Port Discovery school deal is great for city

The plan to create the National Academy Foundation (NAF) School for Finance, Tourism and Technology within the Port Discovery building represents a rare triple win for Baltimore ("Bad deal for taxpayers," editorial, March 26.) It creates a winning new school based on a proven record of success. It provides the lowest cost of occupancy for this school among locations that were considered. And it supports one of Baltimore's largest cultural attractions - Port Discovery.

The NAF school deserves our support. It represents a true partnership with the business community, producing graduates in finance, tourism and information technology who will be highly valued by local employers. There are 80 civic and business leaders on NAF advisory boards who support the plan to create the NAF school at Port Discovery.

The school system commissioned CB Richard Ellis and Otis Warren, two highly respected local real estate firms, to find the ideal location at the lowest cost. Out of 20 sites that were evaluated, Port Discovery was recommended as the best site at the lowest cost.

With nearly 300,000 visitors each year, Port Discovery is among the four largest cultural attractions in the city (along with the aquarium, the science center and the zoo).

But Port Discovery can serve this number of visitors more efficiently in less space, which is why we developed a plan to sublet a portion of our building to a compatible partner. We could not have hoped for a more worthy partner than the NAF school, which already leases a small portion of our building and has been getting rave reviews from students and teachers.

Port Discovery has offered to sublet space to NAF at $6 per square foot plus utilities and maintenance, which is less than half of what it would cost to rent comparable space elsewhere. While the city owns our building, which it purchased for $2 million many years ago, the building is in usable condition only because of the $20 million that our private donors have given toward the renovation and contents of the building. So a fair compromise was struck, with the nonprofit Port Discovery offering a deeply reduced rate.

The NAF school deserves a new home, and Port Discovery's location has already proved to be a great place to welcome and educate children. We could certainly find bars and restaurants to sublet a portion of our building and generate more income in the process. But the pairing of Port Discovery with the NAF school is truly a higher cause at a lower cost to the city.

Douglas L. Becker


The writer is chairman of the board of Port Discovery and CEO of Sylvan

Honor commitment to Thornton funding

Maryland's legislators have a responsibility to honor Maryland's constitutional commitment to provide quality public schools by passing a budget that includes full funding for the Thornton Commission-inspired Bridge to Excellence legislation ("Senate narrowly OKs slots," March 23).

I believe they also have a moral responsibility to fund public education fully.

I urge legislators to do their homework. Maryland voters have said repeatedly that they are willing to absorb tax increases if the money is used for education.

As a matter of fact, in a recent statewide survey of registered voters, 72 percent of voters throughout the state responded that if the budget crisis meant the state must either raise taxes in some way or cut funding for education, they would support raising taxes.

I urge legislators to forget past rhetoric and do what's right for the children. The children are counting on all of us to give them the same chance at success we enjoyed.

It's not too late. Elected officials can still do the right thing, and voters will support them.

Please keep the Thornton Commission's promise.

Mark Beytin


The writer is president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

Americans showing backbone to world

Although some Americans are marching in protest, the majority are teaching the world an anatomy lesson.

We have shown that we have the spine to face up to those that wish us harm. We have the heart to try to protect the Iraqi people who are being oppressed. And we have the brains to know when Saddam Hussein and his allies are trying to snooker us.

Stanley Oring


U.S. media shamed into covering war

Thank God Al-Jazeera has succeeded in shaming the American media into reporting invasion news, warts and all ("Pentagon losing its grip on news flow," March 25). Still, I find it sad, even tragic, that the networks have to receive lessons in journalistic responsibility from other nations. Didn't we Americans virtually invent freedom of the press?

If the media had sought Pentagon "permission" during the Vietnam War, one can only wonder how long the Pentagon's lies would have been believed in that misbegotten adventure and how many more American lives would have been sacrificed to a foreign policy driven by arrogance and false pride.

We Americans must be shown images of our dead and prisoners. It is our constitutional right. It is also the obligation of the media to bring the realities of this invasion home to the public.

Joe Roman


Public opinion polls don't always add up

Thank heavens for Daniel Meltzer's column ("Believe your eyes, not opinion polls," Opinion * Commentary March 26) on the diabolical nonsense of opinion polls that would have us believe 70 percent of Americans "strongly support" the war on Iraq. Everyone knows the figure is enormously skewed, but it's never clear how. Mr. Meltzer pointed out two of the ways: misleading (or leading) questions and very small numbers of people polled.

Pre-emptive war and the dramatic erosion of civil liberties at home are issues far too important to be decided by skewed opinion polls. Unfortunately, people can be influenced enough by them to decide that their own instincts and opinions are irrelevant, and give up instead of speaking out. That makes poll-skewing an insidious assault on democracy.

Linda O'Brien

Photo of courage speaks volumes

The photo of Marine Lance Cpl. Marcco Ware on the front page of The Sun (March 26) was worth more than a thousand words to me, and quite moving. Here we see an American serviceman, under indescribable circumstances of fear, fatigue and fiercely blowing desert sands, demonstrating qualities of manhood that will never die. What a lesson he depicts in perseverance, courage and compassion! By carrying the wounded Iraqi prisoner of war on his back, he reminded me of the old saying: "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

From this day forward until the war ends, Corporal Ware, his family and all the troops will continue to be in my prayers.

Lolli Hart


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