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Firefighters make valuable contribution to our public...


Firefighters make valuable contribution to our public safety

I was astonished to read The Sun's editorial "No money for city raises" (Sept. 10).

In The Sun's attempt to counter union claims of unfairness, the editorial argued "Police are the most important city employees, with the most dangerous jobs. It's ridiculous to compare their needs to those of clerks and janitors or even firefighters."

The men and women of the Baltimore City Fire Department place their lives at risk every day. During my career alone, 33 of them made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives in the line of duty

And during my tenure as chief of the fire department, I had the unfortunate task of telling the wife and parents of 25-year-old firefighter Eric Schaefer that he had died while valiantly fighting a fire at the old Clipper Mill warehouse.

Danger is very much a part of this profession.

Mayor Martin O'Malley has stated that "the priority given to policing, at this time, in no way diminishes the importance placed on all other city services. It does not lessen the importance of all other city employees and their hard work."

In contrast, The Sun's editorial was divisive in nature and simply reprehensible. The Sun diminished the importance of other city services.

Police serve an important function in our city. So do the janitors, clerks, even the firefighters.

Herman Williams Jr., Baltimore

The writer is chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department.

The Sun's editorial "No money for city raises" (Sept. 10) argued that it makes no sense to steal money from public safety to pay for raises for other city employees, then equated firefighters with clerks and janitors.

Firefighters and paramedics work the same streets as police officers. They respond to the same incidents and quite often they are on the scene of a shooting, stabbing or accident before the police.

Without the rapid intervention of firefighters and paramedics, Baltimore's murder rate could be twice its current rate.

Firefighters are part of public safety, yet Mayor Martin O'Malley closed eight fire companies with no protest from The Sun.

But, if one night you awaken to find your house on fire, I doubt that when you dial 911, you will ask for the police.

Michael Gavin, Bel Air

Chestertown police had reason to react

Providing that the facts in the article "Chestertown incident angers blacks" (Sept. 13) are true, I can easily see why the officers in Chestertown acted as they did.

As a police officer for the last 14 years, I have seen many angry groups. And, indeed it has become normal for teen-agers to disregard the presence of police when they are consumed with anger. If the situation cannot be controlled by verbal command, an officer must increase his response.

Pepper spray is the least violent response. It allows the officer to attempt to end a situation without physical violence.

If pepper spray is ineffective, then the officer must make a stronger response to meet the threat.

But when a decision is made to use force of any kind, this is done without consideration of the economic, social, religious or ethnic background of the people involved. The only consideration is what will be the most effective solution to the problem at hand.

Jim Boston, Arbutus

Clinton passed the buck, then headed for Hanoi

Once again President Clinton has passed the buck, this time blaming the Wen Ho Lee incident on the U.S. Justice Department ("Detention of Lee abuse of authority," Sept. 16). And with Attorney General Janet Reno's record, it is likely we'll never know what happened to 400,000 pages of classified information.

If the president was so terribly concerned about Mr. Lee, why didn't he intervene?

He sloughs this off on the Justice Department, then has the gall to trot off to Vietnam to schmooze with those he aided and abetted when he weasled out of service during that country's conflict.

Cooky McClung, Chestertown

On Social Security, Medicare it's Congress that will decide

The Social Security and Medicare plans presented to the people by Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are interesting debating points in a presidential campaign.

However, the only plan that counts is the one enacted by Congress.

Let us remember, the president proposes, but Congress disposes.

Karl Ritums, Baltimore

Why assume minorities don't grasp guidelines?

I wasn't surprised to read that a much smaller percentage of African-American children take Ritalin than white children ("Ritalin used far more by white pupils than blacks," Sept. 6)

The report sounded vaguely familiar: Other reports have found that fewer African-American caregivers observe the new recommendation of the supine sleeping position given by the American Association of Pediatricians.

In this case, the concern is not for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, but SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

In both cases, the tone of the reports suggests that information needs to be disseminated to minority communities, because people in those communities don't seem to know any better.

While I am not at all discounting the validity of either health problem, I do take issue with the assumption that African-Americans and other minorities remain ignorant of proper health guidelines.

Isn't it possible that the minorities have already heard?

Dawn Feliciano, Brooklyn

Don't turn State House into a fortress, again

While I seldom agree with The Sun , I must say that Barry Rascovar hit a home run with his column "Fortress Maryland under construction" (Opinion* Commentary, Sept. 10).

It is hard to imagine the pipsqueaks who populate our General Assembly imagining themselves worthy targets for violence while in the State House. But they've budgeted $2 million of taxpayers' money for metal detectors to protect themselves.

Anyone who wishes them ill could easily find his or her legislators in any watering hole within walking distance of the State House or at their district office.

The governor should have knocked that item out of the budget.

Chuck Frainie, Woodlawn

In his tongue-in-cheek column "Fortress Maryland under construction," Barry Rascovar wrote, "All that's missing will be a sandbagged observation nest in the State House's wooden dome ... "

The building has already been used for that purpose. In the summer of 1814, then-Gov. Levin Winder of Maryland perched in that vantage point on a daily basis, keeping watch for an expected British invasion force that did arrive off North Point, near Baltimore, on Sept. 12.

In the current scenario, we may well witness Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy, Townsend aloft there, peering anxiously for the sight of hostile forces -- a trio of Democratic county executives and, later, a certain Republican congressman.

Blaine Taylor,Towson

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