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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

At least Franchot listens to parents

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s attack on state Comptroller Peter Franchot was an insult not just to the comptroller but to thousands of Towson-area families ("Franchot joins school fray," April 24).

The verbal assault he launched through a spokeswoman only shows how incredibly out of touch Mr. Smith is regarding Towson's overcrowded schools.

The group I lead, Towson Families United, invited Mr. Franchot to visit because the county executive has so far refused to step up to the plate and fund a new elementary school in Towson.

In fact, he has done harm to our cause by rejecting a school board recommendation that the county reopen Ruxton Elementary School.

Mr. Smith has put $18 million into his latest budget to build some ill-conceived additions to existing schools - some of which are not even close to Towson's core, where the overcrowding problem is greatest.

Contrast that amount with the $29 million he allocated to build the Vincent Farms Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore County.

Mr. Smith must know that the money he has set aside for additions is woefully inadequate to solve the problem.

Towson will soon be home to three of the five most overcrowded schools in the county.

Today, the Towson-area elementary schools are 451 students over capacity. That number will grow to more than 800 in the next five years.

As parents, we must speak to anyone who will take the time to listen to our concerns.

Yes, Mr. Franchot is a politician. But we'll take a leader who listens to our concerns, rather than one who belittles them, any day.

Cathi Forbes, Towson

The writer is the chairwoman of Towson Families United, a group representing parents in Towson-area schools.

Crowding extends well beyond Towson

I am glad that Comptroller Peter Franchot is highlighting the school overcrowding that affects so many Baltimore County schools ("Franchot joins school fray," April 24). We should be grateful whenever a state official shows an understanding of the severity of this problem.

While the comptroller toured Towson-area elementary schools, the problem is not limited to that area, and it is not new.

In 2003, a study commissioned by the Baltimore County Board of Education concluded that a new high school was needed to reduce overcrowding from Towson to Perry Hall. This study did not even factor in the thousands of families who will relocate to Baltimore County as a result of the base realignment process.

Over the past five years, Baltimore County has had large surpluses it could have used to purchase the land needed for a new high school. Instead, the county built additions to existing schools, which only worsen the crowding in facilities such as the school library and cafeteria.

Was an element of politics involved in the comptroller's visit? Probably.

But at least it advanced the notion that new schools are needed in Baltimore County, not just bulky new additions.

David Marks, Perry Hall

The writer is a former president of the Northeast Area Advisory Council for the Baltimore County public schools.

County executive ignores the problem

I'm not generally a fan of Comptroller Peter Franchot, but I'll give him credit for one thing: At least he's paying attention. And Mr. Franchot scores points with this parent for his willingness to listen, to physically view our schools and to acknowledge the overcrowding problems in Towson schools ("Franchot joins school fray," April 24)

A spokeswoman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr. claims the comptroller's visit to Rodgers Forge Elementary "was about Peter Franchot looking to get his name out in Baltimore County."

Mr. Smith's spokeswoman further claims Mr. Franchot's tour is part of "a series of political stunts that don't benefit the children of Baltimore County."

My reply to Mr. Smith is this: What have you done for us lately?

Courtney McGee, Towson

Franchot's reach exceeds his grasp

Our late state comptroller Louis L. Goldstein must be frowning from on high over the activities of the current state comptroller, Peter Franchot ("Franchot joins school fray," April 24).

Mr. Franchot's expansion of the office to cover issues such as slots and life sciences and now to intercede in a purely local disagreement between Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., the Baltimore County school board and community organizations about the need for and location of new schools in the county is pure self-aggrandizement of a political nature.

"Horrible" is the best that can be said of the state comptroller's antics.

I think it's time to rethink the state constitution's recall provisions.

Edwin S. Crawford, Baltimore

Supporting families can prevent crime

What a great idea University of Maryland Professor Orde F. Kittrie has: challenging his law students to propose innovative solutions to crime ("Crime prevention in Baltimore: 101," April 20).

As the founder of a national nonprofit organization that taps families' strengths to break cycles of involvement in the justice system, I respectfully suggest the following to the students:

* Recognize that every family has strengths and resources, even ones that seem fragile.

* Collect data about the challenges families face but also about their strengths.

* Read studies by the Urban Institute and the Vera Institute of Justice that show that when people come home from prison or jail, those who have strong support from their social networks have better outcomes, including lower rates of recidivism.

* Understand that harmful involvement with drugs, mental illness, HIV/AIDS and many other serious health conditions are multigenerational problems that disproportionately affect families living in poverty and those whose lives become entwined in the justice system.

Proposals that consider these critical health concerns can improve families' well-being and make our neighborhoods safer.

Carol Shapiro, New York

The writer is founder and president of Family Justice.

Would gun have warded off attack?

The death of that unfortunate lady in Remington puts a lie to the notion advanced by gun control advocates that people do not need guns to protect themselves because the police can protect us ("Woman, 74, stabbed in apparent home burglary," April 22).

If that woman had had a gun in her home and had been trained in how to use it, there is every reason to believe that she would be alive today and the coward who killed her would be dead instead.

Michael Richardson, Parkville

Gun lobby coddles felonious dealers

Philip F. Lee of Maryland Citizens for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms defends rogue gun dealer Sanford Abrams ("Store was source of few city guns," letters, April 18).

Mr. Abrams ran the Valley Gun Shop, which was cited for more than 900 federal gun law violations. He sold hundreds of firearms traced to crime, ranking in the top 1 percent of gun dealers in total crime guns traced to his store.

Despite this record, the National Rifle Association granted Mr. Abrams a seat on its board of directors and even provided legal counsel for Mr. Abrams to sue the federal government to prevent revocation of his gun dealer license.

Weak gun laws allowed Mr. Abrams to stay in business for nearly a decade while arming hundreds of criminals.

Even after his license was revoked, Mr. Abrams kept selling guns. He pleaded guilty this year to illegally arming a criminal who shot at police with an assault weapon.

It is time for the gun lobby to stop coddling criminals.

We need strong gun laws to protect our communities and our families, not tired excuses from the gun lobby defending its lawbreaking friends.

Daniel R. Vice, Washington

The writer is a senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

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