Don't mess with oceans to produce more fish
One need not be an environmental Cassandra to quiver with fear after reading Dennis T. Avery's recent suggestion that the time is ripe to manipulate the oceans to produce more fish. His commentary (April 4, "Should we fertilize the oceans for fishing?") relates to recent experiments in which the introduction of a half-ton of iron into the ocean resulted in a forty-fold increase in production over a 200-square-mile area.
He proposes the application of iron to "renew the oceans' abundance." Had he done a bit of homework on the topic, Mr. Avery would probably have been surprised to find that the "oceans' abundance" doesn't need renewal, since the production that had formally gone into fish stocks that have been overfished, such as cod and haddock, now flows generously into stocks that are not desired or pursued by man, such as skates and rays.
So, it is not a matter of a loss of production, but simply a change in what is being produced. But, placing aside the fact that he may not know anything about that of which he speaks, his analogy between fertilizing the ocean with iron and a farmer fertilizing a corn field with nutrients boggles an ecologist's mind.
Some of the world's most esteemed ecologists have established their reputations through development of computerized representations of complex ecosystems, such as those found in the ocean.
However, behind closed doors, most will concede that, in attempting to develop characterizations of these complex webs of living things, we deal with black boxes within black boxes.
Elegant mathematical predictions of trends and changes are regularly upset due to unknown factors or feedback, truly an example of the law of unintended consequences. High-level production of monocultured crops such as corn and soybeans through application of fertilizer is possible because we have stripped the growing area of all other species, both competing plants as well as consuming animals.
A more appropriate analogy than Mr. Avery's for iron enrichment of the ocean would be the fertilization of a vast forest because the deer population has declined.
Such action is as likely to result in the conversion of forest to meadow or huge populations of wood mice than to increase the abundance of deer.
Ignorance may be bliss, but not when we play with the world's oceans. Intensive production of fish and shellfish through single species aquaculture (e.g., net pen salmon) is economically viable and can be done in a controlled manner with defined environmental consequences.
We shouldn't mess with mother nature.
William A. Richkus
Non-profits small part of housing answer
Your April 8 housing article, "How city can rise above wreckage," suggests that the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center can renovate a "gut" rehab for $35,000, and gives two addresses, which you took from the Housing Permits Office, which tells one nothing about the original condition of the house or any related costs, such as acquisition and holding expenses.
Your suggestion would not be so upsetting if I had not taken great pains to try to educate your reporters to the reality of renovating vacant houses.
Included were several current examples with meticulous cost-breakdowns, two "gut" rehabs at $75,000 and $79,426, respectively, and one "mod" rehab at $55,000.
It is unrealistic to think that non-profits such as St. Ambrose can play a major role in Baltimore's rejuvenation unless we are given access to large amounts of capital. Until then, we will continue to play a relatively small role in the city but a significant role in the lives of the hundreds of families our programs serve each year.
Vincent P. Quayle
The writer is executive director of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.
Germany's treatment of East Germans
I am a West German resident currently staying in the U.S.A.
I read the Opinion Commentary article by Robert Gerald Livingston, "Seven years later, Germany is still divided," April 2, with growing interest and growing anger.
Even if a commentary is meant to express the opinion of the author rather than to document a certain situation, this comment is misleading because certain facts are not mentioned.
The author states that important institutions are still dominated by Westerners. The old Communist administration was purged and East German factories were closed, leading to a substantial rise in unemployment rates in East Germany.
A look back in West German history, however, shows that Germany has dealt with the remnants of another totalitarian system not so long ago. After World War II, the Allied nations helped us to purge our administration from Nazi followers.
Although this led to unemployment for those people, too, no one would doubt that this was an urgently necessary step toward democracy.
Mr. Livingston states that East Germans are treated as second-class citizens. I do not know any other nation that subsidizes a certain part of the country with a special tax paid exclusively by the citizens of the remaining parts of the country.
This fact demonstrates that the West Germans definitely try to improve the situation for their East German countrymen who suffered under a totalitarian system for more than 40 years.
There is a vast difference between recognizing (and trying to improve) obvious material differences between the two parts of Germany and treating the East Germans as second-class citizens.
Due to this long-lasting difference in education and political systems, however, East and West Germans have certain distinct dissimilarities.
As a consequence, relations between East and West Germans are still influenced by prejudices and suspicions today. This, however, is true for both sides.
In my personal experience, a certain subset of East Germans treat West Germans as conquerors, whereas a small group of West Germans demonstrate an arrogant behavior toward the East Germans. Both minorities disregard the fact that the unification was wished by both parts of Germany.
Mr. Livingston concludes that it will take a long time for all East Germans to gain equality of opportunity.
He disregards the fact that the education systems in East and West Germany are similar since the reunion, and that a substantially larger amount of money is invested in the improvement of East German research and teaching than for West German colleges.
I agree that reunion of the two parts of Germany will take a long time.
I disagree, however, with the author's opinion that the reason for this lack of equality is exclusively due to West German attitudes, and I vastly disagree with the assumption that we treat our East German fellow-countrymen as second-class citizens.
A jockey who believes slots will save racing
As the great slots debate continues, I feel compelled to share my opinion.
I am a thoroughbred jockey. Three years ago I brought my family to Maryland after competing on the New York circuit. The appeal of the Maryland racing circuit was very strong for my family. The opportunity to live a slower-paced lifestyle, yet still be involved in a major racing circuit, was promising.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening is destroying that promise.
The most obvious example of what slot machines can do is Delaware Park racetrack.
The boom they're experiencing is tremendous and well-documented. The impact upon Maryland racing has already begun.
When leading trainers such as King Leatherbury, Dale Capuano and Graham Motion send major portions of their stables to Delaware Park, the writing on the wall becomes easy to read: Go where the money is!
But it's not only Delaware Park that's a threat to Maryland racing. West Virginia has granted permission for Charles Town racetrack to utilize VLTs, another form of slot machines, to boost their industry.
In Pennsylvania, they're introducing legislation to permit slot machines at racetracks. In fact, almost every racetrack in America is investigating the idea of a partnership with slot machines or other alternatives.
Even such racing strongholds as the New York Racing Association and Churchill Downs in Kentucky are seriously trying to get slot machines. It's possible that every racetrack in the country will be prospering from slots within the next five years -- that is, all racetracks outside Maryland.
So what happens to the 20,000 people employed in the Maryland horse industry, and the $1.5 billion impact the horse industry brings to the state? They will be dispersed to the states that recognize horse racing as a friend, not an enemy.
I have difficulty understanding Mr. Glendening's opposition to slots, especially when the state already operates a lottery.
I find it hypocritical to allow a lottery in supermarkets and convenience stores, where people must go, but prohibit them at a racetrack, where people go of their own volition.
Those concerned about the criminal element that supposedly surrounds slot machines should visit Delaware Park.
The slot machine parlor is not filled with drug dealers and prostitutes.
You are more likely to run into your grandparents with smiles on their faces, because it's more of an entertainment venue than a casino. A venue, paired with the thrill of horse racing, is an exciting way to spend the day.
It is also a powerful money maker. The revenue generated through slot machines not only will keep a proud Maryland racing industry thriving into the next century, but also lead to lower taxes and more money for education, law enforcement, etc.
When Maryland Jockey Club President Joe De Francis stated that the Preakness is in jeopardy of leaving if slot machines are not allowed, he was not crying wolf. First it will be the Preakness; then the Maryland horse tradition will be eroded by those without foresight.
Taxpayers should not have to pay for war
The April 15 federal tax deadline presents a recurring religious and moral dilemma for me. My religious tradition (Church of the Brethren) has always taught that "all war is sin" and that believers should not participate.
Although the government no longer wants my body, it still demands my money (about 50 percent of federal income taxes) to pay for wars, past and present. As a conscientious objector to war, it violates my deeply held religious beliefs to be forced to pay for military activities.
Fortunately, the government recognizes the right of conscientious objectors not to fight. Now it should be consistent and pass the Peace Tax Fund Bill that would grant conscientious objectors the right to divert the military portion of their taxes to peace-promoting programs.
Then I and thousands of others would not be forced to make the agonizing decision between obeying the law and being true to our faith.
David W. Fouts
Give the able-bodied a few good spaces
I would like to add another point of view to those raised in Marina Sarris's March 31 article on handicapped parking.
My issue is public relations. When I drive up to a large, or small, place of business I feel anger when I see row upon row of empty handicapped spaces in the premium spots and every other space filled, resulting in a long walk.
There are many times when the able-bodied do not feel well or have extreme time constraints. Resentment for handicapped rights is inevitable.
I propose the following solutions. Intersperse some regular parking within the handicapped slots so, like a lottery, some of us have a chance at convenience.
I also propose that the lines of the handicapped spots be uniformly colored in bright red to more easily spot the offenders without permits who abuse the system.
Shirley Landon Lupton
Mt. Washington school decision was painful
School-based management suffers a serious setback when, as evidenced in the recent article about class size at Mt. Washington Elementary School, Mayor Kurt Schmoke seeks to reverse a well-reasoned, yet admittedly difficult, decision made by a school's local governing bodies, and approved by the city school board.
We went through an arduous and painful process that included all parents, with many long and productive meetings among and between parents and school administrators, before the decision was reached to ask out-of-zone students to return to their neighborhood schools.
This was a difficult, yet necessary, decision. We all know personally these children and parents. We also understand that those parents who enrolled their children from out-of-zone for third grade and below were told, at the time they enrolled, that it was possible they might be asked to leave if the enrollment of in-zone students became too large.
Mt. Washington is bulging with far more students than it comfortably can handle or was designed to handle.
Something simply had to be done to lower the increasing student population. This was not the decision of a thoughtless few, but of an informed body of concerned parents and administrators.
Even with the removal of out-of-zone students, Mt. Washington remains the most diverse school in class and race in the Baltimore City school system.
It is this diversity, and the continued commitment of the excellent teachers at the school, that is Mt. Washington's appeal.
The sense of outrage about the mayor's intervention is deep among us, as well as a number of other parents, black and white.
Our commitment to the city's schools is challenged each and every time such attempts to micro-manage our school are made, particularly where only one side of the story has been heard.
Nancy & Doug Carrey-Beaver
Cartoon insulted suicide survivors
I found the Mike Lane cartoon (apparently referring to the Heaven's Gate suicide) that appeared on the March 31 editorial page of The Sun to be in appallingly bad taste.
By depicting the "cult" members as buffoons, he insults their memory and surely causes pain to their survivors.
His balloon caption about lost luggage trivializes the whole tragic incident.
Leight M. Johnson
Bradford Jacobs quality recalled
To the recounting of Bradford Jacobs' impressive career in his April 7 obituary, permit me to add a sterling quality that I will always associate with him: The courtesies of a gentleman.
City population losses don't erase problems
The April 5 letter by Douglas P. Munro, CEO of the Baltimore City-based Calvert Institute for Policy Research, is just too lame to pass unchallenged.
In comparing Baltimore demographically to six "similar" cities and concluding that the municipal work force, particularly in the area of public safety, is bloated ignores at least three critical factors.
As the thousand or so residents flee the city each month, they leave their homes behind but the city's boundaries do not recede proportionally. An apt analogy would be a 20-story, 200-unit apartment building once fully occupied, then subsequently vacated by half of its residents. Is there any smaller building to secure, operate and maintain? And is it likely to cost those who do remain more per resident to do so?
Many of those left behind suffer the ills of socio-economic castaways weighing very heavily upon the municipal services provided, particularly public safety. It is not coincidental that the police, fire and emergency medical services have been stretched to the absolute limit at a time when population is in decline.
Finally, while Baltimore City remains a hub of health care, business and finance, I would estimate that its day-time population at more than a million, not to mention the additional thousands drawn by the arts, entertainment and sports, both day and night.
Stephan G. Fugate
The writer is president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association Local No. 964.
Stadium School's status misrepresented
We are writing in response to Jean Thompson's March 28 article about the Stadium School, "Low test scores may shut school run by parents."
We at Citizens Planning and Housing Association obtained the audit on which the article is based, and we are astounded at the representation of this document by The Sun. Not only does the article misstate the contents of the audit, but it also fails to mention some basic facts about the school and its performance. The article states that the Stadium School "is failing and will have to close if its test scores and instruction do not improve, a school system audit suggest this week."
The audit does not suggest this. Nowhere in the audit is the word "failure" mentioned. In fact, when noting that the Stadium School has not yet achieved its goal, the audit states that "suggestions are offered as a means of helping the school to achieve that goal."
In addition, the audit outlines 10 strengths of the Stadium School, including "group activities and projects in which the students engage are an effective means of preparing students for the type of tasks they will encounter on the MSPAP; teachers demonstrated sound instructional practices and a real commitment to having students learn; little disciplining was required; and despite being located outside the community, the school has achieved the satisfactory state standard for attendance of 94 percent."
The article does note that the Stadium School showed progress in its eighth grade and ranked among the top 10 middle schools in the city on tests used to judge school quality -- the MSPAP.
In fact, out of 37 Baltimore City middle schools ranked according to 1996 MSPAP scores, the Stadium School scored higher than all but four schools in composite scores. They were 5th in reading, 5th in writing, 8th in math, and 4th in attendance.
This is after only two years. The Stadium School has set some ambitious five-year goals for itself.
The Sun should have pointed out that a statement in the audit that reads, "based on current data trends, it seems highly unlikely that the standard will be met by that time" is not accurate. If data trends can be statistically determined after just two years, eighth graders will meet the state MSPAP standards that the Stadium School agreed to be judged by in its proposal.
The audit program review and summary note four times that the Stadium School's ability to pursue its unique program is hindered by its location outside of the community. This is true.
The Eastern High School site is a perfect location for the school, but similar to what parents, teachers, and community residents experienced when they fought to establish the school, they have met with resistance and mixed messages from officials responsible for negotiating a lease for a public school in old Eastern High School.
Cheryl A. Casciani
The writers are, respectively, executive director and co-chair of the education committee, CPHA.
Pub Date: 4/12/97