Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

SATURDAY MAILBOX

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ICC won't cure the congestion on our highways

It is refreshing to see an article that links land use to our growing traffic problems ("Siren song of cars and roads," June 19). Too often, how and where we build is not part of the transportation debate, despite its very real impact on congestion.

The Intercounty Connector is a good example of that problem. It will do nothing for regional congestion relief, while encouraging homes and jobs to be scattered across the areas between the Washington and Baltimore regions.

The result will be longer commutes and more congestion.

The most unfortunate misconception about the ICC is that it is "intended to relieve heavily burdened I-95 and the Washington Beltway."

Past ICC studies, and the current State Highway Administration ICC study, clearly show that the ICC would have no impact on congestion on these major regional highways.

What's worse is the ICC is the third-most-expensive transportation project in the United States and could use up 10 percent to 20 percent of all federal highway dollars that go to Maryland until 2025.

There is little doubt that $3 billion - the highway's cost with interest - could be better spent to help more people across Maryland.

Brian Henry

Chevy Chase

The writer is ICC alternatives campaign director for the Audubon Naturalist Society.

Democrats function as the party of hate

Recent remarks by Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (apologies notwithstanding) tell us a lot about the party from which they emanate ("Durbin apologizes for likening Guantanamo to Nazi camps," June 22).

Both Mr. Dean and Mr. Durbin are representatives of the Democratic Party. Their world views are cluttered by stereotypes and a bad reading of history.

When you demonstrate how little you know of history, stereotype others and cling to unjustifiable and pathological anger, you truly represent a party of hate.

Douglas B. Hermann

Parkville

Cakewalk in Iraq is now a quagmire

Where is Albert Einstein when we need him? Time and space are bending, and our nation is getting pinched at the crease.

Several years ago, we were told by President Bush and his team that the war in Iraq would be a cakewalk paid for by Iraq's oil revenues, and that Job One would be sweeping up all the flowers the Iraqis would be strewing in our path.

Now, after hundreds of billions of dollars have been thrown down that rat hole, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tells us that Iraq is a "generational commitment."

Translation: Hold our children and grandchildren close; we don't know when this will end ("No troop reduction seen for this year," June 22).

Did the Bush administration lie to us before the war, or was it simply incompetent once the war began?

Rich Levy

Cambridge

Addiction often key to homelessness

The Sun's article "City census finds a rise in homeless population" (June 13) reported that 40 percent of the people who participated in the homeless census are homeless because of a health problem.

While many addicts are not willing to identify or report their addiction or identify it as a health problem, my experience is that many of the health problems encountered, and the homelessness that results, stem from a root cause of addiction - either to drugs or alcohol or often both - that affects an addict's mental and physical health.

While affordable housing is an important need in Baltimore, the availability of and access to drug and alcohol addiction recovery and treatment programs are equally important.

An addict who is spending all of his or her money on drugs or alcohol, who is unable to become steadily and gainfully employed, is not going to be able to afford or maintain a residence no matter how "affordable" it is.

We must begin to address the primary root causes of homelessness, including addiction and mental illness, to truly make an impact in the lives of the majority of Baltimore's homeless.

Clare M. Gorman

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Baltimore Station, a residential recovery program for men.

Revive the old ways to help the indigent

With all the distressing news regarding the plight of abandoned and unsupervised children being held overnight or longer in business offices ("Children still being housed illegally in office building," June 15) or in questionable foster homes, as well as the uncounted numbers of homeless, indigent people roaming the streets in search of food and shelter, I would make one simple suggestion.

Have any of our social service or political leaders ever given thought of reverting back to the "old-fashioned" orphanages and almshouses?

Until recent decades, orphaned or abandoned children were housed in orphanages - where all of their basic needs were met. They went to public school with the rest of us kids. We were their friends, and vice versa. They had a stable, well-supervised environment and weren't thrown from one group home to another.

Similar living arrangements could also apply to almshouses, where the homeless and indigent could find a roof over their heads, dependable mealtimes and other simple amenities of daily life, which they did not have while wondering the streets.

Elizabeth Myers

Baltimore

Input of community is usually overlooked

Reporter Joe Nawrozki's comment that "the charrette procedure will be part of any new development in the county" ("Group's vision for new village gets initial OK," June 18) shows just how out of touch The Sun is with the reality of Baltimore County's development process.

While the charrette procedure allows the community to come up with a design for redevelopment in a handful of cases, it is the exception, not the rule.

In the vast majority of cases, developers, politicians and county officials develop such plans behind closed doors under the name of "economic development."

Such proposals are then rubber-stamped by the Development Review Committee and fast-tracked, circumventing the prescribed development process and the requirement for public input.

The massive Towson Circle III project, which was considered a "refinement" of a decade-old plan to which it bears little resemblance, is a fine example.

Unfortunately, most of these cases are ignored by The Sun.

Corinne Becker

Towson

The writer is president of the Riderwood Hills Community Association.

Board tells teachers they just don't count

In The Sun's article "Pay raise suggested for city's teachers" (June 18), school board member Kenneth A. Jones is quoted as saying: "This board has had the awful experience of running a large deficit because we did for the children what we wanted to do."

So because of the financial mismanagement by the school board, Baltimore City teachers are forced to go three years without a raise - which is, realistically, a pay cut in a region where housing prices and the cost of living are escalating at incredible rates.

Mr. Jones goes on to suggest that the board is doing "everything for the children and for our teachers that we can do."

However, budgets are about priorities, and what the school board is saying to the teachers of Baltimore, as well as the children who so desperately need them, is that they are not a priority.

Since any successful organization's most important asset is its employees, I look forward to hearing what the school board's plans are to ensure that we hire - and just as important, retain - qualified and dedicated teachers.

Benjamin Crandall

Baltimore

The writer teaches fifth grade at Baltimore's Westport Academy.

Canada's care model offers better option

Steve Chapman cannot resist the libertarian impulse to criticize the Canadian health care system ("Don't believe hype about Canadian health care model," Opinion Commentary, June 20).

And he is correct that Canadian health care is not perfect. But his critique is highly selective and ignores such factors as the effect the American system has on its neighbor and the fundamental defects of our own system.

For instance, Mr. Chapman cites the old complaints about waiting lists for specialists in Canada, but he does not acknowledge that Canadian-trained specialists often leave their country and reasonable remuneration for opportunities to make big bucks in the United States for doing much the same work.

This southward flow causes a shortage of specialists in Canada, which contributes to waiting lists for non-emergency surgery.

Meanwhile, Americans pay almost twice as much per capita for their greed-based system as Canadians pay for universal care.

Some time ago, I lived in Canada and had the privilege of experiencing the Canadian health care system firsthand.

Regular check-ups included extensive conversations with my doctor about how my daily routine affected my health and what better choices I could make. Compare this treatment to the average of less than 15 minutes that most Americans spend with their physicians in our greed-based system.

And let's not forget the more than 40 million Americans who have no health insurance whatsoever.

Americans must find out the facts and choose between creating a people-based insurance system that allows doctors to prioritize patient care, and preserving our current greed-based system, in which even good-hearted doctors must serve their corporate masters to survive.

Jim Salvucci

Baltimore

More police needed to stop the violence

Time and again, in letters to the editor ("Rising crime takes terrible toll on the city," letters, June 17) and in the pronouncements of law enforcement officials and city and state politicians, we deplore the high homicide and other crime rates in Baltimore.

We shuffle the leaders and the programs, but we fail to do what must be done to substantially reduce crime in Baltimore and rehabilitate criminals.

To bring about change, we must first recognize that the city's 3,200 or so police officers are woefully insufficient to administer the bureaucracy and staff the city's nine police districts.

After more than a decade of 250 to 300 homicides a year, thousands of serious felonies and many more thousands of misdemeanors, our police force is simply understaffed and overworked.

To get a real handle on lawlessness in the city, the police force should at least be doubled in strength.

But citizens and businesses would scream bloody murder and immediately throw political leaders out of office if our local property or piggyback state income taxes were increased to pay for enough police officers to bring the crime rate down substantially.

So, in effect, our society, by failing to adequately staff and fund the Police Department, is maintaining the status quo. And so we will continue to risk life, limb and property.

Still, I believe our city and state leaders are sincere and effective, given the resources they have to work with, in their efforts to detect, apprehend, prosecute and rehabilitate criminals.

I am optimistic that conditions will improve over time. Until then, let's work together and BELIEVE.

Samuel Culotta

Baltimore

Soft-serve reminder of grandfather's affection

Thanks for a great summer story, "A soft spot for ice cream" (June 20).

The Mister Softee ice cream truck bells ring a special place in my heart.

Growing up in New York, my younger brother and I spent many summer days at my grandparents' house in the Rockaways, and often enjoyed chocolate, soft-serve ice cream.

When we heard the Mister Softee bells ringing a block away, we knew it was dessert time and kids came running to line up at the truck window.

Several years ago, we lost Grandpa. As we were laying him to rest, I shot a tearful glance into the distance. Lo and behold, a Mister Softee truck sat in the parking lot across the street from the cemetery.

That must have been Poppy's way of letting us know he'd be keeping watch over the family.

Today, each time any of us hears the famous Mister Softee jingle, we know Poppy is bringing us some ice cream, a smile to our face and a warm feeling in our heart.

Michael Schwartzberg

Baltimore

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