfer as proof of payment. Anyone who does not present the periodic fare proof is subject to a fine.

We believe that our customers expect and appreciate that police patrol the trains and make frequent fare inspections. Based on our fare-enforcement statistics, 99.5 percent of the passengers who use light rail are able to provide the appropriate proof of payment.

The MTA chose to utilize the honor system because it provides barrier-free boarding for passenger convenience. Ticket vending machines are prominently placed at each stop to provide a means of quickly obtaining a ticket.

Signing on the trains and at each stop clearly explains that every passenger must obtain a ticket before boarding the trains. Additionally, public telephones located at each stop include a special feature that will connect callers free of charge to our Information Services Division. By pressing the star sign (*) and number 7 buttons, customers can obtain answers to any transit questions they may have.

While I certainly understand Mr. Williams' situation, when traveling in an unfamiliar area, we must remember that we are obligated to abide by any and all laws governing that area and that we must make the necessary inquiries to clarify any areas of which we are uncertain.

John A. Agro Jr.

Baltimore

Reasons for Decline

I am writing in regard to Martin Dyer's July 22 response to a letter originally sent by Linda Hess about the decline in the quality of living in Baltimore's Belair-Edison neighborhood.

While the decline can be correlated with the increase of the black population in the neighborhood, I would suggest that class (or lack of) and not race is the relevant factor.

Well-intentioned but destructive government policies like Section 8 housing program and the idiotic Moving to Opportunity program, coupled with a rise in absentee landlords, have increased the presence of the black and white underclass in the neighborhood, contributing to its decline.

In other words, black folks aren't the problem, and it is racist to say that they are. Some black folks and some white folks don't know how to live among decent people. Blame government social engineering for bringing them into the neighborhood.

Having lived in the area for most of my life, I can also say that the reports of the neighborhood's decline have been greatly exaggerated by Ms. Hess. It's still one of Baltimore's nicer neighborhoods (as long as you send your kid to a private school).

My real reason for writing is to chastise Mr. Dyer for his attributing the socio-cultural pathology of the black underclass to the legacy of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination against African-Americans. This tired argument needs to be put to rest.

Attributing the ills of the black underclass to the legacy of slavery is like a 500-pound chain-smoker with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels blaming his heart attack on a genetic pre-disposition to heart disease.

There may be an element of truth to it, but it sure didn't cause the heart attack.

I would suggest that Mr. Dyer look to more proximal causes. The pathology of the urban underclass has less to do with slavery and past discrimination than it does with the government subsidization of illegitimacy, the expansion of government entitlement programs which reward sloth and anti-social behavior, the ascendancy of a victim mentality in our culture in which no one is ever held responsible for individual actions and the decline of conventional morality, which has been aided and abetted by our cultural and media elites.

James Bukowski

Baltimore

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