SATURDAY MAILBOX

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Revive Rochambeau for use as housing

The Rochambeau Apartments have been in the news since 2002, when the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed its purchase of the building ("Rochambeau razing on hold," Aug. 3). At that time, the Archdiocese said it had no plans to tear the building down. But in 2004, the church began exploring that option and, in 2005, it applied for a demolition permit

In June of this year, the mayor approved the demolition permit, not so much on the merits of the case but because of an odd provision in federal law that suggests that religious institutions can largely do what they want with their property ("Rochambeau has to go, mayor says," June 10).

But we believe that one argument for preservation of the Rochambeau has not been stressed enough.

In a city that is increasingly pricing middle-income and young people out of affordable housing, why lose yet another building that could provide just that and, indeed, one in a prime location.

This would be far better for Baltimore than a prayer garden or a visitors' center for the Basilica, which would obviously mostly be used by tourists.

There is enough emphasis on tourism at the Inner Harbor, while many of the city's neighborhoods struggle.

And some new middle-income housing amid all the high-priced condominiums would be a refreshing change

One of the traditional missions of the Catholic Archdiocese has been to tend to the needs of the people, especially those of modest means.

How is it fulfilling that mission by catering instead to the abstract monument of the Basilica, and destroying a building that has housed, and could again house, real and wonderful local people?

Helena Hicks John Maclay Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, a member of the board of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and a former president of Baltimore Heritage, Inc.

City must maintain its housing options

I agree with the writer of "Baltimore ought to roll out the welcome mat for yuppies" (Opinion

Commentary, July 28) that urban policy expert David Rusk's recent comment that "Baltimore would not be well served by being wall-to-wall yuppie" is both misleading and misguided.

Baltimore's housing costs are still very reasonable when compared to those in surrounding counties and many other regions of the country.

The problem is that affordable housing does not always translate into achievable housing for area families. But the recent recommendations of the city's Task Force on Inclusionary Zoning, while certainly not a cure-all, are a giant first step in addressing locally a growing national issue.

How do I know that this is a nation-wide problem?

After years of working for nonprofit housing groups in Baltimore, I recently took a job in a part of southeastern Connecticut which is deep into an achievable housing crisis it has waited too long to address.

The column notes that there are 1,200-plus home for sale for less than $140,000 in the city of Baltimore.

Congratulations. Here in Norwich, there are two.

But Baltimore does need to maintain ample achievable housing opportunities throughout the city.

And now is the time to get started, lest the city end up in a deep housing crisis that will cost millions to fix, as is the case here in southeast Connecticut.

Jeff Sattler

Norwich, Conn.

The writer is a former director of the Waverly Community Housing Program.

Pennsylvanians pay big bills for growth

In response to a recent letter about Marylanders fleeing to Pennsylvania and causing crowded roads in Northern Baltimore County, we would note that Pennsylvania does not get any benefit from this influx of transplanted Marylanders ("Ways to handle the housing crunch," letters, July 29).

On the contrary, our region's infrastructure was not prepared for all the people who have been moving here to escape the higher cost of housing and taxes in Maryland.

Our roads have never been as good as those of Maryland, and our residents are now bearing the expense of building new schools to accommodate the newcomers and their children.

Our school taxes have escalated to the point that many of the local seniors can no longer afford their homes and many younger families are struggling.

And now that there are strict building restrictions in place in Maryland, the developers are forsaking Maryland and moving into southern York County, taking their profits and moving on to leave the residents to pay for the roads and schools.

Our local municipalities do not have the authority to levy impact fees to pay for these costs. Thus the cost is recovered only through increased property taxes.

So don't blame Pennsylvania for your problems in Maryland.

The people who drive down many of your roads every day are former Marylanders who voted with their feet by moving north.

If Maryland was not such an expensive place to live, perhaps they would have stayed in Maryland instead of causing the problems Pennsylvanians now have to deal with.

Cathy Kilminster Dave Kilminster

Shrewsbury, Pa.

Regulators imperil American dream

The article "Chicago council votes to require higher pay at 'big box' stores" (July 27) made me wonder what is happening to the American Dream and our capitalist system.

It seems to be in vogue now for politicians to want to try to control large businesses by regulating the wages and benefits they offer employees.

All this is done under the guise of helping the working man; however, it seems to me that the motives are simply to get votes and get re-elected.

These rules mostly affect big business now. But how long will it take for the impact to trickle down to small businesses?

Here in Maryland, many politicians want to determine the benefits Wal-Mart provides and the rates utility companies can charge.

But if they truly want to help working people, why don't they address the high taxes we pay and how they are spent?

If they would do that, they could get the votes they need without destroying the possibility of someone realizing the dreams this country has always offered.

Don Pennington

Trappe

Reporting on Steele still betrays bias

In "Steele pressed for answers" (July 28), The Sun again shows that it has a long way to go in delivering objective, even-handed reporting about this year's important elections.

In that article, reporter Jennifer Skalka (in an article subtitled "Democratic leaders call for explanation about his [Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's] reversed positions") quotes at length Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman and from Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's Senate campaign manager, both criticizing Mr. Steele for recent comments he made in an off-the-record interview with other journalists.

This article, however, does not quote anyone from the Maryland Republican Party or indicate that Mr. Steele's campaign manager had been contacted about the subject of the story.

Instead, the majority of the piece focused on the fact that Democrats are criticizing Mr. Steele for something he said.

The Sun has no excuse for failing to report Mr. Steele's or the Republican Party's views, especially since Mr. Steele and the Republican Party chairman have openly discussed the matter in other local media.

This article is another in a long line of stories by The Sun about this year's elections that have not shown the balance we citizens expect from news organizations.

Earlier in July, for example, The Sun published an article by Ms. Skalka that seemed to criticize Kristen Cox, the Republican nominee to be lieutenant governor, for her faith ("Cox makes shift back to Ehrlich policies," July 1).

Although The Sun's public editor subsequently attempted to dismiss public concerns raised after publication of that article ("References to Cox's religion prompt questions of fairness," July 9), The Sun's bias against the governor, the lieutenant governor and the Republican Party remains.

Douglas W. Thiessen

West River

The writer is a volunteer for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign.

Ousting ideology from AIDS policy

The column "Family Planning, AIDS care should go hand in hand" (Opinion

Commentary, July 26) underscores the need for legislative changes to U.S. global AIDS policy.

And last month Rep. Barbara Lee of California introduced the Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2006.

This bipartisan bill, which now has 70 co-sponsors, would require the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator to establish a comprehensive and integrated HIV-prevention strategy aimed at stopping the rapid spread of HIV infection among women and adolescents, in part by requiring coordination of HIV prevention, information and education services with comprehensive reproductive health and family planning services.

It would also eliminate the rule which now requires that 33 percent of all HIV prevention funding be spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs, one of the many ideological restrictions that now undercut our efforts to stop the spread of HIV infection worldwide.

The bill seeks to ensure we do the right thing for public health and human rights by using U.S. taxpayer dollars to promote effective, evidence-based strategies for HIV prevention, rather than ideological approaches that curry favor with a particular political base.

It will make urgently needed corrections to U.S. global AIDS-prevention strategies.

Jodi Jacobson

Takoma Park

The writer is executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity.

Critics won't listen to Bolton's ideas

The actions of some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, particularly Democrats, in the hearings on the appointment of Ambassador John Bolton as permanent U.S. ambassador to the United Nations were a disgrace ("Set things right by confirming Bolton," Opinion

Commentary, July 31). Some senators are failing to place their responsibilities to protect the interest and security of our nation above their, selfish political aspirations.

In my opinion most of the critics of Mr. Bolton, including many of the other U.N. ambassadors, have been very selfish and narrow-minded while never attempting to truly understand Mr. Bolton's personality or the reasons for his actions.

I learned a considerable amount about Mr. Bolton when he was a youngster; I was his principal for two years when he entered our seventh grade as a scholarship student in the independent McDonogh School.

Even at this tender age, Mr. Bolton was never afraid to take a stand and defend his position on any subject; he was never satisfied with the status quo, particularly when he thought there was a realistic and efficient alternative.

I definitely believe that this characteristic is reflected in the manner in which he is approaching his responsibilities as the U.N. ambassador.

Mr. Bolton is a highly intelligent and very creative individual. My recommendation to his critics is to crawl out of their ruts and become more flexible and receptive in considering the suggestions presented by the ambassador.

Quinton D. Thompson

Towson

Sales lunches offer doctors critical data

The Sun's article "Medical salesmen prescribe lunches" (July 29) is correct that pharmaceutical industry-provided lunches give sales representatives the opportunity for "face time" with their target audience.

And, after all, physicians should be spending their time providing patient care.

However, everyone needs a midday break, and these lunches are an efficient and non-intrusive way of delivering the representative's message.

And please understand that this precious "face time" is not wasted on hokey sales pitches.

These representatives are highly trained in the science behind their products, and are charged with the mission of delivering peer-reviewed research in an ethical, fair and balanced manner.

They supply doctors not only with cutting-edge information on their products but often on the diseases they treat.

Pharmaceutical representatives also provide access to research grants, product samples and patient education materials.

As a former nurse who was a sales representative for Merck & Co. for 12 years, I always found these services greatly appreciated by the medical community.

And if it were not for these lunch-time discussions, physicians might not be informed of the ways the pharmaceutical industry can improve the care of their patients.

Ruth Boggs

Baltimore

State's wild ponies aren't up for sale

The Sun's article on the annual Chincoteague pony swim told the colorful story of the auction but perpetuated a misunderstanding about the island's horses that could cause confusion ("A roundup, island style," July 27).

There are two distinct and separate herds of horses on Assateague Island, kept apart by a fence that crosses the island at the state line.

The Virginia herd is actively managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. This is the herd from which horses are auctioned.

The Maryland herd, however, numbering about 140 animals, is wild and free, roaming the island from within view of Ocean City to the Virginia line.

It is the Maryland herd with which the vast majority of campers and island visitors have experience, and none of these horses will ever end up on the auction block.

Thus The Sun's suggestion that the auction is "an effective way to thin the herd" does not apply to the horses most Assateague visitors see.

In Maryland, the horses are monitored by rangers at the Assateague Island National Seashore and receive limited attention.

Confusion between the two herds leads to unfortunate interactions between humans and horses.

And the signs that say of the wild herd "Horses Kick and Bite" are telling the truth.

Wild horses also get hit by motor vehicles, which poses a danger to animals and humans alike.

When a horse that looks just like "Misty" shows her gums and paws at the roadway, it is wise to understand what "wild and free" really means.

Ron Pilling

Bishopville

The writer is a former president of the Assateague Coastal Trust.

Can war resolve Mideast's conflicts?

ONE WOULD HOPE THAT THE vivid details recounted in the gruesome reports from Lebanon would make readers consider the futility of violence as an arm of foreign policy -- in this case the violence of Israel ("Survivors recount the carnage of Qana," July 31).

After almost 60 years of conflict with the Arabs, can the citizens, military and governments of Israel still believe that overwhelming armed interventions and pre-emptive strikes will make their remarkable country more safe now or in the future?

The same question of course could be put to the citizens, military, and government of the United States given our reliance on armed, pre-emptive and ultimately futile strikes against another Arab nation.

As someone who has worked, studied and traveled extensively in the Middle East, I can testify to the very sharp and infinitely long memories of the people who live there.

In the minds of many in the region, the Crusades concluded only last month.

The military interventions of allied powers after World War I into the Levant to create the puppet states of Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan and Iraq were yesterday and the overthrow of the democratically elected prime minister of Iran by the British and the CIA in 1953 occurred only a moment ago.

I harbor no doubts that if Hezbollah had aircraft comparable to those the Israelis have, it would have employed them in the same fashion that Israel has, and with the same results on the other side of the border.

But Hezbollah does not, and Israel's characterization of the carnage at Qana as collateral damage will stick in the minds and hearts of Arabs not yet born.

George B. McCeney

Glencoe

The Sun's article "Israel halts airstrikes" (July 31) failed to give proper context to the Israeli offensive in Lebanon.

While it was accurate to report that Israel has engaged in fighting for nearly three weeks, one must remember that the attacks began after Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terrorists, in an unprovoked attack, crossed the internationally recognized border between Israel and Lebanon, capturing and killing Israeli soldiers.

Hezbollah has since fired thousands of rockets into northern Israel, with the explicit intention of killing Israeli civilians.

Despite this, and despite the fact that Hezbollah has made clear that it has no intention of halting its attacks, Israel is continuing to show restraint by not using the full force of its army and even by temporarily discontinuing airstrikes to allow civilians safe exit from southern Lebanon.

While it is true that the casualties of this war have been immense and unfortunate, one must look more critically at the situation: at how it began, why it has continued and who is preventing the emergence of real peace in the region.

Elana Brownstein

Pikesville

In the new Middle East, a new strategy has to be deployed to defeat Islamic terrorists who become more deadly and more sophisticated ("Birth of this 'new Middle East' might not be something to celebrate," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 1).

Countries such as Israel -- always under attack from Islamic terrorist groups --- must pursue terrorists back to their strongholds and destroy them and their bases.

In dealing with Hezbollah, Israel must strike without warning and use massive firepower in the form of saturation bombing, and free-fire zones.

This is what Israel should have done in Qana, which has served as a launching pad for many of the rockets fired into Israel. Qana should have been turned into rubble.

Hezbollah bases and rocket launches are located in residential areas and are surrounded by the Lebanese people who support Hezbollah and are willing to risk their lives to ward off attacks by pursuing forces.

This all has to change.

Israel should focus on Hezbollah targets and should take them out without any consideration of the Lebanese people who have chosen to act as human shields.

Gary J. Kaplowitz

Pikesville

Last week, I was privileged to be among the couple of hundred Marylanders welcoming Lebanese-American evacuees back to the United States at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport ("Md. completes evacuee effort," July 29).

I was proud of the state's effort to make available all the services these people might need -- from food and drink, to child care to banks of reservations agents arranging for lodging.

Yet I could not help noticing the crashing symbolism of the setting.

In BWI's international terminal, upstairs American soldiers in combat boots and desert camouflage were preparing to embark for Ramstein Air Base in Germany on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Downstairs, Americans were returning from Lebanon, having been driven out by the danger from the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

Upstairs were brave and dedicated soldiers going off to danger, discomfort and searing life-long memories, at best, or death, dismemberment or possible lifelong injury at worst -- all for the sake of an unnecessary, misbegotten war the folly of whose initiation has been exceeded only by the incompetence of its execution at the civilian and political level.

Downstairs were more Americans, mostly women and children, all civilians, driven out of the Middle East by rockets, bombs and jets made in America and belonging to our chief ally in the Middle East, Israel.

America's continued dilatory response to the Israeli attack on Lebanon will result in even more innocent Lebanese deaths at the hands of America's ally, a result in which President Bush and his minions have acquiesced.

Thus Americans should not wonder why so many of the 175 million Arabs and 2 billion Muslims around the world will continue to see the United States as waging war on Arabs and Islam.

After all, television in the Arab world is not sanitized as it is in the United States.

There the disemboweled women and children killed by our bombs purchased with some of the $3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel appear regularly on TV for all to see.

We should not wonder that so many of them hate us so.

Brent Tolbert-Smith

Catonsville

The current conflict in Lebanon is not a prelude to World War III, as Newt Gingrich suggested last week. It is something in a sense more depressing than that. It is just another in an endless series of more-of-the-same.

It is just the latest flare-up in a conflict that has been going on since the creation of Israel in 1948.

Creating the state of Israel in the midst of an existing Arab population was a lousy form of nation-building -- a formula for endless conflict. But it was a mistake that probably had to be made, as the nations of Europe had failed in their duty to provide a welcoming homeland for the Jewish diaspora.

So here we are: on the one side a Jewish state whose disproportionate military power allows it to often act like a bully against its neighbors; and on the other, a set of neighbors who use terrorism to attack Israel endlessly.

Many of us who are neither Jewish nor Arab find it hard to find anyone to respect in this conflict.

And the costs to America and to other nations of this conflict -- monetary costs, political costs, human costs -- have become unbearable.

It is time to fix the problem in the Middle East the same way we created it: the United Nations must convene an international conference, devise a fair two-state solution, and impose it on the Middle East, whether the nations of the region like it or not.

The parties themselves show no prospects of ever resolving their differences on their own.

So we shall have to resolve matters for them.

Larry DeWitt

Baltimore

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