Pratt Library reference books not scattered 'hither and yon'
Among the delights of working at the Pratt Library are the frequent reminders its staff receives of how much Baltimoreans care about their library.
The most recent evidence of this was the letter from Tom M. Padwa sent to Pratt administrators and also published April 8 in The Sun ("Reference room missed at Pratt").
Rather than scattering reference materials "hither and yon," as Mr. Padwa states, the library has brought the books most in demand even closer to customers entering the central library building.
The volumes are now shelved in bookcases along the Central Hall, in convenient proximity to the public catalog, electronic resources, and to staff on duty.
The relocation of books and other materials from the General Information Department was completed more than a year ago for compelling reasons:
The hundreds of feet of valuable first-floor shelf space taken up by collections of under-utilized volumes, most of which were costly duplicates already available in other departments;
The critical need for easily accessible space for the expanding, diversified audio-visual collection and services;
The growing number of reference resources (encyclopedias, indexes, directories, etc.) available in electronic formats, more up-to-date and space-saving than the print versions;
The budget-related reduction in staff, necessitating fewer service points.
Staff members in the General Information Department formerly were assigned to cover three public service points: the Information Desk in the Central Hall, the Reference Desk within the department, and the popular telephone reference service.
Of these, the Reference Desk was least busy. These same staff members are now able to concentrate their efforts on covering the Information Desk and the telephones in greater numbers, providing public service where the demand is greatest.
Those books that have been relocated to other departments are now part of comprehensive subject collections in which Mr. Padwa and other customers will find not just five or six books on a topic, as they may have in the old General Information Department, but 20 to 100 books in a subject area served not by "generalists," but by subject specialists.
In addition, many of the books in the General Information Department were duplicate copies of books in the subject departments -- a luxury the library can no longer afford.
Much of the shelf space was taken by magazines, all of which have been moved to a consolidated Periodicals Department that provides access in a single location to the 4,000 current and 7,000 older titles the library carries. The depth of this collection and the easy access the new department provides were described fully in Scott Shane's excellent April 4 article, "On paper, not online."
Mr. Padwa's concern for school-age youth is shared by the Pratt Library. In January 1995, the library opened Student Express, a section of the central library devoted exclusively to reference and homework support books and other materials for middle- and high-school students, enhanced by computer resources, study tables, and a trained young adult services specialist. Last year, this service was extended to all Pratt libraries around the city.
We are grateful to Mr. Padwa and The Sun for giving us this opportunity to provide the newspaper's readers with a clarification of our reasons for departing from the traditional Reference Room concept.
We continue to seek innovative ways to enhance the delivery of library service to the public while recognizing budget constraints and making effective use of state-of-the-art technology and techniques.
The writer is acting chief of the State Library Resource Center for the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
Maryland welfare reform offers unique opportunity to overhaul failed system
As co-chairmen of the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Welfare Reform, we were extremely disappointed with the March 28 Opinion Commentary article, "Welfare reform: the return of indentured servitude."
Not only does it contain inaccurate facts regarding the laws governing welfare reform, it also misrepresents their intent.
During the past two years, Gov. Parris Glendening, the General Assembly and the Department of Human Resources have worked cooperatively to create a new welfare reform system that gives local social service departments the autonomy, flexibility and funding to design job programs and support services to break the cycle of welfare dependency.
As a result of welfare-to-work programs, thousands of Marylanders are now gainfully employed and there has been a 25 percent drop in Maryland's welfare roles in just two years.
The article would have Sun readers believe that welfare reform allows low-skilled and low-wage workers to be replaced by "welfare trainees." This is simply not true, as it is strictly prohibited by federal law.
In addition, Maryland's pending law provides workers with a grievance process in which they may appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings if they believe they have lost a job or even had hours reduced to create an opening for a welfare participant.
Furthermore, the Maryland law establishing tax credits for hiring welfare recipients prohibits an employer from manipulating the system in such a manner. This legislation provides that a tax credit cannot be claimed for an employee who "is hired to replace a laid-off employee or to replace an employee who is on strike."
In response to the authors' comments regarding low-wage labor, it is important to note that obtaining a first job is the most important step a person can take toward eventually receiving a meaningful "living wage" job.
The Maryland Welfare Innovation Act of 1996, our state's historic new approach, did not impose time limits on welfare. However, on Aug. 22, 1996, this legislation was overridden with the signing of the federal welfare reform legislation that declared no one may receive cash assistance for more than 24 months without working or participating in an activity leading to employment and that families may not receive benefits for longer than 60 cumulative months in a lifetime.
These federal reforms dictate that we can no longer conduct business as usual without risking the well-being of thousands of Maryland's children.
The authors of the article and others who feel that current welfare reform efforts are unfair should take their concerns to Washington, where time limits originated.
In addition, we ask them to direct their energies to becoming partners in the task of finding jobs for those facing a ticking clock. Helping families achieve independence requires the support of the entire community.
The writers are members of the Senate of Maryland and House of Delegates, respectively.
We must start planning now for global warming
In her April 8 column, "Global warming? There's no consensus yet," Linda Seebach suggests nothing be done to counter global-warming until we can be absolutely certain human beings contribute to it.
While the scientific community is not unanimous on the subject, common sense and experience with analogous situations tell us that the evidence is sufficient to plan reasonable steps to cope with this potential calamity.
For instance, we know that man-made chemicals can destroy the protective ozone layer. We know that man-made acid rains can alter or destroy ecosystems. We know that some industrial particulates cause lung disease and cancer in the populations ,, that breathe them.
We know that auto emissions contribute to smog and exacerbate asthma and other health problems.
So why is it a leap of faith to accept that the pumping of millions of tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere by human beings may be causing other large-scale problems, such as global warming?
Let the naysayers explain how these additional massive amounts of man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rendered harmless, and let them prove it beyond a shadow of doubt.
We have witnessed how human activities have degraded our waters, and we have taken serious action to reverse the damage. Yet decades later, despite some local successes, the world's waters remain threatened. We won't have to play this kind of catch-up with global warming if we plan now for change.
Ms. Seebach foresees dire economic and political consequences changing our way of life to cope with the threat of warming. Her fears may become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we wait for absolute certainty before we act.
Making orderly, informed choices now, before a crisis, may allow us to avoid Draconian responses later.
There may be no certainty, but common sense, experience and the preponderance of current science suggest we take global warming seriously, and begin basing policy decisions on its possibility.
James D. Emberger
Suburban crimes are a fact of life
The Sun's series and subsequent rebuttals about the city's housing problems were educational and Dan Rodricks' April 9 column about Federal Hill led to the airing of crime issues. Yet the truth is the problems don't go away once you cross city lines.
The suburbs are plagued by their own brand of blight -- unsightly, unchecked development and traffic marring once-pleasant neighborhoods.
The suburbs are now facing the kinds of crimes once considered exclusive to the inner city. The suburbs are also increasingly dealing with overcrowded, poorly performing public schools. The Sun covers these topics, but the opinion columnists and radio talk show hosts, who drum up emotion, rarely focus on them.
Baltimore City has actually improved in many ways over the years and we are beginning to turn the corner on key problems. I find great pleasure living in the city and experience its advantages every single day.
One-way streets not the cause
The April 12 column by Antero Pietila took Henry A. Barnes, Baltimore's commissioner of transit and traffic 40 years ago, to task for doing what he was hired to do: move traffic.
Barnes was brought here from Denver by a mayor who recognized that this city has a problem and proceeded to do something about it. What a contrast to the current administration, which has only succeeded in degrading our city government to the point where almost nothing gets done right.
Barnes brought Baltimore into the 20th century and cleaned up the traffic morass it was in. He created progressive timing of traffic signals, which kept traffic moving at a steady pace instead of waiting at interminably long red lights, the norm of today. Moving cars, trucks and buses emit far less pollution than those that spend most of their time idling at signals where nothing is moving. The excessive running of red lights now is surely a result of the penalizing waits now required.
Barnes recognized that parked cars hindered snow plowing and instituted snow emergency routes that worked. Woe to him who left his car parked on a snow emergency route. He rented cranes to move them away and the plows did their job.
If Mr. Pietila thinks that the lack of people presence and neighborhood degradation in Reservoir Hill and other formerly desirable communities is because of one-way streets, one wonders what planet he has been living on. Keeping off the streets in Baltimore is because of fear; one-way streets are not the culprit.
Walter J. Addison
The writer is a former administrator of the Maryland Mass Transit Administration and general manager of the old Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Child care system earns high marks
The Sun's April 13 article, "Child care providers not tracked," performed a public service by informing readers of the importance of using licensed day care. However, the headline was thoroughly misleading and did a disservice to Maryland's excellent system of care.
Maryland has one of the finest child care tracking systems in the country. Information about every registered family child care home and licensed child care center is maintained in an automated data base.
The information is available to help families find care for their children through the Maryland Child Care Resource Network. The network is operated by the Maryland Committee for Children through a contract with the Department of Human Resources. This comprehensive resources and referral system, called LOCATE, is one of the reasons Working Mother magazine has rated Maryland as one of the top 10 states for child care every year for the last four.
The writer represents the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
State tax 'cut' hits two-earner families
The so-called 1997 Tax Reduction Act just passed by the Maryland legislature both gives and takes away benefits.
Since 1967, the Maryland income tax laws have provided a break for those households where both spouses have to work.
This two-income subtraction is being gradually reduced under House Bill 511 from $1,200 to $1,105 in 2002.
This take-away falls hardest on low-income families that will get no benefit from the reduction in the tax rate. Only the top step in the tax bracket is being lowered.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on whether you are a taxpayer or a posturing politician, the full impact of this new law does not kick in until Jan. 1, 2002.
Robert W. Gifford
Virginia's governor proclaims treason
I must commend the efforts by the Virginia black leaders who--have demanded the resignation of Gov. George Allen. As residents of Virginia, they have that right.
Gov. George Allen's proclamation, which urged residents of Virginia to respect "the honorable sacrifices of Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens to the cause of liberty," is completely absurd.
What is so honorable about defending the slave trade? And to whom was Governor Allen referring regarding "liberty"? The slaves who fought for the Confederacy were forced to do so and blacks were not even citizens at the time.
The one thing that many Americans fail to realize is that the Confederacy and the Confederate flag represent not only racism, but treason. History tells us that the Confederacy seceded from the Union, which is an act of treason.
Every citizen of this nation should be outraged at Governor Allen's proclamation and any other state that glamorizes the behavior of the former Confederate states.
!Sterling D. Tilley Jr.
Criticism of wealthy athletes is hypocritical
Last week The Sun carried yet another letter (April 9) from a correspondent professing to be sickened by his perceived "public display of greed" exhibited by today's professional athletes.
This seems to be the general impression. People resent the fact that these men are making so much money. The hue and cry would be greatly diminished if these complaints were issued only by those who have a moral right to complain. I'm referring to anyone who has been offered a raise and refused to accept it.
When I was in school, I learned that the capitalist system, which most of the non-communist population of our country espouses, dictates that we sell our goods or services to the highest bidder. When did that turn from the American Way into greed? When someone's income exceeds your own?
Vacant houses pose danger to neighborhoods
I welcome the renewed discussion that housing policies will receive as a consequence of The Sun's recent series "Dreams, Debts, and Demolitions." I agree that non-profit housing organizations have and will continue to play an important role in the revitalization of the city's neighborhoods.
What the articles do not properly recognize is the complex nature of the partnership that is needed to tackle and solve the city's vexing housing conditions and the magnitude of the resources required to achieve success.
A review of any of the numerous housing initiatives in Baltimore neighborhoods will show that positive accomplishments happen when the effort is launched through a partnership that includes community residents, local businesses, including non-profits and foundations, as well as the city and state governments.
The city has always been a strong partner in all of the successful efforts building on the strengths of established neighborhood based non-profits and initiating innovative strategies that encourage new partnerships.
The writer is the executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore Inc.
The Sun's series on vacant city housing programs for vacant houses missed the essence of the dilemma as I have experienced it representing community associations in many low-income communities in Baltimore. The issue is the health, safety and welfare of the people who still reside in the community.
Demolition is often the only alternative for houses that have become a danger and a nuisance to those who live around them.
I thought it particularly instructive that on April 9 The Sun displayed a front-page photo of a burning vacant house, a fire that displaced two families and did major damage to four occupied units. This is only one of the fears of the residents who live next to or close to vacant units.
In our society, we have allocated both rights and responsibilities to property owners. These have been discussed and analyzed at length in our courts of law and our legislatures.
But what is clear, and has been restated by the Supreme Court, is that never is the right to create a nuisance considered part of the "bundle of rights" transferred with property.
It is unfortunate that many low- and moderate-income homeowners have been caught in economic dislocations. While I am sure there have been, and will be, errors on the part of the Housing and Community Development bureaucracy in dealing with particular cases, I also know of many cases where workers in that agency have gone above and beyond the letter of their job descriptions to assist homeowners who are earnestly trying to rehabilitate and maintain their properties. We should promote the positive examples because there are many.
The request for demolition has come from many in Baltimore's neighborhoods. It is an unfortunate necessity for the safety of our residents.
Housing Commissioner Dan Henson is in a problem-solving frame of mind. He may not always be right, but he's put a lot of energy into listening to community residents and turning their ideas into programs that can be good for the long term in our community.
Brenda Bratton Blom
The writer is the executive director of Empowerment Legal Services Program Inc.
Pub Date: 4/19/97