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Regular people need to talk together on race

THE BALTIMORE SUN

One fact that's very clear to me as that as an African-American, my family and I cannot thrive and live peacefully in this country without the goodwill of Americans of other races and vice versa.

We need more than tolerance of each other, we need more goodwill. It's also my belief that there is plenty of goodwill out there in society. But some people feel a certain vulnerability and have some fears (real and unfounded) about demonstrating that goodwill. People of all races share these feelings. Most people want to thrive and live peacefully on this planet.

Those who don't support the fact that we've got to "profit or lose" together need to sit down with the rest of us and talk about why they feel the way they do before there is a war. We could all learn something. Maybe some of us have been doing things and have harbored feelings that need to be reconsidered. No doubt in my mind, well-meaning people believe there is some right and wrong on all sides.

I believe the so-called "national leadership" should not take the front seat in the discussions on this one. They've been talking race relations forever and things have gotten down to this. Every time there's a panel assembled to explore race relations in America, there they are -- talking. They are not, and have not proven to be, part of the solution.

I think this is the time for common folk, community folk to sit down together, without rancor, with reason and bring our honest feelings out in the open. Blacks and whites should begin to ask each other questions they have never asked before, and gain some knowledge and understanding from each other's responses.

Let's have some action items come out of their discussions. The healing process, I believe, has to start at the grassroots level within each community, with families, black and white. Let's not leave our youth out of this dialogue. They have the greatest stake in what comes of this situation we find ourselves in. What was revealed in America as a result of the O.J. Simpson verdict, in my opinion, is a wake-up call that said, "Now's the time to get it right."

Verna Lawes

Columbia

Death, taxes -- and pizza sales

It's that time of year again -- time to harass all the neighbors and co-workers to buy frozen pizzas, cookies, gourmet popcorn, frozen foods, gift wrap, etc. to support the schools or the youth organizations. The trouble is they are all selling something for their kids' school, youth organization, etc.

I hate frozen pizzas. The fancy frozen goods my elementary school sells are too pricey by the pound, and so are the fancy gift wraps. (For ecology's sake, I reuse a lot of gift wrap, anyway). I can live with fund-raisers for scouts and other non-school organizations. But, oh, please, please, why can't we just pay taxes to support the schools? In the long run, it would save everyone a lot of time and trouble. Don't have kids in school? Look at it this way: You either did have kids or will have kids, or you were a kid once, so it should all even out in the end. That was the idea, anyway, once upon a time, before we all got

so materialistic and short-sighted.

Elizabeth A. Fixsen

Savage

'Jumping the broom' should be recalled

I was very surprised that the ceremony of "Jumping the broom" would cause controversy among African-Americans ("Swept into debate," The Sun, Oct. 10).

Judith Pitt-Hunter is partially correct. Although the ceremony may not be related to Africa as she states, it is certainly related to the Africans' experience here as slaves in America, which is our culture and experience as African-Americans. If African-Americans want to celebrate a part of our history, let us not be "swept into debate." Dr. Maulana Karenga should not debate the point too strongly since Kwanza, a custom he devised in the '60s, is not celebrated in Africa.

The "jumping the broom" ritual was designed to protect the couple from being separated by the sale of either the bride or the groom to another owner. Contrary to Dr. Molefi Kete Asante's notion that the practice was created by whites, the evidence is that marriage in any form was not encouraged or even thought to be necessary for breeding purposes. Slaves were forbidden to gather even for religious services except in the presence of a white person.

Delroy L. Cornick Sr.

Columbia

Requiring stickers on trash bags is an idea that should be dumped

I quite understand that there is a need to raise additional funds over the next years to cope with Howard County's costs of solid-waste disposal. Still, I disagree both with a basic premise of the proposed funding method, and also with a minor detail.

If the county adopts the "pay as you throw" method, the basic annual service fee will cover collection each week of one 30-gallon bag. Most people do not collect garbage by the 30-gallon bag. We collect garbage in the kitchen, where we generate it. We collect it in a conventional kitchen can, which takes 13-gallon bags.

To get these collected we will place two 13-gallon bags in a 30-gallon bag. This will create extra garbage, and waste the energy and oil needed to make the extra 30-gallon bag. Why not have the annual fee cover two stickers per week, and require one sticker for 13 gallons or two stickers for 30 gallons?

Now let me address the perhaps stickier question. As it is, there is very little low-cost housing in the county. A more than nominal fixed fee for each household will make this problem worse. For someone in an "affordable" house or rental property that $100, or $85 Dumpster fee passed through by a landlord, may be quite trying. How will people on Supplemental Security Income or the like possibly afford it?

The notion beneath per-bag or per-household funding is that garbage collection is strictly a service for the householder. That is not true. Municipalities throughout the country collect garbage because if they did not, the public at large would be placed at a considerable health risk. The commission says "pay as you throw" was designed to meet the goal of "develop[ing] a reliable source of revenue that does not entirely rely on increases in general tax revenues." Most county services, such as police, fire protection and schools, need such reliable sources. Should we pay by the burglary reported, by the fire accidentally started or by the child educated? Or should not general public interest be considered?

I see some public benefit in having people pay by the bag, to encourage more recycling. Still, going entirely to pay by the bag is too extreme. I suggest general revenue pay more than 50 percent and have at most a $50 a year service fee.

Philip L. Marcus

Ellicott City

Based on recent newspaper accounts, Howard County's proposed new trash collection plan is a problem for homeowners for several reasons:

* Cost and service: I presently am allowed eight 30-gallon trash cans weekly and the pickup and disposal cost comes out of my annual real estate taxes. As I understand the basic proposed plan, I am allowed one can per week, for which I must pay an additional fee of $100 per year.

I protest the 87 percent reduction in pickup allotment. Based on the above charges, I expect an $800 reduction in my real estate taxes in return for my $100 assessment for the new plan. Anything less is merely a tax increase disguised as ecological reform.

* Practicality: The proposal for stickers of various denominations to be attached to bags exceeding the one-can-per-week allotment is awkward, costly and a user budgetary problem. I budget monthly out of my fixed income the savings required for my September tax payment. I would rather budget for an annual tax than run to the food store to purchase stickers whenever I have a trash overrun. It is preferable to have the real cost of government service visible up front rather than dribbled out at the rate of a couple of dollars a week.

If rising trash disposal costs and correction of previous landfill errors force an increase in expenditure for this necessary service, so be it. I recommend that three trash containers be included in our basic service and the cost be borne (as at present) as part of our highly visible annual tax bill despite any potential political implications of this tax increase.

Walter A. Baxter

Ellicott City

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