'Kids Count' report shows state is making...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

'Kids Count' report shows state is making gains in child welfare

The release of the annual "Kids Count" report indicates that Gov. Parris N. Glendening's focus on implementing a comprehensive, collaborative and holistic approach to addressing children, youth and family issues is on target.

In the past three years, both the infant mortality and teen birth rate have dropped steadily. In 1996, the Maryland Commission on Infant Mortality Prevention appointed a panel to study racial disparities in infant mortality, and its recommendations are being disseminated to state health professionals and community organizations.

Maryland's teen birth rate dropped 4.6 percent in 1996 and is declining 50 percent faster than the national rate. Immunization rates have reached an all-time high, while vaccine-preventable diseases have reached an all-time low.

Fewer and fewer cases involving violent juvenile crime have been referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Test scores and student achievement in our public schools have steadily risen, while the dropout rate has declined. And we have built, renovated and modernized nearly 6,000 classrooms throughout the state to reduce class size.

With continued support of community leaders, legislators, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, religious leaders, parents and others, we can provide every Maryland child the opportunity to be healthy, live in a safe community, receive a quality education and reach their full potential in life.

Linda S. Thompson

Baltimore

The writer is the governor's special secretary for Children, Youth and Families.

Gripping Dax Coward story worthy of a Pulitzer Prize

Alice Steinbach's series on Dax Coward (April 26-30) was gripping. It is Pulitzer Prize material that challenges the reader on religious beliefs and patient's rights, while remaining intensely personal. It brings the debate home. Congratulations on a job well done.

Elliott Simons

Columbia

Baltimore's hotel subsidies comparable to competitors

Recent articles have raised concerns about public financial support of major downtown hotels that will support the Baltimore Convention Center.

Baltimore has little in common with Sunbelt cities such as Tampa, Savannah and San Antonio, where construction costs are significantly lower and year-round tourism is normal. Nor are we comparable to Salt Lake City's 12-month tourist season, including its winter sports.

Baltimore has much in common with cities such as Philadelphia and St. Louis. These cities are proposing significant public funding to assist hotel construction. In Philadelphia, an unspent $21 million Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) will be supplemented by tax relief to support a 590-room Loews Hotel. In St. Louis, $74.5 million in public funding is being proposed to support a 1,000-room Marriott.

The amount of public assistance Baltimore has approved for the Wyndham hotel at Inner Harbor East and for the Grand Hyatt is within the range of public support those competitors offer.

A few years ago, Ernst and Young/Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group completed a study that analyzed nine hotels in Atlantic City, Chicago, Houston, Miami Beach, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Tampa and Wichita. The average subsidy for the nine hotels was 57 percent of the total project costs, substantially higher than proposed in Baltimore.

BDC recommends public support for private development only when there is a clear need. We perform financial analyses to assure that there is no windfall profit to the private sector and that the city receives a fair return on its investment.

Roger C. Lipitz

M.J. Brodie

Baltimore

Mr. Lipitz is chairman and Mr. Brodie is president of the Baltimore Development Corp.

Critics fail to realize Hippodrome can help area

I've noticed, with a mixture of bewilderment and disgust, letters in this space decrying efforts to rehab the Hippodrome Theatre. The opposition is based on the perception that the area around the venerable Eutaw Street theater is dangerous and dirty. A question for these visionless people: How do blighted areas ever get turned around? With a magic wand?

The Inner Harbor was once a collection of rotting wharves with only rats and winos in attendance after dark. Fells Point was once thought to be seedy and rundown enough that planners were ready to put a highway through it. Only when we start to care about an area -- and back it up with investment -- do things improve.

The Hippodrome is worth the effort. The theater is a historical and architectural gem, and its tarnishing through neglect is a criminal example of our mindless, throwaway society at work.

In instances too numerous to mention, renovated historic theaters are dynamic keystones of urban renewal around the country. Detroit's dazzlingly renovated Fox theater, and its lively environs, is about the only area people will visit in that city after dark.

Get hip to a thriving, new Hipp. Rebuild it and they will come.

Brennen Jensen

Baltimore

NATO growth an arms deal, not a return to Cold War

Yikes! The Cold War may be back ("NATO expansion clears Senate by vote of 80-19," May 1). From the article: "Critics contend that expanding the pact will dilute NATO's self-defense mission, antagonize Russia, jeopardize Russian-U.S. arms-control negotiations and draw a new dividing line -- a new Iron Curtain -- across Europe.

"We'll be back on a hair-trigger," said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, warning that enlargement would rekindle the Cold War. "We're talking about nuclear war."

Pretty scary. But I'm not panicking. Expansion of NATO is probably just another opportunity for the U.S. defense industry to gouge American taxpayers. As The Sun reports, "The United States will also continue to subsidize billions of dollars of sophisticated military equipment sold to the fledgling NATO members so they can meet NATO's stringent Western military requirements."

One thing about the article puzzles me: Its placement in the paper. After all, "Expanding NATO has become one of the biggest foreign-policy issues before Congress in decades," The Sun tells its readers. Yet the story is buried on page 10A, while the lead article on the front page is "Hubbell indicted on tax evasion."

It's difficult not to draw the conclusion that Clinton witch hunts are more newsworthy to The Sun than the possible resurrection of the Cold War.

Joe Surkiewicz

Baltimore

Articles show agendas of two city papers

In the same week, The Sun reports the ultra-conservative Calvert Institute's findings on an overstaffed fire department ("City's payroll called bloated," May 5) and the ultra-liberal City Paper publishes union rhetoric about understaffing. Pick or create your own hidden agenda.

Herman Williams Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department.

Palestinians failing to keep their end of peace accords

Your article "Israel given peace deadline," should have read "Arafat given accountability deadline." It has been 4 1/2 years, and the Palestinians still have not changed all the clauses in their charter that call for Israel's destruction.

Yasser Arafat has not been accountable for his part in the accords. He has violated commitments repeatedly without criticism. Yet, your article stated: "Arafat criticized [Benjamin] Netanyahu for not respecting the peace accords".

A prerequisite for any peace agreement is to recognize and respect your peace partner's right to exist. However, how can Mr. Arafat respect Israel's right to exist as a nation and people if he does not even recognize Israel's right to be a nation and people with their own capital like every other nation?

Israel truly wants peace with its Arab neighbors. Israel has turned over seven cities to Mr. Arafat for peace. However, what did they get in return? Terrorist attacks, burning of the U.S. and Israeli flags, the assassination of moderate Arabs who tried to cooperate with Israel and mobs of militant Palestinians.

The peace agreements advocate some land for peace, not the whole state of Israel. The accords were also supposed to be respectul negotiations, but they have been used as a front for TC political blackmail, threats and intimidations. I am ashamed of my country for putting this kind of unjust pressure on tiny Israel.

Barbara Ann Bloom

Owings Mills

Pub Date: 5/10/98

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