Garages help boost the city's vitality
Jane Jacobs, the famed urban planner cited by Klaus Philipsen in "Parking-garage glut sucks the life out of the city" (Opinion
Commentary, Sept. 29), once observed wisely that it is "feet on the street" that make a neighborhood alive, vibrant and safe.
Over the past seven years, downtown Baltimore has welcomed a net increase of approximately 6,600 residents. In 2005, downtown also experienced a 6.8 percent expansion in employment over the total for the prior year, hitting the 100,000-employee mark.
With more people on the street, downtown is becoming a sought-after destination. And retailers are starting to take notice, ensuring downtown's conversion to a full-fledged, multi-faceted neighborhood.
Many of these new residents have moved into historic buildings, saving as many as 28 structures from a potential date with a wrecking ball.
An overwhelming majority of these residents come with cars.
In an ideal world, we agree that it would be better for downtown not to be so car-dependent. However, in reality, downtown lacks a comprehensive public transit system and will have to wait years for the proposed Red Line to be built.
In the meantime, we need to ensure that downtown continues to thrive.
If employers and residents are turned off by an absence of parking and retreat to the suburbs, downtown will suffer.
Nobody wants to wake up to a headline that reads, "Major corporation, with 600 employees, leaves downtown due to inadequate parking."
We believe that Mr. Philipsen misplaces his frustration, complaining about the symptom rather than the disease. His focus should be the lack of adequate public transit in the region, not the construction of parking garages.
In general, we should all be advocating more public funding of transit and, in particular, for a renewal of state funding of the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) buses. The DASH buses served to help circulate people throughout downtown for three years, transporting people from outlying parking lots into downtown, until state funding was discontinued in 2005.
Also, we should all support the city Parking Authority's innovative plans to reduce car dependency, such as its proposed car-sharing programs and an initiative aimed at promoting car-pooling for users of city-owned parking facilities.
As for the design of parking garages, we agree that such structures, whenever possible, ought to be tucked away in the center of blocks and wrapped with retail, residential or office uses.
However, given the density of buildings in downtown, it is not always possible to situate a parking garage in the middle of a block.
In those cases, we urge architects to design garages that are attractive and maintain an active street presence with retail and other uses, particularly at street corners.
M. J. Brodie
Kirby Fowler Peter Little Baltimore
The writers are, respectively, the president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the president of the Downtown Partnership and the executive director of the city Parking Authority.
Neighbors bothered by Little Italy soiree
As a Little Italy resident who has signs for neither Martin O'Malley nor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on my house, I take umbrage at Terry Lee Coffman Sr.'s pronouncement that only Ehrlich supporters were upset about the Friday night dance party held at his restaurant Sept. 22 ("Liquor board declines transfer of license," Sept. 29).
I live just two doors down from the restaurant. The last thing on my mind at 2 a.m. on a Friday night that found security people posted on two corners of the intersection of High and Stiles streets - spitting distance from my upstairs window - and a horde of loud, raucous patrons running amok through the neighborhood after leaving the Coffmans' dance party, with craps games being played on front stoops and public urination soiling our well-tended streets, is gubernatorial candidates.
And the last thing on my mind at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning when two loud, obviously drunk patrons are disturbing the peace by screaming as if they are in a contest for a horror movie role is gubernatorial candidates.
Honestly, I don't give a hoot whom the Coffmans support. This is, after all, a democracy.
I do care about their disregard for area residents - many of whom can trace their heritage and ancestors in Little Italy for nearly a century.
And I do care about their disingenuousness regarding their intentions for a site that has existed peacefully with the neighbors for almost 60 years.
How dare they imply that residents are so stupid as to misunderstand or purposefully misrepresent the effects of a party at their establishment?
How arrogant is that?
Don't blame Bush, guns for the carnage
The writer of the letter "Culture of violence leads to shooting" (Oct. 4) criticizes President Bush for doing little after the school shooting in Pennsylvania on Monday.
As much as I sympathize with the families of the victims of this horrific event, I can't blame President Bush. It is not he who put the gun into the shooter's hand or told him to fire the weapon.
The letter writer says the current administration embraces violence.
Excuse me? How is this the case when it is looking for ways to lower crime rates?
The Second Amendment grants us the right to bear arms. The gun does not kill; it is the person who fires the gun who does the killing.
Taking the guns out of the hands of people won't change people. People will find a way to kill, if they want to kill someone.
You have to change the person, or stop the person; taking the gun out of his hands just won't do it.
These are the facts: Guns don't kill people, people kill people.
It's as simple as that.
Memory protects us from past's horrors
Regarding the editorial "Found and lost" (Sept. 30), no, "memory doesn't bring the past alive." Memory is all we have, however, to fight against the recurrence of some pasts that are horrible beyond imagining.
The Great War, the War to End All Wars (World War I), saw the collision between ancient combat and modern technology. It saw weapons of ghastly effect invented and deployed and tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of young men sent in wave after wave to die horribly.
Estimates suggest that World War I caused some 10 million military casualties. Hundreds of thousands of civilians also suffered and died, victims of starvation and misdirected ordnance.
My grandfather became a driver for the American Ambulance Field Service before the United States entered the fray and stayed on many months beyond the cease-fire on Nov. 11, 1918.
His letters, diaries and photographs provide a small sense of what he endured, and he was adamant that he suffered nothing compared with the gallant soldiers he was sent to save.
I, too, have been to some of those cemeteries. I have looked at acre after acre of white markers and walked among the graves of Canadians and Americans, Germans and French, Russians, English, Scots and Irish.
Yes, the cemeteries are tidy, but why should they not be?
Yes, some of the land is once again green, but everywhere, one still sees the shell holes and stumbles over barbed wire that is 90 years old.
Stands of young pine trees have replaced the oaks and chestnuts. In their shade, birdsong enlivens the villages detruites, places devoid of any sign of the lives that once filled them.
These places are now only dots on the French map, but dots that are essential as acts of memory.
Today, when we are embroiled in a conflict destroying so many lives for such indeterminate reasons, I think we need more than ever to embrace those memories of folly and heartbreak.
When those memories are lost, how will we know that we are heading toward destruction on a road we walked before? And who should decide, when some memories are lost, that "it's good that they are"?
Ellen B. Cutler
Today's soldiers earn same acclaim
I read with great interest The Sun's article on Company D's 60th reunion after the pivotal role the brave men of this unit played in 1945 in crossing the Roer River in World War II ("The Last Hurrah," Sept. 25).
All of us owe a deep dept of gratitude to these men and others like them who ended a serious threat to freedom and the American way of life.
It is easy to sense the pride the daughter of one of these men feels as she describes her experiences attending these reunions with her father and his fellow soldiers.
But I couldn't help but wonder if 60 years from now, the daughter of one of today's soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan will voice the same sense of pride.
The war today is no less important than the one 60 years ago. American freedom and the safety and security Company D helped ensure for a half-century are being threatened.
Yet all I hear in the media is criticism of the war and of there not being a definite timetable for withdrawing.
There was no schedule for World War II.
No one said that troops would be pulled out if they couldn't win in a certain period of time. They stayed until our enemy was defeated.
We have to stay at war today until our enemy is defeated - no matter how long it takes.
I won't be around for the 60th anniversary of the defeat of our current enemy, but the young sons and daughters of today's soldiers will.
I hope they will be able to recall with equal pride the day their dad or mom helped bring today's threat to its knees.
Does history reward staying the course?
I say, good for President Bush for refusing to listen to those who suggest that we "cut and run" in Iraq ("Bush set to campaign on security platform," Sept. 30).
History is littered with the forgotten detritus of those who cut and run, while those who had the resolve to "complete the mission" live forever in history's pages.
A few examples spring to mind:
Napoleon stayed the course at Waterloo, even though a united European army vastly outnumbered his army. Despite the sacrifice of thousands of men on both sides and his ultimate defeat, Napoleon did not cut and run.
Certainly there were well-meaning but shortsighted individuals in 1876 at Little Bighorn who told Gen. George Custer that the situation was hopeless and the best policy would be to withdraw.
Did General Custer take the easy way out and cut and run? No, for he had the courage of his convictions.
In 1941, Hitler tried to liberate the Russians from Communist tyranny so they could taste the freedom fascism had given the citizens of Poland, Czechoslovakia and France.
Inexplicably, the Russian people saw the German army not as liberators but as invaders, and the Germans became bogged down during the brutal Russian winter.
Many in the German High Command advised Hitler that the Russian campaign was a disaster and that they should withdraw, but Hitler understood that leaving before the job was finished would give comfort to the enemy and dishonor the several hundred thousand German soldiers who had already been killed there.
History has given its judgment to these individuals.
I am confident that history will also place President Bush and his Iraq war with these resolute elite.
Douglas J. Kaplan
Banning trans fats is a healthy reform
News that New York City restaurants, including major fast-food chains, may be prevented by law from using trans fats is the next step in the war against obesity ("For many, trans fats are unpalatable," Sept. 28).
As an economist with an aversion to government interventions, I should be alarmed that a legislative approach is receiving serious consideration as the best way to remove this poison from our diets.
But in this case, I emphatically support this seemingly ham-handed approach.
Sometimes it's efficient to just ban bad behavior.
And indeed, we have already accepted hundreds of laws protecting us from bad food and other actions that the market should have, but hasn't, squelched on its own.
In this case, the bad behavior - eating remarkably unhealthy foods such as those produced with trans fats - is costing lives and costing all of us tens of billions in health care costs every year.
Obesity is an epidemic in this nation, and it is a precursor to other serious, and expensive, medical conditions such as heart disease and type II diabetes.
We already know that the market is unlikely to eliminate trans fats, even though the harm they do has been widely reported and generally accepted as fact.
So, if New York health officials decide that restaurant owners and operators should be forced to get the trans fats out of their meals, they are only doing the jobs we pay them to do.
We should be grateful that local officials such as Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the city health commissioner, are taking notice of New York's move.
Every health care official in the country could scream about trans fats - and they have been - but until government takes an action that emphatically signals the importance of the problem, it's just somebody screaming.
Seatbelt laws and our eventual acceptance of their use is a good example of this.
Undoubtedly, legislation such as New York's trans fats bill will have some minor financial consequences. It may cost a little more for a burger and fries.
But if it leads to even a slight drop in our national rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, it will be well worth it.
Go, New York.
Kenneth R. Stanton
The writer is a professor of finance at the University of Baltimore's business school and chairman of the UB Obesity Research Initiative.
Knowing how peers act can cut drinking
Peter Jensen's editorial "The college drug of choice" (Sept. 23) notes some of the dilemmas facing college administrators as they look for effective strategies to reduce high-risk drinking among some students.
Unfortunately, administrators sometimes feel compelled to respond to a tragic incident with drastic measures: scare tactics to frighten students about the effects of alcohol, severe restrictions on social functions and stiff penalties as a means of reducing excessive alcohol consumption.
These officials would do well to consider that such traditional approaches have never been proved to work and may, as the editorial suggests, even cause harm.
A major study recently published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol confirmed that most college students overestimate peer drinking and that these misperceptions have the strongest impact on personal alcohol consumption and associated negative consequences.
The study also found that students exposed to prevention programs that decrease misperceptions of peer norms exhibit significantly less high-risk drinking and its negative consequences.
Using a "social norms approach" that educates students about the true, moderate and safe behavior of the majority of their peers has proved to be successful in curbing alcohol abuse among college students and reducing high-risk behaviors.
By communicating accurate information about the norms of student behavior, schools not only can celebrate the health of their students but also can enhance it.
Michael P. Haines
The writer is director of the National Social Norms Resource Center at Northern Illinois University.
Visitors would value better road signs
I would like to bring to the attention of city authorities of Baltimore the lack of road signs for important highways around Baltimore.
Last week, my family was in Baltimore visiting the Johns Hopkins Hospital's outpatient center.
When we began our journey home to Virginia, we did not see any road sign around the hospital on any street that would have given us the direction to Interstate 95 or Route 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway - the most important highways around Baltimore.
With a discharged patient in our car, we drove for more than an hour within two to three miles of the hospital on several roads without any clue how to get out of the city to come back toward Washington. It was a very frustrating experience.
While waiting on traffic lights, with cars all around, we asked several other drivers for directions to I-95 or Rt. 295, until one nice young lady asked us to follow her and led us to I-95.
This is a sorry state of affairs for an important city such as Baltimore.
The least a city can do for its visitors and tourists is to provide enough road signs to lead them out of the city on important highways without the kind of inconvenience we encountered.
Falls Church, Va.
'Mr. Peep' brought the city's wit home
Former Sun columnist John Goodspeed's recent passing took me back many years to our green-awninged porch on Glendale Avenue ("'Balamer' diarist 'Mr. Peep,' John Goodspeed, dies at 86," Sept. 12).
After Dad would come home from work, we'd settle on the glider. Snapping open the paper, he would first scan the headlines, then happily turn to "Mr. Peep's Diary" while I perused the comics.
When he finally handed me the rest of the paper, he'd often say, "Read Peep, son. It's good." I did. It was.
Of course, I was too young to gather all of Peep's wit, and I didn't know where he found these people who spoke so strangely.
Not until college in the Midwest did I painfully discover that my diction and phonology could elicit a double-take, if not outright laughter. And so, to survive among those from the broad and flat Great Lake regions, I set about shedding my curious native sounds.
And yet, to this day, my boyhood friends and I who have lived most of our lives far away from Murlin an' 'em Oryoles will indulge in dialectal nostalgia by telephone or phonetic e-mail.
And just this last week, on a return to Bal'mer, I was graciously entertained by a fellow on the radio who repeatedly, melodiously referred to a "condo" as a "cahndayew."
Uh fink it akchly brort tearz t' muh ahz.
E. N. Genovese
The writer is professor emeritus of classics and humanities at San Diego State University.
Region's pattern of growth isn't very smart
In response to The Sun's editorial "A reality check" (Sept. 28), I would suggest that the problem of sprawl is closely linked to Smart Growth.
The refusal of Baltimore County's leaders to create viable communities within a reasonable distance of the employment centers has increased the need for highway expansion, worsened congestion and driven up housing prices.
Had the county, for example, expanded the primary routes into the city or to the Beltway, the housing growth taking place in Pennsylvania could have been accommodated within a five-mile radius of Baltimore.
People have moved to Pennsylvania for the simple reasons that housing is cheaper, that developers there are building the types of homes people want and that Pennsylvania wants the growth.
Much the same can be said of the congestion along the Interstate 95 corridor north of the city.
If development moved closer to the urban and suburban job centers near Baltimore, people would not need to make hourlong commutes from Bel Air and the funds used to expand I-95 could have been directed to expanding Route 25, Route 1 and other primary routes into the city.
The failure of the planning process in Maryland is a result of the fact that no jurisdiction, except Baltimore, seems to want the growth.
The failure of local government officials to accommodate growth and allow the type of development people want has driven housing prices beyond most people's reach or driven them to Pennsylvania.
For better or worse, most people do not want to live in dense urban-style communities and will not take mass transit.
The only evidence you need of this is the line of cars sitting on I-95 or Interstate 83 as the empty light rail line passes by.
The Sun's editorial "A reality check" about why Maryland's growth involves too much sprawl and too little high-density development may be right. But the trouble is that high-density development doesn't prevent sprawl; it only slows it down and, eventually, at best, will result in high-density sprawl.
Unfortunately, the editorial ends with the usual helpless refrain: "The growth is coming." It then suggests that the only question is about its "form and location."
Sure, as long as the state can't slash immigration or forbid people to move here from other states, the growth is coming. But why don't we talk for a change about things the state could do to slow its mad pace a bit? The state should at least stop spending our tax money to promote growth. For example, it should stop granting tax breaks and other subsidies as incentives for businesses to move into the state.
The excuse for those "economic development" subsidies is jobs. But lots of studies show that any new jobs they create in a locality go mostly to people who move there to take them, not to people who were already living there and out of work.
So the subsidies leave the local unemployment rate about where it was, while the schools and roads are more crowded and the natural environment is diminished and impaired, thanks to the influx of people.
And since about half of all pregnancies are unintended, the state should do all it can to make people more aware of contraceptives and their benefits and make them easier to get - especially emergency contraception.
The writer is chairman of the population committee for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club.