The Baltimore Sun

Defending the rights of property owners

Attorney John C. Murphy and his client, small business owner George Valsamaki, deserve accolades for having the courage to wage the quintessential David vs. Goliath fight ("'Quick take' takes a hit," Feb. 9).

No one is arguing against the benefits that local government-driven revitalization efforts bring, particularly to our city's distressed neighborhoods. However, the ends can hardly justify the means when the process involves trampling the rights of property owners.

Mr. Valsamaki and Mr. Murphy stood up for the little guy.

In doing so, they served as the catalyst for Maryland's highest court to hand down a ruling that reaffirms every citizen's constitutional right to make decisions involving his or her property without duress from governmental authorities who have the power to apply the principle of eminent domain indiscriminately in the name of progress.

Paul W. Robinson


The writer is president of Friends of Federal Hill Park, which has also been represented by John C. Murphy.

Target vacant lots for takeover instead

I'm glad to see that the courts are taking the city to task about the quick-take speed-up in its use of eminent domain powers ("'Quick-take' takes a hit," Feb. 9).

And why isn't the city going into blighted neighborhoods where houses are boarded up and taking property there?

That would make more sense than taking perfectly good working property for some vague future plans.

D. Pazourek


Unions exemplify democratic precepts

Instead of asking "Do union rights trump rights of individuals?" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 6), Michael Reitz should ask whether the rights of union members can be trumped by those of well-funded, right-wing foundations and think tanks.

Unions like mine participate in politics because politics can dramatically help or hamper the capacity of workers to win wage increases. Recent congressional action on the minimum wage bill is just one current and obvious example.

Unions are democratic organizations that operate on a principle that we are all familiar with - majority rule.

This means that sometimes individual workers are unhappy about how the union chooses to spend its money. But this is no different from the way citizens may feel about how the government spends our tax dollars. Many citizens wish that the government would spend more money on health care and less money fighting in Iraq. But that doesn't mean that we get to withhold the portion of our tax dollars that goes to fund the war.

With backing from corporations, business groups and right-wing foundations, Mr. Reitz's organization seeks to cripple unions by requiring them to spend time and money collecting written authorizations from each worker before spending any money on politics.

Why is it that groups that oppose government regulations so often seem to want the government to micromanage the way unions operate?

Arnold Hamilton


The writer is manager of Baltimore's chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

Development chief a first-rate choice

Gov. Martin O'Malley should be heartily congratulated for choosing David W. Edgerley as the state's new secretary of economic and business development. He could have made no better choice ("Md. business chief wins praise," Feb. 8).

I have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Edgerley professionally for 20 years.

He is a solid economic development professional with broad knowledge of the issues confronting our state as well as an excellent understanding of the tools needed to ensure that Maryland remains a leader in economic development.

He has a proven record after working in jurisdictions throughout Maryland, and now the state will benefit from his broad focus.

Marylanders should be grateful that he has agreed to accept the challenge.

David R. Paulson


The writer is a former head of the Maryland Economic Development Corp.

Reckless to threaten to expand failed war

With the volunteer forces of the U.S. military already in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, the notion of another war of choice is insane ("U.S. presses Iran weapons case," Feb. 12).

And yet that seems to be the path the Bush administration is following.

Having sold us the invasion of Iraq on the flimsiest of evidence, having put America into such a weak military position and thrown Iraq into chaos through its rash policies and unwillingness to plan for any but the sunniest of outcomes, the Bush administration cannot be trusted on Iran.

Congress needs to act now by drafting a resolution explicitly forbidding the president from going to war against any other nation without seeking and receiving a formal declaration of war.

Our Constitution demands nothing less.

David Schwartz


Lieutenant was right to defy his orders

As a peace activist who marched against the war on Jan. 27, I expect to be verbally abused by the likes of Cal Thomas and some of the letter writers who have appeared recently in The Sun.

Usually the abuse lacks substance. So I just ignore it, and continue working to bring about an end to the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.

However, one recent writer chastised Army 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada for his failure to follow orders and added that he "should be court-martialed" ("Defiant Army officer deserves discipline," letters, Feb. 7). This deserves a response.

As a soldier, Lieutenant Watada was taught that he must disobey an illegal order. This principle comes out of the Nuremberg trials, at which the Nazi defendants claimed they were only following orders.

The court ruled that government officials, soldiers and citizens must disobey an illegal order.

So Lieutenant Watada did what he was taught to do under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Instead of a court-martial, Lieutenant Watada deserves a Medal of Honor.

Max Obuszewski


Why must Americans die to defend Iraq?

We have lost two more of our young people in Iraq ("Two Marylanders die in Iraq actions," Feb. 9). Marine Cpl. Jennifer Marie Parcell was only 20 years old. She had been in the Marines only two years.

We have been training Iraqi soldiers for three years, and yet the Iraqi army often doesn't even show up to fight for its own country.

What is wrong with this picture? Why should this young lady, Corporal Parcell, die for the Iraqis?

I feel great sorrow for her family and friends.

She is a hero.

Rocco Rotondo Jr.


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