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More harbor towers a bad deal for city

Not so long ago, the land around the Inner Harbor was free of excessive development. This is no longer the case. Now developer Richard A. Swirnow wishes to build two additional towers on the south side of the harbor ("HarborView proposal upsets neighbors," June 11).

To allow him to do so would be a travesty - and a travesty at any height for the towers.

Mr. Swirnow is the man who ignored height restrictions and erected what can best be described as chicken coops on the penthouse roofs of Pier Homes.

He defied stop-work orders, proceeded with his illegal design and ultimately won approval from city officials, who fined him a paltry $10,000.

One can only wonder how and why this was allowed.

This is also the man who intends to ignore the original urban renewal plan's regulations for the harbor.

Mr. Swirnow seems not to give a hoot about defiling what is left of our shoreline.

But Federal Hill residents are concerned that his 26-story condo towers will ruin the skyline, deny access to the waterfront and add congestion to the area.

The city should not be seduced by the possibility of increased tax revenues or by the empty promises of a man who makes his own rules.

Let us hope the city's housing commissioner and other decision-makers will listen to the voice of the people who care about the integrity of our precious waterfront space.

Janet Albert Heller


The writer is a former member of the board of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

Another new chance to boost city schools

With the arrival of a new CEO for the Baltimore school system, we are presented with yet another opportunity to make meaningful systemic improvements in the city schools ("N.Y. official to lead city schools," June 14).

Andres Alonso arrives with strong credentials and should therefore have a reservoir of well-researched and relevant strategies at his disposal.

However, I and many others will anxiously watch his first six months or so in office to determine if he has the political savvy and guts to limit the role of the school board and of city and state politicians to oversight.

I'm afraid that without full and unbridled control to effect change, the new CEO will be back on the job market very soon, as prolonged association with a failing system can have consequences for one's career.

Let's not crowd Mr. Alonso with suggestions and advice, but instead allow him the space to assess, modify, implement and manage the city's K-12 strategic plan.

Richard Kitson-Walters


Prosecute for killing of fetal life, too

I believe that David Lee Miller should be charged with two homicides ("Man could be charged in death of fetus, too," June 14).

The General Assembly passed a law in 2005 that allows prosecution for the murder of a viable fetus.

The senseless murder of a vibrant young woman is a terrible tragedy, in this case made doubly tragic by the murder of her 7-month-old fetus.

The state's attorney's office should prosecute for both murders.

It's the least they can do for Elizabeth Walters and her family.

Nancy Paltell


The writer is associate director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Will Democrats now support slots plan?

This Gov. Martin O'Malley is pretty sharp. To consider using slots revenue to help bail out the ailing racing industry is a stroke of sheer genius ("O'Malley sees slots as savior of racing," June 14).

Why didn't the previous governor consider this?

Oh, wait. Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. did campaign for this throughout his term, only to be shot down by House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

Don't worry, though. Slots will get through under Mr. O'Malley. After all, he's a Democrat in a state that's run (I mean taxed) by other Democrats.

God forbid the Democratic legislature would do anything positive for the citizens of Maryland while a Republican ran the state.

What hypocrites.

Robert E. Derencz


Instead of slots, try direct approach

I realize that there are people who believe gambling is a victimless evil. But it is not. It preys on the poor and the disadvantaged in a disproportionate way, and its negative effects are easy to measure ("O'Malley sees slots as savior of racing," June 14).

If we want to aid the wealthy horse racing and gambling industries, I would propose an alternative: We could simply hire thugs with masks and guns to routinely rob the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged and the naive.The thugs could be properly marked, so all would know they were acting on behalf of the government.

We could split the take 50-50; then we would give the state's share to our wealthy clients and beg to be allowed to mingle with them at the Preakness.

This would save on all the overhead of government regulations, slot machines, gambling palaces and the like, and the revenue would just pour in.

Richard J. Brand

Sandy Spring

Aid to homeowners will fill a real void

Gov. Martin O'Malley is to be congratulated for his attempt to stop the bleeding that results from mortgage foreclosures ("Home loan relief sought," June 13).

The $111 million in private commitments set aside to help homeowners will help heal both individual and neighborhood wounds.

Today's new lending practices are resulting in an alarming increase of foreclosures. Unfortunately, these loan programs offer no relief programs for those who end up victimized.

The governor and the state housing department are to be commended for helping to fill the void.

Frank Fischer


The writer is a counselor for the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.

Our alternatives to 'pillar of shame'

The Sun's front-page article "For shame! Misconduct brings public disgrace" (June 9) tells us about the "pillar of shame" in Russian cities and one incident in which "50 residents who had not paid their utility bills, some for years," had their names publicly posted on it in the hope of shaming them into paying up.

That sounds downright un-American to me.

The American way would be to cut off people's gas and electricity within a month or two, and let them die from heat exhaustion, freeze to death or burn to death in fires started by kerosene heaters or candles.

On one "shame board," the town lists the names of those responsible for "garbage strewn about" and urges that "people tell on their neighbors."

However, in our country, folks often don't "squeal" on their neighbors for far more serious infractions - such as murder - because they fear being shot to death to silence them or having their family burned to death in a house fire set as retribution for "squealing."

A. Robert Kaufman


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