Moving to Opportunity is a success, despite...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Moving to Opportunity is a success, despite rare exception

In her Dec. 16 commentary, Patricia Rybak seeks to condemn the Moving to Opportunity program based on one landlord's bad experience with a tenant, ignoring the 140 families who have used the program successfully.

The commentary also incorrectly says that destructive and irresponsible tenants have a one-year protection against eviction.

I want to make it abundantly clear to landlords that there are no rights that a landlord gives up by participating in either the Moving to Opportunity or the Section 8 programs, including the rights to accept or reject potential tenants and to obtain court-ordered evictions for nonpayment of rent, for serious and repeated damage to the owner's property, for other violations of the terms of the lease, and for other good cause that is the responsibility of the tenant, including creating a neighborhood disturbance.

In any case where there is a serious breach of the lease, I strongly encourage the landlord to take swift action to evict violating tenants. In addition, if the tenant is found to have violated the rules of the Section 8 program, the local housing offices will quickly terminate such tenant's participation in the Section 8 program.

MTO has given 140 families a chance to move from areas high in poverty and unemployment to communities where they may find greater educational and economic opportunity for themselves and their children. Although it is still early in the program, 66 clients who were placed before February 1996 were contacted this spring.

Of these, 30 percent had been working before joining the program. By April of 1996 the number working had increased to 56 percent, with another 30 percent in employment training, meaning 86 percent of this initial group were either working or in job training.

While I have met with the landlord in question and sympathize with her plight and have made some specific commitments to help, here is an unusual case, not typical of the 140 families who have successfully found new homes through the program.

In addition to the normal legal protections that all landlords have, the Section 8 program and Moving to Opportunity provide additional protections and assistance to landlords that are not available to landlords who are not participating in these programs.

Section 8 landlords who believe tenants have damaged their unit may request a housing authority inspector to inspect the unit, the tenant may be required to make repairs or restitution or suffer the penalty of being terminated from the program.

The one-year protection from eviction mentioned in Ms. Rybak's commentary applies not to destructive and irresponsible tenants, as she states, but only to tenants in good standing.

It merely prevents their eviction for causes that are not the result of anything the tenant did or failed to do, such as the landlord's desire to live in the unit or to terminate the lease for business or economic reasons.

Most one-year leases have the same restrictions.

Participants in the Moving to Opportunity program did receive extensive counseling on their responsibilities as a tenant and a member of the community, including courses in conflict resolution, budgeting and home maintenance. Moving to Opportunity counselors are available to work with landlords and tenants in the first year of residence, if needed.

In the specific instance referenced by Ms. Rybak, housing inspectors did require the tenant to make some repairs while in residence, but they found additional tenant damage in the move-out inspection.

Also, counselors of the Community Assistance Network, which provides counseling for the Moving to Opportunity program, did meet with the landlord and tenant on numerous occasions to try to help them work out their conflicts.

While successful programs can have rare exceptions, rare exceptions cannot be allowed to discredit an otherwise successful effort. I will use the information provided by the landlord and that which we learned from our review of this case to strengthen both the landlord and the tenant education components of our Section 8 programs.

Harold D. Young

Baltimore

The writer is acting Maryland coordinator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Vans headed in wrong direction

The Jan. 15 editorial page cartoon showing Mayflower trucks with wings and halos ascending toward heaven was an obvious reference to the passing of Bob Irsay.

For an artist who is reasonably talented, Mike Lane has absolutely no sense of direction.

Edward M. O'Malley

Columbia

Teamwork is necessary for a successful rescue

With regard to the Jan. 21 article, "Closed fire station may have been a factor in fatal blaze, union says," I not only stand by my words but defy department officials to show that I'm wrong.

The arrival of a first "unit" on the scene does not, never has and never will mean that an effective rescue attempt can be made.

The engine/truck teamwork, so essential to initiating a coordinated rescue effort, cannot take place in the absence of one or the other. To do so would likely result in the rescuer becoming but another requiring to be rescued.

Stephen G. Fugate

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association, Local 954.

Death penalty is oppression

I am responding to the Jan. 6 letter, "Racial disparities in capital punishment."

The writer, Anne Furst McCloskey, chairperson of the Maryland Coalition Against Crime, appeared to make an excellent point when she said, "The commission's time would have been better spent studying why there is so much crime in our state and what can be done to curb it."

She is correct in that the death penalty has nothing to do with crime: it is not a deterrent, and even proponents now admit that they want the death penalty for the purpose of revenge.

Continuing a system in which the death penalty uses time, money and resources that could have been spent in activities that actually lower crime, such as community policing, is perpetuating a system that enables politicians to claim they are "doing something" about crime when they are not.

However, since the death penalty is part of our justice system, it behooves us to see its effects. Amnesty International has found that the death penalty is used world-wide as a means of control and oppression.

China and Iran in particular stand out in their use of state-sanctioned killing to subdue their own populations.

In the United States the death penalty is used almost exclusively in the Southern states. These are states, including Maryland, where lynching used to be a popular form of social control.

Now we have legalized the process to carry out the same function -- a way to keep minorities "in their place."

If we are to have the death penalty in Maryland, we should ask: Why are we doing this, does it do any good and exactly who is it we're trying to execute and why?

Cathy D. Knepper

Kensington

B6 The writer represents Amnesty International U.S.A.

Death penalty seen as proper

Lee Lears' Jan. 8 letter about the injustice of capital punishment states that "a violent person becomes a threat to society only when released from prison."

Not true. Such a person is still a threat to the prison guards, to other prisoners and to our incomes as we have to support the inmate for the rest of our lives.

As for Mr. Lears' claim that more blacks are executed than whites, the reason for this is that they commit most of the violent crimes. The death penalty is an equal opportunity for anybody engaged in the business of murder.

I agree that "the execution of (even) one innocent person in a civilized society is unacceptable." Since the victims of these TC violent crimes are exactly that -- innocent persons -- I believe Mr. Lears has established the rationale for capital punishment.

The claim that capital punishment will not help the victims' families has me perplexed. How does Lears know this? I'm not related to any victims, but I feel better about the prospect of their assailants being executed.

Mary Jo Stankowski

Baltimore

Blame the teachers for good test scores

I note with great remorse and guilt that the cheating on test scores is the result of old-fashion teaching methods.

I taught 40 years in Maryland, thus I must fall into the "old-fashion" category.

Maybe instead of offering $100 for old guns, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke should offer that money to "old-fashion" teachers and request that these relics turn themselves in.

Olin L. Yoder

Linthicum

Seeing Gingrich's sins and missing Clintons'

Christopher Krieg (letter, Jan. 15) writes that Newt Gingrich, "unlike the president and first lady, hasn't been truthful . . . and he should resign . . ." How myopic and partisan.

How willing are some to ignore the immoral and unethical activities of the Clintons. On page 6A of The Sun, Jan. 16, is a report of behavior typical of their administration: "Newly disclosed . . . documents indicate that controversial fund-raiser John Huang . . . had a voice on U.S. Asia commercial policy, despite . . . assertions that his duties were largely administrative."

On my walks, I frequently pass a parked car with a bumper sticker which reads, "The road to Hell is paved with Republicans." It is this sort of bigotry that clouds the mind of some.

Vincent Ciletti

Baltimore

Ebonics critics should take a close look at their own grammar

Why the huge furor about Ebonics? All of a sudden America has risen in favor of standard English, and Ebonics is being excoriated as a terrible idea dreamed up by the Oakland, Calif., school board.

This is hilarious, especially because few Americans speak standard English. The standard English program of the State Department of Education says that black language "connotes a system that embodies communication styles, intonation, body language, structure, and grammar . . ." distinct from other languages. Such distinctiveness is not unique to Ebonics. It characterizes East Indian English, Australian English and British English.

With the appearance of so many mutual forms of English, standard English has deteriorated almost to the point of extinction in many parts of the world, and particularly in America.

I am a physician in a community hospital in Maryland. The helping verb is a mystery to several people at my workplace. It is not unusual to hear conversations peppered with sentences that go thus: "He had came," and "He had went," and "He had brung the medicine from the pharmacy."

People around me use double and triple negatives frequently. They misspell, mispronounce and misuse words blithely. They end sentences with prepositions -- "I'm always found wherever I'm at" is a favorite declaration of physicians. The creative ones invent words as they go along. One such invented pearl I cherish is "irregardless."

We all know that not too long ago the word "ain't" was exalted to standard English status and defined in dictionaries across the land.

Today, English grammar is not even a formal subject in many U.S. public schools, and speaking grammatically correct English passe. I just finished reading a book published by an upstanding publishing company.

The book was so full of English errors that I was certain the editor who had participated in the correction of the text did not know standard English. Newspapers, including yours, are filled with appalling grammatical and spelling mistakes. Textbooks are exception to this rule.

The language we call standard English is withering away. One hundred years from now, I predict that Ebonics, or a language similar to it, will supplant standard English as America's official language. When that era arrives, the champions of standard English will be living ostracized lives on the fringes of society and the current members of the Oakland Board of Education will be celebrated as visionaries.

The people who speak Ebonics are probably truer to the letter and spirit of their language than those who have sounded the clarion call for standard English. I challenge these standard English champions to spend more time studying, teaching, writing and disseminating standard English and less time waving the banner.

Usha Nellore

Bel Air

Without taking sides on the recent uproar over the teaching of Ebonics, and referring to Terry H. Turbin's letter (Jan. 10) where he coined the term, "Hillbillyonics," I would like to point out that incorrectly spoken English is more widespread than among inner city African-American youngsters and inhabitants of Appalachia and the Ozarks.

I don't know about the rest of America, but here in Maryland we are being fed a steady diet of idiosyncratic mispronounciations.

It seems almost endemic that two consonants in a row require the insertion of a vowel between them: Westmin(i)ster, Pataps ,, (i)co, ath(e)letic, circ(e)ling, cyc(e)ling. Often a consonant is left out entirely, as in Ar(c)tic or A(t)lantic. Or, a consonant is )R switched, as in "cavalry" being pronounced "calvary."

Of course, grammatically there are inherently larger problems, such as double negatives and phrasings like, "You could have went," "I should have did," "I haven't ate," "He should have wrote." Quite often people in the public arena, who should know better, pronounce the word "nuclear" as "nukelar."

While it may be right to correct inner-city children to say "ask" instead of "aks," it behooves us to realize how poorly we do in the daily usage of our language.

Leo Bretholz

Baltimore

Pub Date: 1/25/97

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