Racism article only told part of the story
I am writing in response to the Dec. 15 article by Ronnie Greene,"Noose raises symbolism of racial divide." I, as well as the training participants, agreed to allow Mr. Greene to observe a class because of our desire to show that the Baltimore County Fire Department has adopted pro-active measures to combat intolerance and bigotry. But the positive aspects of the training program were not reported.
Here are some examples of the positives: Since the inception of Fair Practices Training (in the spring of 1996 and preceding the noose incident), more than 200 departmental members have been trained. The program is viewed to be both beneficial and needed by many attendees.
The goal of the training program is the fair and equitable treatment of all members. Training participants are taught relevant Equal Employment Opportunity laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to recognize stereotypes, biases and sexual harassment. Members are informed that they can be held accountable for their actions.
The exclusion of (or the unwillingness to report) the positive does not provide the objectivity desired by many. Reporting a question (for example, "Is this a prevailing belief in the Fire Department?") as a statement also misrepresents reality.
Furthermore, the article creates the perception that all white males are racists and that they are the only people required to attend the classes. Most of the training sessions are attended by women and black males.
We only ask for fair and balanced reporting. The purpose of this training program is to bridge communication gaps; to foster an appreciation of all fire department members. The association of the training program with a "racial divide" does not serve that end.
John C. Parham
The writer is fair practices administrator for the Baltimore County Fire Department.
Symbolism of bridge fire
The accidental fire set by a destitute homeless man attempting to stay warm under a Jones Falls Expressway bridge ended up shutting down shopping activities in several nearby upscale shopping districts. It is a richly symbolic portent of what will occur on a larger scale once the so-called welfare reform is fully implemented.
People who are excluded will not simply disappear. Instead their exclusion will come back to haunt in a thousand unexpected ways the society which consigned them to the margins.
Governor's zeal against gambling
I wish to begin this letter by stating unequivocally that I am not in favor of casino gambling in Maryland. As a former resident New Jersey, I can state that casinos add nothing to the economy, and often have an undesired effect on the community.
My wife and I have applauded Gov. Parris Glendening's strong stand against the casino interests who have lobbied hard in the state.
However, I was a bit taken aback at the hypocrisy of the governor's position in letting the state authorization for charity gambling in several counties in Maryland lapse. While it is possible that these games are not as pristine in their operation as one might wish, they are raising at least some money for charity. The governor, in his zeal to "protect" the citizens of Maryland may be doing them a disservice.
In addition, it strikes me as ironic that a governor whose lottery agency has just introduced several new games, including a multi-state Lotto, to boost sagging revenues would take such a firm stand against other forms of organized gambling. Lottery revenues have been dropping over the last year, and that gap will have to be made up by cuts to state government.
What evil will Governor Glendening shield us from next? Perhaps the bingo halls should watch their backs.
Michael G. Thompson
Gay couples are as stable as others
In her Dec. 17 column, Mona Charen says there are "prudential reasons to resist the legitimization of homosexuality," including "disease" and "instability of homosexual unions.'
To set the record straight: The same diseases that affect homosexuals affect heterosexuals. While AIDS, in the United States at least, has struck far more gay than heterosexual men, it has afflicted far fewer gay than heterosexual women.
There is no evidence that same-sex relationships are inherently less stable than opposite-sex ones. If it's true that gay people, on average, stay with partners for shorter periods than heterosexuals do, it's because they don't receive the societal support offered to heterosexual couples and are not allowed to legally marry.
My experience does not support the notion that gay relationships are short-lived. My boyfriend and I just celebrated ten years together, and the gay couples we know have been together as long as the heterosexual couples we know.
Nothing funny in memory loss
I have enjoyed Jim Scancarelli's "Gasoline Alley" for many years but object to a recent strip depicting Mr. Wallet's loss of memory in a jocular way. This is offensive to many families who have lived through the tragedy of Alzheimer's disease and senile dementia.
I doubt that any other medical tragedy, such as an amputation of an extremity, life-threatening diabetes, brain tumors or Lou Gehrig's syndrome would be treated as a joke in a comic section of the newspaper.
R. Donald Eney, M.D.
Vouchers hurt public schools
Public education needs to be improved. We all can agree on that. What we must do about the problems of education is the same as such other crucial problems as Medicare, on which many American citizens depend: We should mend it, not end it. Such devices as vouchers to support parochial education with tax dollars will cripple public education. Our schools need every last dollar spent as effectively as possible.
One way to improve education is for more of the public to be involved.
Serious reasons for rejecting tax dollars for parochial schools can be found in Bosnia and Ireland. Our mixing of religious faiths in our common schools means that there is little identification by the students as Catholic, Moslem, Protestant, or other faiths. We have seen what such identification does in these two warring countries.
Do we want to set up competing systems that stress the exclusiveness of a faith with our tax dollars? I don't think so.
Mary Ann Wickwire
Sidewalks for connections in the valleys
The Dec. 6 editorial, "How to preserve the valleys," discussed the importance of fostering a partnership between Baltimore County planners, private developers and preservationists in protecting the character of the valleys.
Since Owings Mills is one of two growth areas designated in Baltimore County, there are many development pressures. It is important to ensure that, while growth and economic development are promoted in the Owings Mills area, it is done in such a way that both residential communities and pedestrians are not forgotten.
Not originally from this area, I find the lack of interconnection between the residential communities and adjacent shopping centers, parks and other residential communities both disturbing and frustrating. I am unable to walk from my apartment complex to either of the two shopping centers, both less than a half of a mile away, without crossing and walking on a main roadway, fearful for my safety. There is no excuse for designing a community without pedestrian access.
Funding for sidewalks can and should be found. The Maryland Department of Transportation has a Retrofit Sidewalk Program that applies to sidewalk projects along state highways either in need of maintenance or in an area designated for revitalization.
In addition to this program, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act offers enhancement funding for projects under specific criteria, such as historic preservation.
The Baltimore County Master Plan has under its transportation element a goal "to provide adequate transportation infrastructure to satisfy the needs of the Baltimore County residents in their pursuit of work and leisure activities." The plan further advocates as two of its action initiatives to provide "functional relationships between adjoining, separate developments" and to provide an "integration of individual projects into a system of fully functional neighborhoods with all the necessary community services and facilities."
In other words, sidewalk infrastructure should be provided between residences, shopping areas and parks to foster economic growth, healthy neighborhood living and recreation.
So, in keeping with the partnership between Baltimore County planners, private developers and preservationists to maintain the quaint, picturesque quality of the valley, the partnership should encourage, if not demand, that all development encompass sidewalks and/or hiker/biker walkways, not only within their development, but connecting to the surrounding development.
Michelle D. Hoffman
Big Brother prevents sick from getting drugs
The conventional wisdom among conservatives is that big government is bad, that power should move from the federal government to the states, or better yet, to the people. Who better knows what is good for one's self?
Except when it conflicts with the drug war. Then, almost reflexively, those waging this holy war argue that people are not to be trusted, that they are being misled by sinister forces with evil hidden intent.
In this case, these crusaders say, we must make an exception. The federal government needs to protect us, apparently from ourselves.
People have been misled, the warriors say, in believing drugs can be used appropriately as medicines. How could it be possible that drugs are useful?
After all, for years those waging this mindless war have been telling us just the opposite, that drugs are illegal because they are evil and, not rarely although confusingly, saying are evil because they are illegal. Fortunately, the reality is finally becoming apparent. Drugs, like most of life's experiences are not, in and of themselves, good or bad.
While they can cause great harm, they can also be of value, sometimes great value.
Denying people with the most serious diseases drugs that could help them, in the service of a "holy war," is the true evil.
Stanley L. Rodbell
Why foster fears people have about dentistry?
"Going to the chair" (headline, Dec. 8)? All that's missing but implied is "electric," as in electric chair.
I am reflecting the reactions of dentists and assistants who have read Kevin Cowherd's article on oral surgery. Why foster the fears that people have about dentistry with an article like this?
The photo is more explicit than any patient needs to see. Some patients go to an oral surgeon to be put to sleep so they don't see the capped needle and IVs in the patient's arm.
Dentists who do not use general anesthesia hide the needle for the patient's benefit. Why roil the populace like this?
The patient's "eye is something you'd see on a fish after the hook is pulled out"? Really.
This wasn't even an April Fool's Day article. The label of irresponsible journalism doesn't even come close.
Was the author that desperate for a story that he had to describe 18th- and 19th-century approaches to dentistry?
I think he owes the readers a series of beneficial reports on how regular visits, preventive dentistry and other 20th- and 21st-century advances in dentistry can help such patients avoid pain.
!Robin R. Gaber, D.D.S.
The writer is president of the Baltimore City Dental Society.
You dramatized the phobia that some people have of going to the dentist.
This is only one of many types of phobias that people have, such as phobia of airplanes or elevators.
Your dramatization is distorted, non-factual and what one reads in trash magazines, not a reputable paper as The Sun is supposed to be.
To be specific and factual, dentistry has made great strides in treating the teeth and surrounding oral structures in a manner in which pain is reduced to a minimum or non-existent.
With the advent of fluorides and other preventive measures, the evidence of caries has been greatly reduced.
Modern dental equipment, anesthetics and improved restorative materials now enable the dentist to correct the defectiveness in the oral cavity, improve the aesthetics and perform what is required for the patient in a painless manner.
Fear and pain are the replicas of the Pony Express days and the barbershop dentist -- not today's well-trained, ethical and professional dentist who performs his duties in a manner which makes him worthy of the title of doctor of dental surgery.
%Gerson A. Freedman, D.D.S.
Pub Date: 12/28/96