Changing the year city votes would raise...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Changing the year city votes would raise turnout, save money

The League of Women Voters urges Baltimore's citizens to vote on Nov. 2 for the amendment to the city's charter which would tie the city's elections to the presidential election cycle.

Under the amendment, beginning in 2004, and every fourth year thereafter, the primary election for mayor, city council president and members of the city council would be held in September.

In the November general election, candidates for city offices would be on the ballot together along with candidates for president and the U.S. Congress.

Because more citizens turn out to vote for president than to vote for city officials, this change would lead to more Baltimore citizens voting for city officials than in the city's present odd-year elections.

The charter change would save the city money by eliminating an election every four years. It would permit greater efficiencies in managing registration rolls and other processes.

The city's mayoral candidates are now focusing on making city government more efficient. Approval of this amendment is one such change we can make now.

Millie Tyssowski, Baltimore

The writer is president of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore City.

Best reform would take money out of politics

Jack Germond and Jules Witcover's column "Money wins over ideas in the battle for GOP nominations" (Opinion Commentary, Oct. 22) and The Sun's editorial, "Money talks and Dole walks," (Oct. 23) were correct that the ability to raise money determines who can run for high political office in the United States.

Equating money with free speech, as many critics of limits on contributions have done, is sophistry.

The money-speech equation amounts to speech for the wealthy, and those who represent them, while the rest of us are effectively shut out of the process.

The most effective campaign reform would be public financing for candidates. This would create a level playing field.

Elections should be decided by candidates' ideas and qualifications, not by how much money corporate benefactors contribute to their campaigns. Money shouldn't be part of the political equation.

Lee Lears, Annapolis

Harry Potter can bring joy to older kids, too

I want to endorse 9-year-old Geri Silver's letter "Harry Potter books bring kids fun, adventure" (Oct. 22). I am a 65-year-old boy, and I've read all the Harry Potter books and I, too, got angry about the South Carolina parents wanting to keep those books out of schools.

Most kids can tell the difference between magic and reality. Most seniors can, too; that's how we've lasted this long.

I think the Harry Potter books help seniors remember what it was like to be young and optimistic and excited by every new experience. It sure beats being excited by finding your teeth in the morning.

Maybe seniors don't talk much about Harry Potter, because some of us are a little embarrassed by the fun we're having, but the sales make clear more than just bubble-gum money supports these books.

I think Harry Potter should be available to any kid in any school and to any senior citizen who wants to have a wonderful time without hurting their back.

Ronald Blum,Timonium

To find more teachers: better pay, fewer duties . . .

As a retired educator, I see two things as critical to address the state's shortage of qualified teachers ("State fights teacher deficit," Oct.21).

First, beginning teachers must be given a salary competitive with what they could get outside of teaching. Their pay must also be structured to allow real salary growth over time.

Second, beginning teachers must be allowed to concentrate on the classroom -- and freed from such emotionally draining activities as committee assignments.

I have seen a number of good, young teachers move to other pursuits because they were overwhelmed by all they were asked to do outside of the classroom.

Also, as the article suggested, hiring teachers year-basis would go a long way to improve the quality of education.

John H. Gregory, Perry Hall

In The Sun's article on the shortage of qualified auto mechanics, a service manager stated, "Graduates can earn $40,000 to $60,000 right out of high school, if they are capable and want to work hard. This is an honorable profession" ("Wanted: auto mechanics," Oct. 23).

Yes, and so is teaching. But compare these figures to the starting salaries of beginning teachers -- and wonder no more why it's difficult to attract new teachers.

McNair Taylor, Baltimore

. . or eliminate certification barrier

Every time I read in The Sun or hear a news story about teacher shortages I become frustrated and angry.

The answer is so simple, yet the education bureaucrats and politicians deem it a complex problem that needs study and some complex solution -- which always seems to be more money for teachers.

This is nonsense. The answer to the problem is: abolish teacher certification.

Thousands of gifted and competent people in our community have more real experience, stronger academic credentials and a more genuine ability to communicate with students than those who currently are staffing our public schools.

Ending teacher certification would increase the number of available teachers and increase their quality.

Walter T. Kuebler, Timonium

What about incentives for current teachers?

Both Gov. Parris N. Glendening and state School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick have said that everything should be done to attract the best and the brightest into careers in teaching. And The Sun's article "State fights teacher deficit," (Oct. 21) suggested numerous ways to attract high-caliber people to the profession.

But what about those who are already teaching? As the parent of a teacher, I've heard the many frustrations my daughter and other teachers have had to endure.

These include meager pay raises, supply shortages, increased duties without extra pay, large class sizes, insufficient planning time and the rising expense of graduate school.

Everything I read about teachers addresses the incentives needed to hire new teachers. But very little is mentioned about how to retain the "best and the brightest" who are already teaching.

What is their reward for staying, for continuing to learn and improve?

Equal concern for the plight of our current educators would be most welcomed. Steven L. Eisenberg, Owings Mills

Family's gift burnishes Henry Knott's legacy

The magnificent gift of $10 million to the Johns Hopkins Medical School by Marion I. Knott prompts this note about her husband, Henry J. Knott ("Gift to fund cancer studies," Oct. 10).

Mr. Knott came to know the medical school when his firm built several of its new buildings near mid-century.

He grew eager to become a part of the university and eventually served for many years on its board of trustees.

This recent great gift from his family brings further into view the quiet luster of Mr. Knott's life.

Dr. Thomas B. Turner, Baltimore

The writer is dean emeritus of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

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