Gambling debateCan slot machines rescue cash-strapped public...


Gambling debate

Can slot machines rescue cash-strapped public schools? Or would expanded gambling create more problems than it solves? We welcome your opinion on this and other current topics.

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Dated information is worrisome foundation for city housing policy

There were two misleading figures in David Folkenflik's otherwise excellent reporting on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's report on the lack of improvement in "worst case" housing needs ("U.S. rental housing in crisis, Cuomo says," April 29).

Although the national estimates used in the article are based on 1995 data and, therefore, reflect the status of the crisis in affordable rental housing in the mid-1990s, the data for both Baltimore and the metropolitan area are from 1991.

Therefore, we cannot draw any conclusions about how things may have changed during the early to mid-1990s in Baltimore.

The next data collection in the city and region is only now beginning, and given the long turnaround time at the Census Bureau for producing public-use files, this information probably will not be available until at least 2000.

The period from 1992 to the present has been an eventful one for Baltimore, bringing many changes to the population and the housing market, both bad and good. Basing our impressions and more importantly, our policy responses on 7-year-old data is worrisome.

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau has been moving to less frequent data collection at the city and metropolitan area level. .. What's worse, a proposal to eliminate this data collection is being given serious consideration by Congress, HUD and the Census Bureau.

If this proposal is accepted, Baltimore citizens and policy makers will be forced to rely more on anecdotal information for important decisions.

Sandra J. Newman


Explain that rigorous tests really grade the grownups

If you want to help your children survive the rigors of standardized tests, just remember to hold them, love them, tell them that they can only do the best they can do, and then explain that standardized testing is really designed to show how well the adults are doing at running a school system.

Leslie Rehbein Marqua


Clearing up the confusion over BGE options program

Electric deregulation is going to be an immense undertaking that at times, no doubt, will confuse and frustrate even the most knowledgeable among us.

Some confusion is evident as the natural gas business opens to competition. That frustration surfaced recently in Alan McAllister's April 10 letter to the editor ("BGE hidden fees, estimates drive up deregulation costs").

Traditionally, gas service meant one company supplied and delivered natural gas to the customer. A customer's bill reflected that as a single service and a single charge. Under Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s gas options pilot program, residential customers can select an alternative gas supplier.

That supplier brings the gas to the Baltimore area, but the gas is delivered through BGE's 5,000-mile system of distribution pipes.

To a customer participating in gas options, it may appear as though charges are being added to their bill when, in fact, they're seeing the supplying and delivering billed as separate services.

It's important to note that gas customers -- those who elect to remain with BGE for gas supply and those who select an alternative supplier -- enjoy vital BGE services. The fees Mr. McAllister noted cover the costs of these services.

Beginning this month, customers are seeing a revised bill format that addresses concerns raised by Mr. McAllister.

Douglas DeWitt


The writer is director of gas regulatory planning for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

Laws of the United States supersede all foreign deals

In response to the Opinion Commentary article "U.S. allows execution, ignores international law," by Charles Levendosky (April 23), why didn't the author mention Article Six, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution?

He notes: "and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby," but neglected the rest of it which says ". . . anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

It is clear to me that judges are bound by the U.S. Constitution, laws of the United States and/or laws of the state in which they reside.

They can't possibly be bound to a treaty outside the laws of this nation if the treaty is in violation of the precepts laid out in criminal laws of the states.

George Washington said, "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connections as possible. 'Tis is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world."

It is quite obvious the elected leaders of the United States refuse to heed these words. However, they would do well to do so. This nation would be much better off if they did.

Olatunji Mwamba


Children selling drugs are the real criminals

In response to the April 28 letter that preferred spending money to pursue "real criminals" rather than young drug users like the ones caught recently in a police infiltration sting at a local high school: Those kids are real criminals.

The use, distribution or possession of illegal drugs is just that -- illegal -- and embarrassing and expensive for parents.

K. T. Barnes


Home sellers should avoid realty commission charges

In the April 26 article "State's top realty firm to add fee" in the Real Estate section, Long & Foster Realty Inc., the largest realty company in Maryland, has decided to charge sellers a $149 documention fee. Two other real estate companies, Coldwell Banker Realty and O'Conor, Piper & Flynn-ERA, also charge a fee.

All three real estate companies say the fee is to cover administrative and governmental costs. P. Wesley Foster, president of Long & Foster, whose company racked up $8.9 billion in sales last year, said, "But we as a company want and need to get 7 percent, and we want and need to get the document fee."

Patrick Kane of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. said, "In this day and age, it is impossible to run a business on 6-percent commission and still be able to provide a level of service."

He went on to say that it is not unusual for an agent to charge a higher commission if a property would be considered a tough sell.

In my opinion it's all hogwash; the seller is being ripped off. There is no reason that commission rates shouldn't be 3 percent. Selling a house is a simple process. Sellers should shop for the lowest commission rate, just as they do for any other product or service.

If they can't get a reasonable rate, they should sell the house on their own. When they find a buyer, they can hire an attorney or buy the preprinted forms and get the house sold for less than $1,000.

Frank W. Soltis

Bel Air

Doubting scholars have not disproved miracles by Jesus

So, scholars fail to find any historical basis or verifiable facts to support the miracles attributed to Jesus Christ's divinity ("The historical Jesus and the Bible," May 3). It is futile to prove the validity of matters of religious faith, and proof is not required by those who believe.

The fact is that Christ's divinity is ineffable truth. To prove it -- to force it into a definition -- is to diminish it. Scholars should stop wasting their time.

Steve Fulton


Good Samaritan gave help in life-threatening event

All well-intentioned regulations can be carried to absurdity. Such would have been the censure of Christine Rhodes by Carroll County schools. ("School punishes pupil in rescue," May 3).

An asthma attack is a life-threatening event, and time is of the essence in being treated. Christine may well have saved the life of Brandy Dyer. Christine did not give Brandy a mind-altering drug to get high. By sharing her inhaler, she gave her friend essentially the equivalent of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Christine's school record should be ennobled with a notation: good Samaritan.

Dr. Joseph R. Cowen


Pub Date: 5/09/98

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