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Charges of racism won't solve city's woesI...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Charges of racism won't solve city's woes

I read with alarm Barry Rascovar's column (Opinion Commentary, Jan. 26) in which he says it's "absolutely accurate" that Montgomery County's opposition to the $254 million Baltimore school settlement "is viewed by some as based on race."

It reminds me of a similar comment by Washington Mayor Marion Barry that a white city council person who questions the University of District of Columbia's $18 million deficit and mismanagement "doesn't want to see black kids get an eduction," or D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's comment that suburban congressmen who oppose her tax-cut bail-out plan for Washington are "immoral" and guilty of "standing at the schoolhouse door" like former Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

I represent Montgomery County's 15th legislative district but, prior to my 1994 election, I spent five years running the "Choice" program for delinquent and "at-risk" youth in some of the most troubled neighborhoods of downtown Baltimore.

Believe me, both my current constituents have problems, and the people I used to work with have problems.

Baltimore has the problem of poverty; Montgomery has the problems of growth and urbanization. The state must address both.

Having lived and worked in both jurisdictions, I fully recognize each area's tendency to focus on its own concerns and ignore those of its neighbors. But overcoming this problem of parochialism is made much more difficult by reckless, unnecessary and unwarranted charges of racism.

As Maryland's poorest subdivision, Baltimore has a valid claim to state assistance that comes, primarily, from the pockets of suburban taxpayers.

Likewise, suburbanites have a right to protect their investment in the city schools against waste and mismanagement.

Suburban residents also have a right to expect state assistance for their very real problems of school overcrowding, traffic congestion and costs of services.

Mr. Rascovar faults "filthy rich" suburbanites as being insufficiently "enlightened and educated" regarding the city's plight.

But it appears to me that the need for enlightenment applies to Mr. Rascovar as well.

Mark K. Shriver

Annapolis

Visitor will miss Baltimore gallery

I was greatly saddened to learn of the end of the Life of Baltimore Gallery. As frequent visitors to Baltimore, the gallery and its uniquely themed shows were often an enriching part of our stays.

Although the shows -- creatively organized and beautifully hung by gallery director George Fondersmith -- stood on their aesthetic merit alone, I was always mindful of the gallery's unique credo that all sales would go totally and directly to the artist.

Surely, the gallery made a significant contribution to the vitality of the Baltimore community while demonstrating that, even in the marketplace, virtue is its own reward.

Harvey A. Horowitz

Villanova, Pa.

Suburban life doesn't have to be depressing

The contrast between two recent Sun articles on suburban life is remarkable.

The first, seen through the eyes of two Maryland Institute photographers, portrays the ennui and isolation of life in suburban sprawl in the exhibit, "Low 150s: Scenic Views."

The second, by contrast, reports a truly exceptional example of successful suburban community celebrated in dramatic form, "The Greenbelt Story."

In this time of public focus on the physical effects of suburban sprawl, as exemplified by the governor's "smart growth" policies, these explorations of the social effects of suburbia deserve closer study.

Why are the prevailing patterns of suburban development so depressing, and what are the secrets of Greenbelt's success?

I would venture that there is a direct relationship between physical form and social sensibility.

Uncentered and dispersed patterns of sprawl lead directly to feelings of social disconnection and isolation, while central focus and shared facilities at Greenbelt translate to a sense of connection, belonging and meaning.

A wise growth policy will consider the relationship of both physical and social organization.

Thanks for your continuing excellent reportage of the living issues of our time.

Bob Corbett

Annapolis

Carl Sardegna was good for Blue Cross

You wrote about Carl J. Sardegna's big win over Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland (news story, Feb. 4), but The Sun still could not bring itself to give him the credit he deserves for what he did for the Maryland Blues.

Your reporter states that the company was "on the brink of insolvency" when Mr. Sardegna resigned in late 1992. To the contrary, J. Owen Cole, former chairman of First National Bank of Maryland and a director and then board chairman of the Maryland Blues, testified at Mr. Sardegna's arbitration that Mr. Sardegna was "zinging" his financial targets.

In fact, the Maryland Blues enjoyed a profit every month in Mr. Sardegna's last four years (1989-1992). His last year, 1992, was a great year, with a $40.4 million addition to surplus, and 1993 results (which are attributable to Mr. Sardegna's management) were even better, with a whopping $71.5 million addition to surplus.

Yes, there was a substantial paper reduction in surplus at the end of 1992, but this came about because the insurance commissioner at that time required the Maryland Blues to deduct investments in its HMO subsidiaries from surplus but, contrary to his prior written promise with the company, refused to allow the Maryland Blues to credit their value at between $122 and $143 million.

This value was established by the commissioner's chosen appraiser, Salomon Brothers, but the commissioner ignored Salomon's valuation. The effect was an arbitrary write-down of $89.3 million in surplus at the end of 1992.

Having engineered this write-down, so that the company now appeared to have grossly inadequate reserves, the commissioner then directed the company to breach its pension contract with Mr. Sardegna. Soon thereafter, Gov. William Donald Schaefer sacked the commissioner because of his irresponsible threat to drive the company into insolvency.

At the arbitration, Mr. Sardegna prevailed because he proved that the Maryland Blues' board was in fact a highly informed board. The board should greet this conclusion with relief -- and pride.

It was doing its job.

One final note: The board, when it accepted Mr. Sardegna's resignation, recorded in its formal minutes that he was a person of vision.

Let there be no doubt about it: The success of the Maryland Blues in recent years is due in substantial measure to his vision, his leadership and the work of his dedicated management team.

J. Alan Galbraith

Washington

The writer is counsel for Mr. Sardegna.

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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