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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

New city police chief sends right signals

We were very pleased to read of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III's recognition that the arrest policies of the so-called drug war have been a failure ("Bealefeld poised to lead," Nov. 19).

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As members of the clergy, we know these policies have resulted in the police targeting youths and young adults from the city's most distressed neighborhoods and binding a disproportionate number of young black men and juveniles with prison sentences and lifelong criminal records.

We also applaud the new commissioner's emphasis on violent crime and his pledge to have officers "get their rear ends out of police cars and on the streets talking to folks."

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We believe it is absolutely crucial that police officers make a concerted effort to build relationships with the community.

Unfortunately, in the current environment, too many neighborhood residents are viewed as suspects first and citizens second.

Therefore, it is imperative that Mr. Bealefeld's words are not mere lip service but are communicated to all levels of the Police Department.

We sincerely hope to see evidence of this new policy in our southern Park Heights neighborhood, where aggressive police tactics have strained relationships with the community.

So we encourage the new commissioner and those under his command not just to talk the talk but walk the walk.

The Rev. Gregg Knepp The Rev. Carole Douglas Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the pastor of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church and the vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Nativity.

Tax 'squeeze' will be but a modest burden

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Sun headlines scream, "How will the new tax plan affect you?" and "Most Marylanders to feel squeeze" (Nov. 20).

But it takes a close reading of the article they lead to determine that a family of four with a six-figure income will pay an additional $55 a year in taxes under the new plan - and that the bottom 45 percent of Marylanders on the income scale will see their tax bills go down.

That $55 is a trip to the liquor store on a bad day or to the grocery store on a good one.

Some people may feel squeezed. But we won't feel the squeeze of roads not repaired, parks not maintained, children uneducated, neighbors not housed, addicts untreated and pollution unregulated that would have resulted from huge budget cuts.

And we seem to have forgotten that the point of taxes is to pay collectively for social goods even the wealthiest among us cannot afford on their own.

We need to be grown-ups about this. We need to pay for what we want.

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We do not need to apologize for this or to rely on the weak or bored to play the slots to bail us out.

Nancy Hammond

Hagerstown

One-party state hits the taxpayers hard

Gov. Martin O'Malley got his way: The citizens of Maryland are getting whacked in the pocketbook and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and all the legislators who voted for these tax bills joined right in with the effort to fleece us ("O'Malley's risks not over," Nov. 20).

Kudos go to the legislators who stood up to the Maryland Democrats who only know two words: tax and spend.

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These tax hikes are another example of how the one-party system we have in Maryland doesn't work for us taxpayers.

David J. Petr

Street

Politics puts strain on Court of Appeals

The Sun's editorial "Geographically incorrect" (Nov. 18) is correct. And indeed, President Bush's unwillingness to work with Maryland's U.S. senators to nominate someone to fill the traditional Maryland seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that has been vacant since Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. died in 2000 mirrors his failure to cooperate with the efforts of Virginia's senators to fill the two vacancies in seats traditionally filled by judges from Virginia.

The White House's refusal to cooperate suggests that Mr. Bush is more interested in picking political fights than in picking judges.

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This behavior means judgeships are likely to remain vacant, which will impose more pressure on the court's 10 active judges, who are operating without one-third of the complement of judges Congress has authorized for the court.

Carl Tobias

Richmond, Va.

The writer is a professor of law at the University of Richmond.

Partisan Democrats block fine nominee

The so-called Maryland seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been vacant now for seven years. The continuing vacancy is not the result of the lack of qualified nominees from the White House, however, but of the political power play by two liberal Democratic senators from Maryland who oppose the administration as a matter of course.

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They have, as The Sun's editorial "Geographically incorrect" (Nov. 18) noted, used their "blue slip" power to see that the vacancy goes unfilled.

The editorial, however, seems to blame the White House for this judicial seat not being filled, claiming the court needs a "Maryland perspective."

However, to be qualified to serve, all judges must be impartial - no matter where they are from. So any idea of a preconceived "perspective" is nonsense.

President Bush's nominee, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, deserves better than to be used as a political pawn.

But it isn't just the White House that is manipulating the process to serve its own political agenda.

J. Shawn Alcarese

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Joppa

Impunity for parent not a helpful plan

Let me see if I understand the writer of the letter "Limit the number of parents in prison" (Nov. 20): Under her plan, if a child has a parent who is incarcerated, then the other parent may commit as many crimes as he or she wishes without fear of going to prison?

Now there's a plan.

Paul Ciesla

Aberdeen

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Peace conference doomed to failure

The Sun's article "Peace talks shrink to 1 day" (Nov. 20) notes that the Mideast peace conference is scheduled for Tuesday in Annapolis. But it should have also reported that the conference is doomed to fail before it even starts.

This conference is another example of how clueless and incompetent the Bush administration is when it comes to bringing peace to the Middle East.

Neither President Bush nor Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seems to understand that Israel doesn't want a real peace settlement with the Palestinians.

What Israel wants is to continue its brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinians and to continue stealing Palestinian land and water.

If the United States were really an honest broker for peace in the region, rather than the pathetic lapdog for Israel we really are, we would cut off all U.S. aid to Israel until a just peace settlement is put in place.

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However, since the powerful Israel lobby is firmly in control of our government, this will never happen.

Ray Gordon

Baltimore


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