Slot machine peril has not gone awayDespite...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Slot machine peril has not gone away

Despite inaction on slot machine legislation during the 1996 legislative session, those of us close to the issue know that it will come back soon. Little did we know how soon.

The Sun's May 4 article on illegal slot activity in Allegany County highlights the many dangers posed by expanded gambling in Maryland.

For years, decisions to increase gambling in states have been predicated on how much the games take in. Whatever game falls off, states will be looking for new games to entice people to bet and play more.

Governments used to be protectors that provided police and fire. Now they're predators, advertising and preying on the public.

Allegany County's problem illustrates a disaster waiting to happen all over Maryland if the legislature warms to the idea of allowing thousands of slot machines to come into use.

During the next eight months, both sides will put forth their best arguments.

Lest we forget the real lesson, more gambling only serves to diminish ourselves and our state.

Christopher J. McCabe

Clarksville

The writer is state senator from the 14th district in Howard and Montgomery Counties.

Principal's action fondly remembered

One day in the spring of my 1969 senior year at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, I decided to play hooky. I wasn't very good at it and got caught, sitting in a car on the school's parking lot.

I was taken to a rather foreign and foreboding place -- the vice principal's office. There, a very large, very intimidating man named Mr. Peterson held my fate in his hands. As the result of my moment of stupidity, I was on the brink of embarrassing myself and my parents by being suspended and losing graduation privileges. All Mr. Peterson needed to do was follow the normal procedures without additional thought.

Fortunately for me, the late Ronald Peterson was a man of intelligence and compassion and had a willingness to go beyond rules which don't always fit the situation at hand. He looked at my excellent scholastic record, my high ranking, my National Honor Society membership and my very distressed face and made the decision to forgive. He was not afraid to accept responsibility for ignoring the official rules of punishment and to use his own judgment to make a proper decision.

I was very lucky. It sounds like the Baltimore County school system could use a few Ron Petersons.

David W. Gibson

Towson

Pepper spray can't be allowed in schools

Pepper spray may not be lethal, but it can certainly be disruptive. Students are more than adequately warned, both in writing and through individual classroom announcements, that drugs, weapons and pepper spray are not to be brought into the school.

Our students need to be taught personal responsibility for their behavior and our schools need to provide a safe environment so that all students may obtain an education. I certainly agree with Baltimore County's current policy regarding pepper spray.

Elizabeth H. Goodman

Baltimore

A friend reflects on a sick woman's demise

The decline and death of my former neighbor Betty Keat, whose recurrent mental illness and aggressive behavior resulted in her being shot and killed by police in her Homeland residence, was chronicled by Scott Shane in a well-researched and thoughtful article May 5.

However, I object to Mr. Shane's description of me as "a clinical psychologist who . . . concluded it was best simply to avoid Keat." Because Mr. Shane's distillation of our lengthy conversation reflects badly on my character, as well as upon the image of mental health professionals generally, I would like to clarify my actual involvement in Mrs. Keat's case.

The inability of the legal and mental health system to respond effectively to both Mrs. Keat and her neighbors was frustrating and tragic. It was clear to me during my conversations with some of Mrs. Keat's therapists that they were caring, dedicated professionals who felt hamstrung by legal limitations on their involvement with her. The law allows involuntary mental health intervention only when the person is a threat to himself or herself or others; as long as Mrs. Keat appeared reasonably healthy and had not actually threatened anyone, none of us could do anything but keep an eye on her during her all-too-recognizable periods of decline. We all responded in various ways, none of us with a cold heart.

I was involved with Mrs. Keat as a neighbor rather than as a mental health professional. There was little I could offer professionally. I had retired from professional practice to become a full-time parent, and, in addition, my areas of specialty had not included the treatment of psychoses. However, there were things I could do as a human being and a neighbor, and these things I hope I did to the best of my ability.

The law that was intended to protect Betty Keat's rights failed to protect her life. I welcome the development of the Baltimore Crisis Response Team, and I hope that their efforts to "go to great lengths to reach mentally ill people who are fearful, hostile and inclined to refuse treatment" will help avert more such tragedies as Mrs. Keat's. Maryland should consider passage of a law permitting "outpatient commitment," allowing action to be taken earlier should a patient who is recurrently ill and living in the community begin to show signs of decline.

Rebecca L. Johnson

Columbia

Support urged for food drive

During the hubbub of the Preakness Week, horses often get the attention while other events get overlooked.

That's generally okay. However, there is one horse that shot out of the starting gate on Saturday, is still running and absolutely needs the public's focus.

That is the United States Postal Service's Harvest for the Hungry Food Drive.

Looking to their Pony Express roots, the letter carriers are galloping this week with a special sense of urgency.

Their race ends the day before the Preakness and the public won't have an easier chance to help for quite a while.

We hope everyone knows that they can leave canned foods by their mailbox.

These items will immediately be given to disadvantaged neighbors by close to 1,000 emergency care providers.

William G. Ewing

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Food Bank.

Union posts are well-paid

The recent articles concerning the Baltimore Teachers Union's granting of interest-free loans to Irene Dandridge, Loretta Johnson and other unnamed recipients certainly raise legal as well as ethical issues.

Ms. Dandridge earned more than $110,000 in salary and benefits. According to the union's own audit in 1995, she and Ms. Johnson earned a combined total of $210,332 in salary and shared $130,451 in benefits.

Out of the ordinary? Even extraordinary would be an understatement.

Arthur L. Laupus

Columbia

Baltimore the way it used to be

Congratulations to Alice Steinbach for a wonderful trip back in time. Her article, "The way we were," May 8, makes me want to hop on a McMahon Bus and go downtown to the department stores.

I also remember a bakery in that same area. I believe it was either Muhly's or Silber's.

Great article. Let's have more stories on Baltimore the way it was.

Joyce L. Keedy

Towson

Pub Date: 5/15/96

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