Trash-strewn streets undermine the effort to better Baltimore
On May 31, bills were introduced in the Baltimore City Council that called for increasing fines for violating sanitation and health codes when disposing of garbage and hiring more sanitation police.
Trash undermines Baltimore's economic development, as potential employers decide to move their businesses elsewhere, where things are cleaner.
It also undermines the city's efforts to fight crime. Along with rats, trash-strewn streets breed indifference and low city pride, neither of which helps the effort to reduce crime.
And it undermines the general strength of the city, as residents leave Baltimore, partly because of their desire to live in a place where they and their families will not have to constantly dodge and overlook trash in their parks, playgrounds and commercial streets.
Trash is a reflection of the city's current health and a cause of its future health.
City residents are ready for a change. What we've done in the past is not working. If higher fines for code violations and more sanitation police can help make a difference, let's try it.
And the expense of hiring more sanitation police should pay for itself in revenue from more fines for those violating our city's sanitation regulations.
The writer is a member of the Baltimoreans Against Rats Sanitation Task Force.
Death penalty proceedings cost taxpayers too much
The cost to the taxpayers of a death penalty trial can be many thousands of dollars. And the cost increases after sentencing for the many appeals, which in the case of Eugene Colvin-el, took almost 20 years.
Then, Gov. Parris N. Glendening commuted Colvin-el's sentence to life imprisonment.
But why go through the expensive trial and appeal procedure if the sentence can be turned around?
If the death penalty is not to be upheld, then why have it?
It certainly is not a threat to Maryland criminals, as we have a very high murder rate, especially in Baltimore City.
Save the taxpayers a lot of money: Abandon capital punishment and put convicted killers in a Supermax prison doing hard labor to pay for their keep.
Let them work for their food and lodging, as taxpayers do, and allow them no privileges.
Did anyone expect Lewis not to finger someone else?
Was anyone surprised that Ray Lewis named other people as the culprits after he made his plea bargain?
Did anyone think Mr. Lewis would say he committed the crime?
I can't believe that Mr. Lewis will walk away free when he, at very minimum, obstructed the law in a murder case.
He'll continue to play in the National Football League and make millions of dollars.
On the other hand, John Rocker speaks his mind, exercises his freedom of speech and gets tossed back to the minor leagues.
Mr. Rocker said what was on his mind, without causing physical damage. And the press is making him out to be some ogre.
Havre de Grace
Lewis is no role model, but should be forgiven
Although we may be able to expect athletes to be perfect role models, they often do not get into the spotlight by being role models, but by being good at something else.
Ray Lewis is an exceptional linebacker, but it is not fair of people to expect him to be of perfect character.
The fact that Mr. Lewis discouraged others from speaking to the police and declined to give the names of those he was with to police after the Atlanta killings should not be surprising.
Although honesty is the best policy, Ray Lewis' obstruction of justice is not a dramatic sin against humanity.
With all Mr. Lewis has done for the Baltimore community, one would think we would forgive him and continue to let him make a difference in Baltimore.
Benjamin F. Johnson
Tubman mural sparked real dialogue
After reading Jamie Stiehm's account of the June 5 community meeting concerning the mural "The Dreams of Harriet Tubman," I have to wonder if the reporter and I attended the same meeting ("Mural of armed Tubman stirs protest," June 6).
The meeting provided a forum for the artist, Mike Alewitz, and representatives from Baltimore Clayworks and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation to explain the scope of the statewide public art project and for citizens, community leaders and national experts on Harriet Tubman to discuss their feelings about the work.
While there was a great deal of discussion about the image of the rifle in Tubman's hand, it was neither initiated nor fueled by representatives of Associated Black Charities Inc. (ABC).
Ms. Stiehm mentioned that the artist is white, but failed to mention that a white male raised the greatest objections to the gun in the mural. She neglected to acknowledge that a number of attendees, black and white, found the rendering to be passive compared with the savage violence endured by the enslaved.
In short, Ms. Stiehm portrayed the meeting as divided along racial lines. It certainly was not.
Ms. Stiehm also states that ABC leaders "balked" at having a mural that "paints a racially loaded portrait of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad" on their wall and claimed that "an armed depiction of the freedom fighter is inappropriate for the building" and that some people have urged the artist "to substitute a peaceful staff for the musket." None of this is true.
In fact, ABC leaders pointed out emphatically that they had no desire to censor the art.
Donna Jones Stanley, ABC's executive director, stated that people who are opposed to the rifle's presence are angry and more vocal than those who are not, and that she did not want to place the agency in the position of defending a mural. She, and members of her staff, attended the meeting to hear the comments of members of the communities her agency serves.
Also, for the record, Mr. Alewitz was not "chosen in a national competition sponsored jointly by the White House Millennium Council and the National Endowment for the Arts." And, Clayworks did not win a "$25,000 grant to develop the Harriet Tubman motif through a national Millennial Treasures program."
Baltimore Clayworks selected Mr. Alewitz from a pool of artists after it received an award in recognition of its commitment to community arts programs.
It is impossible to engage in honest and open discourse about the life and times of Harriet Tubman without discussing the issues of race, slavery and racism.
The images in the mural provoked thought, commentary and questions, and resulted in a rare and authentic dialogue.
The artist's depiction of Ms. Tubman's dream touches on issues and events that many wish to marginalize or ignore. The discussion served to open eyes and minds and hearts, as good art always does.
It's unfortunate that Ms. Stiehm twisted the spirit of the debate and misconstrued it as a racially divided meeting.
Jannette J. Witmyer
The writer is a member of the board of Baltimore Clayworks.