Lessening sprawl makes good sense for today's...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Lessening sprawl makes good sense for today's lifestyles

Bill Thompson, in his Opinion Commentary article "Nothing 'reasonable' about Smart Growth" (Jan. 15), does little to clarify the very real problems with unplanned, sprawling growth.

To build low-density housing, much agricultural or forest land has to be sacrificed, the commute is often long and on congested highways, cultural amenities are too far away to be frequented, and parents spend inordinate amounts of time driving their children to school and activities.

Some residents tire of the lack of cultural variety in many suburbs. And the extensive driving adds to the burden of an already stressed environment. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that thoughtful citizens grope for lifestyles that lessen some of these problems.

Many people enjoy living in the city where they work. Wherever density is high, as in a city, an efficient public transportation system can be developed; theaters, museums, concert halls and zoos are easily reached; and a rich kaleidoscope of humanity abounds. The enjoyment of nature becomes a leisure activity at urban parks or by visits to places outside the city. This may be preferable to being tied to one spot by ownership and the need for extensive maintenance.

Michael Beer

Baltimore

A senatorial appreciation of David Winstead

Earlier this month, David Winstead left his position as Maryland's secretary of transportation to return to the private sector and the practice of law. I would like to take this opportunity to commend him for his outstanding service to the citizens of Maryland.

During his tenure, from 1995 to 1999, the Department of Transportation expanded its highway system, enlarged and enhanced Baltimore Washington International Airport's terminal and extended the light rail system from the airport to Hunt Valley.

Under his direction, customer service at the Motor Vehicle Administration improved significantly. Mr. Winstead was also instrumental in protecting the state's rail and shipping interests during the acquisition of Conrail by Norfolk Southern and CSX. His active participation in developing marketing and dredging plans will help to strengthen the maritime industry and Maryland's economy.

As Mr. Winstead returns to private life, he has earned Maryland's appreciation.

Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Senate.

How long must the South suffer for past practices?

Paul Delaney is quick to accuse Southern Republican congressional leaders Bob Barr of Georgia and Trent Lott of Mississippi as shrewd racists in their roles as prosecutors of Bill Clinton ("Ol' South raises its ugly head in Lott, Barr," Jan. 17, Opinion Commentary).

Mr. Delaney claims that "it is no accident that white Southerners have flocked in droves to the Republican Party." The columnist continues by claiming the South is still a hotbed of racism and good ol' boy practices.

I grew up in the South and now reside in Baltimore. Any Southerner would take umbrage at a writer from one of the most provincial cities in America for excoriating a region that has been far more progressive and dynamic in handling racial, economic and social change than just about any other region of the country.

How long can we criticize the South? One of America's most enduring qualities is the art of forgiving. We seemed to forgive Japan and Germany, and you can be sure Mr. Clinton is counting on forgiveness.

John Burke

Baltimore

Nothing entertaining about slave stories

I have read Gregory Kane's column "Blacks talk a good game but leave 'Beloved' to die." Although I enjoy reading his articles most of the time, and often agree with his sarcasm, I cannot believe that he doesn't clearly see why blacks don't attend movies such as "Beloved" and other suffering sagas.

Going to the movies is supposed to be a form of entertainment, something designed to amuse or divert. Our miserable slavery history and the struggles to obtain and keep our constitutional rights is not a form of amusement. And seeing it depicted on the large screen is not diversion. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect.

I rent or buy these movies later in video form to view in the privacy of my home, where I can cry about the indignities our ancestors had to endure and the death our leaders had to face without nonblacks around me witnessing them and viewing them as another form of entertainment.

Dana L. Owens

Baltimore

Children can't improve with parental involvement

The sentence "With one in 15 city eighth-graders passing the state reading exam" caught my attention ("City middle school has rare way to aid reading skills," Jan. 17). Canton Middle School is doing what it can to help these students by hiring reading specialists.

I don't know how anyone can expect any teacher to be effective when only two of the 30 students in a class can read well enough to understand the classwork.

In the past, people got the help they needed from their family and their places of worship before seeking help from government. Where are the parents of all of these eighth-graders? What are they doing to help their children read better? Parents are responsible for their children's education and upbringing.

These eighth-graders need their parents' help to improve their reading ability. If the parents abdicate this responsibility, schools will never be able to solve all the problems.

Gilbert Le Blanc

Edgewood

Nation still is not attuned to mistreatment of females

Bravo to Ellen Goodman for her column "When sexual harassment invades the schoolyard" (Jan. 17). The debacle in the Supreme Court over whether schoolyard teasing will lead to lawsuits would never have arisen had someone, somewhere down the line, taken the girl's complaints seriously. It is a sad comment on our society that a young woman being physically and verbally sexually assaulted is not considered a problem.

Perhaps hundreds or thousands of cases will have to reach the Supreme Court before our country asks what kind of society allows its young women to be treated so poorly. The country refuses to recognize the profound damage of consistently treating a young woman as a "lesser than," just because she is a female. Of course, it may be asking too much of a society that still treats everyone as "lesser than," except those who are white and male.

Susan C. Ingram

Randallstown

Child support collections better in Washington Co.

Your article "Collections of child aid questioned" (Jan. 10) told only half the story of Maryland's child support privatization experiment.

Maryland Family Law 10-119.2, which privatized Baltimore City and Queen Anne County's child support offices, also provided a publicly managed demonstration site to compete with private operations. The state Department of Human Resources and the General Assembly selected the Washington County Department of Social Services as that demonstration site.

In the two years since the competition began, Washington County child support staff members have increased collections 15 percent annually, collected 75 percent of the monthly support payments and increased its cost-effectiveness 10.5 percent.

Our staff created a special customer service unit, and a customer service survey reported that "at least 70 percent of the respondents agreed that service was delivered appropriately."

These accomplishments by creative, dedicated civil servants merit serious consideration in any review of Maryland's public-private child support experiment.

Spence Perry

Hagerstown

The writer is chairman of the Board of Social Services of Washington County.

Pub Date: 1/23/99

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