Per-space parking-lot tax would make senseBy raising...


Per-space parking-lot tax would make sense

By raising the parking tax, the Baltimore City Council not only balanced the budget but also confirmed that downtown is not moving toward the ubiquitous free parking that has fed suburban growth.

The City Council took advantage of the fact that parking is one of the few revenue sources that is stronger in the city than in the suburbs.

That people are willing to pay for the privilege of parking their cars downtown demonstrates a certain strength to the heart of the city. The cost of parking supports the expensive parking structures and rations valuable street space that are requisites to the intensive building density that makes downtown what it is. If parking were free, traffic volumes would soon exceed street capacities. Mass transit would be abandoned and pressure would mount to build more highways leading to bigger and cheaper parking lots.

Downtown Baltimore would become another suburb.

more than people realize. A 1990 study conducted by the Department of Planning revealed that more than two-thirds of all downtown workers park free or at greatly subsidized rates. Most downtown employers have decided they need to subsidize parking to attract workers and compete with the suburbs.

Most of the people who pay the parking tax are visitors, rather than commuters. In 1990, 37,000 parkers paid the city's parking tax on an average day and about 20,000 of these were visitors. Since 1990, this trend has continued. Downtown has increasingly become a greater attraction for visitors than commuters.

When you drive to an Orioles game or the Aquarium, you expect to pay to park. When you drive to work, you often do not.

This is also reflected in the marketing of parking garages. Commuters are lured by "early bird specials" and often pay less to park all day than visitors pay to park for an hour.

Garage operators know that visitors will be less savvy about their parking choices and will pay the higher prices.

The city's current parking tax also reflects this philosophy. The city will now charge a tax of 60 cents on all market-rate parkers, regardless of whether they park for 10 minutes or 10 hours. It also doesn't matter whether it's a $10 space under a fancy hotel or a $2 space on a vacant lot at the edge of civilization.

The new parking-tax increase will further favor commuters over visitors. While the tax on a one-hour or one-day parker will increase by a third, the tax on a commuter with a monthly parking contract will increase by only 8 percent. About four out of five commuter parkers have monthly contracts.

While it is well known that the cost of parking is an impediment to workers and businesses locating downtown, it is not known how town's vitality and are responsible for most of its recent successes. They also pay most of the parking tax.

There is another alternative to the percentage and per-car parking taxes: A per-space tax. The city could simply levy a tax on every parking space, regardless of its use or price. A per-space tax would have numerous advantages:

It would be difficult to pass the tax on to the parker. The tax would be an up-front cost of doing business.

Private and employer-subsidized parking could be taxed along with public parking and would no longer avoid the tax.

Operators would be encourties as intensively as possible. Well-used, high-turnover lots would pay the same tax as a similar but mostly empty lot.

The temptation to knock down buildings and make parking an interim use would be diminished. The per-space tax would function as a "land tax" that would promote the "highest and best" land use for a given property, reducing the tax disincentive for maximum development.

Land-use policies could be further enforced by setting different parking-tax rates in different districts. The parking tax could be set higher in historic areas to discourage demolition and lower in fringe areas to divert traffic congestion.

Enacting a per-space parking tax would be easy. Public parking facilities already pay an annual license fee of about $15 per space, which raises about half a million dollars per year. This fee could be raised and extended to all parking, private as well as public. It would eraged $400 per space would raise about $20 million from the approximately 50,000 public and private parking spaces in downtown Baltimore (excluding city-owned facilities).

This is more than double the revenue yield from the current per-parker tax, even with the recently approved rate hike.

Parking lot owners would be opposed to this, of course, but what could they do? They couldn't pack up their parking lots and move to the county? More likely, they would try to increase the parking demand and reduce the asphalt expanse by developing their properties.

A per-space parking tax would then make downtown look and feel less like suburbia.

Gerald Neily


Hillary getting same treatment as Eleanor

Next to my study door is a framed photograph of my mother, Grace McCormick Sisson, seated with Eleanor Roosevelt the guest of honor at a banquet in Utica, N.Y., in 1934. At that time, Eleanor's husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was halfway through his first term.

Mother, chairperson of the banquet, was an ardent Democratic Party activist and, like her heroine, Mrs. Roosevelt, an advocate of humanitarian causes. My father, Fred J. Sisson, congressman from Oneida and Herkimer counties, was an active supporter and outspoken advocate of Roosevelt's historic New Deal legislative program.

Mother was Father's political lieutenant. Like Mrs. Roosevelt and our current first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, she combined parenting with politics (there were five of us children).

If my parents were alive today, I am certain that they would see the parallel between Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Roosevelt.

Like the latter, our current first lady is a well-informed person who uses her talents, influence and position for human good. She has befriended the children of the poor, perhaps the largest group of neglected people in America, and indeed the world.

She has put in many unpaid hours in their service. Her concern for and involvement with these children has not been a publicity gimmick. It started while she was in private life. Mrs. Clinton is a leader and opinion shaper and at the same time a responsible parent. As a political activist, parent and grandparent, I respect her for this accomplishment.

Mrs. Clinton's recently published book, "It Takes a Village, and Other Lessons Children Teach Us," is a concise and lucid information source about the plight of much of our child population. It is based on extensive reading and her personal experience as a mother.

The Republican yahoos now dominant in Congress have been spending much time and taxpayer's money scrutinizing the pre-White House years of the Clintons. It would be better spent considering and taking to heart the message in Hillary Rodham Clinton's book.

Our news media, corporately owned and predominantly Republican, is bent on destroying the president and his liberal Democratic wife.

That's an old game in keeping with the outlook and history of our American capitalist monied crowd and their many unmonied, ideologically conservative and at times naive followers.

I became political at the age of 6 or 7, and am still active at 80. I can still remember as though it were yesterday the scurrilous attacks of the press and public on Eleanor Roosevelt.

Her so-called "do-gooder" projects and her defense of the downtrodden and discriminated-against angered many. Much of her husband's humanitarian New Deal program came about through her influence. The parallel with today's anti-Clinton assault by the media is obvious.

Bert Sisson

Bryans Road

Of pepper spray and Memorial Day

As a graduate of Baltimore County Schools with two young children currenty enrolled, I have read with interest your coverage of recent problems within the system. And while I agree with your assessment of the Deer Park situation as a "renovation debacle" (May 31), I must take issue with the other two points mentioned in your editorial: pepper spray and Memorial Day.

As a member of my school's School-Based Management Team, as well as the incoming PTA president, I was part of a discussion among staff and parents regarding whether the possession of pepper spray should remain a Category 3 offense, mandating expulsion. Our group came to the consensus opinion that it should remain in Category 3 in order to ance who spoke out on this issue at the May 15 Central Area Advisory Council meeting (one of five advisory groups to the board) stated that possession of pepper spray and all like substances should remain an offense carrying a mandatory expulsion penalty. Curiously, I have not seen any such opinions expressed in the media.

With regard to the school board's decision to open schools on Memorial Day, many parents, myself included, sent their children to school that day as we would on any other day and would not have considered keeping them home for a picnic. Those parents who chose to let their children skip school on Memorial Day, and sonal choice, I would not have wanted the board to extend the school day as it did a couple of years ago. That resulted in no additional learning, but rather in less time for homework, less time with the family and less time for sleep.

I believe that the public school system in Baltimore County is basically sound and the majority of the employees of high caliber. Recognizing and dealing effectively with the problems in the system will serve only to make it stronger in the future.

Susan Hughes

Gray Towson

Cuffed child incident typifies school life today

By any standard, 6-year-old Jerrell Murray, the first grader who was handcuffed and taken Northwest Hospital Center by a Baltimore County police officer, has a severe behavior disorder (June 11, "Child, 6, cuffed for his safety).

The obvious question is why was this child in a regular classroom at all? Does Jerrell represent an atypical case of the county schools' policy of "inclusion," whereby special education students are "mainstreamed" into regular classrooms? Or does this occur more frequently than anyone cares to admit?

The child's parents acknowledge that he has been chronically disruptive ever since pre-kindergarten and requires medication twice daily because of his behavior problems.

One can question the wisdom of using handcuffs on a child who may be dangerous to himself or others, but why should the situation have come to this at all? How long must it take for parents, teachers, administrators and psychologists to face the fact that such a child needs more than a sary to do what is right for a child like this?

This raises another important question not covered in the story: What about the other students in Jerrell's class?

Their parents must surely be wondering whether their education has been seriously compromised as a result of Jerrell's chronic problems, which presumably affected his classroom during the entire year.

No doubt, some of them read Michael Olesker's column which just happened to appear in the same day's Sun (June 11, "As private schools build, public foundation shakes") about the flight of public school parents to private schools.

It is this kind of classroom disruption and the bureaucratic paralysis that renders the system incapable of dealing with it that is driving parents away from public education. And it will take more than curriculum reform to address this particular problem.

Howard Bluth


Graying boomers need more facilities

With the vanguard of the boomer generation creeping up on the perimerter of senior citizenship, it has occurred to me that those who would do business with the public might give consideration to installing more, and more visible, restrooms in their places of business.

Aging seems to require many more pit stops.

The biggest lack of public facilities seems to be in strip shopping centers that can string many small merchants into one area with no central public convenience or any such in their individual shops. Nor do restaurants in such areas encourage you to use their facilities if you are not patronizing their establishment.

I suggest businesses consider putting the customer first by providing more public conveniences in their businesses and making them more accessible.

After all, the wave of the future is a gray one.

Russ Seese


Baltimore County must respect the law

Mismanagement, unscrupulous pratices and illegal spending within the Baltimore County school system's facilities department are inexcusable.

Disregard for state laws is certainly not a characteristic that any school system wants to breed in its students. The least that a school system can do is to set an example by obeying the laws itself.

The Baltimore County school system practices a zero-tolerance policy when dealing with students who bring weapons to school.

Let's hope they have zero-tolerance for violations of state laws within their own departments.

Daryl Lang

Ellicott City

Homeosexuals should be able to marry

Your debate in the June 2 Perspective spective section about homosexual marriages was well placed and relevant. I am the father of three ing in New York City in a committed relationship now in its seventh year. My opinion is that homosexual orientation is genetically there from birth.

Gays and lesbians are what they are, and they are not going away. A large percentage of them feel guilty, outcast and/or stigmatized, which we all should be concerned about. William Bennett, co-director of Empower America, is correct in saying "promiscuity among homosexual males is well known," but the same is true of heterosexual persons, unfortunately.

What do we want? I think that the gay and lesbian people in our communities deserve what the heterosexual people have: The right to pair up with someone they love, make a commitment for life before the public, build a life together and feel good about it. It would give homosexuals their full citizens' rights. It would encourage them to feel better about themselves, if they need to. It would encourage gay and lesbian people to be more stable and more positively involved in their communities.

Legal marriages cannot be done without witnesses, because the public reserves the right to hold the two persons accountable in their commitment. A married couple cannot just walk away from one another without a legal divorce. Let's make that the societal norm for all of us, not just those of us who are heterosexual. I am for increasing commitment and stability in our communities.

Rev. Richard H. Baker


Race barrier still exist

I love to read Gwinn Owens and am always happy to see him return from retirement long enough to appear on your opinion page. However, he's wrong about why African Americans are not showing up in great numbers in the Ivy and semi-Ivy League schools.

Although celebrated African Americans from Spike Lee to Bill Cosby have expressed concern that there is an attitude among African-American youth that it's not cool to do school, these are not the dates for the "best" and most expensive schools anyway.

Mr. Owens implies that racial discrimination in education and employment are things of the past.

The reason bright, highly motivated and hard-working African-American students are not graduating from top schools in large numbers is that, because these obstacles still do exist, such worthy students simply do not have the money to pay the tuition.

Maureen Martindale


War has nothing to do with gender

Pam Cobo's assertion that war has become "irrelevant" (Perspective, June 9) will surely come as welcome news to people in Bosnia, Russia, Israel, Iraq, Korea, Taiwan and dozens of other places that are currently experiencing war, its aftermath or its threat. As for the notion that wars would cease if only women were in charge, this idea is not supported by either logic or history.

In the 16th century, Elizabeth I of England fought a bloody war with Spain, and Catherine de ligious civil war in France. In the 1700s, Russia's Catherine the Great partitioned Poland and fought a war with Turkey, setting the stage for the Crimean War a century later. In the 19th century, the Maharani of Jhansi helped organize the Great Mutiny in India and personally led her troops; the Empress Tsu-hsi of China was involved in several wars; and Queen Victoria reigned over an expanding empire constantly at war. In our own time, we have seen Golda Meir of Israel at war with Arab neighbors and Margaret Thatcher launching an invasion of the Falkland Islands over the objections of some male members of her government.

The point is that good intentions and diplomacy are sometimes not enough. World War II was preceded by massive diplomatic negotiating, as was the gulf war. Wars arise when vital national interests are thought to be threatened and circumstances appear to eliminate other choices. The world is a complex and dangerous place, regardless of the gender of those who make the hard decisions.

John Reisinger


The other side of the war on drugs

When we think about the war on drugs, we see huge raids, the police coming to pick up a violent person on drugs and hauling that person off to jail.

We don't see innocent people having their homes and cars taken away-without a single charge brought aganist them. We don't see the overcrowded prisons letting serial murderers and rapists out on parole.

It seems strange that a country as civilized as ours keeps non-violent criminals in prison and lets killers stay in our neighborhoods.

These are the too often ignored aspects of this "war." The seizures that violate our Constitution, which states that you are innocent until proven guilty, are reversed into a notion that if you are accused of having drugs, you must then prove otherwise, and for this assumption, made possibly by a jealous and angry rival with no evidence, your house or car or retirement money can be taken away without any charges being filed against you.

Jennifer Gorelik


Pub Date: 6/22/96

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