Slot machines good for racing, not just...

Slot machines good for racing, not just Joe De Francis

As a participant in the Maryland horse racing industry, I have followed with interest the recent stories concerning the alleged illegal campaign contributions by track operator Joe De Francis and the removal of Maryland Racing Commission Chairman Allan Levey, reportedly due to an unreported loan from a horse owner.


In both The Sun's coverage and that of other local media, it has been notable that the question of the impact of these situations on the racing industry's desire for slot machines at the tracks has been a continuous theme.

While this is a natural question to ponder, it almost suggests that people consider Mr. De Francis to be the Maryland racing industry. While he is, as the chairman and CEO of the Laurel and Pimlico tracks, an important part of the industry, his present situation, however unfortunate, is his alone and not that of the industry as a whole. He is one of 20,000 Marylanders for whom racing is a way of living; the competitive issues faced by Maryland racing are meaningful to every one of us.


The racing industry in Maryland, as has been noted many times in these pages, occupies a significant role in the state's economy and its culture. In addition to the many jobs it provides, there are almost 900 farms occupying more than 200,000 acres green-space throughout the state, beautifying the landscape and providing a buffer against development.

The "other" horse industry -- the non-racing segment, which by some accounts is as big or bigger than the racing element -- also thrives because its racing and breeding brethren stimulate the availability of supplies and services that benefit all horse people. In other words, horses are good for Maryland.

Our issue, as an industry, is simply our ability to be competitive. Slot machines at the race tracks provide higher purses and incentive awards to sustain owners, breeders, and trainers who find themselves battling higher costs with stagnant purses; revenues to rebuild the race tracks and turn them into modern, attractive, state-of-the-art entertainment facilities; and the resources to market racing and the facilities as good entertainment venues.

The revenues from slots, as has been demonstrated in Delaware, empower the industry to revitalize itself, something that is impractical from the racing business, which is high-cost, low-margin activity. Additionally, slots at the track mean significant tax revenues to the state and local jurisdictions, while not expanding gambling outside the world in which it already exists.

Our concern, as a diverse industry of owners, breeders, trainers, grooms, exercise riders, farm and track employees, jockeys, truck drivers, feed and tack providers, veterinarians, etc., is that the economic health and well-being of an industry whose traditions are deeply rooted in the fabric of this state be treated as a matter of serious debate and not as a by-product of an emotional sideshow related to circumstances that have nothing to do with the day-to-day world in which our industry exists.

It is our belief that Maryland's elected officials will evaluate the racing industry's economic structure and needs in a rational, dispassionate manner. To assume they will do otherwise is an insult to their integrity and their sense of public policy-making.

Timothy T. Capps



The writer is executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

Bet he wears little bow ties to work

It was refreshing to see Harold Jackson's July 13 column, "Ehrlich reminds me of someone." He tells it straight up. His comparison of Congressman Bob Ehrlich to Don Black, a Ku Klux Klansman he once met, and the notorious David Duke, was right on.

Imagine a U.S. congressman going to Dundalk of all places to "stir up" opposition to the MTO settlement. Furthermore, Mr. Jackson tells us Mr. Ehrlich also "wears a suit and tie," just like David Duke and Don Black. Mr. Jackson's got him pegged all right.

Imagine this congressman accepting an invitation by his constituents to hear their concerns. Would our respected U.S. senators, Barbara Mikulski or Paul Sarbanes, ever attend a rally of 1,500 Dundalkians? Of course not, political fund-raisers excepted naturally.

What's with this freshman congressman? Mr. Jackson said he is "cordial and articulate." He also said Mr. Ehrlich mentioned "black Americans" in a letter about MTO. That about seals it for me. He must be a r----t.


Imagine also that Mr. Ehrlich feels there may be collusion in the agreement reached by HUD and the ACLU, champion of most of our rights.

Imagine also that Mr. Ehrlich empathizes with tens of thousands of citizens that spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars to make a few thousand black poor pretend they've earned middle-class status in spite of lifestyle choices such as dropping out of school and/or having children out of wedlock is immoral.

Finally, imagine a congressman who thinks on his own, responds to legitimate citizen concerns and questions important decisions made by a few without any concern for the many. This man is a disgrace to politics in America.

I sincerely hope that readers of The Sun will wake up and realize that we don't need people like Mr. Ehrlich around. No way. Give us back our old reliable hollow-worded party backers who have sold out their values and their constituents.

I couldn't help but end by saying that Harold Jackson, your editorial writer, "reminds me of someone" -- someone glib, facile, intolerant. Does he wear little bow ties to work?

David H. O'Neill



Reading Harold Jackson's July 13 column, you would have thought that Congressman Bob Ehrlich had made race the issue of the Dundalk town meeting on May 17. I was one of the 1,600 standing-room-only concerned citizens in attendance for the entire meeting. Race was never mentioned or inferred the whole time.

Saying that the congressman's intention was to exploit the fears and prejudices of a captive audience was simply inaccurate.

The meeting was very clearly intended to be informational in nature. Congressman Ehrlich reviewed the specific provisions of the ACLU settlement that forces 2,200 families from Baltimore City public housing into the surrounding suburbs over the next six years. The way I see it, the settlement requires that the families be black and that they are moved into predominantly white neighborhoods. Who's making race an issue? It sounds like the ACLU to me.

There were many stories during the open-microphone session of how previous experiments with social engineering had hurt neighborhoods by increasing crime and lowering property values. Most people were angered by the way the settlement was decided in the cover of darkness and without any input from the citizens who would be affected.

Congressman Ehrlich and others said anyone should have the right to live wherever they choose, however, they should work for that right.


The community chose to have this meeting and Congressman Ehrlich agreed to help with the presentation of the meeting. He did a great job of keeping the meeting controlled, on track, and educational.

The microphones were open to anyone who wished to voice their opinion.

G. Stuart Lacher


Choices in marriage in a changing world

Jeff Jacoby's Opinion Commentary July 17 claims that "there are only two options: Either marriage is restricted to one man plus one (unrelated) woman, or it is not restricted at all." Huh?


The purpose of law is to regulate and protect members of a society. What makes the U.S. such a great country is its ability to adapt to society's changing views.

In just over 200 years, this country has transformed from a slave-owning state in which women and minorities could not vote into a society in which, at least, everyone has a voice, however muffled.

Society's views on homosexuality are changing. Twenty years ago, it was a perverse taboo, akin to incest. Today, though not fully accepted as normal, homosexuality is widely viewed as a lifestyle choice.

Mr. Jacoby's reference to polygamy doesn't fit; homosexual marriage would be more appropriately compared to interracial marriage several decades ago. Definitions of marriage have been changing in this country for years and should continue to change.

Expanding the definition to include same-sex marriages means just that. It does not mean that suddenly polygamy and incest would become acceptable.

Marriage in this country is an agreement with many economic benefits. It's time to stop discriminating against homosexuals.


Amanda Miller


Convention Center addition unsightly

With all the hype about the design of the new Ravens Stadium, has anyone stopped to take a good look at the new addition to the Baltimore Convention Center?

When you speak of taxpayers being shortchanged, and Baltimore with the architecture it has added over the past 40 years (Camden Yards excluded), this building gives the word "unsightly" new dimensions.

The uncoordinated colors on the exterior of the building give it the look of having been built with materials left over from other jobs.


The exterior steps remind me of the sides of the ancient pyramid I climbed in Chichen Itza. People might need sobriety checks before they are allowed to ascend or descend them.

All of the Erector Set interior and exterior framework is not only unattractive but the cost of keeping it clean will certainly be quite a burden to the Convention Center's already limited budget.

In short, this addition is the ugliest thing constructed since the guillotine. Those responsible for the new stadium should make every effort not to approve some cookie-cutter design but one that will complement Camden Yards, even if the Ravens have to play an additional year at Memorial Stadium.

Ken Dahms


Israel and holy land in Jerusalem


The July 13 letter by Philip F. Bennett, "Israel has no divine right to land," is hardly the stuff of prognosticators steeped in historical documentation.

Mr. Bennett states, "After Israel seizes East Jerusalem, its next move will be to build a temple next to the 'Dome of the Rock,' the Arab holy place. Then we will have a war neither the U.S. nor the U.N. can control, despite giving Israel nearly $3 billion a year in aid and our latest military technology."

Sadly, Mr. Bennett appears ignorant that the mosque of the Dome of Rock, the Arab holy place, was originally built atop one of the holiest sites in the long tradition of the Jews. That would be the spot where Abraham took his son Isaac, as instructed by the Almighty, before being told not to sacrifice the child.

Mr. Bennett seems incensed over his invented idea that Israel is preparing to "seize" that which it already has, in preparation for violating the sacred ground of another religion.

As if this is regular practice in the Jewish state, which, incidentally, found its own holy places and cemeteries in ruins when it reclaimed the portion of Jerusalem to which Mr. Bennett refers, in the 1967 war.

Lucille Weinberg



Increasing exemption benefits families

Congress and the president are considering a $500 tax credit for children.

The people of this country would be better served by increasing the personal exemption to $4,500 from the present $2,500. This exemption should remain the criterion for determining if a child's income qualifies him as a dependent.

This change would treat all taxpayers alike and bring some relief to parents supporting adult children with incomes well below the minimum wage. It would also benefit those supporting children in college without the need for the additional administrative expense.

Second, allowing people who exceed the 7.5 percent medical limitation to deduct all of those expenses would alleviate their burdensome impact. Many people cannot get insurance that is affordable due to pre-existing conditions, discriminatory mental health policies or exclusion of competent doctors. Additionally, medical savings accounts should be available to those unable to obtain group insurance or Medicaid.


Last, support programs such as Supplemental Security Income for the mentally ill and others should not be denied based on personal income when that income is below what SSI would provide. Reduce the SSI payment by the level of personal income so that all people in need have at least the same level of sustenance.

I feel it is time for this government to return to the ideal of "of, by, and for the people." Curtail the pork, the support for the rest of the world, and tax breaks for those less in need.

It is time to recognize that governments are tolerable only when they further the well being of the individual, not the state.

Lloyd W. Wood


Honor and truth at Naval Academy


How ironic that on the day (July 18) your paper published Adm. Charles R. Larson's article about character development and leadership training at the U.S. Naval Academy, you also printed a biased article ridiculing the academy for the expulsion of Midshipman Jennifer Della Barba.

Admiral Larson's article makes clear the need for high standards of honor and integrity in the naval service. The smallest lies in the military can have the most grave consequences.

That means that naval officers, midshipmen included, cannot tell lies. This includes little "white" lies about going to the doctor, like the one Della Barba told.

Jennifer Della Barba was accused, investigated and found guilty by her peers of an honor violation. Your newspaper pays little homage to this or any of the facts. Instead, you let Midshipman Della Barba use your newspaper as a soap box to dish dirt against the academy and attempt to save her sputtering career.

The Sun did not interview a single midshipman who was involved in the case. The information in the article came from the father and the lawyer of a midshipman found guilty of an honor violation as well as a previous under-age drinking violation.

As a midshipman who served in the same company as Della Barba this past year, and who is closely familiar with the case, I can only tell you that your facts are not even close to accurate.


On one hand your paper ridicules the academy for not upholding high standards of honor and conduct. Yet, it seems whenever the academy tries to get rid of those who break the most serious of rules, your paper criticizes the administration as being unfair.

Michael Podberesky


The writer is a midshipman first class at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Firearms statistics give false picture

I do not agree with the House bill cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control study of deaths from firearms.


The more information, the better, I feel. However, I do understand the concern that such information can and has been misused and misrepresented for partisan purposes. In every article on the funding cut, a statistic is misquoted.

Your July 14 article mentions a CDC study that says that a gun owner is far more likely to harm a loved one than a criminal, again reinforcing false impressions.

The actual statistic is that you are 43 times more likely to kill "someone you know," than you are to kill a criminal. It says nothing about the likelihood of preventing a crime without killing the criminal. This distinction is critical, and this statistic is often misrepresented to give the false impression that gun ownership is much more dangerous than it is.

It says little about the safety of owning a gun, for three reasons.

First, in 99 out of 100 cases when the intended victim of a crime turns out to have a gun, the criminal simply leaves without any shots being fired. When shots are fired, the criminal is killed less than 25 percent of the time. So the ratio of friends and family protected to tragic deaths is over 300 to 43. And no evidence is given that any of these 43 murders and suicides would not have occurred without guns.

Second, the majority of murders -- with guns and without -- are of people known by the killer. Murder usually involves a motive, which often requires knowing the victim. So the fact that "you're more likely to kill someone you know" means very little. In cases of homicide, the reason for using the gun or any other weapon was to kill someone. On the other hand, the purpose in self-defense is to make the assailant stop, and one doesn't care if they are killed or simply run away.


Third, more than half of the 43 deaths of "loved ones or acquaintances" are suicides. Suicide is tragic, but the unavailability of guns has no impact on those determined to kill themselves. Japan, with almost no guns in civilian hands, suffers a suicide rate of 21.1 per 100,000 people, outstripping the U.S. figures of 7.9 homicides and 12.2 suicides combined.

So, while it is wrong to stifle research, and to silence important facts and figures that could help us understand and reduce the violence that afflicts our nation, it is just as bad to misuse and abuse such information.

Carl Aron


The abortion plank the GOP needs

The longer the war within the Republican Party over the abortion plank in its platform for 1996 continues, the more I become convinced that abortion is not a political matter.


When is somebody going to have the guts to write a plank something like: "While the Republican Party philosophically remains solidly pro-life, we feel that abortion is not a political matter. More properly, it is a matter between the expectant mother, her spouse, if any, her physician and her God."?

Such a plank might enrage fringe elements of the party, but it would open the door for Americans who are pro-choice to vote for Sen. Bob Dole.

Chuck Frainie


Pub Date: 7/27/96