LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Schools real key to city's renewal

In an article about the apparent demise of high-rise condominiums as Baltimore's economic development engine, I was pleased to see Richard Clinch of the University of Baltimore acknowledge the necessity of improving our public schools ("Project stall," April 27).

Few residents of Baltimore would agree that building a high-rise condo across the street from their house is the key to renewing their neighborhood.

Here at ground level, we know that an essential step in revitalizing a neighborhood is to establish a safe and healthy environment for youths and to demonstrate to prospective residents that their children can go to good public schools.

So let the condo developers stand aside on their increasingly cold feet. We now have a new city schools CEO stepping in to help educate Baltimore's children.

Let's jump in with him and convince our elected officials to embrace education as the authentic engine for sustainable economic development in Baltimore.

Joan Floyd, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance.

Program for gifted could boost others

Having taught Farai Chideya in Baltimore's Gifted and Talented Program at Harford Heights Elementary School and watched her blossom there and later attend Harvard University and attain a highly successful career ("Woman Behind the Mike," April 27), I have often wondered how many other city students could have done the same if we had continued to adequately fund the once-successful gifted and talented program in our city schools.

B.A. Zalesky, Columbia

The writer is a former teacher in the Baltimore public schools.

A cheap shot at our troops

As the proud parent of one of our nation's finest, I found The Sun's editorial "A wavering military" (April 28) insulting and a cheap shot at those serving in uniform and their families.

Our "once-proud military" continues to be proud. The commitment and dedication of our sons and daughters as soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen has not wavered.

What has wavered is the support for our troops by liberals.

Democrats came into power in the House and Senate two years ago promising an end to the war in Iraq.

Cities, colleges and universities and high schools across this land have made it increasingly difficult for our military to recruit.

Coupled with an unpopular war, this has made military recruiting even more difficult.

But rather than praise those choosing to serve, The Sun chooses to take a slap at all of them because of a few bad apples.

I was raised in a church that taught forgiveness.

And I know that giving someone a second chance doesn't free that person from having to perform at a higher level.

The Sun was right when it wrote about "how disconnected most are from the suffering and sacrifice of those serving in Iraq."

Commentaries like this editorial do nothing to improve that connection. Rather, The Sun's condescension serves only to widen the gap at the expense of the reputation of those serving in harm's way.

Michael S. Riley, Towson

Letting gays serve could ease crunch

While I agree with the gist of the editorial "A wavering military" (April 28), I was surprised that The Sun didn't suggest the most obvious method of reducing the need for the military to accept substandard recruits, which is to change the military's policy of excluding gay men and women from military service.

Many other countries accept members of the gay community in military service and have reported that they serve with the same degree of competence as other recruits of the same age, education and socioeconomic status.

Having commanded U.S. armored cavalry troops twice, and in each case having had gay men in my unit who were among my best troops, I wonder about the psychology of those in the military who continue to oppose a change in the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which is denying the military access to a substantial pool of potential recruits.

Most of the arguments that have been put forward against a change in this policy sound very much like those made against racial integration.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy is downright stupid, as it accepts ignorance and bigotry as factors in policymaking.

Rex Rehfeld, Baltimore

McCain health plan leaves out too many

Sen. John McCain had to offer something to deal with the broken American health care nonsystem ("McCain outlines plan to fix health care crisis," April 30). But he proposed something that would fall far short of guaranteeing effective care to every citizen. His plan may not even do very much to serve the 47 million people who lack health insurance.

Mr. McCain would drop tax subsidies for employer-sponsored health insurance and shift the burden to individuals, offering $5,000 per family in tax credits to help folks shop around for insurance policies.

This is just cost-shifting, and the value of the new subsidy would be eroded by rising costs.

The growing price of health insurance would continue to be beyond the means of the working poor, and insurance companies would fail to cover people with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses.

The shameful truth is that health care in the United States is rationed by the ability to pay. No other advanced country shows such moral failure in its health system.

Most European countries provide health care to all of their citizens, as does Canada.

In these countries, the life expectancy of citizens is longer, the infant mortality rates are lower and the per-capita health care costs are far lower than those in the United States.

Raymond S. Gill, Crownsville

How many votes will senators miss?

Clarence Page's column "An unfair play against fair play" (Commentary, April 29) reported that Sen. John McCain was absent for a key Senate vote on the Lilly Ledbetter salary-discrimination bill.

With three U.S. senators campaigning for president and on the road for more than seven months, one wonders how many other votes these senators have missed, even as they are receiving their full pay for work in the Senate.

Richard L. Lelonek, Baltimore

Divisive politics makes us the enemy

There was a time when politics was the art of compromise. It wasn't perfect, but people of different persuasions came together for the common good of America and Americans.

Now civility is a distant memory as we speak of blue and red states, and have cable channels devoted to either liberal or conservative causes.

We concern ourselves with the enemy, while disregarding the famous words from the comic strip Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

McNair Taylor, Baltimore

Lead researcher helped city kids

I was very much disturbed to learn that the studies of lead contamination by Dr. Mark Farfel are being called into question by those who should be applauding his work.

A careful reading of The Sun's article "Researcher faces outcry" (May 1) shows that Dr. Farfel conducted his studies in accordance with the highest scientific and ethical standards. The result of those studies was a dramatic reduction in lead levels in neighborhoods that had previously been ignored

The idea that poor, African-American families were targeted as guinea pigs is directly contrary to the facts. Inner-city neighborhoods were selected because they had the greatest need for abatement.

If it had not been for Dr. Farfel, that need would not have been filled and the danger to residents, especially children, would have remained unabated.

We can only hope that he and other researchers are not discouraged from future efforts by the baseless accusations made long after Dr. Farfel's studies have been successfully completed.

Paul Lang, Timonium

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