We must stop disrespecting African heritageJames D....

THE BALTIMORE SUN

We must stop disrespecting African heritage

James D. Walsh's letter ("Head-wrap article was off the mark," May 24) stated that the Rev. Robert A. F. Turner's May 10 article that provided an 18th-century legal and cultural context for understanding the adverse reaction of some to Shermia Isaacs wearing an African head-wrap at her Howard County school was "interesting, but otherwise irrelevant to the recent controversy."

Mr. Walsh seems unable to comprehend that racial and cultural attitudes of 1998 continue to be influenced by the legal system established centuries ago in this nation for the purpose of advancing a claimed Eurocentric cultural supremacy and hegemony over African people.

Also, Mr. Walsh's myopia has prevented him from understanding what seemed clear to me in the portions of the Rev. Turner's article concerning Howard County Board of Education dress code policy and the practice at Harper's Choice Middle School.

There was no board policy that prohibited the head-wrap, and the school had a rule only on the wearing of hats.

We now know that exceptions had been made to even that rule for other students.

Contrary to Mr. Walsh's presumption that there is a race-neutral dress code, it appears that a prohibition was invented by school staff specifically to stop an African-American student from wearing a head-wrap closely associated with her cultural heritage.

That outrage was compounded when the board noted a nonexistent prohibition of head coverings and headgear in subsequent filings with the court.

A culture war on African people historically has been waged to prevent the re-emergence of ethnic consciousness that leads to unity and resistance to oppression.

That is why we will not tolerate another generation of children whose identity and rich African cultural heritage are disrespected in school or community.

Ken Jennings

Columbia

Neighbors feuding over proposed roads

I am writing in regard to the access and egress for new home construction in Worthington.

In recent months, much has been said and written regarding the steadily increasing traffic problems caused by additional housing and around the Worthington development.

The net result of this construction so far has been to cause the fine folks on one end of Worthington to feud with the fine folks on the other end.

More recently, the traffic issue has spilled over to include our fine neighbors in adjacent communities such as Hale Haven and Bonnie Branch/Ilchester. None of these folks is responsible for the creation or resolution of the problem.

The real problem lies with the decision-makers who allowed this construction to take place without any consideration of the runaway growth in Howard County. I realize the dollar drives this process, but the values we all support and cherish are rapidly disappearing.

Earl B. Heim

Ellicott City

Get it straight on guns and butter

Tom Teepen is welcome to entertain any outlandish notion that pleases him, but he owes it to your readers to at least get the facts before exposing such breathtaking ignorance as his "Social programs lose out to highways" (Opinion Commentary, May 20).

According to Mr. Teepen, "Back in the Cold War, it was guns or butter. We got guns. Here in the culture war, it's highways or butter. We get highways."

According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense gets 18 percent of the federal budget and mandatory social welfare entitlement spending consumes 49 percent.

In other words, Mr. Teepen's "butter" gets more than twice as much federal spending as "guns."

This didn't just happen, either.

According to the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlements and Tax Reform, entitlement spending has consumed an increasing share of total federal spending, rising from 22.7 percent of all spending in fiscal year 1963 to the current 49 percent.

Defense spending has declined in a virtually inverse ratio since 1963.

In other words, the federal government has for several decades spent far more on "butter" than on "guns."

As for Mr. Teepen's "highways or butter" nonsense, 53 percent of all federal spending this year goes for 19 social welfare entitlement programs with annual outlays of $2 billion or more, with a combined total of nearly $800 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The entire Transportation Department budget is less than $30 billion, and a fifth of that goes for mass transit, not highways.

Mr. Teepen doesn't have a clue about the facts.

Mark Tapscott

Columbia

Parks chief's view on parks, sponsors

I don't usually write letters to the editor, but I feel one is warranted based on your article ("Howard may sell name rights for parks," May 3) and editorial ("This park brought to you by . . ." May 12) about comments I made concerning corporate sponsorships in the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks.

I was interviewed for more than 25 minutes and was quoted one time in each piece. The statements were used out of context.

The Sun reporter specifically asked me if I would be in favor of entrance signs or large corporate signs dominating the parks' entrances or infrastructures.

My reply was, "I would not be in favor of that, but corporate sponsorship does not necessarily mean that type of advertising needs to be done." My ideas evolve from the type of sponsorship that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting does and also the nonintrusive advertising that several recreation and park agencies around the country provide for their sponsors to offset the cost of operating and maintaining a park system.

For example, the department would establish a fee to operate picnic pavilions. They have to be cleaned and maintained on a daily basis and must be renovated on an annual basis -- picnic table repair, light repair, boardwalk repair. I would hope to try to offset a percentage of that cost or the total cost by having the pavilion named from the sponsor.

It is hoped that local businesses would offset the operating cost of that pavilion, such as X Brand Sports Pavilion at Centennial. There would be a small plaque on the pavilion. Any advertising that the department does would contain the X Brand Sports logo and information about its sponsorship. There would not be a neon sign highlighting X Brand Sports.

For example, the boat dock area of Centennial Park, which supports summer concerts as well as the park's boating and concession areas, could easily have this type of sponsorship. This would allow us to replace the boardwalk and boats and try to cover some costs incurred through the maintenance and operation of such a facility.

This type of sponsorship has been very successful in Harford County's Swan Point, where they completely renovated an old 18th-century home by selling the individual rooms completely rehabbed and furnished to local businesses.

I'm amazed that the idea of selling the park to a corporation would come up. I did not mention it in my interview with the reporter. I believe that idea came up from your comparison of the national parks proposal of several years ago and was somehow applied to the local area.

In The Sun editorial, again a writer makes assumptions without the facts or quotes by me. I certainly did say the old cliche, "on the up and up" and "win-win," but I was referring to the ability of a public entity to pursue private funding through the public purchasing mechanisms that are established in local government.

As long as the procedures that are established to accept money and pursue funding for local recreation and parks agencies are followed, I believe it can be advantageous to the department and also to that private sponsor. Any sponsorship that would be considered would have to go through the public processes required of any agency of county government. Therefore, the chances of a business dictating the use of public space are nonexistent.

A quote from the editorial about "lily-livered politicians afraid to 11 ask the public for improved funding" demonstrates the naivete of the writer when it comes to the political structures of local governments in Maryland.

Time and again, citizens of Howard County have told the county executive and County Council that they do not want higher taxes. Yet, the county continues to grow and the responsibility of all local agencies increases on an annual basis to the extent that it cannot perform all the tasks it was originally responsible for.

The agencies' tasks have become so voluminous and diverse that it becomes more difficult to perform the same services that were done just the year before. The county executive and County Council have been told that their priorities should be education and public safety.

I believe they have responded to that outcry. Witness the funding struggle for the Board of Education in next fiscal year's budget. The Recreation and Parks Department's capital budget was cut to help support education. Recreation and parks' total is 1.6 percent of the county budget. The Board of Education receives approximately 55 percent.

How do we provide for recreation and parks services in a growing metropolitan county and fund other agencies without raising the tax base? For many years, we have tried innovative methods to develop services that would also reduce expenses or increase revenues. Corporate sponsorship is one of those ideas.

I assure the citizens of Howard County that their parks will not be neon-lighted with corporate logos. However, their recreation and parks department will continue to provide the services required to improve their quality of life by using innovations and customer service to deliver them.

Gary J. Arthur

Ellicott City

The writer is director of the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department.

Pub Date: 6/07/98

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