LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

The entire aviation industry knows the air traffic control system needs to be modernized ("Cleared for takeoff?" editorial, June 15). However, representatives of the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation recently testified that the current funding system can raise the needed funds.

As the GAO's director of physical infrastructure issues, Gerald L. Dillingham, testified before a House committee in March, "The current funding structure has supported the [Federal Aviation Administration] as the FAA's budget has grown, and can continue to do so to fund planned modernization."

At the same hearing, Calvin L. Scovel, the Department of Transportation's inspector general, testified: "It's important to note that FAA's current funding mechanism could support both FAA's ongoing funding requirements and the potential cost of developing the next-generation air traffic control system."

General aviation at airports such as Martin State and Tipton play a vital role in the Baltimore area's economy, bringing business into the community and letting local businesses expand their reach.

But as we've seen elsewhere in the world, when user fees are introduced, airports like these are eventually crippled as general aviation becomes too expensive for all but the richest few.

So let's get user fees off the table.

Then we can look at who pays how much in taxes and make sure the FAA is getting the money it needs to make the world's safest, most-efficient air traffic control system even better.

Phil Boyer

Frederick

The writer is president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Mayor right to act to save waterfront

I applaud Mayor Sheila Dixon for the courageous and forward-thinking decision that the city Fire Department's repair facility on Key Highway will become public open space and will not be sold for private development ("Dixon backs shore park," June 17). Clearly, Ms. Dixon has the best interests of the public at heart.

While it may cost the city some income, this decision will improve the quality of city life, boost property values and reinforce the idea that the water belongs to everyone.

Too much of the public waterfront has been eliminated from public access and use, and this was one of the last opportunities to do the right thing for the citizens of Baltimore and for future generations.

I thank the mayor and her staff for doing the right thing.

Douglas N. Silber

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Downtown Sailing Center.

Mechanic Theatre now just an eyesore

After reading "Theater testing the boundaries of preservation" (June 18), I agree with Kirby Fowler, president of Downtown Partnership, that the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre has had a great run but is now an obsolete building with little use.

The site would make a terrific spot for much-needed retail outlets and downtown living space near Charles Street.

Steve Appel

Baltimore

The writer is co-owner of a furniture store.

The visionaries who created Charles Center knew an earlier hodgepodge of underutilized buildings would need to be cleared to make way for the lively, pedestrian-friendly district that Baltimore needed.

So now, to honor these visionaries, some people would prevent new retail and residential development and preserve the underutilized Morris A. Mechanic Theatre?

Hmmm.

Stephen Howard

Baltimore

Hypocrisy on hiring from new governor

Kudos to reporter Andrew A. Green for "GOP accuses O'Malley of hypocrisy" (June 15).

How ironic that an administrative law judge ruled, within six months of the O'Malley administration's taking office, that the governor's office has engaged in an illegal firing - after partisan members of the legislature spent years trying to prove similar charges against the Ehrlich administration.

No wonder repeated requests for information by The Sun on the number of employees fired by the O'Malley administration have gone unanswered.

While making changes to ensure the quality of the state work force is laudable, as Gov. Martin O'Malley asserts, that argument has a certain familiar and hollow ring - one that is reminiscent of what the public was told when Mr. O'Malley replaced the members of the Public Service Commission.

Despite assurances that his commissioners would protect consumers from exorbitant utility increases, the O'Malley-appointed Public Service Commission approved the largest electricity rate increase in Maryland history.

If this shows how this governor envisions making "government work again," Marylanders will lament the departure of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who successfully kept the ship of state on course and the passengers truthfully informed.

Terry M. Klima

Perry Hall

Past time to ensure health care for all

It is way past time for this country to have a universal health care plan. Having the best medical care and technology in the world is not worth much if it is out of reach of most of the population and downright unavailable to tens of millions of Americans ("Red tape delays healing," June 17).

The tragic part is that it doesn't have to be this way.

Things can be changed, dramatically, for the better - if only the politicians are given a transfusion of will and spine to face up to the HMOs and the drug industry by voters who refuse to accept substandard health care any longer.

Ani Thakar

Columbia

Let the Iraqis vote on U.S. presence

We went to war in Iraq to bring democracy to the country. We claimed we could make the country a better place to live.

Therefore, the citizens of Iraq should welcome our presence.

So let us put our money where our mouth is, and hold a plebiscite in September, and let the people of Iraq, in an open and democratic election, decide whether we should stay or leave. We would pledge to abide by the decision of the majority.

What are we afraid of - democracy?

Iver Mindel

Cockeysville

Picture of beating adds to brutality

With the murder rate in Baltimore out of control, it was disturbing to see a picture of two men in the act of beating another man ("Rage emerges in city as family mourns a son," June 15).

I cannot imagine the pain and loss felt by the family of Maurice Gordon. And for The Sun to put such a picture on the front of the Maryland section is irresponsible and in poor taste.

It would have been better to show the grief and tragedy his family and friends are suffering as a result of the loss of such a young life than to show the violence.

K. Hardcastle

Baltimore

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