Stone is wrong if he casts vote...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Stone is wrong if he casts vote that raises conflict

I have read with interest the articles regarding Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr.'s intention to vote on a bill that would benefit his employer, Peter G. Angelos.

This is most disappointing. At a time when public cynicism is at an all-time high and public trust of government is at an all-time low, Mr. Stone's decision to vote on the bill is troubling. His dilemma comes on the heels of well-publicized ethics blunders made by state legislators, including former state Sen. Larry Young and former Del. Gerald Curran.

The General Assembly's ethics committee should be applauded for encouraging Mr. Stone not to vote on the bill. The committee has recognized that public perception of government is critical.

The General Assembly and its members need to continue to take care with possible conflicts of interest with their outside employment. Mr. Stone should not vote on the bill, and the General Assembly needs to develop real ethics laws prohibiting such possible votes.

Steven M. Postal

Baltimore

Tobacco tax increase will save state dollars

The article "Higher tax on tobacco in trouble" (March 17) noted that state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller opposes a higher tax on tobacco because Maryland needs no new taxes. Other legislators oppose the tax because "we've got a large surplus."

These legislators have it all wrong. This bill is about social progress. By raising the price of tobacco products, two outcomes are certain: Fewer young people will smoke tobacco. And, as the average age at the onset of smoking increases, the average age of the onset of tobacco-related diseases will rise. A delay in tobacco-related diseases will save taxpayer dollars in the future.

The higher tax on tobacco is the smartest public health bill this year. Legislators should be rushing to support this bill.

Dr. Thomas E. Hobbins

Baltimore

More than notification needed to prevent AIDS

Thomas Goldwasser's Opinion Commentary article "We know how to curb the spread of AIDS" (March 2) is misleading. The article implies that the spread of HIV is a result of people willfully refusing to inform their sex partners of HIV risk. The reality of HIV is far more complex.

Injected drug use, not sexual contact, accounts for 48 percent of all new cases of AIDS in Maryland. Drug users share needles because of policies that make it illegal to possess and carry injection equipment for use with illegal drugs. Needle-exchange programs, like the one in Baltimore, can reduce the number of new HIV infections in drug users.

Maryland law requires HIV-positive persons to inform their sex and drug-using partners whom they may have exposed to HIV. Public health officers help them contact their partners. Individuals who may have been exposed to HIV need the opportunity to discover whether they are infected. However, we should be realistic about what such partner notification programs will accomplish. Though useful, they cannot replace true HIV prevention programs, which enable individuals to engage in safe drug and sex practices that prevent infection.

Dr. Liza Solomon

Baltimore

The writer is director of AIDS Administration at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Chew a while longer on 'Gum' critique

The Sun's review of Karen Hartman's play "Gum" at the Center Stage struck me as unfair ("Frankly, 'Gum' is a stretch," March 16).

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck's free-swinging response to "Gum" whispered to me that she was more offended by the subject matter of the play rather than by its theatrical worthiness. "Gum" deserved a more thoughtful response than it received.

"Gum" is a courageous look at female genital mutilation, euphemistically, female circumcision. The play is set in a part of the world where a culture punishes its women while it romanticizes and rewards its men.

Two sisters, daughters of a wealthy father, are Rahmi, "a great burning fire," and Lina, "the less-favored sister . . . who sustains longer." Both women have zest for life and risks that are symbolized by their forbidden use of chewing gum.

It is true that "Gum" would hardly be acceptable by society in the Victorian culture with its propriety and its clandestine abuse of its women. However, in our open atmosphere that hungers for documentary truth, the crushing insensitivity and violence against women anywhere screams out to be understood sympathetically.

Of course, there is frankness in the play. There is off-stage violence and sexuality that bring us to feel. Is that not what worthwhile drama does?

Bob Gill

Towson

A 'final battle' of the vermin?

It was exciting to read Jay Apperson's blow-by-blow account from the battlefront of the Department of Natural Resources war against the phragmites reed on Hart-Miller Island "After rain of fire, island will bloom" (March 20).

I wish to suggest a more environmentally friendly alternative to firebombing that may also help rid us of other pests inhabiting the Chesapeake Bay area. The nutria, eating their way through the "good" reeds surrounding the bay, could be captured and released on Hart-Miller Island to eat the "bad" phragmites reeds.

After exhausting this food supply, the ravenous rodents would turn cannibalistic, ready to eat their own kind. At this point, all of the unethical, greedy politicians and lawyers could be rounded up and air-dropped among the nutria.

A great final battle would ensue; vermin eating vermin until none are left. As the squeals of the combatants fade and the dust settles over the carnage, we would intuitively know our side had won.

The island could then be replanted as a sanctuary for less destructive, more aesthetically appropriate creatures.

Tom Krug

Union Bridge

West side plan destroys history

With the announcement of NationsBank's pledge of $100 million for the west side's "redevelopment," we got no mention of the opposition from Baltimore Heritage Inc. and Preservation Maryland in The Sun ("$100 million financing set for west side," March 18).

This plan calls for the demolition of up to 125 historic buildings dating to the late 1700s. Much of the block of Baltimore-Fayette-Howard-Eutaw is slated for destruction.

Some of the shops you pass over so lightly have been in continuous operation for up to 70 years. These shop owners are being excluded from the renovation of the very neighborhood they've kept alive as a real shopping district for city residents. There's no reason why the west side can't move forward with respect to its history and residents. After all, it seems someone wants to pay for it.

Spoon Popkin

Baltimore

County can refuse Klan advertisement

I am an ardent defender of the First Amendment, and I fail to see where it forces a county to allow the Ku Klux Klan to adopt a road or to allow a flagrant racist symbol on a Maryland license tag.

When a governmental entity allows symbols to be placed or issues license plates, it is selling an advertising device. Why shouldn't the state of Maryland and Anne Arundel County have the same right as any private advertiser? If I owned a newspaper or a radio station, no Confederate flag would ever appear in any advertisement, and the Klan had better look elsewhere.

The First Amendment makes the suppression of speech a vital impossibility, and well it should. It does not, however, force the state to associate with racist symbols or racist groups.

Dennis Olver

Baltimore

The public's money is acquired taste

While reading Robert Guy Matthews' article "The meal deal" (March 20), I kept asking myself, "What's wrong with $30 a day for meals?" As a federal employee, the most I ever recall getting when traveling on business was about $29. I suspect our legislators have two standards for food funding -- what I want to spend when its not my money and what I'm willing to spend when it is my money. They need to remember that the $30 is their money, and mine.

Ann McNell

Phoenix

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Pub Date: 3/27/99

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