Here's a selection of emails that recently landed on the desk of The Sun's public editor that proves that people do find time to read their newspapers during the holiday and frequently have strong opinions about what they read:
Readers generally liked the coverage of John Fritze and others of the continuing fallout from the array of tax increases approved by Maryland legislators in last fall's special session.
One note praised Fritze's Jan. 3 front-page story, "Bid to cut tax rate could still boost bill."
"The article about lowering the city property tax rate, but raising the homestead credit, is truly a shell game," said L.R. Grissom of Baltimore. "I have been a city resident for 36 years, and since retiring the .04 percent [tax] cap is the only way I have been able to afford to remain here. Even now the current property tax for my 880-square-foot condo is an exorbitant $4,000. Obviously, the City Council and task force care nothing for the elderly and middle class who already struggle financially to live here. Should this bill pass, I'm sure I won't be the only resident packing my bags!"
Mark Lecates, another city resident, said, "Put my name on the list of long time residents who will be moving if I have to pay full or even 10 percent more tax on my property. I love city life but I do not see my taxes helping me."
State Sen. Jennie Forehand of Montgomery County had praise for a tax-related piece by Bradly Olson on the effective efforts by liquor industry lobbyists to keep state alcohol taxes low.
"Great article!" said Forehand, who hopes to hike alcohol taxes.
Too much Iowa?
Bill Orsi of Ellicott City wonders whether The Sun, and the rest of the news media, for that matter, were making too much out of the limited voting in last week's Iowa presidential caucuses.
"I find it totally incredible that a State [Iowa] with a total population of 3,000,000 people can dominate a presidential election," said Orsi. "Consider this ... the Democratic Caucus expects to bring in 150,000 votes for the total number of candidates competing, and the Republican Caucus expects a total of 90,000 votes for all their candidates. ... Now the population of our great country is 300 million people and a great majority of that number are eligible to vote. How in the world do we let a small state in the Midwest dictate the outcome of a Presidential election! It is totally absurd with respect to the coverage given to the Iowa caucus, not to mention the New Hampshire situation. Come on America ... wake up and decide for yourselves and DO NOT let these early political scenarios influence you one bit!"
Africa stories praised
Kay Muldoon-Ibrahim, who teaches photojournalism at Cecil College in Cecil County, had generous praise for the reporting from Southern Africa of Sun reporter Scott Calvert. I have been meaning to contact you for a number of months to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading all your pieces in The Sun. I lived in Africa for 18 years and left my heart there when we moved to Maryland in 1989. Your work has not just helped me keep in touch, it has been a consistent example of excellent journalism. I should say your accompanying photos are quite good as well. I was a freelance photojournalist with the Peace Corps, the U.N. and the World Bank, photographing development projects, working steadily for about eight years, then occasionally after my daughter was born. Now I have retired from a photography career, and am teaching. ... " The Sun closed its South Africa bureau at the end of last year and Calvert will be reporting for the paper from Maryland.
Over the top
An article by Metro reporter Gus G. Sentementes about a Ravens fan who attracted attention to himself by threatening to sit on the roof of a Southeast Baltimore bar until the team won a game won a tip of the hat from Pete Schap Jr. of Cockeysville. The fan was fingered by his former wife and arrested by police for failing to appear in court in connection with a child support case, in which court documents say he owes her $34,465.
"Job Well Done on reporting this ill-responsible Dad and scofflaw from the law and Fatherhood," said Schap. "Thanks for an enlightening article."
Boo from a sports fan
Sheridan J. Smith, a Hunt Valley banker, was among a number of readers expressing doubts about The Sun's new tab sports section.
"As a 55 year reader of The Sun, I wanted to express my opinion of the new Sports section," wrote Smith. "I think it is terrible - very difficult to read and very disconcerting to the reader. Please consider returning it to its old structure. I look forward to Sunday as the Sports is still in its original format. I have spoken to many friends and family and all agree wholeheartedly with my view. Thank you for your consideration."
A star in the East:
Frank Roylance was praised by reader Ray Williamson of Baltimore for his well-researched essay on Biblical references to wise men following a star in the east to the site of Jesus' birth.
"Thank you so much for the enlightening article about the origin of the Christmas star. I thought it was well-balanced and very well written (per usual). It is the best summary that I have seen on this issue, which has dogged astronomers and historians, as well as everyday folks, for centuries. My guess is that we'll never know the truth of the matter, but regardless, it is useful to be reminded that there are some very interesting questions about the origins of western myths that may never been answered."