Lead-paint bill would weaken enforcement

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s $375,000 funding cut for Baltimore's lead-paint enforcement is disgraceful, and belies his claim that this will be the year he is focused on children's interests ("Ehrlich cuts funds for lead program," Jan. 22).

In addition, his spokeswoman's claim that "lead-paint poisoning isn't an age issue or geographic issue" is belied by the Maryland Department of the Environment's own publications, which show that the vast majority of children lead-poisoned in Maryland are poisoned in Baltimore.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited studies showing that children under age 6 who live in deteriorated urban housing are most at risk for lead poisoning, and has recommended that efforts to prevent lead poisoning be targeted at the highest-risk populations.

According to a 2000 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office, the rate of lead poisoning among black children living in housing built before 1946 was nearly four times that for white children.

Lead poisoning is indeed a geographical issue and, by extension, a civil rights issue in Maryland - although this is something the Ehrlich administration refuses to acknowledge or talk about.

Finally, the governor has thus far failed to mention the alarming loopholes for noncompliant landlords in his proposed legislation.

Several provisions of the governor's bill would weaken enforcement laws in place and make it more difficult to hold a landlord responsible when a child has been poisoned.

These provisions would lead to an increase in incidents of lead poisoning in Maryland while protecting landlords from enforcement and liability.

In short, the bill is a Trojan horse, and the General Assembly should not unwittingly and uncritically accept the governor's so-called gift to lead-poisoned children.

Lisa J. Smith


The writer is an attorney who has represented lead-poisoned children.

Senators were right to question Rice

I am proud of Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Of course, it's a president's prerogative to appoint a secretary of state with whom he's comfortable, but we the people have the right to know what he's getting us into.

I think Ms. Boxer's (and, for that matter, Sen. John Kerry's) hardball approach to the confirmation hearing for Condoleezza Rice ("Democrats say Rice lied or misled country on Iraq," Jan. 26) gave us a much clearer idea.

Tom Buck


Nation-building won't end the hate

Being delusional about who our terrorist enemies really are plays into the hands of civilization's enemies.

We believe, naively, that we can beat down militant Islamists and the hate for us emanating from the Arab camp by democratic nation-building ("In spread of liberty, 'best hope for peace,'" Jan. 21).


For as long as that hate is taught, encouraged and exported to fester into militant Islamic terrorism worldwide, we can be no more effective than spitting into the wind.

Sadly for all of us, until this hate teaching is recognized as self-defeating and addressed by the Islamic clergy and the people they allegedly represent, we are destined to be locked in mortal combat.

Fred Tepper


Precooked meals offer poor nutrition

The Sun's article on school nutrition did not consider the change in the way school lunches are prepared ("Md. school board ready to order better nutrition for lunchrooms," Jan. 22).

At least through the 1970s, school cafeteria food was almost entirely prepared on site. Thus the school's head dieticians could, within budget constraints, adjust menus to reflect the needs of their students.

Today, school boards strike deals with food vendors who deliver precooked meals to all of the schools in a district.

While this food may not be as processed as the food from vending machines, it is still a long way from the close-to-home-cooked food served to children in the 1950s and 1960s, when school lunches could not be a bag of chips from the vending machines and two orders of french fries.

Barbara M. Simon


The writer is a former teacher in the Anne Arundel County public schools.

Schools should use Maryland's produce

It's great to hear that the Maryland school board is considering switching to a healthier menu for school lunches ("Md. school board ready to order better nutrition for lunchrooms," Jan. 22). Will the state also make an effort to purchase that healthier food from local producers?

Not only does locally grown food offer better taste and variety, but using it helps our local farmers stay in business. And as The Sun has recently reported, more and more farmers are selling their land to developers because the economics of the current global food system often makes it difficult for them to stay in business ("Md. farm preservation effort losing ground," Jan. 24).

Our public institutions such as schools, hospitals, universities and even prisons can play a role in changing that economic equation by supporting local farmers when they can.

And in the long run everyone will benefit from having a healthy farm economy producing fresh food for the region.

Brad Johnson


Offering incentives to trap city drivers?

The problem with the digital red-light cameras is that Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) and Baltimore City now have a vested interest in drivers running red lights to receive citations and generate revenue ("City gets digital red-light cameras," Jan. 22).

Because the company earns $11 to $27 per paid citation, it is to its advantage to have short yellow lights to nab motorists.

Why not instead give ACS a bonus for accident reduction at the covered intersections, which is 50 percent to 60 percent, according to The Sun?

Or pay a percentage of the savings Baltimore realizes because fewer police, ambulance and hospital services are used because accidents decline?

This way, there would be real incentive to increase safety rather than just generate revenue for ACS and the city government.

Jerry Levin


End of tolerance for station sculpture

The list of people opposed to the "Male/Female" sculpture in front of Penn Station grows.

"Male/Female" overwhelms the new public plaza and the historic and architecturally significant Penn Station.

Other cities have tolerated Jonathan Borofsky's so-called art for only a limited time.

Baltimore's tolerance time is up - let's move it to a more appropriate place.

Frances W. Riepe


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