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Belvedere Square merchants driven out of businessYour...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Belvedere Square merchants driven out of business

Your editorial putting the failure of the Belvedere Square market ("Belvedere Square disaster," July 5) squarely on the shoulders of developer James Ward was right on the mark.

In addition to the points made in the editorial, at least two other things should be mentioned that may further explain local resistance to Mr. Ward's proposal for redevelopment.

At meetings in which Mr. Ward described his plans for the Belvedere Square area he attributed the failure of the businesses to the ineptitude of those tenants. This explanation is hard to swallow.

My wife and I bought our house in 1989. The proximity of the then-thriving Belvedere Square market was one of the things that influenced our decision. For several years, the market was a daily destination to shop for dinner and to visit with neighbors and merchants.

When the businesses in the market began to close, each merchant told more or less the same story -- the landlord was making it impossible to continue to do business. They said it seemed as though they were being driven out of the market.

If ineptitude was the reason for the failure, what sustained these vendors for all of the prior years?

The other thing that should be mentioned is that Mr. Ward's plan to bring "big box" retailers to the site requires the razing of numerous homes in the lovely neighborhood along Orkney Road just south of the Belvedere Square property. That alone should be enough to persuade Mayor Martin O'Malley to reject the required rezoning.

If that is insufficient, the mayor might consider what Mr. Ward has already cost the city of Baltimore and listen to the perspectives of the residents of the Belvedere Square area.

Steve Rafferty

Baltimore

Hearing loss screening needs insurance mandate

On July 1, the Maryland Newborn and Infant Hearing Screening and Intervention Act went into effect. Now, all newborn babies in Maryland will be screened for hearing loss before they leave the hospital.

Unfortunately, there is no state mandate requiring health insurance companies to treat hearing-impaired babies. How can we screen our children and then refuse to treat them by providing them with hearing aids?

This lack of proactive intervention can have devastating results.

My husband and I were devastated to learn that our 2-year-old daughter was hearing impaired. We were further devastated to learn that Blue Cross/Blue Shield would not provide us with a penny of the $4,000 hearing aids we needed to purchase for our little girl.

Approximately 480 children with hearing loss are born in Maryland each year. Many of them, including our daughter, are developmentally delayed simply because they can't hear. (Our daughter was identified at 20 months and is now wearing hearing aids). This can be prevented through early intervention and treatment.

I urge citizens and lawmakers to support legislation requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids. After all, aren't these precious children worthy of an equal opportunity to hear?

Anne W. Dorsey

Baltimore

Arafat, Barak risk most in seeking Mideast peace

Your July 6 editorial states that President Clinton, by convening a Mideast summit, is taking a high risk for a high reward.

This is so. But given that Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin were both assassinated for making peace by religious terrorists among their own people, Clinton is taking much less of a risk than are Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak.

He is risking failure, but each of them is risking much more than political power. They are each putting their lives on the line here.

Clinton's risk seems pretty minor. He is doing the right thing, but they are showing true courage if they dare make peace. Let's not forget it.

David J. Pollin

Havre de Grace

Internet sales taxes pick consumers' pockets

I am reluctant to accept the argument that "untaxed Internet sales put Maryland businesses ... at a competitive disadvantage," as state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer writes ("State must levy tax on Web sales," June 30).

An Internet sale is no different than a catalog purchase. Maryland sales taxes are collected only if there is a physical presence within the state.

There is no practical difference between placing an order at a Web site and ordering over the phone or by mail.

Further, there is no monetary competitive disadvantage for local businesses. Consumers must pay shipping charges for both Web and catalog sales, which usually equals or surpasses the 5-percent tax levied within state.

Local retailers maintain their competitive edge by offering some added value to the transaction. This could be anything from personal contact and service to having real samples to see and touch.

While citing concern for Maryland businesses, it really boils down to the state coveting an additional income stream. The state didn't lose something it never had any more than it can claim lost revenue because the sales tax isn't 10 percent.

If revenue is really the issue, then critical questions must be asked about the various corporate welfare handouts engineered by the state that show little or no return. Our political leadership seems to regard any event as an opportunity for potential increase to the state coffers.

Mel Barnhart

Randallstown

There are other considerations to Comptroller Schaefer's proposal for a tax increase.

His claim of $148.5 million in lost revenue to the state over the next three years makes no mention of the gain to the taxpayers by not paying this tax: The money can be used by them as they wish.

The comptroller illustrates the magnitude of a Web tax by stating how many schools could be built with the revenue from this additional tax. It is, indeed, a large sum of money, which should be left in the hands of taxpayers.

The final argument for taxing Web sales seems to be fairness to Maryland businesses and to people without computers (who cannot shop on the Web) who are subject to the state sales tax.

If fairness to local businesses and to people without computers is the rationale for a Web tax, it should follow that the existing state sales tax would be decreased, making any Web tax revenue neutral. This was not suggested.

Needless to say, businesses on or off the Web do not themselves pay taxes. All taxes are passed through to the general public, the ultimate consumer.

Eugene J. Jones

Baltimore

City police officers deserve pay raises

It is great to hear that the Baltimore City police officers are getting a well-deserved and overdue pay raise ("City police are offered record raise," July 4).

For years I have wondered why these officers were paid so little in comparison to county police officers and officers working in other jurisdictions when, in my opinion, most of the violent crime and drug trafficking goes on in the city.

These men and women put their lives on the line every day doing one of the most dangerous jobs out there. They are expected to control the very people that most citizens would be terrified to have any kind of dealings with and they deal with these unsavory people day in and day out, risking their lives.

Perhaps now we will get a police force that feels like they are appreciated for the difficult job they do.

Murphy Edward Smith

Baltimore

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