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The Baltimore Sun

Past time to invest in improved transit

I find it fascinating that in all the years I've sat in traffic on Interstate 83 or Interstate 695 or Light Street, sometimes for 15, 30, 60 minutes, I've never seen an article referring to the cars packed on our region's highways, going nowhere fast, as sardines ("Angry sardines," May 8).

I think there is a clear bias here.

Why can we sit patiently in traffic but are "frustrated and irritated," as Michael Dresser put it, waiting for the light rail?

And really, can we truly be upset about light rail delays?

For decades, we have treated public transportation like an unwanted child while favoring road projects.

We haven't invested the necessary human or financial resources, and now, as gas prices soar, many of us are waking up to realize we need safe, reliable, affordable transit.

Well, that costs money.

So let's stop raiding the transportation trust fund every time we get backed in a fiscal corner; let's start thinking beyond four-year funding cycles.

And let's invest in the public transportation resources necessary to ensure the economic health and viability of Central Maryland and its citizens.

Tasha McNutt, Baltimore

The writer is a special assistant for the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit public transit advocacy group.

Minimal service isn't good enough

The current controversy over conditions on the light rail underscores the fundamental problem with mass transit in the Baltimore region: We have a system that is considered a form of welfare and intended for those who have no other options ("Angry sardines," May 8).

The design, funding, maintenance, operations and public relations for our transit system all point to an attitude that suggests that the least possible service is good enough.

Until we, through our state and local leadership, acknowledge that a fully functioning public transit system, with dependable and comprehensible service, is a necessary component of a vibrant urban region, we will be saddled with poor service.

Thomas Casey, Baltimore

Light rail a victim of its own success

I don't want anyone to overlook the obvious in regard to the recent inspections of light rail cars - that the light rail system is a victim of its own success ("Light rail becomes heavy burden," Commentary, May 6).

The reasons riders are inconvenienced by overcrowded rail cars in the wake of these inspections is that a critical mass of individuals like myself use the light rail and rely upon that system.

It wasn't so long ago that a Republican nominee for governor, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, in 1998 described herself as "no friend of the light rail" because she couldn't see many people riding it one morning in 1998.

And an earlier state secretary of transportation distinguished himself by writing a column in which he seemed to be unaware of when extensions of light rail service were implemented ("Transit for today," Commentary, July 7, 2003).

Marylanders have a disturbing tendency to elect people to public office who do not utilize or care about public transit.

Those people are shortsighted.

And just think of the logistical problems the light rail, subway and bus system will face once the days of cheap, happy motoring are over and gas hits $4 to $5 a gallon.

The Baltimore area would be better served by putting the east-west Red Line on the fast track and jettisoning the astonishingly stupid Intercounty Connector.

Paul R. Schlitz Jr., Baltimore

Maybe Montessori has the right idea

I thank Michael Cross-Barnet for capturing the kind of emotions my family and I felt during the orientation for the Montessori Public Charter School ("A place to grow," editorial notebook, May 3).

But there is one line in the article with which I disagree - the one that suggests that the Montessori school's approach may not be the way to save public education in Baltimore.

I believe that the Montessori method, or at least a child-centered approach that combines freedom with discipline and would release Baltimore's teachers from having to deliver a test preparation course in lieu of an education, is just the formula for saving Baltimore's public schools.

While most public schools will never be charter schools, the new school-based funding gives principals more freedom to adopt the methods they see fit and use the budget for teacher training, planning and materials to support that method.

If many of Baltimore's principals do that, something of the Montessori method may be the recipe for saving Baltimore's public schools.

Allyson Mattanah, Baltimore

The writer is a parent of two prospective students at the planned Montessori Public Charter School.

Workers on visas easy to exploit

Once again cries are arising from the information technology industry that it is facing a huge and desperate shortage of qualified programmers and software engineers ("Long wait for scarce visas," May 2).

To remain competitive - and to maintain America's lead in IT - industry leaders insist they must bring in hundreds of thousands of guest workers from abroad. That's the hype.

The reality is as it has always been: There are plenty of Americans willing and able to fill virtually every open IT position. It's just that American employers don't want to hire them.

Employers don't seek to hire H-1B workers because they are desperate for programming talent they can't find here.

What they really want, to quote Professor Norman Matloff of the University of California, Davis, is "cheap, compliant labor."

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa and is, in fact, a form of indentured servitude.

The H-1B worker is bound to his sponsoring employer much as an indentured servant in colonial times was bound to his master.

An H-1B worker who is fired must find another sponsoring employer or leave the country within 10 days.

Most H-1B workers also hope to qualify for a green card - a process that can take up to six years. But this too requires employer sponsorship, and if an H-1B worker changes employers, he or she must begin the entire process anew.

Needless to say, an H-1B worker has essentially zero bargaining power with a sponsoring employer. (He certainly doesn't want to make his boss angry by telling him to go shove it when the boss insists he work 14 hours a day for eight hours' pay, now, does he?)

And if the H-1B worker has no bargaining power, neither does anyone competing with that worker for the same job.

Phil Manger, Cockeysville

The writer is an independent software developer.

An Artscape debut for Zappa statue?

Kudos to Baltimore's Public Art Commission for voting to accept the statue so graciously offered by the group of Lithuanian Frank Zappa fans ("From Lithuania, with love of Zappa," May 8).

I hope the commission will look at placing the statue outside the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall as Mr. Zappa was an accomplished classical composer as well as rock musician and social satirist.

Perhaps an unveiling of the sculpture at Artscape with a performance of one of Mr. Zappa's pieces by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and a headline performance by Zappa Plays Zappa, Dweezil Zappa's tribute band to his late father.

That would be a fitting tribute to one of Baltimore's own.

Fred Furney, Baltimore

Let Zappa's visage welcome visitors

I hope Mayor Sheila Dixon wholeheartedly accepts the offer of the Lithuanian sculptor to give the city of Baltimore a copy of his statue of Frank Zappa ("From Lithuania, with love of Zappa," May 8).

I think it should replace that giant ugly sculpture that was inflicted upon us in front of Penn Station. I think it would be most fitting for out-of-town visitors and natives leaving home to gaze upon Mr. Zappa before or after they board a train in our city.

Joanne Stato, Baltimore

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