SATURDAY MAILBOX

THE BALTIMORE SUN

HarborView defends waterfront project

With regard to The Sun's editorial "A view too costly" (July 16), I contend that there has not been - nor will there ever be - what the editorial called a "flagrant" violation of development regulations on the part of HarborView Properties.

In fact, we contend that at every step of the way, we have fully complied with the Key Highway Urban Renewal Plan.

Moreover, city housing officials conscientiously monitored every step in design and construction and they continue to do so.

The editorial labels the "offending structures" as "roof pop-tops," and continues, "All that was permitted under the law was a structure for mechanical equipment."

But call them "roof pop-tops" or "mechanical structures" or "enclosed landings" or even, as HarborView did in its sales literature, "penthouses," they fully comply with the law. (And, to be clear, Baltimore's zoning code specifically identifies as "penthouses" elevator and stairway enclosures on the roof of a building.)

When we are provided an opportunity to present our record, the facts will speak for themselves. We believe all concerns will be addressed in a way that is satisfactory and shows we are in keeping with zoning and building regulations.

Since the late 1980s, we have transformed an area that was an eyesore into one of Baltimore's crown jewels.

Richard A. Swirnow

Baltimore

The writer is chairman of HarborView Properties Development Co.

Planning is key to city's renewal

The Sun's coverage of the community around the American Brewery has painted a very real picture of the condition of that community ("Finding a Way," July 16, and "A Neighborhood Abandoned," June 25-26). But these conditions are hardly unique to that area. There are similar areas throughout the city, where many once-inhabited houses stand vacant.

While this may seem to be a problem, it could also be an opportunity for the city.

Maryland is projected to continue growing for the foreseeable future in both population and jobs. Many of the jurisdictions outside the city have used up most of their open land for new development, unless they allow uncontrolled sprawl to become the rule.

Yet in the city, we have not only land that could be redeveloped but also the whole infrastructure of roads, sewers, water, etc., that is needed to support a larger population.

To turn around many of our most blighted areas will take years of dedication, planning and determination.

Planning will be the most important as we will need to look at each area to determine its strengths and build on them.

We will need to invest not only in bricks and mortar but also in our people, to rebuild parks and create new ones, such as bike trails that connect all areas of the city.

We should be planning around transit and using it as a tool for growth and development.

And we have to ensure that as our communities begin to grow and appreciate in value, our citizens are not priced out of them.

Serving on the Baltimore City Task Force on Inclusionary Zoning and Housing as part of the process of developing the city's master plan drove home to me how important the planning process will be in creating a Baltimore that all can enjoy.

Yet even this master plan will not work if we as a city lack the dedication to implement it over the many years to come.

Bernard C. Young

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the City Council.

Growth threatens our quality of life

I read The Sun's article on the expected increase in jobs and revenue as a result of the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process with great interest ("Base realignment bringing jobs, costs," July 13).

I have been following The Sun's coverage of development issues, such as the planned housing development near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the proposed annexation of a large tract of land by the City of Aberdeen and plans for a desalination plant to meet the projected water needs of Harford County.

I see that state, county and local governments are excited about the increase in jobs and tax revenues and welcome these developments.

However, there can be such a thing as too much development, and I submit that the BRAC-related growth may in fact be detrimental to the quality of life of most Marylanders.

The projected increase in tax revenues will never be enough to build and maintain the new infrastructure that will be needed to support the influx of residents - i.e., roads, schools, hospitals, emergency services, water and sewer facilities.

We have had ample experience with such growth in Harford County, where school overcrowding and redistricting are a contentious and ongoing problem and the water table has dropped to alarming levels.

We are bursting at the seams, and the addition of an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 residents may lead to even more crowded roads, more pressure on public services and even shortages of water.

The spiraling cost of housing has made it unaffordable for many families, who have moved to Stewartstown and other towns in Pennsylvania.

I know that opposition to development is heresy in our state and that "you cannot stop progress." But I truly believe that the governor and other elected leaders should seriously rethink the long-term impact of the BRAC plan on Maryland.

Vijay M. Abhyankar

Bel Air

Schaefer's remarks begin to defy reason

It seems increasingly clear that despite his record of accomplishments, political longevity and a considerable number of persistently loyal admirers, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer should retire - or be retired by the voters - from active political life. His grip on the realities of the day seems ever-more shaky ("Schaefer refuses to issue apology," July 19).

Last year, when Mr. Schaefer complained about the English skills of a fast-food worker, his ire was comprehensible, if not attractive. An elderly man who has been used to being understood in his native language in his native land is understandably frustrated when this situation changes.

And even if he expressed it ungraciously, his general point that immigrants should learn English was not unreasonable.

Now, however, the same elder statesman who grumbled about immigrants not assimilating fast enough appears to oppose spending money to help them assimilate ("Schaefer's words stir criticism," July 6).

If Mr. Schaefer won't support spending money to teach English, how does he expect immigrants to learn English? Should they stay home from work and watch Sesame Street?

This goes beyond crankiness and inconsistency. It is bad public policy, so baldly irrational that no matter what your ideological sympathies, you have to admit the old gentleman is not making sense.

Mark Chalkley

Baltimore

The writer is a former instructor of English as a second language.

Israeli aggression brutalizes Lebanon

In less than a week, more than 250 Lebanese civilians have been slaughtered and all kinds of Lebanese infrastructure, homes, farms and businesses have been destroyed ("Diplomacy stalls," July 19).

The damage is shocking and unimaginable. Israel is using the kidnapping of two soldiers as a pretext to justify a blitzkrieg of aggression that can only be labeled "state-sponsored terrorism."

Meanwhile, Hezbollah's small rockets have caused a fraction of the damage.

In the midst of such horror, one salient detail should be considered: International embassies are evacuating their citizens from Lebanon, but not from Israel.

There are tens of thousands of American citizens living and vacationing in Israel, a supposedly besieged little country. But none has been evacuated by the Marines.

Why not?

The answer is clear: Despite Israel's attempt to portray itself as the innocent victim, it is the one wreaking horror on its neighbors.

The U.S. government has given a green light to Israel by not demanding an immediate cease-fire.

This makes our government complicit in its war crimes.

The United States and its ally, Israel, are together, hand in hand, building a ruinous and bloody future for this region.

Kim Jensen

Baltimore

War on civility ruins our public places

Who cannot relate to Gregory Kane's commentary "Maybe it's smartest just to stay home" (July 15)?

How many public places have I and other decent people abandoned because of the callous nature of a few reprobates?

Just recently, I stopped frequenting a store in Ellicott City after an enraging experience I had there, witnessing two women grabbing a crying toddler and one yelling, "I'm gonna [expletive] you up right in this store if you don't stop!"

I stood there - we all stood there - stunned, aching to cry out against this encroaching social deterioration.

But these days, "saying something" can be dangerous, since it risks incurring the wrath of such people on the spot.

Thus my Ellicott City store joins a sad list of locations abandoned by me and like-minded citizens, the fleeing, embattled armies of the respectful, the humble, the civil.

We talk of war so often these days - the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, etc. What about the war in our public settings, the war on civility?

There's a war in department stores, in movie theaters, in the Inner Harbor's July 4 crowd, in grocery stores, on street corners - in any public place.

Once we were a people who judged each other too quickly and too harshly; now we are completely judgmentless.

A society without judgment, without the guts to openly condemn certain behavior, is a society destined to have its most crass members rise to suffocating dominance.

And then the old clichM-i proves true: The inmates are running the asylum.

Nick Taxia

Ellicott City

Marriage is part of faith tradition

The letter "Divorcing marriage from faith tradition" (July 15) recommended changes for marriage and raised again the idea of moving toward "civil unions." I fear the writer's views would herald negative effects for the family and society.

Civil unions have been discussed primarily for same-sex couples. If they were implemented, our school textbooks would surely soon be modified to reflect, in a positive light, this new institution.

Our children would then be taught that same-sex civil unions are just another type of family.

Moral and religious objections to schools' endorsement of homosexual behavior would be dismissed out of hand or punished by educators as wrongful acts of intolerance or shameful prejudice.

The writer also suggests that the material world and the spiritual world should remain separate.

As a Christian, I find that impossible. I am to honor God with my life. I ask myself if my decisions, even as to public policy and political representation, would be found pleasing to Him.

Approving same-sex civil unions and subsequently affirming them as good before innocent children would not be pleasing to Him or beneficial to society.

However, I concur with the writer that divorce should be severely restricted.

That would reinforce the permanence God intended for marriage, which provides a secure environment for children.

David P. Gilmore

Glen Burnie

Rogue gun dealers must be exposed

Gun dealer and National Rifle Association board member Sanford Abrams criticized The Sun for opposing a proposed federal gun trace secrecy law, which would prevent the public from learning which gun shops are the primary source of crime guns ("Gun trace data used to harass dealers," letters, July 10).

Mr. Abrams failed to mention what may be his real interest in shielding the identity of rogue dealers: The fact that his gun shop has been one of the worst law violators in America, supplying more guns to criminals than 99.95 percent of all other dealers.

As The Sun reported last week, Mr. Abrams' shop was charged with 900 violations of federal gun laws, leading federal authorities to revoke his store's firearms license ("Gun shop lost license, but can sell inventory," July 13).

The U.S. attorney's office candidly described his shop as a "serial violator" of gun laws that has "endangered the public by failing to account for hundreds of weapons."

Guns from Mr. Abrams' store have been traced to scores of Baltimore crimes, including homicides, robberies, assaults and drug crimes.

Congress is considering legislation that would protect corrupt dealers by making it virtually impossible to revoke their gun licenses.

Only by exposing and shutting down these rogue dealers can we protect the public from the menace caused by illegal guns and stop the gun lobby's efforts to shield corrupt dealers from responsibility for their illegal conduct.

Daniel R. Vice

Washington

The writer is a staff attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Idea of reparations is racially divisive

The Sun's article "Slavery reparations effort continues to gain ground" (July 10) rehashes a story that is as old as history.

Many peoples have suffered wrongs at the hands of their fellow human beings. Such wrongs should always be righted, when this is possible.

However, some wrongs can never be righted in a fair and equitable way. And can we ever justify acting unfairly in the name of fairness?

Today, generations have passed since slavery was made illegal. With the passage of so much time, all those who were in any way responsible for slavery have long since died.

The fact is that not all Americans of African descent have ancestors who were slaves in this country. Nor do all Caucasian-Americans have ancestors who were involved in slavery.

In fact, some people in this country have some ancestors who were slaves and some who were slave owners.

So if we are to assume that reparations are to be paid after so much time, who will pay? Who is to be paid? And what form would reparations take?

Would they be a one-time cash payment to all citizens of African descent, or would they take the form of racially based social programs?

Would we determine who should receive reparations based on race or make applicants prove they had ancestors who were slaves?

And how would those of "mixed" race be treated?

When these issues are considered, the push for reparations is revealed to be less about justice and more about politics and about the power that could be gained by a few individuals.

If justice is really the goal, why espouse an effort that would be racially divisive?

Donald S. Smith

Baltimore

Methadone no cure for addicts' malaise

One can only hope that somewhere in the mind of Adam B. Brickner, president of Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems Inc., is a little voice of reality speaking the truth about methadone clinics ("Bayview closes its drug detox center," July 12).

The truth is that when you seek methadone for treatment for a heroin addiction, you are only cashing in one addiction for another addiction - one with a stable supply without the dangers of being arrested or overdosing.

But let's be honest: Overdose and incarceration are not the only threats of using heroin. The threat that may be the most harmful to a person using heroin is the same one that faces a person using methadone: the gradual and inevitable slide into depression.

Indeed, the director of addiction treatment services at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Dr. Robert K. Brooner, notes that 40 percent to 80 percent of recovering addicts have a mental illness.

It seems obvious that if you are spending much of your time and money seeking a "downer," that will make you depressed.

The problem is that methadone is also a downer.

My experience has been that the depression one finds in heroin addiction only grows stronger when one turns to methadone, and the psychiatric help offered often only amounts to more and more pills, administered on a very impersonal basis.

I am not denouncing the medical treatment for mental illness. I am not some radical thinker claiming to have another way.

I am a guy who lost his best friend to suicide because the only answers these clinics and programs could come up with were to take more pills.

I am a guy who hopes that the truth is somewhere in the back of Mr. Brickner's mind and that the city will start funding programs that don't trade one downer for the next.

Detox centers may not be the answer.

Heroin addiction is a test in long-term endurance.

The temptation to use is one that comes back years after you get clean and keeps on coming back when you are flying high and everything is in order, or when you are at your deepest lows.

What has worked for me has been shifting my expectations for my life and working to have things in my life that I know aren't worth trading in for a cheap thrill - such as a girlfriend who is sober, a college education and hopes for a career I can be proud to pursue.

But how is lining up like cattle to get methadone every morning ever going to give addicts the pride and self-respect one needs to change his or her life?

Whit MacQuaig

Baltimore

The writer is a student at the University of Baltimore.

Dealing harshly with Hezbollah

David N. Myers' assertion that the purpose of Israel's military response in Lebanon is "to send a message that Israel's military might remains as potent as ever" is a misguided analysis of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah ("Don't let symbols overpower reason," Opinion Commentary, July 17).

His further contention that "as a sovereign state with a major army," Israel "has to be the most responsible party" is misplaced.

Israel is doing what it has to do, which means blocking all portals of exit (i.e., Lebanon's airport and bridges) to preclude any escape for Hezbollah. Any lower level of response would be self-defeating.

Anyone who has assiduously followed the history of the region must realize that the recent unprovoked murder of eight Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah was the breaking point that provoked Israel into a full response to free its nation from a continual (now 58 years long) attack on its sovereignty.

The destruction being experienced by the Lebanese is the result of a feckless, impotent Lebanese government that allows Hezbollah to act against the country's real interests.

A complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza (a territory lawfully captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War), which gave the Palestinians an opportunity to show their resolve, or lack thereof, has been answered by the unprovoked firing of Qassam rockets into Israel accompanied by Hamas cries for the destruction of the Jewish nation and, most recently, the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit by Hamas.

Lebanon has egregiously disregarded U.N. Resolution 1559, a key provision of which calls for disbanding and disarming all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and supports the extension of Lebanese government control to all of Lebanon's territory.

Provisions for disarming the militias have not been implemented. Hezbollah, a puppet of Iran and Syria, remains under arms and has prevented independent action by the Lebanese government.

Israel is doing what it must do, which is to annihilate those who seek its annihilation.

A blow against Hezbollah is a blow against Syria and a blow against Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose calls for the destruction of Israel have produced little outcry from the rest of the world.

As time passes and the United States is confronted with finally dealing with Iran, we will be thankful to Israel for getting the job started.

Carl Michael Caplan

Baltimore

I take issue with David N. Myers (and some others) who expect Israel to offer a "proportional" military effort in response to terrorist incursions into its country, including the kidnapping of soldiers and indiscriminate missile attacks.

Israel has tolerated almost 60 years of intermittent aggression as well as five wars.

Diplomacy doesn't work when the terrorist opposition is free to roam through the region while paralyzing the government of the "host" country - in this case, Lebanon.

Mr. Myers suggests that Israel, because of its large army, has to be the responsible party and should rethink its military response.

But Hamas and Hezbollah are potent forces funded by terrorist states, Iran and Syria. They need to be dealt with effectively.

Mr. Myers wants us to believe that neither Hamas nor Hezbollah is capable of appropriate behavior, as if they were children. But when children demonstrate inappropriate behavior, they should be corrected.

The terror twins are out of control, and trying to get Israel to cease its defensive actions will only strengthen terrorist groups.

Stefan N. Miller

Baltimore

I'm thankful that David N. Myers is not influencing the Israeli government and military in the most recent chapter of its existential war.

His commentary is dangerously unrealistic, suitable only for an academic paper.

This is not the time for Israel to repeat foolish failures of the past such as using "backroom diplomatic channels" and negotiating with groups fanatically committed to its destruction.

It is the time for the fully justified "disproportionate" use of deadly force required to decisively and quickly win this unwanted war.

Unfortunately, "plunging even further into the darkness of war" is often the only way to move toward peace.

Nelson L. Hyman

Randallstown

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