Charity begins with foundations close to homeThe...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Charity begins with foundations close to home

The Sun's recent report on charitable giving by Americans noted the rapid rise in donations to gift funds run by for-profit mutual fund companies ("Fidelity Investments vaults to top of charities, " Nov. 4)).

While the $572 million Americans donated to charity last year through Fidelity Investments is significant, it pales in comparison to the more than $2.8 billion they donated through local non-profit community foundations in 1998.

Despite the hefty marketing budgets of mutual fund companies, community foundations have an advantage Fidelity Investments can't match: Local management that understands community needs and can counsel donors about how their contributions can achieve maximum impact.

In our experience, Baltimoreans are most interested in donating to local organizations that are responsive to local needs. Perhaps that is why last year they made $15.7 million in new gifts to the Baltimore Community Foundation.

Their generosity raised the foundation's endowment to more than $88 million and helped us make more than $11 million in grants to local nonprofits last year.

Charity of all kinds should be encouraged. But investing your charitable dollars through a non-profit community foundation ensures that the funds are invested knowledgeably and wisely.

Timothy D. Armbruster, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Community Foundation.

Epilepsy Foundation welcomes public scrutiny

Those who donate to charitable organizations have every right to expect that their money will be prudently spent ("Group certifies seven charities," Oct. 29). This is especially important during the United Way campaign, when people decide to whom to give their money.

We at the Epilepsy Foundation of the Chesapeake Region therefore welcome the audits by the Maryland Association of Non Profit Organizations (MANO).

Our foundation has received special commendation from the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration -- both for its programs that care for individuals with epilepsy and other disabilities and, more recently, for its management and accounting practices.

Dr. John M. Freeman, Baltimore

The writer is past president of the Epilepsy Foundation of the Chesapeake Region.

HMO-based medicine is finally crumbling

HMO medicine is at long last crumbling. One of the country's largest insurers, United Health Group, has acknowledged that it costs more to scrutinize and deny physician-recommended treatments than to simply allow doctors to decide what's best for their patients ("HMO to give doctors final say," Nov 9).

United Health's decision represents a major quality improvement for patients. It's policy of allowing unfettered access to specialists also bodes well for patient care.

Employers and patients with other HMOs should pressure them to follow suit -- insisting on access to specialty care without referrals and that their HMOs free physicians to make medical decisions along with their patients.

It's high time for insurance companies to get back to insurance and let physicians do what we're trained to do. This is not only good medicine but, as United Health Group's move suggests, financially sound.

Dr. David F. Jaffe, Havre de Grace

The writer is president of the Harford County Medical Association.

Gov. Bush must prove he's ready to be president

Texas Gov. George W. Bush is right -- he is not auditioning to be on a game show. He is wrong, however, if he plans to win the presidency without the scrutiny of the media and the electorate.

Granted, it was "gotcha" journalism for a reporter to quiz Mr. Bush about the names of world leaders.

But Mr. Bush should not be surprised by such questions. Whenever a governor runs for president, he faces doubts about his competence on foreign policy.

In 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton challenged an incumbent president who had been ambassador to China and director of the CIA. The "unproven" Democrat managed to overcome doubts and defeat Governor Bush's father.

But it was not easy for Mr. Clinton the candidate to prove his qualifications to lead the free world. It should not be no different for Mr. Bush.

All the money he has raised cannot buy the peace of mind offered by a president who knows his way around the world.

John L. Meeks, Jr. , Dover, Del.

Once out of Clinton's shadow, Al Gore's star will rise

If Americans can forgive President Clinton for having sex with an intern and lying about it, then it's only right that Americans also forgive Vice President Al Gore.But read articles, chuckle at mean-spirited cartoons, listen to the pundits, and it is clear that Mr. Gore is being intentionally planted in Mr. Clinton's shadow.

Mr. Gore is the most influential vice president in our history. He has demonstrated his ability to lead, fighting for policies that are working on issues from crime to improving our environment; reforming governments to improving education; creating a solid economy to looking out for families and from standing strong in foreign policy to preserving Medicare.

Mr. Gore should have every opportunity to take credit for this administration's accomplishments, without being pinned to Mr. Clinton like a tail on a donkey. When the media stops putting him in a sarcastic and degrading little box, it will become evident that Mr. Gore is a great American and the best choice for president.

Christopher Zysk, Towson

Art Modell follows in

Irsay's mortal footsteps

The Sun's article "City, Poly pay $10,000 for PSINet" (Nov. 4) made my blood boil.

Art Modell and the Ravens organization continue to stretch the boundaries of corporate greed.

Maryland citizens paid to build the stadium. The Ravens got paid to name it. Now Maryland citizens must pay to use it.

Perhaps the Ravens could allow these high school football games with long and storied traditions to use the stadium without cost to the schools.This could even be made a condition of continued state support for the stadium or tax concessions.

Art Modell and the Ravens organization are certainly continuing a tradition started by Bob Irsay -- of chasing the dollar at the expense of the community.

Rich Gorman, Baltimore

We can't solve problems without a grounding in facts

Phil Greenfield's article, "School reform kills skills" (Perspective, Oct. 24), missed the big picture. Problem solving and critical thinking are valuabletools, whether at the drive-through window or in the boardroom. But how are can we solve problems without factual knowledge?

We wouldn't expect Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan to make fiscal policy decisions without a knowledge of inflation trends and history.

I attended private school and I thank God for the strict teachers who forced me to retain the facts I learned every day.

The important thing, however, is that I constantly had to apply those facts to solve academic problems, as essay tests required me to keep thinking critically.

Is it too much to ask our school systems to promote both?knowledge and problem-solving skills?

Emily R. Griswold, Kensington

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