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The Baltimore Sun

Counsel for youths helps avert tragedy

Kudos to reporter Lynn Anderson for raising the question of how to avert tragedies such as the death of 2-year-old Bryanna Harris ("Social services chief resigns," Jan. 15).

The death of any child is a devastating occurrence - and this one is made even more tragic by our sense that it could have been prevented.

The Sun's article indicates that Baltimore's Department of Social Services was aware of the problems in Vernice Harris' family but failed to act to protect her child, Bryanna, who died in June.

This suggests that some mechanism needs to be put in place to advocate for new children in families whose problems are already known to the DSS - especially for families whose older siblings are in care after findings of abuse and neglect by parents.

According to the article, Bryanna had older siblings who had been removed from her mother's care. This means that those children had legal representation.

But as the article noted, the new child did not have a legal representative because her case had not brought into the court system by the DSS. (Currently, children are appointed counsel by the juvenile courts after the DSS files a petition with the court.)

Thus one way to provide better oversight to the DSS' decision-making process would be to appoint counsel for newborn children whose families have problems that are known to the DSS - and to do so immediately when a child is born.

The only question is: What would be the mechanism for such an appointment? Would it be the hospital staff, the older sibling's counsel or the DSS that requests counsel for the new child?

The answer is up to the legislature.

But regardless of who makes the request, appointing legal counsel for new children in troubled families would drive Maryland's child welfare system in a new direction.

Joan F. Little


The writer is chief attorney for the child advocacy unit of the Legal Aid Bureau of Baltimore.

Slots wrong way to raise revenue

It was unfortunate to read that a majority of Marylanders support the constitutional amendment that would allow slot machines in five jurisdictions ("Most would legalize slots," Jan. 16).

The slots plan would be just another example of the residents of this state subsidizing an industry (the horse industry) and it would impose an unnecessary burden on the poor, who would go play the slots in hopes of making quick money.

This would have negative consequences on our communities.

Generating revenue is essential, but generating revenue through gambling in not an idea Marylanders should accept.

I would prefer to adopt a more progressive tax system that would allow Marylanders to leave our children a strong state, a first-class education system and a vibrant economy.

Slots are not the solution.

Derek Loeffler


Cameras won't slow speeding motorists

I'm disturbed by the flawed "wish lists" of some legislators who believe that speed cameras would slow down speeders ("Speed cameras are on wish lists," Jan. 16).

The reality is that receiving a bill in the mail for speeding days or weeks after the speeding incident is no deterrent. As any parent knows, the only way to correct undesirable behavior is to correct it when it happens.

Speed cameras only make people angry. They are cash cows for the companies who get the lucrative government contracts to sell or operate the cameras.

Legislators say that the cameras aren't about raising revenue. But if that were truly the case, we'd fund more police officers to enforce speeding rules the old-fashioned way with flashing lights and a ticket handed to the motorist on the side of the road.

What slows people down is visible enforcement of our traffic laws, not clandestine cameras that snap photos of our cars barreling down the highway or through construction zones.

David Rhinehart


O'Malley had to act to plug the deficit

I'm tired of the whining about everything that Gov. Martin O'Malley does ("Taxes fuel discontent," Jan. 13). He certainly isn't perfect, but he is doing something that we did not see from his predecessor: Taking action to tackle difficult and long-standing problems confronting the state.

He didn't create the state's billion-dollar structural deficit; it's been around and growing for years. If former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had taken on the issue earlier, the state wouldn't have had to raise taxes as much as it just did.

Bridges and roads didn't deteriorate yesterday; their condition has been declining for years.

Likewise, the problems with the state's electrical grid have been brewing for years; Mr. O'Malley is facing them.

And global warming is an issue that almost everyone now recognizes as real but precious few of our leaders are addressing it; Mr. O'Malley is.

I don't like being hit with increased costs any more than anyone else does.

But Mr. O'Malley is doing what he's supposed to do - exercising leadership.

He should be praised for that.

Let the whining cease.

George B. Merrill


Focus on trivialities devalues our votes

The media seem overly concerned with poll numbers and about trivial things, such as how one political candidate shows cleavage or gets shaky-voiced and teary-eyed, or how another worships at a church that is not mainstream, or how many times another has been married and divorced ("Support fragile in Md. primary," Jan. 14).

Instead, the media should share more substance with their audience.

A candidate's public life history, ability to negotiate, understanding of other cultures and stands on social issues should be covered extensively.

We have the good fortune to live in a country where we can write and speak about what our candidates believe and espouse.

We should use that privilege responsibly rather than wasting it on issues not relevant to good governing.

Voting is another one of our great privileges. It is really more than that: It is a duty. To fulfill that duty, we need to be informed.

I plead with the media to help make me better informed.

Karen W. Gronau

Perry Hall

Tired of the waste of endless campaign

I want to thank Kathleen Clary Miller for writing "Presidential politics? I'm sick of it" (Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 13).

I too am sick of listening to endless rhetoric and observing the waste of millions of dollars.

The presidential election process began more than a year ago, will continue until November and will continue to be filled with lofty promises and negative allegations.

I recently read that it took less than three months to elect a new leader in France and about six weeks to do the same thing in Australia.

In my opinion, enough is enough; it surely is time for election reform.

William Huppert

Perry Hall

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