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The Baltimore Sun

Wrong to pit poor against museums

I was dismayed by Daniel Grant's commentary that in essence pits the needs of programs for the poor against the needs of cultural institutions ("Time to rethink tax breaks for charitable giving," Opinion

Commentary, Jan 3).

As someone who has been a docent at the Walters Art Museum for 19 years, I can attest that there is an ongoing need for every tax break given to what Mr. Grant calls our "culture palaces."

The Walters is not a bastion for the rich or for those who wish to be seen as "civic-minded and cultured."

In fact, we serve an increasing number of people throughout the state from every walk of life - from preschool children through senior citizens and even citizens with visual, auditory and developmental disabilities.

There is no means test to enter the museum. In fact, the museum has no admission fee.

Thus, to take away the museum's tax-exempt status would be an appalling disservice to all the citizens of our state.

I wonder how many days the museum could be open if Mr. Grant's draconian suggestions were implemented.

Joan Sobkov


Let the system work to judge the tax bill

I found the editorial "Much ado about little" (Jan. 2) somewhat disturbing.

In The Sun's opinion, the lawsuit brought against the state's tax increases is based "on an obscure provision in the state constitution."

The disturbing part is that the editorial goes on to say, "Leave aside whether that happened or not in this instance; why is this even a requirement?"

The answer is, because it is a part of the Maryland Constitution, which our elected officials take an oath to support.

It is important that we understand the rules and play by them. The constitution also gives us ways to change those rules. And when there is a conflict, the constitution provides for the judicial branch to resolve it.

Let the system work.

Frank W. Frohn


Maybe the taxpayers need liquor lobbyist

Politicians have often suggested that just because they accept money from a lobbyist does not mean they vote the way the lobbyist wants. So I guess the liquor lobby has just been lucky that liquor taxes haven't increased for 50-plus years ("Maryland drink stays cheap," Dec. 30)?

Then again, maybe the taxpaying public needs a former liquor lobbyist representing our interests.

Leonard Magsamen


Turning tobacco into a luxury item?

Does the new tobacco tax increase in Maryland mean that we will see new convenience stores popping up in some of the more upscale Baltimore neighborhoods - i.e., Homeland, Guilford and Bolton Hill?

I am a nonsmoker, but I have to ask if it's getting to the point where those upper-crust homeowners will be the only ones financially capable of purchasing a pack of cigarettes.

Patrick R. Lynch


Past time to end failed war on drugs

As a retired police detective and student of history, I heartily agree with Cynthia Tucker's assessment of the war on drugs ("When will we end the failed drug war?" Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 31).

No one can state one positive outcome after the expenditure of, by my group's estimate, more than $1 trillion in tax money and the arrests of 38 million Americans, mostly citizens of color, in the drug war over the last 30-plus years.

We have not and never will make a dent in the supply, purity or price of illegal drugs.

Perhaps one day we will become as wise as our grandparents and end our modern-day drug prohibition.

Howard J. Wooldridge


The writer is a retired police officer and an education specialist for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Separate the hard, soft drug markets

There is a middle ground between drug prohibition and blanket legalization ("When will we end the failed drug war?" Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 31).

Switzerland's heroin maintenance program has been shown to reduce disease, death and crime among chronic users. Heroin maintenance pilot projects are also under way in Canada, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

If such programs are expanded, prescription heroin maintenance could deprive organized crime of a core client base. This could help render illegal heroin trafficking unprofitable and spare future generations from addiction.

Marijuana, on the other hand, should be taxed and regulated like alcohol, only without the ubiquitous advertising.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical.

As long as marijuana distribution is controlled by organized crime, consumers of the most popular illicit drug will continue to come into contact with sellers of addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Given that marijuana is arguably safer than legal alcohol, it makes no sense to waste scarce resources on failed policies that seek to suppress it.

Robert Sharpe


The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.

Colonial boundaries help create chaos

The violence in Kenya, like earlier violence in Rwanda, the Congo and even Iraq, goes back to the way these nations were formed ("Tens of thousands flee ethnic violence in Kenya," Jan. 7).

The borders were set by Europeans at the height of their military influence, regardless of established tribal boundaries. This forced various tribes, not always willingly, to live together with little regard for their tribal identity or past.

In Europe and Asia, on the other hand, most nations have stable nations with boundaries developed over centuries by local populations.

Jim Martin

Middle River

Attention to Iowa devalues our votes

It is time for this nation to go to a national primary election day.

The television media have changed the way the people see the primaries.

Now, it appears that as Iowa goes, so goes the nation - at least according to the television reporters ("Huckabee, Obama win," Jan. 4).

By 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had been named the winner of the Iowa GOP caucus. It took until 9 p.m. for the television networks to declare Sen. Barack Obama the winner on the Democratic side.

By 10 p.m., most of the television political analysts had either Mr. Obama or Mr. Huckabee taking over the Oval Office and packing the other candidates home defeated.

Many states, including Maryland, have tried to change their primary date to make their votes count.

Still, without a national primary what we are in effect saying is that a voter in Oklahoma does not count the same way that a voter in Iowa does.

I take voting to be a right and a privilege. But I want an even break in making my vote count.

Sandie Nagel


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