Firefighters and troopers saved lives in tower...


Firefighters and troopers saved lives in tower fire and face risks every day

All of us who live and work in Maryland should take a moment to thank those who daily put their lives on the line for their neighbor. Firefighters and law enforcement officers are often the unsung heroes of daily events that can affect our lives or the lives of family members. Each and every day these public servants are responsible for saving a life somewhere in Maryland.

The extraordinary effort recently performed by hundreds of emergency service workers during a downtown Baltimore high-rise building fire illustrates how significant an impact they can have on the quality of life. These rescue personnel will say they were simply doing their job. But I can assure you that residents of Charles Center Towers think otherwise. By all accounts, due to the action of the Baltimore City Fire Department, as well as others involved in the evacuation and rescue operations, hundreds of lives were saved.

Your recent editorial praised the scores of firefighters who dealt quite professionally with this potential disaster. It did not specifically mention the bravery of the Maryland State Police helicopter crews who flew four teams of specially trained firefighters into the smoke-filled skies over Baltimore. While pilots skillfully maneuvered in near-zero visibility, the flight paramedics lowered the firefighters onto the roof of the burning building, where they rescued dozens of people.

The conditions our crews endured were so perilous that at one point they had to be directed back into clear visibility by Roy Taylor, the pilot of the WJZ-TV news helicopter.

In addition to the countless brave firefighters, my appreciation goes to Tfc. Mike DeRuggerio, Tfc. Phillip Scott, David Delesio, Tfc. Carl Hardcastle and Roy Taylor. They all deserve our thanks.

David B. Mitchell


The writer is superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

Lippman is on the mark depicting war generation

I agree with much of Theo Lippman's review of Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation."

Perhaps a good review could also have been written by Gore Vidal, who served in that war and often mentions that he never heard a patriotic word from a fellow serviceman at that time.

Mr. Lippman reminds us that seven out of eight of those who served were draftees. I can remember one obnoxious fellow sailor expressing the patriotism of his home state of Tennessee.

When I finally became sick of this, I mentioned that I was from New York, the Empire State, then asked him what his state was called.

He proudly put out his chest and said, "The Volunteer State, of course." I then asked, "How come you are a draftee?"

Much of the disinformation about that war can be attributed to our government and the news and entertainment media. The patriotic movies were greeted with derision by the servicemen, mainly because the actors were draft dodgers, like John Wayne, or people who used other methods to not serve. Wayne would later admit that not having taken ROTC in college, he could not get an officer's commission. He added, "Consequently, there was no way that I would ever be a GI Joe."

One movie, "Gung Ho," was greeted with so many cat calls by the viewing GIs that the phrase has now been added to the American lexicon.

Mr. Lippman was right on target in describing much of the civilian attitude on the home front. The war ended the Great Depression, putting some 16 million men into our forces, which easily replaced the 13 million unemployed. Many of those newly employed said they hoped the war would never end.

I doubt that Mr. Brokaw wrote of the riots in Europe after VE Day, by GIs who did not want to be transferred to the Pacific Theater to fight Japan.

I do not write this to demean my comrades who died in that terrible war, but the whole story should be told much more honestly and accurately than the drivel we have been seeing and reading for six decades.

Stephen Block

West Palm Beach, Fla.

Yahoo! Selling city's name would help pay our bills

The lack of judges and prosecutors, the public education system and the crumbling underground infrastructure are all signs of the need for more public money.

We have a nontax fountain of money right in front of us that has only begun to be tapped; that is, selling public names of things as we did with PSINet Stadium.

I submit that if we can forget the name Memorial Stadium, which reminded us of the thousands of soldiers who died 60 years ago to save us from fascism. We can certainly let go of the name Baltimore, which is the name of some old English guy -- and who knows what he did?

We can sell the name of the city, the Inner Harbor, streets, schools -- you name it.

Internet companies have millions of dollars they need to spend, and they are the ones who understand the business value of this new advertising paradigm. How about, "Welcome to Yahooville, Hon!" or, more sedately, "Welcome to Netscape's Inner Harbor!"

The citizens win because taxes are lowered. If a company will pay $105 million to name a stadium, think of what they will pay for a city! The mayoral candidate who adopts this tax reduction with service improvement strategy will get my vote.

Bob Kambic


Public Works Dept. invites participation from the community and the media

Recently, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works unveiled its 1999 Design and Construction Program.

This was done at a public meeting held at Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant and attended by more than 200 business people.

Many exciting new projects were announced, including major renovations to the Loch Raven Dam, numerous roadway and bridge improvements, new fire stations, recreation center renovations and improvements to city parks.

In reporting on this event, The Sun implied that DPW has excluded contractors from these meetings ("Baltimore plans $180 million in public works improvements," Jan. 30).

It was even stated that a lawsuit had been filed for this reason.

This is totally untrue. We do not exclude citizens from public meetings.

We are very much aware of sunshine laws, and we are committed to open government and citizen participation.

Our annual Design and Construction Presentation is not a legally mandated event. It is held as a public service for everyone -- contractors, citizens and media -- to inform them all of the major projects we will undertake during the year.

Our goal is to maximize the number of qualified individuals who bid on our projects. This ensures that we receive the lowest price for this work.

Those who missed the meeting need not worry. It was videotaped in its entirety and is broadcast on Baltimore City's Cable 21 five times a week.

I challenge The Sun to prove its allegations and to be as open as DPW.

Kurt L. Kocher


The writer is a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works.

Maryland sales tax hurts offline retailers

Jay Hancock was right on target with his column ("Untaxed Internet sales are costing Md. dearly," Feb. 7) on how Internet sales are undercutting Maryland merchants and costing state government millions in tax revenue.

One can only hope that state policymakers hellbent to raise the sales tax also will read Mr. Hancock's column.

They just might rethink raising the sales tax, which can only make matters worse for merchants.

Tom Saquella


People are watching the media watchers

The Feb. 7 Perspective section had two articles on different subjects that played against each other with interesting results.

In "Return to new basics needed," Pam Parry, refers to a recent study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and states, "I latched onto the portion of the study that says if reporters can't get spelling and grammar correct, then the public is going to question whether they have their facts straight."

The other article, "While Reagan slept, so did media", was written by Jeff Cohen, founder of FAIR, a New York-based media watch group. In the article, he speaks of a Time magazine article and states, "Time's cover projected a beaming Reagan hallowed by multicolored fireworks."

If Mr. Cohen were to check any dictionary, he would note that the proper word would be "haloed." A warning to Mr. Cohen: While he and FAIR are watching the media, the informed public is watching him.

Gerald M. Rosenthal


Business-friendly laws are needed in state

Before Marriott, corporate giant Alex. Brown threatened to leave Maryland. In that case, the state spent big bucks convincing the company to stay -- and built it a new parking lot as well. Now, we are going to shell out $50 million to keep Marriott from pulling up stakes and heading for Virginia.

In view of the tremendous business expense and disruption a corporate move entails, why would these companies even consider leaving Maryland? The root of the problem is Maryland's political agenda that is anything but pro-business.

In Marriott's case, a move to Virginia would produce a reported $42 million in tax savings over 15 years.

With such inducements offered by states throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, it's a matter of time before other major Maryland corporations follow the lead of Marriott and Alex. Brown.

How much will we have to pay in the future to persuade such companies as Black & Decker, McCormick and the Rouse Co. to remain in Maryland?

Wouldn't it be easier -- and cheaper -- to enact the legislation necessary to make the state more business-friendly?

Until we enact such a measure, Maryland's business growth will continue to lag behind such states as Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas.

Carl A. J. Wright


The writer is vice president, Mid-Atlantic region, of Interim Services Inc.

Texas rice company defends its practices

A thoughtful reader was kind enough to send us a copy of a letter to the editor ("U.S. company capitalizes on basmati's good name," Jan. 9) from an ill-informed person regarding my company, RiceTec, and basmati rice.

RiceTec did not patent the name basmati. We patented new varieties and a particular breeding method, which we developed over 10 years, to successfully grow high-quality basmati rice in the Western Hemisphere -- something not considered possible before and, thus, the "invention" in our patent.

There is nothing unusual about this practice, and a vast number of products on every grocery shelf are produced through some process that is patented.

Without the ability to patent such procedures or varieties, companies could not afford to invest in the research necessary to develop improved food products -- products that taste better, are more immune to crop disease or infestation, produce higher yields per acre for farmers and reduce costs to consumers.

Also, RiceTec does not believe that our patented basmati -- marketed under the trade name Kasmati -- is inferior to basmati from India.

We have never said that and do not believe it. Basmati from India varies widely in quality, depending on the variety grown and on other factors. Kasmati is superior to many basmati rices imported into this country, and taste tests have demonstrated that. Taste is subjective.

What is not subjective, though, is the fact that RiceTec's patent does not in any way harm farmers in India or prevent anyone from exporting rice.

Robin Andrews

Alvin, Texas

The writer is president of RiceTec Inc.

Courts must enforce intoxication standards

Readers of the editorial "On drunken driving, .08 makes sense -- still" (Feb. 3) might be under the impression that it is now legal to drive in Maryland with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08. They would be mistaken.

Maryland is one of a handful of states with a two-tiered drunk-driving system: 0.07 BAC for driving under the influence (DUI) and .10 for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Motorists can be removed from the road and jailed for violating either standard. No other state has a stricter standard.

And, unlike the single 0.08 measure advocated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the current system allows for graduated sanctions with harsher penalties as BAC levels increase.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I am proud of the legislation we have enacted on drunk driving.

Last term, we passed legislation that makes a BAC of 0.10 a crime, rather than just evidence of one. No defense is permitted. We developed legislation that requires convicted drunk drivers to pass a Breathalyzer test before starting their cars. We also passed "Ryan's Law," which permits courts to impound the vehicles of convicted drunk drivers caught driving on suspended or revoked licenses.

It is now time for prosecutors and the courts to do their part. Last fiscal year, 10,478 drivers charged with drunken or drugged driving received only probation before judgment.

Judges placed a similar number of cases on the inactive docket, meting out no sentence at all. Of the 28,788 charged with DWI at the 0.10 BAC level, less than 17 percent were found guilty; even fewer were incarcerated for their crimes. And, as embarrassing as this conviction rate is, it is bound to go lower if we reduce the BAC for DWI.

Drunken driving arrests must be considered more than an annoyance by those charged and more than a nuisance by our courts. Until they are, our courts are sending the wrong message about the seriousness of DWI.

Del. Donald E. Murphy


Pub Date: 2/13/99

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