Charles St. trolley could be vital link
I applaud the Charles Street Development Corp. for aggressively moving forward to study the feasibility of a trolley line to connect the Inner Harbor with Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus ("City pledge for a study raises hopes for trolley," June 21).
This system certainly could help march development up Charles and St. Paul streets and provide new hubs of development and activity in our city.
I am concerned, however, that the city should not view this project in a vacuum.
It may be the Charles Street Development Corp.'s responsibility to work to develop Charles Street and the surrounding corridors. But city leaders have a responsibility to think about the entire city.
And the trolley system along Charles Street could be Phase One of a larger project to improve transit across the northern part of the city, a project that could be extended with links to Hampden, Loyola College or even Towson, depending on the cost and feasibility of extending the system.
Also, it would be a sin for this system not to provide a direct, rail-to-rail connection with the existing light rail system, perhaps in the Mount Royal-Penn Station area near Charles Street.
Baltimore has missed too many opportunities - let's not add this one to the list.
Chikwe C. Njoku
Consumers pay toll for fuel efficiency
I read with interest the editorial "Oil slick" (June 19) and take issue with two of the points it makes.
First, I don't believe that Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, or any other politician, must protect consumers from making rational choices.
Every major carmaker sells fuel-efficient cars - General Motors alone sells 24 models with a 2007 EPA highway rating of 30 miles per hour or more. And EPA fuel economy ratings are readily available and prominently displayed on the window sticker of every new car and light truck.
So it is hard to see how the fuel economy debate can be framed as an issue of consumer protection.
I also take issue with The Sun's reference to "scientific" evidence that fuel economy can quickly be improved to an average of 40 miles per gallon.
The implication of this claim is that Americans can have significantly better fuel economy with no trade-offs.
A little real-world research will show that, where 40 mpg cars exist, they are smaller than those most Americans drive and incorporate expensive technology such as turbo-diesel or hybrid drivetrains.
Given their relatively small size and high cost, these vehicles have only become the norm in markets such as Western Europe or Japan, where high taxes make fuel very expensive.
Politicians and advocates looking to force Americans into more-efficient vehicles should at least be honest - there is no free lunch.
Higher fuel efficiency comes with trade-offs, and there is a real question as to how comfortable mainstream consumers (and voters) will be with these trade-offs once they start to experience them.
Joanne K. Krell
The writer is director of global issues management for General Motors Communications.
Carmakers can help clean up the mess
Automakers' failed attempts to weaken the fuel-efficiency standards in the energy bill not only speak to their ignorance of environmental concerns but underscore the auto industry's tunnel vision about its bottom line ("Senate votes to increase vehicles' fuel efficiency," June 22).
It's time for fewer arguments and more responsibility on the part of the automakers. They need to take ownership of the mess they've helped create.
The technology to build cleaner, more-efficient vehicles is readily available, and the demand for such cars will create additional jobs.
In the end, everyone stands to benefit from more fuel-efficient cars - consumers and auto industry employees alike.
Big pension award raises big questions
As one of many city police pensioners, I feel obligated to voice disgust over a blatant misuse of pension funds ("Calls increase for Hamm's resignation," June 22).
At a time when retired public employees are often told our pensions may be breaking the city, here we have a man, former Deputy Police Commissioner Marcus Brown, who has no legal claim to such a lucrative pension, milking the system.
I don't blame Mr. Brown. In today's world, everyone seems to just want to get his. But this pension wasn't his to get.
Mr. Brown meets neither the age nor length of service requirements to merit this substantial pension.
And he was offered, and voluntarily accepted, a very cushy state job with his former boss, Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Since Mr. Brown left his city position voluntarily to accept the state job and his position was not abolished, it seems to me that Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm is precariously close to helping defraud the pension system.
At any rate, I would demand that Mayor Sheila Dixon take a very close look at those officials who so readily complied with what I consider to be a very questionable request from the commissioner to award Mr. Brown this pension.
Someone needs to be held accountable for this and, if any hint of impropriety is found, terminations should be in the offing.
And I strongly suggest that the police commissioner, the mayor and the pension officials, acting either in concert or independently, move to vacate this very questionable pension award.
Robert L. Di Stefano
The writer is a retired Baltimore police officer.
It's unfair to blame mayor for city woes
While I agree 100 percent with the assessment of the city by the writer of the letter "Dixon does nothing to dispel the gloom" (June 21), I think it unfair to blame Mayor Sheila Dixon for all that ails the city.
It's hard to believe that Ms. Dixon has so completely messed things up in such a short time.
And let's not forget The Sun's fair-haired boy who is now in Annapolis, Gov. Martin O'Malley, and all that he did not do for the city for seven years as mayor.
Unlike the letter writer, I do live in the city.
And, I live in one of those affluent pockets where residents pay a ridiculous amount in property taxes despite the city's lousy schools, high crime rates and civic corruption.
I'm not saying I'm a fan of Ms. Dixon. But for now she's all we've got.
Withholding care much more risky
The writer of the letter "Nothing 'hateful' in limits to care" (June 25) equates providing health care to illegal immigrants with "national suicide." I beg to differ.
Suppose we deny medical treatment to an illegal immigrant with a deadly, communicable disease - a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, for instance - and an epidemic then sweeps the land, causing tens of thousands of people to die. That's my idea of national suicide.