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Tardy service from federal bureaucratsJeffrey Landaw's amusing...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tardy service from federal bureaucrats

Jeffrey Landaw's amusing April 2 Opinion Commentary appeal for a single-payer health care system ("Mr. Kafka, call your office") presumes an agency of the federal government would do a better job of communicating and servicing customers than a private insurer competing with other private insurers.

Let me share a personal experience dealing with one such monopolistic federal agency.

Some days ago, I received in the mail two absolutely indecipherable form letters from the Internal Revenue Service. The first told me I had overpaid my income taxes by $46 and was entitled to a refund. The second, same return address, same date, told me I owed an additional $430.

I telephoned the 800 number given in both letters only to get a recording telling me that my call would be returned within three working days.

If that's a sample of federal single-payer service, I'll stick to the present system of multiple private providers.

Gerald L. Mummey

Baltimore

Maryland roads, signs make driving pleasant

Having spent many hours driving, I am impressed with the good condition of Maryland roads. The roads in several of our neighboring states are dismal by contrast. We Marylanders certainly get our tax money's worth in highways.

I am always proud to be a Marylander when I see the signage on our highways: "Welcome to Maryland. Please drive gently," and, "Leaving Maryland. We enjoyed your company, please come again." These create a cheerful friendly mood. Even the construction signs are clever and civil in tone. I especially like, "Just what you dread. Road work ahead."

I don't know who is responsible for these signs, but they promote tourism, make the driving experience a bit pleasanter, and encourage us to be more polite to our fellow drivers.

Denise Barker

Westminster

Separate poker from casino games

Due to Gov. Parris Glendening's threatened veto, the situation looks bleak for continuation of Prince George's County's charitable casinos beyond May. Unfortunately the very popular and less controversial poker rooms will also be terminated.

One possible compromise solution to maintain high revenue for the county's firehouses and charities while placating the governor's opposition to casino gambling: Cut the blackjack and roulette, but allow the poker rooms to continue to operate and thrive.

Over 50 million Americans play poker, including current Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and recent presidents. For seniors, poker provides social interaction in a friendly and mind-stimulating context.

In Maryland, the variety of games, low betting limits and heavily attended low cost tournaments entertain thousands of poker enthusiasts.

Half of the states now allow regulated poker rooms. These states recognize that poker is a game of skill, not unlike bridge or chess. Furthermore, unlike casino gambling, poker is no more addictive than bridge or chess or other hobbies or pastimes.

By outlawing poker in Maryland, the state is forcing otherwise law-abiding citizens into illegal and potentially dangerous situations in order to pursue their pastime. Regulated public card rooms provide safety, consistent rules and monitoring to assure the integrity of the game.

Not unlike Prohibition, where a popular activity is outlawed, you invite in organized crime.

Based on the experience in California where the poker room industry directly and indirectly employs over 20,000 people, legalized poker rooms in Maryland can provide employment, tax revenue, needed funds for the charities and an enjoyable pastime for thousands of legal charitable Maryland poker enthusiasts.

+ Let the poker rooms remain.

Jay McCrensky

Bethesda

The writer is president of the Maryland Poker Players' Association, World Poker Alliance.

Circus concessions tab is a three-ring frown

A recent visit to the Ringling Brothers circus reinforced my concern about a widespread problem in the family-oriented entertainment business. Why is it that the cost of concessions -- i.e., hot dogs, popcorn, soft drinks, etc. -- is far greater than the cost of admission to the event? It is increasingly difficult for an average income family with several children to attend the circus or to go to a ballgame at Camden Yards, to a movie or to an amusement park.

Is the need to make a reasonable profit the primary force behind a $6 bag of cotton candy at the circus? Or has greed in the marketplace gotten completely out of hand?

James M. Doty

Baltimore

Old Saint Paul's should be on tour

Jacques Kelly's beautiful Easter tribute to Old Saint Paul's Church March 27 quite clearly underlines two important historical facts.

The more obvious one is that the parish of Saint Paul, Baltimore's Mother Church, reaches back into the 17th century for its origins, the tangible proof of which includes an inventory of rare books printed in London in the 1690s and still in the possession of the parish. But the equally important, although perhaps less obvious, fact is that there was a settlement along the banks of the Patapsco even then and that by 1729 the colonists had plunged westward toward the present inner basin and had established Baltimore Town.

This is worth mentioning in a year when Baltimoreans celebrate the bicentennial of the city's incorporation, but seemingly fail to remember its bicentennial roots.

I suggest, as a way of underscoring this historic city and as part of this year's celebration, the citizenry establish a new Heritage Trail which would begin in the handsome loggia of Old Saint Paul's.

Thomas X. Murn

Baltimore

More child welfare services needed

Human Resources Secretary Secretary Alvin C. Collins should be commended for commissioning the recently-released report on child welfare services. If Maryland is to continue its record as ,, a state that protects children, we now need to focus on specific solutions such as:

Providing adequate counseling and financial support outside of foster care for children placed with relatives on a long-term basis.

We must reverse the incentives which trap families in the foster care system. Placement with relatives is preferable to placement with strangers, but long-term state supervision of families is too costly and intrusive.

Maryland has been waiting over a year-and-a-half for the federal government to approve its subsidized guardianship plan to achieve this objective. It is time for action with or without a blessing from Washington.

Offering appropriate substance abuse treatment.

Parental addiction is the major cause of foster care, and Maryland's successful family preservation services would be even more effective if linked with appropriate substance abuse treatment.

Funding the legal system so that children no longer wait 18 months for consideration of whether they should be freed for adoption.

Changing foster care budgeting. Currently, it is easy to get funds to pay for the third, fourth or fifth year of foster care, but almost impossible to bolster services that would prevent long-term foster care.

Foster Care Review Board members know too well the ruinous effect of child abuse and neglect. They stand ready to advocate more service resources and to help the state utilize exiting resources better.

Charlie Cooper

Baltimore

The writer is administrator of the Maryland Citizen Board for Review of Foster Care of Children.

Cowherd did great job on Rossen story

I wish to congratulate The Sun for Kevin Cowherd's excellent article, "Playing to win," (March 26) about Rae Rossen, the "Champ, Contest Master." He presented a hilariously truthful picture while distilling the essence. I smiled all the way to the end.

Having known her, read other articles about her and even written one myself for a non-profit magazine, I must reluctantly admit that Mr. Cowherd's surpasses them all.

Blanche Cohen Sachs

Randallstown

What do you expect if a farm is nearby

I commend Gov. Parris N. Glendening for trying to protect the state's farmers from pressure and harassment brought on by the complaints about the noise, dust and smells associated with farming.

I do believe that farmers should be held accountable for violations of state pollution control and safety laws because they use chemicals and produce animal waste. But I do not think that they should be made to change their farming habits because they may bother a nearby community.

If individuals decide to move away from the city and go out to the country, then they should realize that there are certain things they will need to put up with: slow moving farm equipment on the roads, machine noise at early hours of the morning and the smell of manure and chemical fertilizers are just a few.

John Goetzke

California

Pub Date: 4/05/97

Credit unions work for membership

On Feb. 24, the Supreme Court elected to hear a case which seeks to limit who is able to become a credit union member. Stemming from this lawsuit are some myths about credit unions.

These myths were initiated and have been perpetuated by the banking industry, a $4 trillion industry, claiming that 3,500 federally chartered credit unions across the country are competing unfairly. The myths go something like this:

Myth: Credit unions can offer better rates because they are tax exempt.

Yes, credit unions are exempt from federal taxation. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives owned by their members.

However, tax exemption is not the primary reason credit unions are able to offer more attractive rates than our banking counterparts. Credit unions operate under the dictum, "members first."

This philosophy dictates that, rather than attempting to increase profits to pay stockholder dividends, credit unions generate revenue that is reinvested for the membership in the form of favorable rates and improved services.

In addition, credit unions often operate in donated space and are supervised by volunteer boards of directors who are credit union members. This lowered cost of doing business is passed on to the membership in lower loan rates and higher savings rates.

Myth: Credit unions can offer better rates because they aren't required to participate in the Community Reinvestment Act.

Bankers claim that credit unions should be forced to participate in the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Credit unions don't need to be forced to participate; they already do, voluntarily.

By providing low cost financial services to our members, credit unions reinvest in their communities every day. CRA was enacted because banks demonstrated time and time again their refusal to support the communities within which they do business. Congress recognized this difference in philosophy when the law was passed and therefor did not require credit union participation.

Myth: Credit unions have strayed from their original purpose by expanding their fields of membership and offering more services.

This is just not so. Credit unions have always, and will continue to, operate solely for the members. We have been offering more products and services in response to the wants and needs of our members. The same goes for expansion.

Credit unions have been expanding at the request of members and potential members demanding a level of service simply not provided by banks. As you can see, while banks may have a lot to say about credit unions, they aren't telling the whole story. What banks would really like is to force consumers to use their products and services for their financial needs without providing the level of service consumers want or deserve.

David P Hagar.

Towson

The writer is manager of Baltimore County Employees Federal Credit Union. This letter was also signed by CEOs of seven other federal credit unions.

Pub Date: 4/05/97

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