The Sun's recent publication of data from other entities' surveys of candidates in the upcoming city primaries is likely to spawn unnecessary confusion.
There were significant -- though I'm sure inadvertent -- omissions by both the League of Women Voters of Baltimore City and the Baltimore City Homeowners' Coalition for Fair Property Taxes in their distribution of questionnaires to city-wide candidates. Apparently, though Republicans are on the primary ballot as unopposed candidates for City Council president and comptroller, they were not provided timely opportunity to participate in these surveys. Similarly situated City Council candidates were given that opportunity.
In the case of the League, I have been provided at my request a survey which, the League promises, will be reflected in the general election version of their voters' guide. Who knows whether it will have as wide a distribution as the one from which Chris McShane and I were omitted. I have ironically heard nothing from the Homeowners' Coalition, which would likely find Republican city-wide candidates more sensitive than anyone else to their concerns. I'm on the list, folks, and I do respond to every survey.
The Sun simply prints what it is provided by these groups, and that leads people to forget there are general election contests for these offices. Some of us are citizen volunteer candidates seriously trying at considerable personal expense to make a difference by providing serious and credible -- candidacies for those seeking alternatives to the status quo. It helps when we are at least given a fighting chance on an equal basis to inform the public we are around.
NB The writer is a Republican running for City Council president.
Money, Race, Sex
Regarding the upcoming mayor election, I have concerns about The Sun's lack of endorsement of Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Your withdrawal of support appears to have a bottom line of $100 million!
I am appalled that your endorsement of Council President Mary Pat Clarke contained a condescending list of directives, the first of which referenced the $100 million brilliantly garnered from the Clinton administration by Mayor Schmoke and his administration. Also, Ms. Clarke was admonished to forge state and federal alliances to ensure that government funds continue to flow. Even without mayoral experience, would not this be obvious to Ms. Clarke? Also, your endorsement seems to imply that Mayor Schmoke should be the mayor to obtain $100 million but not the one to make decisions about its expenditure for Baltimore. Quite frankly, I am perplexed and puzzled by The Sun's words and disgusted by the lack of support for Mayor Kurt Schmoke.
Also troubling are the comparisons of the mayor's accomplishments with those of the council president's. Examining their accomplishments on the same level is like comparing chalk and cheese.
As councilperson and head of the council, Ms. Clarke often acts as Mayor Schmoke's deputy. Like others in subordinate positions, her responsibilities are often task-oriented, unlike those of the head person. It is fine to suppose that one can do the job better and challenge the top person constantly, but being the council president is not the same as being the mayor. There are many opportunities for second guessing by deputies, many without the facts and others after the fact.
As a recent Sun article indicated, Council President Clarke does a commendable job of responding to individual citizens' problems, some at the mayor's request and most with help from city administrators. With respect to Ms. Clark, questions about accomplishments and skills remain. The least of these unknown and unproven essentials are creativity, thoughtful decision-making and strong administrative acumen, possessed in abundance by Mayor Kurt Schmoke.
I am reminded of the rush by the previous mayor to dismantle the "shadow government" just before Mayor Schmoke took office. Then and now, my suspicions are fueled by an apparent exclusion of financial power. Is it any wonder that many African Americans are aware of how much money, race and sex affect their lives, disproportionately?
It was wonderful to see a real friend of the neighborhoods endorsed by The Sun for a 1st District City Council seat. That friend is Kelley Ray. Your endorsement truly expressed why the constituency should vote for her on Sept. 12 because "she is the type of young leader Baltimore really needs."
I would like to tell the voters some more about Ms. Ray since the article on the 1st District race on Aug. 27 did not include much about the individual candidates in contrast to the articles on the other districts. Ms. Ray has worked endlessly to stabilize and better her community. She is always there to lend a helping hand, often putting the neighborhood needs before her own. She was instrumental in writing a grant to retain funding for a business development coordinator who has increased the occupancy rate from 80 percent to 92 percent over the past 18 months in the Belair Road/Erdman Avenue business corridor.
She has fought long and hard over the past five years to better our environment through fighting the introduction of a new incinerator at the Pulaski site, and she is a strong advocate of recycling. She has a great working relationship with our police district leadership and was able to get a foot patrol officer to walk a beat when the neighborhood was having some problems. Simply, Ms. Ray is a hard worker who is neighborhood smart and will represent the 1st District well.
I am quoted in the Aug. 30 Sun in a manner which could be construed as contradicting a preceding statement by Rabbi M. Heinemann on the same subject.
As a high-school student, it is most definitely not my place to be used as a counter to such a recognized Rabbinic authority.
I was not aware of his remarks, although the article makes it possible to believe I was. I regret the way I was represented and wish to ask Rabbi Heinemann's pardon for any injury to his dignity which may have resulted. Thank you for an interesting lesson in journalism.
Gary Gately's Aug. 21 article about the Academy of Travel, Tourism and Hospitality was a great showcase for this special curriculum being offered to 170 Baltimore high school students.
The program, now beginning its second year at Southwestern High School with Kathy Floyd as its director, has on its board of directors some of the movers and shakers in the city's tourism community, including the general managers of Harbor Hotel, the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel, the Holiday Inn Inner Harbor and the Baltimore Convention Center. I, who run a small business called Baltimore Rent-A-Tour, feel privileged to work with this energetic, creative board.
Because the concept is so good, a number of local tourism-related enterprises, such as attractions, hotels, travel agencies and airlines, have taken on one or more students as "shadows" to follow "mentors," learning various facets of the participating business and about the industry in general. Members of the Baltimore Tourism Association, an organization geared to promoting travel and tourism in the area, have been very receptive to the young people in the "shadowing" and interning programs.
Baltimore and its citizens figure to be the big winners in this project. The city's billion dollar-a-year tourism industry should see the benefits and grow stronger because of this specialized program.
Ruth H. Fader
Thank God a doctor of Karl Diehn's stature is willing to attack head on a condition that is sucking the life out of Medicare.
Dr. Diehn is a man of impeccable character, extraordinary integrity and most of all, the most caring doctor I've ever met. He is associated with a group of doctors who do believe and follow the Hippocratic oath.
His letter to the editor hit the nail on the head. I concur with Dr. Diehn's assessment of the deplorable condition of our health care system. Many doctors have discarded their principles for monetary gain.
Dr. Diehn outlined the solution to the problem. Is his solution practical? Yes. Will it work if it is put into practice? Yes. Will it be put into practice? No.
Three reasons it will never be put into practice. Greed, by politicians and the news media. Greed will dictate the medical profession (of course not the entire profession), politicians will not cooperate unless they receive all the accolades. And the news media will continue to take sides shading the truth to benefit the side most compatible to their own beliefs.
Three cheers for Karl Diehn, a doctor who is willing to put his reputation on line for a better society.
Mount Union, Pa.
Reforming Social Security's Handling of Disability Claims
In the editorial, "Disability Backlog" (Aug. 20), The Sun appropriately notes the need to improve the timeliness of making disability determinations and to assist individuals with disabilities enter the work force.
However, your endorsement of not-yet introduced legislation is premature and not well informed.
I attended the hearing held by Rep. Jim Bunning earlier this month. In contrast to your statement that the proposal will "speed handling of cases," an objective we all endorse, it appears that the proposal currently being discussed will not benefit individuals and will not improve the system.
Two key elements of the proposal are expected to be time-limited benefits and changing the appeals process so that new evidence cannot be submitted after an early point in the process.
Both provisions will only exacerbate existing problems in the system and could have potentially serious consequences for many individuals with disabilities.
During the years that the backlog has grown, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has failed to request and Congress has failed to appropriate adequate funds to address the dramatic increase in disability applications.
SSA's failure to conduct adequate numbers of reviews has been a direct result of inadequate funding for its administrative costs. Time-limited benefits are not an appropriate response to that failure. Instead, they will merely shift the responsibility onto the shoulders of beneficiaries to repeatedly re-prove their cases.
This approach is also likely to increase administrative costs and further congest the system. The cost of screening new applications is undoubtedly higher than the cost of a properly administered review.
There is also a risk that there will be an increased number of new applications due to a new public perception of "temporary" disability benefits.
Further, because there is no known method for accurately predicting, based solely on underlying conditions or impairments, who is more likely to be capable of work at a self-supporting level, the system would be arbitrary.
The Bunning proposal is also expected to include a provision that will preclude individuals from submitting new evidence about their condition after some early point in the process, most likely to be after the decision on the initial application, according to statements by Mr. Bunning at the hearing. Closing the record will not solve the backlog problem. But it can be expected to make the process less "user-friendly" for claimants and more burdensome for SSA.
While the benefits of early submission of evidence are obvious (the earlier a claim is adequately developed, the earlier it can be approved and payments begin), the fact that it does not occur more frequently indicates that factors beyond the claimant's control contribute to the problem. For instance, medical conditions, by their nature, are not static. They may worsen or improve, diagnoses may change or take longer to make, additional hospitalizations or referrals to specialists may occur.
There are also many reasons why claimants are unable to submit evidence earlier for which they are not at fault, such as SSA's failure to obtain or request necessary and relevant medical evidence; SSA's failure to explain to either the claimant or medical providers what evidence is important and necessary for adjudication of the claim, the high cost of obtaining copies of medical records; state laws preventing individuals from directly obtaining their own medical records; and medical providers who delay or refuse to submit records. Closing the record punishes individuals for events beyond their control.
Nor will closing the record improve the process of SSA. Under that approach, a claimant will be required to file a new application merely to have new evidence considered, even though it was relevant to the recent prior claim. This does not serve SSA, or the claimant, well. As a result, SSA can expect to handle more applications, a cost which is higher than reviewing new evidence in the context of a pending claim.
Everyone agrees that the disability program needs to be reformed. However, reform should not become an excuse for eliminating claimants from the process as quickly as possible in order to cut costs.
Congress and SSA need to be careful to ensure that individuals with disabilities who are unable to make the transition to full economic self-sufficiency are not punished by the system.
They must also ensure that individuals are protected from administrative errors in the process and have the right to appeal inappropriate decisions in order to maintain confidence that the system will work for them and not against them.
Llewellyn Wilson's Out-of-State Education
One very important black educator should be added to Mike Bowler's Aug. 14 article about the use of public funds to pay black teachers to study out of state.
Llewellyn Wilson was head of the music department at Douglass High School -- where he guided the musical education of several well-known African-American musicians, including Cab Calloway, a lecturer at Morgan College, and a columnist for the Baltimore Afro-American.
He was also conductor of the Colored Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Wilson held a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morgan, and was among those black educators who pursued graduate study at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. Wilson probably was paid to study at these out-of-state schools.
As conductor of the two colored musical organizations, he used the knowledge gained at out-of-state institutions to benefit the cultural life of black Baltimoreans.
It is interesting to note that the Colored Orchestra and Chorus, along with the Colored Municipal and Park Bands, are another example of the use of public funds to promote segregation in Baltimore. These groups were the counterparts of the Municipal and Park Bands, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra which performed for white audiences. Although intended to be separate but equal, there was no equality in the appropriations of the groups and the wages paid to musicians.
The Municipal Colored Band was formed in 1922 with an appropriation of $1,000. A report in The Evening Sun stated that this action was a result of the realization by city officials that "Negro taxpayers should have some music provided for them since they helped to defray the cost of music for others." This band played one concert per week (a total of six) in various colored city neighborhoods. By contrast, the Municipal Band, organized in 1914, had a 1922 appropriation of $13,000 enabling it to play six concerts per week (about 60) in various white neighborhoods.
The Colored Park Band was organized in 1939 with a $1,200 appropriation from the city government. This band also played six concerts each summer (compared to 60 for the Park Band). The Colored Park Band played its first concert in Druid Hill Park at Grove Three, not on the main bandstand.
In 1944 the Afro-American reported that Robert Iula, executive secretary of the Municipal Board of Music, ordered the removal of signs which designated the municipal bands as white or colored after it was suggested to him by a member of the !B Colored Municipal Band that the signs "were superfluous, since the public was intelligent enough to distinguish white from colored."
Black Baltimoreans had their first opportunity to attend a symphony concert in 1929, when the Baltimore Symphony played a concert for black adults at Douglass High School.
The Evening Sun, citing the concert as the first in a series long planned by the city, proclaimed it to be "one of the most remarkable steps since the founding of the Baltimore Municipal Department of Music," with the program being "equal in all aspects to similar performances for white."
In 1930, the city appropriated $1,500 for the formation of the Colored Symphony Orchestra. It is interesting to note that The Sun reported a complaint from a group of white citizens that they could not obtain tickets. In the end, a group of white citizens did attend the concert to protest restricted advertising -- for colored only -- for a municipal activity.
In contrast, the 1930 municipal appropriation for the BSO (the orchestra's only source of funds besides ticket receipts) was $33,000. In 1931, the orchestra assumed responsibility for the educational concerts for colored children. In 1932, the City Colored Chorus was formed with an appropriation of $500. The Colored Orchestra and Chorus gave annual concerts.
While the colored bands survived a bitter 1930 union dispute over disparity in wages between the white and colored bands, the colored orchestra and chorus did not. After a five-year break, however, the orchestra and chorus were reformed in 1943.
The quality of music experiences provided for Baltimore's African-American community by organizations under Llewellyn Wilson's leadership no doubt was influenced greatly by his out-of-state education paid for with public funds.
Richard A. Disharoon
What Casino Gambling Has Done for Joliet, Ill.
As a Baltimore-based planing and tourism development consultant who works internationally, I am surprised at the emerging controversy over casino gaming in Baltimore and Maryland.
It seems to me that the issue of "gaming" in Maryland is really a non-issue. Marylanders happily spend $1 billion on our state-sponsored lottery and another $600 million on horse racing.
Thousands more take their money to Atlantic City daily for casino gaming. The current issue of casino gaming in Baltimore needs to be considered as a potential economic development opportunity.
The National Council for Urban Economic Development's magazine (spring issue) featured an article titled "Gaming in America: The New Wave of Urban Economic Development." The pros and cons of the economic development impact of gaming can be easily measured in terms of capital investment, jobs and taxes.
The city and the state should look upon the gaming industry as they would any other industrial or business prospect.
Fortunately, there are positive models for Baltimore and Maryland to evaluate when considering casino gaming. For a number of years I have had the pleasure of working in a relatively small, suburban, Chicago-area town.
Joliet is a city of 77,000 people that has the Des Plains River (Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal) running through it. In 1990 we assisted the Joliet/Will County Center for Economic Development in preparing a "City Center Revitalization Plan."
That community-based plan created a new City Center "harbor" called RiverPlace that breached the river/canal walls that rise some 15 feet above street level in the City Center area. Gaming was not given serious consideration in the planning of City Center or RiverPlace.
Shortly after the Joliet City Center Plan was presented, riverboat gaming was authorized by the State Legislature. With plan in hand, the City of Joliet and the Center for Economic Development were prepared to negotiate with major gaming developers and operators to the benefit of the city.
To make a long story short, the casino developer built the RiverPlace Harbor and a multi-level parking garage, along with implementation of major streetscape improvements throughout the City Center.
This involved private sector investment of over $100 million. More than 2,000 people now work at the riverboat gaming operation today and the operator pays the city approximately $74,000 a day in taxes and fees -- about $25 million per year. This has allowed the city to deal with important citywide infrastructure development needs in a pro-active way and the city's overall economic development program is making great progress.
Today Joliet is looking toward the 21st century with a new partnership relationship with the gaming operator that focuses on making this gaming operation one of the most profitable anywhere, and Joliet City Center one of the best downtowns in America.
With more than three million visitors per year coming to the City Center area, the community is now ready to implement other plans that leverage the gaming impact for positive new economic development.
Baltimore's internationally famous Inner Harbor is a great people place for Baltimoreans and one of the world's most successful tourism destinations. Baltimore's tourism infrastructure must be continually reinforced with new investment.
Gaming is really an entertainment of opportunity to add to the Inner Harbor ambience and the attractiveness of Baltimore as a major convention and visitor destination.
Baltimore has the opportunity to creatively plan for casino gaming as the single most important economic development project of this century. Casino gaming in Baltimore would probably result in a private investment in excess of $200 million, create more than 3,000 new jobs for Baltimoreans and bring an additional 5-6 million visitors to the area annually.
The Sun, the Baltimore Development Corporation and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development could profitably visit a place like Joliet, to learn how gaming, economic development and community growth and prosperity can work hand in hand. Gaming as economic development is worth considering.