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Letters to the Editor

Social Services needs support of citizens

The Board of Directors of Anne Arundel County's Department of Social Services (DSS) understands that the state's fiscal situation is forcing the governor and the legislature to make difficult decisions. We nevertheless urge them - and you - to press for full funding of the services provided by Sarah's House, our Family Support Centers, and our child and adult protective services.

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Sarah's House at Fort Meade involves a nationally renowned partnership between the state, the Army and Catholic Charities. A loss of funding will jeopardize this partnership and its programs (including a day care center).

These programs save families who are homeless due to unemployment, abandonment, battering or medical crisis. When these families come to DSS, Sarah's House is often the only answer - and it is a good one with an astonishing record.

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Our county also has superb, irreplaceable Family Support Centers in Annapolis and Glen Burnie. Year after year, they supply "one-stop" assistance for thousands of citizens in need. Severe cuts are sure to undermine these cost-effective programs.

There is also a statewide issue that should concern us all. Each DSS has been asked to prepare for funding cuts of at least 10 percent. These cuts will translate into staffing cuts, and follow a yearlong hiring freeze that has already left DSS understaffed and its caseworkers overworked. Every abuse case is extremely time-consuming, costly, and difficult. It would be a tragedy to diminish our ability to provide timely assistance in these terrible cases. This is more than a humanitarian issue, it relates to the safety of our most vulnerable citizens.

We request your support of these essential county programs, as well as for adequate staffing of services protecting at risk families. Somehow our leaders must find ways to preserve these critical services.

J. Mark Poerio

Arnold

The writer is chairman of the Board of Directors, Department of Social Services.

ASO leadership out of tune

The dismissal of Conductor Leslie Dunner seems to be forgotten, but I feel compelled to express my viewpoint about the entire situation.

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After reading several articles, praising the chairman of the Search Committee and ASO Board, I would appreciate answers to the following questions: Who elects these chairmen and what are the necessary qualifications? How can a conservatory graduate, majoring in voice, qualify to head a committee dealing with orchestral material, hiring instrumental soloists etc.?

It is a waste of monies and time for committee members to attend a seminar to learn how to select a conductor, when the ASO Board of Trustees had already announced that Dr. Dunner's contract had not been renewed. Surely, Ms. Eisenhart and Mr. Billups must know that Dr. Dunner possesses all the required qualities mentioned. It is also obvious that the chairmen and their committees did not know their limitations. Was this seminar attendance a silent acknowledgement that they were not qualified to serve on these types of committees?

Please do not offer a few "token" blacks, as instrumental soloists or composers for next year's programs. There are too many committee members who seemingly have inflexible musical tastes and lack knowledge of contemporary music, as well as African-American musicians and their accomplishments/contributions.

ASO desperately needs a complete change in its administration.

Carrie Kellogg-Ray

Odenton

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County fire chief criticized on safety

Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds is a better politician than he is a fire chief. According to the article ("Police, fire chiefs say public is safe despite staff cuts," July 24), Chief Simonds has joined the police department's top politician, P. Thomas Shanahan, as saying that, despite the contemplated staffing cuts, they have preserved public safety.

The location of fire stations is based on response time and travel distances and these directly affect public safety. Staffing of the fire stations, however, affects firefighter safety. Any rookie knows that, and Simonds knows that as well.

Stress, overexertion and cardiac problems continue to be the top causes of line-of-duty deaths among firefighters. Reducing staffing can only exacerbate that problem.

It is unfortunate that the problem is being portrayed as a union vs. management problem. The real issue is firefighter safety.

As in any fire department, the chief is responsible for the safety of firefighters. Leadership means looking out for your people. That's Job Number One for anyone who has any pretense of being a leader.

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Because of the hazards that firefighters routinely face, leadership is an essential quality for fire chiefs. Many excellent fire departments are headed by men and women with enviable leadership skills. It is a pity the Anne Arundel County Fire Department lacks such a person.

William A. Heidecker

Severn

Cutting firefighters, police hurts us all

Regarding your article "Police, fire chiefs say public is safe despite staff cuts," (The Sun, July 24), on police and fire staff cuts, I'd like to add this.

My home was vandalized recently while I was on travel. I came back to find everything in disarray, along with numerous missing items, including one less car parked in the driveway. The thief had a field day! An officer arrived to document the break-in. He was extremely courteous, professional, thorough; however, he arrived several hours after my initial call. Needless to say, I found this time lapse to be unacceptable. It was impossible for me not to "contaminate" the crime scene as I still had to live there. There's no argument that we need to protect ourselves, our homes and our communities.

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If that means a tax increase, so be it, as far as this citizen is concerned. We don't hesitate to support our troops abroad; we shouldn't hesitate to support our local "foot soldiers" as well. We need to let the County Executive and the County Council know that underfunding our fire and police is not an appropriate option.

Failure to fund these services adequately impairs their ability to work on a timely and effective basis, which in turn jeopardizes the safety and well-being of the residents in the community. We all lose! Let's do what we can to protect our communities' front lines.

Noelle Elizabeth Joll

Crownsville


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