Criminals' misdeeds show they don't care about voting rights
If the authors of "Reintegrate ex-cons by restoring voting rights" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 7) intend to include repeat offenders in this restoration, I'm vehemently opposed.
Repeat offenders aren't interested in "engaging in active citizenship or making a commitment to the ideals of a civilized society." They have no intention of "participating in our democratic process," or they would have chosen a different vocation.
Millions of Americans obey our laws every day. Criminals, by definition, don't. They spend their days committing heinous crimes against decent, law-abiding citizens.
Why give criminals something they neither deserve nor want?
We are a nation of compassionate people, but we sometimes waste that compassion on people who neither recognize the gesture nor know the meaning of the word.
Glad to see state legislature get serious on cell phones
Here's to the good sense of the state legislature in getting serious about correcting a driving hazard ("Cell phone bill gains strength," Feb. 7). But let's have no exceptions for emergencies.
If an emergency exists, find a place to park and then make the call.
It's just too bad that five people had to die in one accident - four of them innocent Canadian tourists who were apparently obeying the law - before this happened.
Franklin W. Littleton
Find a better way to fund Internet bill-paying service
I applaud Mayor Martin O'Malley and his staff for their efforts to bring Internet and bill-paying services to city residents ("City offers bill payments through its Web site," Feb. 8).
With the introduction of bill-paying services over the Internet, the city will be able to reduce labor and materials costs and receive and invest funds more rapidly. And this is why I am a bit puzzled by the city charging a $3 transaction fee for bill payment.
I know few citizens who would entertain a $3 fee, as opposed to buying a 34-cent stamp.
I challenge the city to come up with more creative ways to subsidize the effort.
The writer is president of the Cheswolde Neighborhood Association.
Support and expand Amtrak train service
Amtrak is not failing for lack of efficiency, management or competition ("Train service at risk, Amtrak president says," Feb. 2). It simply needs a fraction of the support that we give to airlines and automobiles.
Getting Americans out of cars is a matter of mental and physical health. Having an alternative to airlines is a matter of security and a sustainable lifestyle.
America needs Amtrak trains like New York needs the subways. We should not just save Amtrak, we should vitalize and expand it.
Why not land-for-peace in southern Europe, too?
At the meeting of foreign ministers of the European Union, French representative Hubert Vedrine presented a plan for Mideast peace ("EU ministers endorse proposal for Palestinian state," Feb. 10).
Now that Mr. Vedrine has found a "peaceful" solution for the Middle East, he and his Spanish counterpart should also propose the creation of a state to satisfy the demands of Basque separatists, who periodically terrorize the region in southwest France and northeast Spain.
Giving the Basques sovereignty would be fair and consistent with the ministers' reasoning: peace at any cost.
Reagan's budgets set stage for 20-year economic boom
One would think that a person who has covered politics since Eisenhower was president would have the wisdom to see that every issue has at least two sides. Yet all we get from Jules Witcover is a tiresome repetition of the Democratic party line. For example, in "Unity bites dust with busted budget" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 6), he criticized the president's budget, claiming it would bring back the horrible deficits of the Reagan years.
But how were the economic policies of the Reagan administration so horrible? They tamed inflation and led to an almost 20-year period of the greatest economy in world history.
New Freedom, Pa.
'Law and order' mentality is right for county courts
Regarding the number of inmates Baltimore County has on death row, criminal defense lawyer Margaret Meade complains that the problem with the county courts is the "'law and order' mentality to the whole system" ("Balto. County has most inmates on death row," Feb. 8).
Coming from a criminal, this statement would be laughable; however, coming from a practicing attorney, it is just plain disgusting. Exactly what kind of mentality is a court system supposed to have?
Perhaps if the murderers and violent felons that Ms. Meade represents for a living had more of a "law and order mentality," society would be a much safer place.
Maryland must find a replacement for MSPAP
The Sun's editorial "Remaking history with education reform" (Feb. 2) said the state's testing program needs to evolve into something better, and we agree.
Maryland students, as well as their parents, teachers and principals, deserve an assessment program that provides reliable and valid data. They need individual student data, too, not just school data.
Only then will Maryland find the statewide support needed for a successful accountability program. MSPAP has not achieved such support.
In the new No Child Left Behind Act, Congress and the president recognized the need for individual student data based on measurable standards. The absence of such data from MSPAP has undermined its usefulness. Now the problems with MSPAP threaten to weaken the support necessary to implement high school assessments this year.
There is agreement that MSPAP needs to change. But what happens in the meantime? Why should thousands of students and teachers be required to go through one, two or three more years of a controversial testing program with disputed results while we wait for a new test?
Indeed, growing concerns across Maryland - not just in Montgomery County - suggest that mandating the current test even one more year is not in the best interest of our state or our students.
Instead, we need to applaud the good work done thus far with MSPAP and quickly turn to establishing a solid replacement program, one that reestablishes trust statewide in state accountability and assessment.
We urge state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and the Maryland State Board of Education to delay further use of the current MSPAP until and unless the test is reconstituted to reflect the best interests of parents, students, teachers and principals, as well as national education policy.
Reginald M. Felton
Patricia B. O'Neill
The writers are, respectively, the president and vice president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.