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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Why punish official for criticizing gays?

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s decision to fire Robert J. Smith, a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board member, is very frightening to me, personally and professionally ("Ehrlich appointee fired over remark," June 16).

If we are striving for tolerance, why are we punishing a public official for exercising his right of free speech and his freedom to practice his religion?

Mr. Smith did nothing that could be construed as inconsistent with discharging the duties of his office. He certainly didn't go any further with his comments than many other public officials - who happen to support gay rights - routinely go in expressing their opinions.

And I am offended by the governor's characterization of Mr. Smith's comments as "highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable."

If a public official cannot state a personal opinion or faith-informed view, who can?

It's far better to have such views hashed out in the public forum than to have them formed and shaped by a few self-appointed administrators - without benefit of the input of the citizenry or the visibility of open, informed reason and debate.

And how can anyone's right to speak - that of a public official or private citizen - be denied on the grounds that his views are, as the governor put it, "in direct conflict to my administration's commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity"?

This kind of egregious intolerance is hypocritical at best, and erroneous (dare I say "deviant" from logic?) at worst.

It is plain wrong to allow those with "different views" to voice them - if they meet an arbitrary standard of political correctness - but to punish those whose views do not.

Once again, an ill-informed vocal minority appears to be shouting down the silent majority.

Mr. Smith should be reinstated in his position and allowed to express his personal views (which happen to be consistent with mine).

Ann S. Boland

Baltimore

Firing over views shows no tolerance

I deplore the action of our governor in firing his own appointee to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board, Robert J. Smith, because Mr. Smith had the boldness to express his negative view of homosexuality ("Ehrlich appointee fired over remark," June 16).

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. claimed that this was done in the name of tolerance.

I wonder if anyone else sees the hypocrisy in those who claim to be tolerant but whose actions show otherwise.

Wade Coley

Reisterstown

Veto the energy bill with mandatory fees

So I'm facing an exorbitant increase in my utility bill as a result of a blunder in Annapolis a few years back (during a Democratic administration, by the way). I can live with that, if I must.

So the wimpy General Assembly is so desperate to save face that it is willing to give everything to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co./Constellation Energy Group for a temporary deferral of the increase. All right, I'm old enough to recognize political reality ("Ehrlich takes fight public," June 16).

What I can't understand is why I have to accept a mandatory deferral of the increase and pay a premium for that "privilege" without being able to opt out.

The Democrats have passed their face-saving rate bill.

Now let the governor veto the bill and restore my right to pay in full for the errors of my elected officials without paying the utility company a premium, service charge, interest or whatever they want to call it.

Christian Wilson

Bel Air

Put the death toll on the front page

As we have reached a total of more than 2,500 U.S. servicemen and women lost in the war in Iraq, I would hope that our country recognizes the impact that this has on the daily lives of families ("House starts Iraq debate," June 16).

The Sun's posting of all losses in its Memorial Day edition was honorable ("In Memoriam," editorial, May 29).

And its periodic updates of those losses is appreciated (e.g., "Killed in Iraq," June 16).

I would only ask that The Sun move those updates to the front page to further recognize our losses and to pay homage to the families impacted.

Jerry J. Gooch

Great Mills

Set a cost limit for war in Iraq

The cost of the Iraq war has now reached $320 billion ("House approves $66 billion for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan," June 14). Given Iraq's population of around 27 million, that's an investment of almost $12,000 per Iraqi.

The Bush administration's strategy for fighting global terrorism involves turning Iraq into a model democracy and watching its example spread across the Middle East and beyond.

Personally, I think this idea is totally utopian. When and where in history has such a thing ever occurred?

Nevertheless, like everything else, this vision must have a cost-effective bottom line. And I suggest Congress set the bottom line for the Bush strategy at $15,000 per Iraqi.

If, after that investment, we still haven't achieved Mr. Bush's goals, then it's time to remove our brave soldiers from Iraq and try to come up with a more practical strategy for the war on terrorism.

Herman M. Heyn

Baltimore

Limit to population region can support

Perhaps it is divine guidance that allowed the writer from the Interfaith Coalition for the Environment to know the truth - i.e., that growth is not inevitable ("Wrong to portray growth as inevitable," letters, June 17).

Even the faithful accept that nothing can grow forever. We establish "carrying capacities" for wildlife, why not for humans?

The letter writer offers practical guidance to planners, policymakers and developers: From this point forward, for every new bedroom unit permitted, there should be 25 acres of open space put aside in perpetuity within the same jurisdiction or watershed to support it.

If developers cannot find the 25 acres per new bedroom unit, then we have met or exceeded the human "carrying capacity" for that watershed.

Marguerite Whilden

Edgewater

The writer is founder and director of the Terrapin Institute.

Irrelevant details on theater shooting

Reading the front-page article on the murder in an Owings Mills movie theater, I was shocked to see details that were irrelevant to the tragedy ("Man shot in Owings Mills theater; suspect charged with murder," June 17).

To mention the prices of the home and the names of people who reside in the alleged shooter's neighborhood was inconsequential.

To describe the square footage, circular driveway, double wooden doors, large vertical windows and pool belonging to the alleged shooter's family was irrelevant.

To compound this poor reporting by detailing what the victim's wife had to eat was insensitive.

What purpose did any of these details serve?

Nadine Hazman

Pikesville

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