Efforts to revitalize downtown must start with...


Efforts to revitalize downtown must start with Charles Center

We welcome your editorial ("A Charles Center fit to lead a revival," Jan. 11) about the revival of Charles Center. We would like to add information on how the city can achieve renewal of Charles Center, the central business district and the entire downtown, 90 percent of which is not the waterfront.

The key is to revitalize the historic Charles Center corridor and provide Baltimore with a vital main street environment. We say this not based on our interests but on discussions with national planners, developers and retailers over the past three years about how Baltimore's downtown can most quickly and inexpensively become the active center it has historically been.

Because property values in the older buildings along this corridor have fallen by more than one-third since 1990, this revitalization would add millions of dollars in property taxes to the city's coffers. This can be achieved with a fraction of the public investment that Inner Harbor East and West projects will require and will make these projects more easily achievable and successful.

What has stopped this revitalization of the Charles Center corridor is the lack of concentrated effort and the need to concentrate retail initially between the 100 to 500 blocks of North Charles Street to anchor this revitalization.

Baltimoreans are their own worst enemies and skeptics. They say it cannot happen here because Charles Center is not the harbor. This is ironic because when my father built Harborplace, skeptics said it couldn't happen there because it was not Charles Center. The vision of a revitalized Charles Center that we have been working for actually was my father's vision toward the end of his life.

If the Charles Center corridor were alive, as it could be, Piper & Marbury would not be leaving for Mount Washington and Aegon would be happy to stay here. The recent Baltimore Development Corp. annual report demonstrated part of the problem: There are task forces for the east, west and south sides. But the center is never mentioned.

If you revitalize downtown at its core, you will see the renewal spread quickly to the east, south and north. If you ignore our central core, all other efforts at revitalization will be sporadic, fragmented and only partial successes at best.

James W. Rouse Jr., Baltimore

The writer is president of the Charles Street Association.

Homeland traffic cures are worse than the woes

I got a kick out of reading John McIntyre's Opinion Commentary article ("Cruising through Homeland," Jan. 18). One reason why even proposed changes in traffic patterns are so controversial in Homeland is that a number of us do not see any need for them.

From an objective viewpoint, "traffic" on our streets is sparse, with a pickup on weekday mornings, especially on a few streets. My street is one that the dreaded "cut-through" drivers use, and it really has very little traffic.

I'm not the only one who feels that most schemes devised to deter outsiders inconvenience residents (and others who need to drive to our houses) far more than nonresidents; the cure is worse than the disease. Moreover, we may not want to be cut off from the York Road shopping area or anywhere else.

And as for safety and speeding, I'd be willing to wager that if all speeders were stopped, it would turn out that at least half are Homeland residents.

So cruise away, Mr. McIntyre, but slowly, please.

Jane F. White, Baltimore

More on the importance of preschool literacy skills

Nancy Grasmick's Opinion Commentary article "Teaching the young child" (Jan. 22) reminds us of the importance of literacy skills in the preschool years. I think it's wonderful that Congress and our governors have made readiness to learn the No. 1 national education goal.

I'd like to share research I came across n graduate school while earning my degree in reading.

Children who entered first grade able to read had four things in common:

They were read to often.

They saw their parents read often.

A variety of reading materials were in the home.

When they asked a question, someone answered it.

These children came from all economic and racial backgrounds. Their common factor was parents who valued reading and language development.

As a nation, we must learn to consider the first four years of our children's lives as important educationally as the four years they'll spend in college.

Cindy Lemieux, Lutherville

Fortunate to have had Dr. Glick as his pediatrician

I am but one of the thousands of Baltimoreans whose good fortune it was to have Dr. Shipley Glick as his pediatrician.

Dr. Glick was everything that you hoped your physician would be. He was knowledgeable, attentive and accessible. Even as a child, I believed that if there were going to be some pain, it would hurt less with him performing the procedure. I felt better when he walked into the room.

Sig Seidenman, Owings Mills

Success rate high with teacher-led school change

Liz Bowie's mention of the successes of the Coalition of Essential Schools at Walbrook High School ("City considers models for high school reform," Jan. 24) in the early 1990s may bring some readers all of the old sensations of opportunities lost.

Two lessons emerged from the Walbrook pilot program: Small schools can crack the shell of alienation formed around students' deep interest in their education, and teacher-led school reform can rally students and an entire Baltimore community around a vision of personalized and challenging education.

Small schools are being embraced by educators across the nation, yet the prospect of teacher-led school reform remains a radical and dangerous proposition. The hope of a deep-rooted reform of schooling in Baltimore will not be realized until both lessons have been learned.

It is sad to point to positive results five years later and applaud while saying, "Oh, we wanted that!" Even our most insightful planning in the interim -- at Patterson, for example -- obscured the fact that teachers were the driving force behind the "smallness", the detailed schedules and the boutique curriculum. Are we again planning for something other than teacher-led, whole-school change?

Teacher empowerment is neither a byproduct nor an afterthought of lasting school change.

It is the pivot point.

Cranston Dize, Baltimore

Pierce doesn't belong on list of wrongdoers

Franklin Pierce does not belong in the recent list of White House wrongdoers ("Presidential improprieties," Perspective, Jan. 24). The assertion that our 14th president "tolerated corruption" belies his administration's efforts to ensure more honesty and stricter accountability in government.

Pierce introduced an early version of the civil service evaluation system to attract better-qualified federal employees, cracked down on fraud in the sale of public lands and eliminated waste in the military.

The article also strongly implies that Pierce allowed Andrew H. Reeder, governor of the Kansas Territory, to get away with some questionable land schemes. Again, the historical record shows otherwise. Pierce, in fact, fired Reeder and cited this appointee's speculative activity as the key reason for doing so.

While far from perfect as president, Pierce sincerely and often successfully adhered to his inaugural vision of "a devoted integrity in the public service and an observance of rigid economy in all departments, so marked as never justly to be questioned." Unfortunately, the article does not acknowledge this.

Bob Cullen, Baltimore

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