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Crabbing limits pose dangers for watermenThe Sun's...


Crabbing limits pose dangers for watermen

The Sun's editorial "To preserve the crab industry" (May 3) failed to mention some major considerations.

The Sun called Maryland watermen "short-sighted" for in refusing to agree to reduce their catch. No one wants the blue crab to return to its former bountiful quantities more than the watermen. They depend on the crab to put food on their table and a roof over their heads. It is their livelihood.

Don't sell them short by calling them "short-sighted." Listen to what they have to say. Perhaps a common-sense approach can protect the interests of all parties.

The "cowardly state legislators," as The Sun called them, did listen to the concerns of the watermen. Members of the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) Committee took into consideration the estimates of marine biologist Jacques van Montfrans that an estimated 73 million crabs are consumed yearly by the resurgent striped bass.

Has that been considered in the governor's proposed new regulations? No.

Virginia has been highly touted for being progressive in imposing regulations to reduce the crab harvest. However, Virginia watermen won't endure any real hardships compared to what Maryland is asking of its watermen.

Virginia has decided to give all commercial crabbers Wednesdays off from June 6 to Aug. 22. However, the vast majority of Virginia crabbers are "potters." They place bait in wire mesh crab pots, which the crabs are unable to exit once they enter.

Watermen may not be able to empty pots on Wednesday, but what prevents crabs from entering on Wednesday and being harvested on Thursday? Will they abide by Virginia's regulations?

Maryland's proposed regulations would shorten the watermen's workday from 14 hours to eight, for a total reduction of 36 hours per week. Because of the time constraints, watermen will feel pressure to crab during marginal weather, when their safety is threatened.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is also considering shortening the season by one month -- November. But the Virginia season goes year-round. What prevents crabs "saved" from harvest in Maryland from being caught in Virginia? Absolutely nothing. The harvest will simply be transferred to Virginia, which will be the sole beneficiary of its economic impact.

Officials in Maryland hope to reduce the harvest by 5 percent per year over the next three years. Indeed, if these regulations are implemented as proposed, the reduction will be more in the area of 30 percent per year. The blue crab will rebound because there will be very few watermen able to survive such a drastic cut to their income.

Politics aside, we need to take a reasoned look at all the factors contributing to the decline of the Maryland blue crab.

It is not simply a matter of over-harvesting. Maryland and Virginia have to develop a comprehensive approach to assure the blue crab will be enjoyed by future generations and watermen can continue to make a living harvesting them.

Richard F. Colburn, Cambridge

The writer represents the 37th District in the Maryland Senate.

Students react to Sun's reports

Editor's note: As part of their study of rhetoric, an 11th-grade advanced writing class at Baltimore City College High School submitted letters in response to some recent Sun articles. What follows are some of the students' letters.

The purchase of thermal cameras by the Baltimore City Fire Department is a good idea ("Seeing through the smoke," April 25). Having cameras that detect body heat and the source of the fire could save countless lives.

The prices are a little steep, at $9,000 to $25,000 per camera, but it is worth it. Give the fire department the thermal cameras, so they can do their jobs.

Chris Williams, Baltimore

It is sad to see America turn back the hands of time. Centuries ago, if you committed a crime you would be hung or have your head cut off in front of the whole town. Now it seems as if it is happening again ("A pretense of civility unveiled," April 24).

This is the 21st century, not the 18th century. It is very inhumane for someone to be killed while everyone is watching him or her.

Shannon Jenkins Baltimore

I was shocked to read that 22 percent of prisoners are raped at least once during their incarceration ("What sort of people do we want to be," Opinion* Commentary, April 26).

I want to know: How are the rapists getting away with this? Shouldn't the prisoners be watched over well enough to make such injustice known?

If we know how many prisoners are being raped, we should be able to do something about it.

Natasha Hicks, Baltimore

I completely agree that there should be some restriction on how much money a company can donate to political campaigns and candidates ("Make campaign ads free," Opinion

Commentary, April 25). The more money a company puts into a campaign, the more biased candidates may become on issues.

Put yourself in the candidates' shoes: Wouldn't you choose to favor the rich business-people supporting your campaign?

I think the McCain-Feingold bill is what this country needs.

Aarika Simms, Baltimore

Not often do you see a black man on The Sun's cover for something positive ("Baltimore's newest hero," April 23).

Hasim Rahman has brought a title to Baltimore. Many young African-Americans look up to him. It's his time to shine.

Eventually someone will try to find something wrong that happened in his life. But it is good that there is someone out there trying to make the best of his life.

Bernetta Baker, Baltimore

The Sun's article on small children taking medication to stay calm was very disturbing to me ("Drug found effective for child's anxiety," April 26).

I believe no child should be taking medication for anxiety. It angers me when I hear drugs are answering the problems for anyone.

Parents need to start being parents and take time to be with and understand their children.

Mysung Fisher, Baltimore

The scientists at the University of Maryland's Center of Marine Biotechnology should be applauded for their attempt to save the crab ("Hatching solutions for the crab," April 26).

Since many Baltimoreans eat crabs, it is imperative that they are safe enough to eat.

Since we get most of our crabs from the Chesapeake Bay, which is overly polluted from nitrogen and other chemicals, raising crabs in hatcheries is not such a bad idea.

LaKeisha Hawkins, Baltimore

Instead of scientists doing research on a crab's life cycle, they should do an experiment on preventing pollution ("Hatching solutions for the crab," April 26).

Restocking the bay with hatchery crabs will be useless if we don't stop the pollution. The crabs will die along with the rest of the organisms that live in the bay.

Is this what we really want to happen?

Christina Seaborne, Baltimore

Nonprofits owe city a hand

When I read about the bill introduced in the City Council to levy a tax on energy use by nonprofit organizations, I knew they'd squeal like stuck pigs about all the things they do for Baltimore. I was not disappointed ("Nonprofit tax in bad faith, clergy say," May 6).

Well, we taxpaying residents of Baltimore City do a lot for this town, too. We pay taxes on our homes, on our incomes, on parking fees, as well taxes to the state of Maryland on our incomes and purchases, a large portion of which come back into Baltimore.

Additionally, we contribute the money to these nonprofit organizations that keeps them operating.

But as always, it's the same old, "Don't tax me; don't tax thee; tax the fellow behind the tree."

It's time for every citizen and every organization in this city to help pay for the services our city government provides -- for the education of our children, the libraries and cultural institutions, police and fire protection, EMS services, street lighting and cleaning, snow removal, recreation and parks and health and housing services.

Everybody complains about poor service from city government, then complains that city government should be downsized to reduce taxes.

But it takes money, tax money, to hire and retain employees to perform all those services we demand. Everybody wants the government to do everything for them, but nobody wants to pay for it.

Nonprofit organizations and institutions are exempt from millions of dollars in property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes and utility taxes. They pay nothing toward the cost of all these services that they also benefit from.

An 8 percent tax on their gas and electric and other energy use is reasonable and long overdue.

Bill Reiley, Baltimore

Medical school must find places for all

Paul Jung argued in favor of the University of Maryland Medical School's practice of essentially rejecting applicants with high intelligent quotients and accepting those with high emotional quotients ("Good grades vs. good doctors," letters, April 21). But Dr. Jung failed to ask a more fundamental question: Why does the medical school ever have to face this "either/or" in the first place?

The reason is that the school is not accommodating all qualified Marylanders seeking a medical education. The number of students it admits clearly does not meet the needs of the large number of interested, qualified applicants.

If the medical school wants to accomplish its taxpayer-funded charter to provide medical training to qualified Maryland citizens, it needs to work as hard to find ways to train aspiring medical students as it does to find flimsy, contrived excuses for denying them the education they seek.

The school should establish a goal of admitting every Maryland applicant who meets a minimum standard (say, an average GPA of 3.0 or better and an MCAT score of 27 or better).

After admission, a challenging curriculum along with a fair grading system will eliminate those who do not have the determination or ability required. And, for those who graduate, a competitive marketplace will determine who becomes a successful physician.

The poor predictions and exclusive, secretive, discriminatory, vague processes of the seemingly arrogant admissions committee would no longer determine who is given the opportunity to succeed.

All candidates seeking medical training would benefit. And the medical service consumer would ultimately have a more diverse array of physicians to choose from, most likely at a lower cost.

Dr. Jung works hard to find the right way to do the wrong thing. The wrong thing is to continue restricting of medical training services to Maryland taxpayers, instead of working to expand medical training opportunities to all credible candidates.

The school needs to accommodate all qualified students.

Jerry Zavage, Andrea Zavage, Laurel

Hollywood images coarsen our culture

William Blinn's introspective and confessional article ("Hollywood must be accountable," Opinion*Commentary, April 26) was commendable, as it shows a Hollywood insider grappling with the real-world implications of his industry. Mr. Blinn's conscience does appear to bother him.

The potency of images, whether still or moving, is not seriously disputed. Hollywood's long-standing public position that neither its product nor the lifestyles it portrays contribute to cultural degradation is simply self-serving.

Hollywood unquestionably influences popular culture and plays a pivotal role in validating increasingly base forms of speech and behavior. Its constant depiction of vacuous, self-centered lives -- often lived at a frenetic pace and motivated principally by money -- undermines genuine value that benefit communities and promote individual fulfillment.

Hollywood's myopic view of its accountability (solely in box-office terms), combined with the stratospheric amounts of money it generates (which allow its stars to live the lives they so often act out on screen) is limiting and destructive. The industry thus becomes a parody of its product, further blurring the distinction between the make-believe and the real.

The remedy does not require Hollywood to go to the opposite extreme and produce only saccharine, Pollyanna-ish stories of little or no artistic merit. Its talented writers are fully capable of creating a far higher level of entertainment than the current fare -- and of making money doing it.

Hollywood needs to admit that its influence in contemporary society is indeed awesome. In an age as image-conscious and media-conscious as ours, it can and it does make a difference in society.

Responsibility, not accountability, is the issue.

Charles A. Ferraro, Baltimore

Arguments shouldn't rely just on one's experience

Patty Somlo's column on depression reflects a brand of illogic that shows up frequently in public debate these days ("Forget the herb; this is serious," Opinion

Commentary, May 2). Whatever the subject, individuals offer their experiences as "proof" of something and, all too often, this proof goes unchallenged.

Ms. Somlo dismisses chemical treatments for depression as "quick fixes" and argues that only long-term psychotherapy can address it permanently. She describes her positive experience with psychotherapy and makes clear her conclusion derives from that experience and that of "many people I know."

I don't dispute her conclusion about depression; lots of people make that argument. But we see over and over arguments based on an assumption like this: "It worked for me; therefore, it will work for most people" or "it didn't work for me, so it will fail most people."

This is not a healthy way of developing and critiquing ideas. Whether the subject is mental illness, taxes, guns, crime, abortion or drugs, the public needs critical thinking that draws on, but isn't limited to, individual experience.

In fact, research shows that depression sometimes does not respond to psychotherapy and often responds to drugs or to a combination of both.

Ms. Somlo's experiences could help us figure out the complicated alchemy of this disorder, but they certainly do not reflect everyone's.

Jill Raymond, Takoma Park

Why not name our cities after the highest bidder?

In the midst of the Republican right's frenzy to re-name buildings, streets and airports for President Reagan comes a letter making the tongue-in-cheek proposal that the entire District of Columbia be re-named for the former president ("Why not just call capital 'Ronald Reagan City'," letters, May 3) That's way short-sighted.

We need instead to sell the naming rights to our cities, thereby balancing budgets without raising taxes or firing workers.

Think it would be hard to say "Rite Aid City" instead of Baltimore? Or "Verizon City" or "Geicoboro" or "Burger King Town" or the name of whatever entity is the high bidder?

As they say, get over it. Don't get stuck in the kind of mentality that still thinks Brooklyn when the Dodgers are mentioned.

We've gotten used to tons of new commercial names: PSINet -- for the nonce -- Stadium, MCI Center in Washington, Staples Center in Los Angeles, Safeco Field in Seattle, etc. Start forgetting the name Camden Yards right now.

Don't be negative about the glories of the market economy. And if renaming our cities works, we can go on to neighborhoods too.

Why insist upon Roland Park or Ashburton or Dundalk when we can get big bucks for renaming rights -- Victoria's Secret, Oil of Olay, Hold Everything. The letter writer's own neighborhood of Timonium might approach Linens n' Things.

And after that, who knows? Universities? Hospitals? Parks? The possibilities are, as they say, mind-blowing.

Mary Beacom Bowers, Baltimore (or Whatever)

Question of the Month:

With a new slogan, "The Greatest City in America" on its bus benches, Baltimore has abandoned former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's motto, "The City That Reads."

What slogan would you suggest for the city?

We are looking for 300 words or fewer; the deadline is May 21. Letters become the property of The Sun, which reserves the right to edit them. By submitting a letter, the author grants The Sun an irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license to use and republish the letter, in whole or in part, in all media and to authorize others to reprint it.

Letters should include your name and address, along with a day and evening telephone number. E-mail us:; write us: Letters to the Editor, The Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278-0001; fax us: 410-332-6977.

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