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SATURDAY MAILBOX

The Baltimore Sun

It's smart to expand cities' water supplies

The Sun's editorial "Respecting a scarce resource" (March 6) criticized municipalities in the Piedmont region of Maryland for their response to problems caused by the reinterpretation of data by the Maryland Department of the Environment that will lead to a significant reduction in the volume of groundwater they can use for public drinking water.

The editorial condemned legislation introduced by state Sen. David R. Brinkley on behalf of several municipalities as shortsighted, and derided the suggestion that lack of municipal water capacity would push development into rural areas and onto large lots served by wells and septic systems.

I think that attitude is shortsighted.

Maryland is growing and will have more than 1 million additional people by 2025. Municipalities quite logically have been targeted for growth in Maryland as state-created Smart Growth areas because they are existing population centers with the infrastructure to accommodate development.

Growth centered in and around cities and towns ensures that sprawl is avoided and that farms, forests and open spaces are protected. Growth in and around municipalities is desirable, well-planned growth.

And despite The Sun's protestations, growth that cities and towns cannot accommodate because of a lack of adequate public water will indeed still occur, but in the form of sprawl development, which uses wells and septic systems to meet water and sewer needs.

The Maryland Municipal League is working with Mr. Brinkley, the MDE, the state Department of Planning and other affected parties to look at nonlegislative alternatives to address this problem.

We hope to find common ground that both protects water and serves Smart Growth principles by channeling growth to cities and towns.

David E. Carey

Bel Air

The writer is president of the Maryland Municipal League and a commissioner for the town of Bel Air.

Ritzy development leaves poor behind

Sunday's article on Harbor East made me sick ("Harbor East Boomtown," March 4).

Harbor East is a miracle only to those spoiled enough to have the unlimited wealth to buy what it offers.

For the rest of us, Harbor East glaringly represents Baltimore's skewed priorities - its focus on attracting business while ignoring the plight of its other neighborhoods and the people who live in them.

What ails Baltimore is the belief, embodied by the O'Malley and Schmoke administrations, that development solves all ills.

Development makes Baltimore look healthy.

But all it really does is play a shell game with the underlying problems as we develop one neighborhood and then another while moving the displaced residents and their poverty further from sight.

Rather than luring businesses with obscene tax breaks, the mayor, the City Council and city business leaders should commit to finding solutions to the real problems facing this city: poverty, a lousy school system, a nonfunctional public transportation system and the fact that many city residents lack health insurance and face drug addiction.

Creating living-wage jobs, fostering changes to the structure of the city's public education system, forcing companies doing business here to pay their fair share of taxes, among many other solutions, would truly make Baltimore a livable city for all who live here - not selling $500 handbags to those who don't care how most people in this city live.

Maria Allwine

Baltimore

Hygienists can help boost access to care

Last week, the nation focused its attention on a Maryland family. Unfortunately, the attention was the result of a tragic example of a lack of access to dental care.

A young boy in Largo lost his life after an undiagnosed severely decayed tooth became abscessed, which eventually led to a deadly brain infection.

As a mother of three and a dental hygienist, I was particularly disturbed to hear of this senseless loss.

Access to dental care needs to be addressed, locally and nationally.

Children run the highest risk of developing cavities, which can lead to school absences, poor nutrition, infection, tooth loss and, in rare cases, death.

Adults also face significant dental risks in addition to decay - including periodontitis, a gum disease that has been linked to heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and pre-term labor.

Maryland has the dubious distinction of ranking eighth in the nation for the number of deaths from oral cancer.

Oral cancer, tooth decay and periodontitis are all very treatable and manageable diseases when detected early.

The best way to increase access to dental professionals for those in need is to allow dental hygienists to increase their scope of practice.

They must be enabled to screen children in school settings, screen the elderly in nursing homes and retirement communities and screen the disadvantaged in homeless shelters and other public assistance sites.

That way, the hygienists could make a proper referral for care before another tragic and senseless death is caused by lack of access to care.

Maura Ordovensky

Columbia

The writer is a former president of the Howard County Dental Hygienists' Association.

Use tobacco tax hike to fund health care

Driving to school this week, I was astounded to hear a story on the radio about a 12-year-old Maryland boy who died recently from an untreated infection in his tooth that spread to his brain.

The infection went untreated because the boy's mother could not find a dentist who would accept her Medicaid plan.

Unfortunately, more than 800,000 Marylanders without health insurance must deal with similar health situations every day.

People are facing skyrocketing health costs they cannot afford, and as a result, they are often forced to put off or even forgo treatment.

I find it outrageous that a state as wealthy as Maryland has not yet passed a comprehensive solution for fixing this terrible problem.

One bill pending in the state Senate would raise the tobacco tax by $1 to bring in extra and much-needed revenue the state would use to expand access to heath care ("Checks, balances rule Md. capital," March 5).

However, several leading Democrats are on the fence about this vital legislation.

My question is: Why? It seems there is a much larger focus on bringing slots to Maryland ("Miller awaits slots cue from governor," March 7) than on the well-being of constituents.

How can Democrats ignore the 80 percent of Marylanders who support the tobacco tax?

Alicia Schuller

Baltimore

The writer is a student at Towson University and a volunteer for Health Care for All.

Smokers are still welcome in city

Here's a memo to smokers who, like the writer of the letter "Smoker will stop visiting the city" (March 4), intend to boycott Baltimore because of its new smoking ban: Get a grip, people.

It's been a long time since smokers have been able to light up anywhere, anytime. You did not resign your jobs en masse when workplace smoking bans went into effect.

You somehow manage to do without a cigarette for a few hours to travel by plane, or take in a movie, play or concert. You'll adapt to this, too.

As for your feelings of personal rejection - i.e., "I will not spend my hard-earned money where I'm not wanted" - take heart: It is not smokers who are being shunned; it is smoking.

And is being a smoker the sum total of your identity?

A smoker may also be a sports fan at the ballpark, a music lover at the Meyerhoff, an appreciator of fine food and drink at a favorite restaurant and a good companion and conversationalist at the local tavern.

In these capacities, you are welcome anywhere in the city.

I am, for instance, heterosexual. But I'm not whining because restaurateurs do not allow me to practice my heterosexuality on their premises.

Smokers might want to start thinking of their favorite habit in the same way: as a pleasurable activity best enjoyed in private, in the company of consenting adults.

Lynn Jensen

Baltimore

Experience proves cold remedies work

Frank D. Roylance's article about the safety of over-the-counter children's cold remedies omits perhaps the most important voice in this discussion: that of the millions of parents who have counted on OTC cough and cold medicines to relieve their children's symptoms ("Officials push for cough syrup warning," March 2).

For decades, we have used these medicines safely and effectively.

Historical evidence cannot be discounted: We trust these medicines because they work.

That evidence is backed up by the fact that these medicines have been found safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

As a parent, a doctor and someone who works directly with the makers of these medicines, I know that the makers of these medicines are committed to helping parents take the appropriate steps before giving medicines to children:

Always read the entire drug facts label to ensure the medicine is appropriate for your child's age and treats only the symptoms your child is suffering from.

Know the child's age and weight and follow the dosing directions exactly.

Contact a health care professional immediately if you have any questions or concerns about a side-effect or warning statement.

Used responsibly, OTC medicines play a crucial role in the U.S. health care system and are an essential asset to parents in caring for their children.

Dr. Heinrich Schneider

Washington

The writer is a vice president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Offenders need help developing life skills

Dan Rodricks' column "Beating the odds is a job for many in city" (March 1) noted that it is often almost impossible for someone with a criminal record to find work that pays much more than minimum wage.

He also stated that half of those released from our state's prison system return within three years.

I do not doubt either statement.

The first has been absolutely true for me although I pleaded guilty to my one and only misdemeanor offense, never spent a day in jail, am highly educated and have years of professional experience.

If our goal is to curtail street crime in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland, we cannot simply lock up and warehouse all those who end up in our prisons. Our recidivism rate is proof that this approach is not working.

While in prison, inmates need to be given the chance to learn the life and job skills necessary to survive upon release if they play by the rules.

To reduce crime, we need to make sure these ex-offenders are off to a good start, with a supportive place to live and a job that pays a living wage as soon as they leave prison.

If we want ex-offenders to live by our rules, we need to give them the tools they need to survive.

Joyce Johnson

Columbia

Helping immigrants to help themselves

I'm exasperated and disturbed by the numerous letters in The Sun objecting to the prospect of enabling more Maryland students to get access to affordable education (i.e., "Illegals aren't owed a tuition discount," letters, March 1).

The issue here is not about immigration status; it's about promoting higher education for more students in Maryland ("In Maryland, lawmakers revisiting immigration," Feb. 25).

Society as a whole benefits when more people are educated. As people achieve higher levels of education, they depend less on public support.

Promoting higher education for all may cost the government and the taxpayers more in the short run.

But in the long run, the costs will be balanced by smaller expenditures on other support services and greater tax revenue created by higher personal earnings.

Opponents of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants must realize that many illegal immigrants are taxpayers.

As taxpayers, they are paying their dues. And many of these immigrants, if not most, want to learn English, assimilate to U.S. culture and become American citizens.

They are doing much of the same thing that our own ancestors did when they immigrated (legally and illegally) to the United States.

The state and the country will not benefit by keeping higher education unattainable for these mostly low-wage families.

Lisa Dunn

Baltimore

The writer teaches English as a second language at Baltimore City Community College.

NCLB is boosting urban education

Give up. It can't be done. That is the message sent to Baltimore's children by the editorial "Another try" (March 1).

The editorial claimed that the problems of urban education are intractable, a result of poverty and the racial divide.

The Sun says it is "unfair to raise expectations," that the best we can do is "work around the edges." This attitude is both damaging and wrong.

And it is being disproved every day with the help of the No Child Left Behind law.

Five years after the law was passed, we can say with confidence that the law is working. Students in large urban school districts are making greater progress in reading and math than the nation as a whole.

Before NCLB, we had almost no information on how students were doing or how their schools were serving them. Now, data on reading and math achievement are collected and shared every year. Parents receive the same information as principals.

Further, students in under-performing schools are given a second chance with free tutoring or the opportunity to transfer to a better-performing public or public charter school.

We are ready to take the next step forward. President Bush wants to provide Baltimore and other cities with School Improvement Grants to make it easier for community leaders and teachers to join together and overhaul troubled schools.

He also wants to provide the free tutoring to low-income students one year earlier than before.

But we cannot do it alone. Baltimore must want to change. And Baltimore's public schools have the second-lowest graduation rate among the nation's 50 largest school districts. Less than 20 percent of the district's eighth-graders are proficient in math.

But this cannot be blamed on demographics. For instance, 100 percent of eighth-graders in Baltimore's KIPP Ujima Village Academy - nearly all of whom are African-American - scored proficient or advanced in math in 2006.

So it can be done. High standards and accountability can overcome high poverty and apathy, in any city or school.

That is the message we must send to our children.

Raymond Simon

Washington

The writer is a deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

Palestinians bear brunt of death toll

The writer of the letter "Murder of Israeli merits no mention?" (March 4) bemoans The Sun's coverage of a Palestinian killed in an Israeli raid in the West Bank ("Palestinian killed in West Bank raid by Israel," Feb. 27) and wants to know why the killing of an Israeli settler was not covered.

However, according to a statement from Amnesty International on Feb. 1, "In a welcome development, Israeli deaths as a result of Palestinian attacks fell in 2006 to 27, their lowest number since the outbreak of the intifada six years ago - yet killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces increased threefold to more than 650, with civilians constituting half of this total."

Given these statistics, one can see that The Sun's (and most other U.S. newspapers') coverage of the killings by the two sides in this conflict is indeed lopsided, but not in the way letter writer complains about.

But the number of killings is not the whole story.

According to the same Amnesty International report, "While 3.5 million mostly young Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories are poorer than ever before, and have little or no prospect of a better future, Israel continues to build unlawful settlements and barriers on occupied Palestinian land, in violation of international law and U.N. resolutions, and with grave consequences for the Palestinian population."

That is the main story.

When will we see balanced coverage of it in the mainstream U.S. press?

Joanne Heisel

Columbia

Unity not required for Communion rite

The writer of the letter "Shared values give the rite its value" (March 2) does not accurately represent the Anglican understanding of Holy Communion.

While it may or may not be correct that the Catholic Church believes "Holy Communion is a sign of the shared fullness of faith, not the maker of it," this certainly is not the view of the Anglican Church.

In its paper "The Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity" (2001), the House of Bishops of the Church of England wrote: "Since the Lambeth Conference of 1968, Anglicans have come to accept that shared Eucharistic communion (in various degrees) may be an appropriate anticipation of full visible unity. ... We do not believe that, because the Eucharist is undoubtedly a fundamental expression of the unity of the Church and a means of building it up, Eucharistic communion must be reserved for full ecclesial communion."

In short, the House of Bishops of the Church of England is saying that the Eucharist may appropriately be seen as a means to anticipating and building full communion.

And because the incident in question is the refusal of some Anglican bishops to share the Eucharist with other Anglican bishops ("7 Anglican leaders boycott Communion," Feb. 17), the Anglican understanding of Holy Communion is the one that is at issue.

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano

Baltimore

The writer is the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Can the death penalty be fixed?

I greatly appreciate the fact that The Sun published what an esteemed former prosecutor and New Jersey state legislator, John F. Russo, had to say about why society must retain the death penalty to adequately prosecute those hardened criminals who are either proven serial killers or who commit other equally egregious crimes in total disregard for human life ("Don't abolish death penalty, fix it," Opinion Commentary, March 1).

How many hundreds of convicted killers are walking the streets again after either copping a plea or getting an early release, only to rape, pillage and kill once again?

When will we learn to enforce the law and convert our current criminal justice system into the respected institution it could be, rather than the laughingstock it has become today?

Under the dire circumstances we find ourselves in, abolishing the death penalty is the very last message we should be sending at this critical juncture to the criminal class, which has little enough respect for the system as it is and which tends to manipulate it with impunity anyway.

For years, former Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor was the model of prosecutorial fairness and firmness who knew how to keep criminals on notice.

If her model were followed in all other Maryland jurisdictions, including, most especially, Baltimore, we wouldn't forgo applying the death penalty - at least in the most open-and-shut capital cases, as often we so blithely do today.

I implore our legislators to think twice about abolishing one of the few weapons society has left to use as a threat against the violent predators among us.

Dick Fairbanks

Baltimore

The writer is a former vice chairman of the Baltimore Republican Party.

Although John F. Russo defends the death penalty in coldly clinical terms, his detached language cannot mask his central belief: that capital punishment is useful as a way for society to vent its rage over a crime.

To help make his case, Mr. Russo quotes Justice Potter Stewart, who believed the death penalty gives expression to society's "moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct."

In other words, capital punishment provides an outlet for the people's desire for revenge.

Mr. Russo also quotes Justice Stewart saying that when a society is unwilling to apply the death penalty, it can result in "vigilante justice and lynch law."

But what is the death penalty if not vigilante justice served up by the state?

In the end, capital punishment is killing - nothing more and nothing less.

It is the most primitive of punishments - an eye for an eye - one that dates back to before laws, courts and judges were created to check passion with reason.

Shamefully, the United States stands with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia as a world leader in state-sponsored executions.

Meanwhile, 128 countries have banned the death penalty in law or in practice, including all members of the European Union.

These abolitionist countries, as enlightened as we are backward, know that something immoral cannot be "fixed," as Mr. Russo argues.

It can only be stopped.

Robert J. Inlow

Charlottesville, Va.

Former prosecutor and state legislator John F. Russo believes that the death penalty can be fixed and must not be abolished. I submit that the death penalty can never be fixed and must be abolished.

In Mr. Russo's own words: "The risk that New Jersey will execute an innocent person under the 1982 statute is minute."

Notice he did not state "impossible," he stated "minute."

Every single human being is fallible. We all make mistakes.

The most powerful moral, legal and professional argument against the death penalty is that it leads to execution of the innocent.

We brazenly act as if we were God and condemn people to death, ignoring that we are mistake-prone humans.

If a democratic society executes criminals knowing that some may be innocent, aren't we all guilty of premeditated murder?

I want no innocent to be killed on my account.

Gerald B. Shargel

Baltimore

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