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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

MBE program needs a thorough review

It's a start that the state Department of Transportation is taking a thorough look at its Minority Business Enterprise Program ("Maryland revamps minority program," May 25).

We have all read about possible abuses of the program by unqualified companies seeking MBE status. But most readers are probably not aware that the qualifications for MBE status for nonprofit organizations are difficult and arbitrary.

To qualify to participate in the MBE program, a for-profit organization must be run by women or minorities and have assets below a certain level.

However, for a nonprofit that applies to participate, it doesn't matter if the organization's board of directors is composed of mainly women and minorities.

It doesn't manner if the management of the organization is primarily women and minorities or if the individuals served by the organization are mainly women and minorities.

What matters is that the organization serves mentally or physically disabled individuals, a definition narrowly applied by the Department of Transportation.

This approach eliminates many nonprofits from participation in this program and creates a real burden on those organizations that have contracts with the state that require MBE participation.

Such groups often end up having to devote a portion of our grants to securing participation from other organizations.

This is a waste of tax dollars that could be used to provide additional services.

I hope that the Department of Transportation will take a harder look at how it can make the MBE program more effective and appropriate.

Stanley A. Levi

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland.

Many Marylanders can't afford increase

It would be interesting to know just how many Marylanders can and cannot afford the electricity rate increase. Just saying, "On paper, Maryland consumers should be equipped to handle the strain. The state ranks second only to New Jersey in median household income," doesn't cut it ("Energy prices put squeeze on Md. households," May 27).

Even if half the people make a good enough salary to raise the average income to a point where it appears everyone can afford the rate increase, we could still have 50 percent who cannot afford the increase.

And when the number of poor people keeps going up and people are losing their pensions and some can't afford health care, for someone such as the representative of the Cato Institute quoted in the article to suggest that "fuel costs aren't worth the worry in a nation with so much disposable income" is ludicrous.

Lou Ann Prosack

Jessup

Distrusting Muslims won't produce peace

If Kathleen Parker wants to promote harmony among American Muslims and their neighbors, her inflammatory column "Dark side of the survey" (Opinion * Commentary, May 29) is exactly the wrong approach.

If we are consistently distrustful and condemning of our Muslim neighbors, we will only defeat the chance for harmony and peace.

Of course suicide bombings are reprehensible - and so is torture.

If we were to do a survey of American beliefs about torture, I would bet that some substantial percentage of Americans would refuse to answer or offer no opinion. Using Ms. Parker's logic, this would mean we should worry about millions of Americans torturing each other in the streets.

Instead of being fearful, what if we work to get to know each other, build trust and build relationships, so that people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds will feel free and safe in this country?

Beth Greenland

Towson

Sectarian rhetoric alienates Muslims

Kathleen Parker's column "Dark side of the survey" (Opinion * Commentary, May 29) notes with alarm: "Sixty percent of the young group consider themselves Muslim first, American second."

I would suggest that this is a logical consequence of the religious right's pervasive rhetoric insisting that America is a "Christian nation."

If being an "American" is treated as synonymous with being Christian, what would you expect a devout Muslim to choose?

It's past time to get religion out of patriotism, and out of politics.

Victoria Laidler

Savage

It's right to expunge faulty arrest records

I thank Del. Keith E. Haynes for his perseverance in working to help citizens expunge spurious arrest records and C. Fraser Smith for reporting his efforts ("Finding a way to rebalance the scales of justice," Opinion * Commentary, May 27).

While this may seem insignificant to many people, it is the small facets of liberty that shine the brightest.

Spurious arrest statistics may be used to inflate crime statistics, and arrest records can be used to deny employment. All of this diminishes our community.

Expunging the records of people who have done no wrong is the honest and correct thing to do.

William Trolinger

Ellicott City

Photo an insult to spelling champ

I was infuriated by the photo in Thursday's Sun of local spelling champion David Brokaw in mid-yawn ("The run ends for city speller," May 31).

I can think of no reason printing such a picture would be newsworthy.

This young man's accomplishment is remarkable, and The Sun should celebrate his success with applause - not by portraying a yawn.

Emily Gaines Demsky

Baltimore

Ironic error in sign for the spelling bee?

Although I felt very bad for David Brokaw when he was eliminated from the National Spelling Bee ("The run ends for city speller," May 31), I felt doubly bad for the person who typed up the sign he wore around his neck, which said that he and his sponsor are from "Baltimore, Maryalnd."

How ironic is that?

Laura Sobelman

Owings Mills

Last weeks of school cause little learning

I wish someone could explain this to me.

My children have handed in their textbooks. Final grades are soon due so the school system can generate report cards.

This means schoolwork done in the next two weeks will probably not count for much. It is hot and the kids come home miserable every day.

But because of some arbitrary number of days that students need to be in school, we have two more weeks in Baltimore County.

How about doing something that makes sense?

Shut the schools early. Save electricity and the gas used for school buses. Or at least use this time to work on things that the No Child Left Behind law doesn't quantify - i.e., the love of learning, preventing bullying, teaching character.

Nah. That would make too much sense.

Susan Seim

Lutherville

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