SATURDAY MAILBOX

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Drug treatment key to reviving neighborhoods

I read with great interest The Sun's July 25 Maryland section.

Dan Rodricks wrote another in his series of columns promoting an active, positive response to the problems created by addiction in our city ("A weary city can't turn to cynicism when it comes to drugs and violence," July 25).

There was also an article about a church in West Baltimore opposed to the proposed location of a drug treatment center the city may open nearby ("Communities opposed to treatment centers up against U.S. law," July 25).

Finally, I read the obituary published for Irving Cohen, businessman and founder of Hidden Brook, one of the first treatment centers for alcoholism in the state ("Irving Cohen, 87, founded alcoholic treatment center," July 25).

Mr. Cohen's work was prompted by personal experience: His wife was a recovering alcoholic. Hidden Brook opened in Harford County in 1968 and for the next 17 years provided hope and help to thousands of alcoholics and addicts.

Many of these recovering people went on to be active in sharing what they had learned about recovery with their families and communities by participating in 12-step meetings and repairing their lives.

Yet despite decades of evidence and thousands of lives changed for the better through treatment, some people still say they don't want treatment programs in their communities because they will "bring addicts into our neighborhoods."

The Sun's article on treatment centers also quotes a church member referring to the high crime rate in her area.

Chances are, much of the crime in the neighborhood is directly related to the untreated addicts who are living there.

If the community makes treatment accessible, children will have the opportunity to see recovery in action as people get counseling, find jobs, move into stable housing and reunite with their families.

This is the same positive effect Hidden Brook helped foster almost 40 years ago.

My organization believes that treatment is as important now as it was in 1968.

We support the zoning bills introduced by the mayor because they would make it easier for people living in the city to receive the treatment they need.

And we thank The Sun for raising awareness not only of the problems created by substance abuse but of the solutions as well.

Beth Ryan

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Maintenance works in Puerto Rico, too

The Sun's otherwise laudable article on providing methadone maintenance treatment in Maryland's prisons ("Trying to break the cycle of heroin addiction, prison," July 23) reports that there are no reports of methadone treatment in any other U.S. prison.

It neglected to mention that since 2002, sentenced inmates have been receiving methadone at the Men's Correctional Facility at Las Malvinas Prison in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The inmates participating in this program are heroin-addicted and have at least two years left on their sentences. As in the Rikers Island jail program and the Baltimore prison study, an integral part of this program is the referral to a community methadone program upon release.

The program went from a small pilot project with 24 participants in its first year to one that includes six times that number today.

In July 2003, I was one of the investigators in an evaluation of this pilot, along with researchers from Yale Medical School, Beth Israel Medical Center and Carlos Albizu University of Puerto Rico.

The evaluation found that the program was successfully providing methadone treatment to some of the prison's heaviest heroin users - whose average length of sentence was 19.4 years - and that the prison administration, staff and inmates all approved of the program.

Based on that report, the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has decided to expand the number of those receiving treatment to 500 system-wide.

Holly Catania

New York

The writer is a project director for the International Center for Advancement of Addiction Treatment at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Elkridge irrelevant to city's real woes

With the horrendous social problems that plague Baltimore, can people not put their energy into those issues instead of the tempest-in-a-teapot over the Elkridge Club ("Elkridge says it has sought out black members," July 21)?

While there are indeed larger philosophical issues here, admission to the Elkridge club would in reality benefit a very few African-Americans in this city, just as it benefits very few Caucasians.

However the Elkridge Club issue is resolved, it will do little to help the crack addicts, abused children and illiterate graduates of our city school system - from all racial backgrounds.

Thus this uproar is yet another way for disingenuous politicians and community leaders to take our attention away from Baltimore's serious and chronic problems, which they have had so little success in alleviating.

Let's not waste time on this silliness. It is an insult to Baltimore's poor, who must live with poverty, abuse and other terrible troubles day after day.

Let's keep our attention and our pressure on pushing politicians and community leaders to address Baltimore's real social ills and stop trying to distract us with imaginary ones.

Brigid D. Kernan

Baltimore

Testing won't cure what ails our schools

It is true, as columnist Thomas Sowell states, that dogma often obscures a clear-eyed view of the evidence ("Challenging school dogma pays dividends," Opinion

Commentary July 21). A perfect example of the triumph of faith over data is Mr. Sowell's conclusion that a mixed bag of data proves that the No Child Left Behind law is "working."

First, federal testing mandates did not go into effect until late in the 2002-2003 school year. So NCLB could not have been the source of gains for 9-year-olds from 1999 to 2004. Moreover, test scores for this group were rising throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Only someone blinded by ideology could suggest that NCLB caused these changes.

Continuing his illogic, Mr. Sowell blames poor scores for older minority students on an "old system." But test-based accountability started with high school exit exams in the 1970s and 1980s.

Rather than solve educational problems, it seems these exams have helped cause stagnant test scores and increasing drop-out rates among teenagers.

Mr. Sowell's dogma is that every educational problem can be solved by more high-stakes testing. A look at all the evidence, however, shows that while tests have their place, they are no cure-all.

Lisa Guisbond

Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is an assessment reform analyst for FairTest.

Standardized tests miss critical skills

In "Challenging school dogma pays dividends" (Opinion

Commentary, July 21), Thomas Sowell cites solid gains in standardized test scores in reading and math among young black students as evidence that teachers should be encouraged to "teach to the test" under the No Child Left Behind law.

His reasoning? When we teach to the test, we get better test results.

That would be an interesting theory if the purpose of education were to make students good standardized-test-takers.

But as a high school educator with more than 15 years of experience, I have to agree with the 92 percent of professors of education polled who believe that a teacher's most productive role is that of facilitator of learning rather than a giver of information.

In fact, teachers who merely feed students information to be later spit back on a test are doing their students a grave disservice.

As Thomas L. Friedman points out in his book The World is Flat, in our technologically driven world, those who succeed will be those who know how to connect, manipulate and share the information that is literally at our fingertips in collaboration with a network of people spanning nations.

Accessing, analyzing and evaluating information are the skills of the future - and these skills can be best measured through experiential teaching and learning, not by standardized tests.

Halaine S. Steinberg

Owings Mills

City-state squabbles don't help schools

Over and over again, state officials have denied their role in the deterioration of Baltimore's schools.

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick served the latest shot in the ping-pong match between Baltimore and Annapolis with a court filing that called special education here an "extraordinary" failure ("Md. urges takeover of city's schools," July 19).

This tactic is nothing new - lawsuits have been brought against the state and the city for years to impress upon each the need to address underfunding and quality of the education in our school system.

But the distractions from the real issue do not end there. For instance, please tell me what difference it makes whether there are four or six schools labeled as "persistently dangerous" ("Troubled schools' progress debated," July 19).

We should have no troubled schools in a state that ranks fourth in per capita income.

Unfortunately for the public school students of Baltimore, these games and picayune debates will not improve our school system.

It's time for real collaboration and problem-solving, if not for the children, then in the self-interest of both parties, as the city and the state have an obligation and a stake in the success of our schools.

We are one Maryland. From Garrett County to Somerset County, every voter in this state has an economic interest in the education of our children.

But even more important, every child has a right to an education as guaranteed in the state constitution. It is time to rise above politics for the sake of our children and our future.

So how about it?

Instead of spending state resources on attorneys and filings, give that money to the Baltimore school system, which has been underfunded and ignored for decades.

Mary L. Washington

Baltimore

More roads create only more traffic

I am sorry the Intercounty Connector seems to be taking another step forward ("Those in highway's way decry ICC route decision," July 19).

More roads lead to more development, and that leads to more traffic, and the perceived need for more roads.

Rather than investing more money into another major road that will likely degrade our environment, our leaders, from the governor to the executive of Montgomery County, should be promoting more mass transit (and maybe less population growth - perish the thought).

Instead of another road, how about adding more subway lines in the Washington area? How about the use of more trains? How about educating the population on the need for more mass transit and less reliance on automobiles?

It is a shame that our political leaders, instead of being visionaries, are mere rag dolls in the pockets of road-builders and developers.

Alan Gephardt

Baltimore

A frivolous attack on serious students

If anyone needs evidence to refute suggestions of liberal bias in the mainstream media, Stephen Kiehl's article "Partying on" (July 23) should be Exhibit A.

As a student journalist and a proud member of the College Democrats who was quoted in the article, I was taken aback to see such a blatant opinion piece masquerading as news in a major newspaper.

From the condescending asides regarding the comments of some of the students at the convention to the irrelevant mocking of the College Democrats for choosing to hold our meetings in air-conditioned rooms, Mr. Kiehl's article is filled with so much obvious editorializing that it is clear he approached our convention with a hostile, preconceived point of view, not as an unbiased observer.

What else could explain how a collection of motivated, civic-minded college students who care passionately about the future of our country could be made to appear in The Sun as nothing but a bunch of pampered, naively idealistic kids just out to have a good time in Washington?

Elijah Reichlin-Melnick

Nyack, N.Y.

The writer is a member of the Cornell University College Democrats.

Muslims condemned London bombings

The writer of the letter "Wrong for Muslims to criticize police" (July 27) asks, "Who in the Muslim community was bold enough to decry the actions of the militant Muslim bombers?"

The answer, clear to anyone who follows the news, is that most British Muslims did so.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said that it "utterly condemns" the "indiscriminate acts of terror."

The MCB, which speaks for more than 400 Muslim organizations in the United Kingdom, is not alone.

A conference of Islamic scholars from around the world, meeting in London on July 24, denounced the recent terrorist attacks on London as "barbaric and inhuman."

And at a meeting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in London, more than 40 leading Islamic scholars representing all sections of Muslims in Britain made a public statement on the events of July 7, and declared that "there can never be any excuse for taking an innocent life" and that "those who carried out the bombings in London should in no sense be regarded as martyrs."

But the MCB, along with many British citizens (myself included), have the right to be concerned when plain-clothed police chase an unarmed man through a crowded station (where, had he been a suicide bomber, he easily could have detonated himself at any time), push him to the ground and shoot him in the head.

The MCB says that it is "absolutely vital that utmost care is taken to ensure that innocent people are not killed due to overzealousness."

I agree.

David Anderson

Baltimore

Slots revive racing in tasteful fashion

At the risk of submitting yet another tiresome letter on the seemingly endless debate on slot machines in Maryland, I'd like to offer a recent observation from a small-time thoroughbred owner.

First, although I don't derive my livelihood from racing, I am passionate about a sport that at its best combines all that is good about the timeless bond between man and animal and also is a major contributor to Maryland's economy and an employment source for thousands of Marylanders.

Second, I have no interest in slots as a form of gambling and quite frankly don't understand the folks who for hours on end watch tumblers randomly turn.

However, I recently had a chance to be at the Charles Town races and casino to watch a horse I own run. Without crunching all the numbers, suffice it to say that this horse can earn significantly more in West Virginia than in Maryland because of the difference in purse structure for comparable levels of races. This difference is because of the infusion of money into racing that is generated from slots revenues.

While waiting for our horse to run at Charles Town, I took the opportunity to wander around the casino. I observed an immaculately clean, tastefully decorated facility with friendly staff and people from all generations apparently enjoying an afternoon of recreational gambling.

The food choices were abundant, the prices were great and the casino offered free soft drinks.

Perhaps every Maryland legislator should be required to spend an afternoon at Charles Town or Delaware Park to get a hands-on, realistic look at the marriage of racing and casino gambling.

I'm not naive about the potential problems associated with any gaming activity, but the individuals who continue to suffer the most from the lack of legal slots in Maryland are Marylanders who derive their livelihood from racing.

The playing field must be leveled with our neighboring states, which have integrated slots and racing. And Charles Town and Delaware Park have proved it can be done in a way that benefits everyone.

Phil Weiner

Lutherville

City tickets typify unfriendly attitude

I was appalled to read The Sun's editorial "Tell it to the judge" (July 20).

The fact that a Baltimore official got a parking ticket when he had a permit typifies the citizen-unfriendly attitude of Baltimore's city government.

And The Sun's suggestion that one should take a parking ticket to court is a joke. If someone gets a ticket for $42, and that person earns more than minimum wage, it behooves him or her to pay the wrongful fine, rather than go to court for a day and lose the wages.

When are the politicos in Baltimore going to learn that if a city is citizen- and visitor-unfriendly, it will chase people away?

I am aware that city government reaps large revenues from parking citations.

But do the powers that be realize that they are losing much greater revenues by driving honest visitors and citizens away from Charm City?

Larry Simpson

Baltimore

Kelly inspires return to W. Baltimore St.

Jacques Kelly's articles are always a trip down memory lane for me. But the one that focused on 322 W. Baltimore St. hit home so much that I read it over and over ("Southwest Baltimore houses a revitalization," July 16).

My father's business was housed on the entire second floor of No. 322. I have the fondest memories of going to see him at work and playing in the office section with its swinging gate that separated the office from the work area.

My sister and I loved to play in all of the storage compartments in the back, our imaginations running wild.

Two years ago, we went back to look inside. The owner of the club at the street level let us into the building. The tin ceilings and walls were still there, as was the rickety old elevator, which was even more rickety and old than it was 60 years ago.

Instead, we took the winding, curved stairway, just as we had done as children. It was ghost-like because the entire floor was empty. But the elevator in the back was still there, too.

Now, based on Mr. Kelly's description, I must go back to see the transformation.

Thank you, Mr. Kelly.

Helene Breazeale

Baltimore

From 'war stories' to impeachment?

Now that the Bush administration has been outed, what are we waiting for ("War stories," editorial, July 24)?

Instead of wasting even more time and resources ferreting out who leaked what and when, we should be starting impeachment proceedings against the man at whose door the buck ultimately stops.

What could possibly be a higher crime than deliberately misleading the nation into an ill-conceived and mishandled war?

Diverting our resources away from the pursuit of those responsible for 9/11 and pouring oil on the inferno of fanaticism worldwide to further a personal agenda are surely treason.

In his 2003 State of the Union address, to push his war on Iraq, President Bush used charges that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium for its nuclear program from Niger.

These charges had been debunked by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

When Mr. Wilson published his findings the following July, the Bush administration went into attack mode. To impugn Mr. Wilson's report, the name of his wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA undercover operative, was leaked to the press.

This tactic is perfectly in line with the administration's usual smear tactics, but this time it tripped over the federal law that makes it a felony to disclose the names of covert operatives - because doing so places them, and those working with them, in danger.

No matter how much stonewalling, mincing of words and passing the buck the administration does, the facts finally can speak for themselves: This administration lied consistently and persistently to further its covert agenda.

Instead of picking our next Supreme Court justice, President Bush should be seeking legal counsel to defend him, and those aiding and abetting him, against charges of committing the most egregious crime against "We the People" in our nation's history.

Ingrid Krause

Baltimore

Bravo to The Sun for its editorial "War stories," which declared without qualification that the war in Iraq was unnecessary and launched with lies.

But shall the man responsible for this crime and tragedy - the president - be brought to justice? The Sun's editorial did not broach that subject.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans have died - and continue to die - wrongfully because of the actions of President Bush.

For this gravest of abuses of executive power, why shouldn't Mr. Bush be impeached, tried and removed from office?

Will The Sun take a stand?

Daniel Fleisher

Baltimore

The Sun has written a very truthful account of how we got into this situation in Iraq.

I never believed Saddam Hussein had the weapons or the capability of sending weapons of mass destruction to our country.

I do not understand how people could have been persuaded to believe the lies that led to the war.

Many people wanted to impeach former President Bill Clinton over a personal issue that had no bearing on the safety of this country.

How can we not impeach President Bush for the fabrications and lies that have put young American soldiers in harm's way?

I have a grandson who was just sent to Afghanistan. I wonder if he will come home safely, and I also worry about the other brave American troops over there.

I am supportive of our troops, but they have been misled by their commander in chief.

Sandy Hastings

Abingdon

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