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Letters to the Editor

The Baltimore Sun

Stepping into traffic puts everyone at risk

The Sun's article "'Step out' traffic stops reviewed" (June 19) fails to mention that the practice of officers stepping out in front of oncoming traffic to stop speeders is unsafe not only for police officers but for drivers as well.

When a driver sees someone step out in front of his or her car on a highway, it can cause surprise and panic.

A natural instinct for a driver would be to swerve, which may cause the driver to lose control of his or her vehicle and cause other drivers to swerve also, which can cause a major accident involving several cars.

I have seen officers step out into traffic, and it scares the heck out of me.

This practice should be stopped for the safety not just of police officers but of the public as well.

Cindy Melton

Severna Park

I was sorry to hear about the Howard County police officer struck by a car while trying to stop speeders.

However, this incident illustrates what an extremely risky activity this police tactic can be.

When officers step out into traffic to flag speeders, they often seem so focused on the speeder that they forget other vehicles.

My wife and I have, on two occasions, had an officer step into our vehicle's path to flag down a speeder in the next lane. Avoiding the officer required evasive action on our part.

Stepping into traffic to flag down speeders puts officers and law-abiding motorists in danger.

Lamont Heppe


Amtrak must boost service, efficiency

Simply pumping even more tax dollars into Amtrak will do nothing to help our energy security until the railroad finds a better way to be both cost-efficient and cost-effective in delivering a service passengers want to use ("Fuel-sipping trains," editorial, June 11).

Nearly 550 million people board trains each year in this country, yet fewer than one in 20 of them chooses Amtrak.

To make Amtrak a viable transportation option, the first step should be finding ways to offer a service that is relevant, reasonable and reliable.

When that happens - as we have seen to a small extent in the case of Amtrak's Acela service - riders respond.

Amtrak's ridership is about the same now as it was 30 years ago. But states that play an active role in planning and investing passenger rail corridor routes have seen numbers of rail passengers increase.

That's why the Bush administration has proposed a new $100 million matching grant program that states would be able to use to pay for track, equipment and stations for passenger rail systems.

The money could also be used to improve coordination of passenger rail systems with slower freight railroads so that passenger trains can maintain better on-time performance, which is a key to improving service.

Intercity passenger rail can be a vital component of our transportation network, and the Bush administration has been successful in improving Amtrak's financial accountability. However, taxpayers shouldn't have to write a blank check for a company that hasn't learned to use its resources effectively.

Amtrak needs to put its energy into changing the way it does business so it can provide the quality service rail passengers and taxpayers deserve.

Joseph H. Boardman


The writer is administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

City should stress vocational schooling

Baltimore's new schools chief should focus on changing the curriculum from a focus on college prep courses to a more vocational-technical course of study ("Alonso gets ahead by putting kids first," June 17).

The fraction of city high school students who graduate each year rarely has the skills or resources to attend a four-year college, unless the student is a sports star.

A vocational-technical curriculum would provide students with job skills that can be used even if they end up dropping out, which is so often the case.

And magnet schools can be used to prepare the more academically gifted students for a four-year university.

Paul Yeager


Marriage movement defies public will

It should send a chill down the spines of all freedom-loving people that the Massachusetts legislature voted down a measure that would have allowed the people of that state to hold a referendum on so-called gay marriage ("Challenge to gay marriage in Massachusetts falls short," June 15).

The whole process of how gays were granted the right to marry in that state has been a miscarriage of justice and of our system of checks and balances.

First, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court discovered a "right" to gay marriage in the state constitution - an arrogant and flagrant instance of judicial overreaching.

Second, the court ordered the legislature, a supposedly co-equal branch of government, to rewrite the law.

And to complete the miscarriage of constitutional democracy, the legislature now denies the people of Massachusetts the right to express their views through a referendum.

If this is how the radical redefinition of the sacred institution of marriage is accomplished by its proponents - by trampling the law and the will of the people - democracy is dead in our nation.

Joseph Melchor


Rights of minorities not subject to vote

The Massachusetts legislature, with the full-throttled support of Gov. Deval Patrick, was correct in defeating a move to overturn the state's existing marriage law, which includes marriage rights for same-sex couples ("Challenge to gay marriage in Massachusetts falls short," June 15).

The backers of the proposed constitutional amendment, who sought to reverse the 2004 court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, lament this outcome because they want the voters to decide who should be entitled to the rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

The problem with that position is that it would put minority rights up for a popular vote, which would be un-American.

Opponents of gay marriage also argued that expanding marriage to include same-sex couples would destroy marriage as an institution.

More than 8,500 same-sex couples in Massachusetts have been married since 2004, and the state still maintains the lowest divorce rate among the 50 states. It is therefore fair to conclude that same-sex marriage does nothing to harm the institution, but in fact strengthens it by allowing a broader population to participate.

Steve Charing


Move Taney statue away from capital

The Sun's article on Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer's remarks about Dred Scott decision author and former Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney brings to mind the disgrace that Mr. Taney's statue still resides in the most eminent spot in Maryland - directly in front of the State House ("Justice lambastes a predecessor," June 16).

The statue belongs in a museum - or perhaps possession of it should be offered to Mr. Taney's descendants.

Frederick N. Mattis


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