Baltimore County's east side recipient of many rotten apples
The Sun's July 9 editorial ("Opposing apple pie") reinforces the notion that it's just a handful of rabble rousers (read as "uneducated rednecks") that oppose Senate Bill 509, which would expand the use of eminent domain in Baltimore County.
I especially resent the insinuation that the reason the east side has never gotten anything for all these years is that we're ungrateful, irrational and opposed to everything deemed good for us.
We've gotten plenty over the years: the Back River sewage treatment plant, a 44-foot-high dike for harbor dredging sludge, hazardous waste dumps, low-income apartment complexes, Move to Opportunity, etc.
Now the local government wants to give us "apple pie" using apples taken surreptitiously from our neighbors' orchard.
No thanks. We'll enjoy apple pie a la mode when our neighbors are invited to the party, not excluded from it.
Courthouse sculpture uproots trees, flowers
It is distressing to watch the destruction of yet another small parcel of green in the downtown business district as is occurring at the federal courthouse property at Lombard and Hanover ("Courthouse art returns to an unadoring public," July 9).
Work crews have moved in to cut down numerous trees and mature shrubs on the property. Several flower beds have also been uprooted.
To make matters worse, a hideous metal sculpture has been erected on the site. What nonsense is this?
While it is probably unrealistic fantasy to hope that there could be additional plantings of trees, shrubs and flower gardens in the downtown business district, is it unrealistic to hope that the few remaining parcels be saved?
James M. Doty
Hardly working crew puts hopes on lottery
The proud citizens of Baltimore are inundated with discouraging news about the sad state of city finances.
Yet one only has to drive the streets to see how taxpayer money is squandered on the large, bloated and inefficient Department of Public Works bureaucracy.
I was driving on York Road in Baltimore County. As I was driving past the Sherwood Road water pumping station, I passed a Baltimore City Public Works truck. At this work site, six employees were cutting grass. Yet there were only two lawn mowers in the vehicle. So I suppose the city was paying for four supervisors?
A half hour later I saw this same "work" crew, sitting in a gas station on York Road. Most of the crew were napping in the cab of the truck. I watched the truck sit there for 20 minutes while I filled up with gas and made a phone call.
I followed the truck as it headed south on York Road. To my further horror, this same city vehicle pulled into the parking lot of a liquor store.
Finally I had seen enough waste of taxpayers' money. I approached the vehicle and asked to speak with the supervisor. When questioned, he said that the employees wanted to purchase lottery tickets. Glad to see that our city budget is being used so efficiently.
It is time to reorganize and privatize for both a cleaner and more efficient future in Baltimore city.
Harry Potter treasure, even for older readers
The writer of the article "Is Harry Potter immortal?" (July 9) reminds me strongly of Professor Lockhart. If you have read the second Harry Potter book, you know that Lockhart is a person too wrapped up in predictions and his own self, to come back to earth and realize what is actually happening.
I don't know whether the writer was in a bookstore the night the new Potter book came out, but I was in two of them.
Do you know what was happening at the first store? They were selling out. Luckily, I had made a reservation and received a copy.
I have now finished it, in less than two days, and I must say my perspective of Harry Potter has not changed a bit.
I would also like to point out the absurdity of the writer saying that older kids will lose interest because Harry isn't cool. I am almost 12, and I still enjoy reading (Beverly Cleary's books) about Ramona Quimby's kindergarten years. Harry Potter is a treasure, regardless of age and anyone who mistakes that is very foolish.
Foundations need better business skills
Charitable giving by foundations at the 5.5 percent level ("Foundations urged to give more to the poor," July 2) doesn't repay society for the tax deduction that was given to the original donor for at least five years.
Foundations can make a lasting contribution by bringing better business practices to the functioning of nonprofits. Foundations, especially some local ones, could do more to seek out and fund talented nonprofit executives who have the vision and willingness to make a difference but who lack business training and experience.
These are the individuals who create value in the nonprofit world. But they spend so much time struggling to understand the grant-making system and meet the criteria to get funded that they can't focus on their mission.
Some are dropping out, frustrated and exhausted from trying to get good outcomes with staff that are underpaid and undertrained.
Foundations can fulfill the legacy of their donors by making it easier for nonprofit leaders to get funded, train their staff and produce the results we all want.
John D. Herron
The writer is president of Herron and Associates.
Social promotions pegged to test years
There is a lot of discussion, I see, regarding Baltimore City Public School System's policy of ending social promotion. In none of the discussion, however, do I see, hear or read any explanation of why only second- and fourth-graders are being subjected to academic standards.
The big showcase for public schools is the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests. Schools are rated, funds delivered and honors showered based on a schools' standings in this big contest. Many schools teach to the MSPAP event.
I don't know enough about the tests (they are kept secret) to guess whether teaching the test for the better part of the school year is good for the students or not.
Like any other institution, the school system serves its own interests first, so it believes teaching MSPAP is good for it. The better the city schools perform, the more money they get. The worse they perform, the less money they get.
So now we get to the reason for focusing on second- and fourth-graders. Next year, they would be third- and fifth-graders and would have to be counted in the MSPAP results assessments.
By not allowing marginal students into the MSPAP grades, while at the same time promoting marginal students out of the MSPAP grades, the system is obviously hoping for a big boost in those all-important test scores.
Ending social promotions is a good thing for all students. Restricting the policy to second- and fourth-graders is a cynical attempt to reverse political fortunes at the expense of the children.
Children should be the beneficiaries of school policies. Politicians, administrators or other bureaucrats serve the children, parents and schools, not the other way around.