Take action to stop plague of shootings

The Baltimore Sun

"They all seem to be random acts of violence," a city police spokeswoman said about the nine shootings in 4 1/2 hours last Friday and Saturday ("9 shot in city in 4 1/2 hours," June 15).

This must not be the response of the police or of the community. We must not dismiss it as bad luck when bad things happen or good things happen.

Everything has a cause. The harm done last weekend to the victims and to the communities may in part have been caused by the weather or, as the mayor suggested, by the moon.

It's more likely that the destruction was the result of access to weapons, lack of economic opportunities, ignorance of God, lack of self-discipline or even a coordinated plan to terrorize or destroy our neighborhoods.

But to dismiss this social sickness as "random" is to suggest that these victims and their communities don't count, that harm to them does not deserve full investigation to ferret out the true causes.

Shootings in poor communities must be treated as seriously as those in the wealthiest of neighborhoods.

The men at Sunday's "Call to Action" say they will do their part for the city ("City's men heed 'A Call to Action,'" June 16).

How about the rest of us?

Connie Lamka, Baltimore

It was shocking to read in Sunday's Sun the headline stating that nine people were shot in 4 1/2 hours in Baltimore.

Might this not be a good time for the Police Department to again offer a cash award for all guns turned in over a short period of time in the near future?

Perhaps this might do something to prevent such shooting incidents throughout the city.

Howard Ottenstein Marcia Ottenstein, Baltimore

Red Line remains part of city's plans

The city of Baltimore remains very enthusiastic about the Red Line transit project, despite the half-story told in The Su n's article "Red Line hits a wall" (June 14).

We've long known that a Red Line tunneled from end to end would probably be cost-prohibitive, and the city has never expected such a project to result from the ongoing planning studies.

What is clear from the release of the cost analysis of the project is that several alternative for the Red Line that are responsive to community concerns fall within the cost guidelines set by the federal government.

At this moment, alternatives that use tunnels along Cooks Lane and through downtown and Fells Point are well within those cost guidelines.

The city is committed to working with the Maryland Transit Administration to make strategic decisions that advance this most important transportation, community and economic development project.

You don't stop running a marathon at the 8-mile marker - and we shouldn't slow down on our efforts to build the Red Line when the studies aren't complete.

Alfred H. Foxx, Baltimore

The writer is director of Baltimore's Department of Transportation.

'Big oil' isn't our enemy

It's ironic that in an article published Tuesday, a spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is quoted as saying that lifting the federal ban on offshore oil and gas drilling would benefit only the big oil companies ("McCain would lift drilling ban," June 17) and yet the previous day, The Sun reported on the huge windfalls current crude prices are producing for countries such as Venezuela, Iran, the Sudan and Russia ("Rising oil cost finances turmoil," June 16).

Since when are the big oil companies our enemy and dictators such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad our friends?

It's time to use our own resources to break the grip foreign oil suppliers have on us, and stop treating the companies that are the backbone of our economy like pariahs.

Don Ruthig, Glen Arm

When will we see Muslim candidate?

I certainly understand Sen. Barack Obama's not wanting to have his religious affiliation misstated. However, it is troubling that he must spend so much effort countering false rumors that he is Muslim - as if Islam is something terrible ("Obama campaign tackles rumors," June 13).

This necessity reflects negative stereotypes that the American public has allowed itself to absorb.

While I am heartened and relieved that the Democratic presidential contest has broken race and gender barriers, I would also like to see our elections live up to the American ideal of separating religion and state.

This should include avoiding a religious litmus test for elected office.

Glad for today's historic moment, I also look forward to elections in which a Muslim woman or man will be a viable presidential contender.

Alicia Lucksted, Baltimore

Contribution limit hurts challengers

Maryland citizens should welcome Gov. Martin O'Malley's openness to raising contribution limits to candidates ("O'Malley open to changing campaign contribution rules," June 13).

Limiting political contributions restricts voters' ability to support candidates and undermines our First Amendment rights.

While such laws are commonly believed to level the playing field between candidates and to keep corruption out of politics, they actually aid incumbent candidates.

The politically experienced have accumulated long lists of donors, significant name recognition and press time because of their incumbency.

Challengers need significant funds to compete with established politicians. Caps on contributions make it more difficult to raise these funds.

Contribution limits do nothing to curb corruption in politics but do harm challengers to the status quo.

Mr. O'Malley should be applauded for considering raising the contribution limits.

Sarah Duzyk, Alexandria, Va.

The writer is a research associate for the Center for Competitive Politics.

Carrot beats stick for farm cleanup

The Sun's article "Bay advocates called soft on farm pollution" (June 9) quoted a number of well-meaning but sadly misinformed sources who seem to think that the only way to control pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is to force a lot of onerous regulations on farmers - or to sue them.

Tough talk about farm pollution may make for nice quotes, but it's not going to clean up the bay. Only a rational, cooperative partnership with our farmers will do that.

The Chester River Association is located in a rural watershed on the Eastern Shore, in an area where farms consti- tute 70 percent of our land use. And our experience is that encouraging farmers to voluntarily implement conservation practices works a lot better than threatening them.

For instance, we have two conservation planners on staff who have taught scores of farmers the benefits of planting cover crops, which improve soil quality while reducing nutrient and sediment loads in the river. Their efforts have done more to clean our waterways than scores of lawsuits ever could.

And if we make our laws too burdensome, we risk having farmers decide they're better off selling their land to developers, which would be far worse for the bay.

There certainly is a place for litigation and confrontation in reducing pollution, and as an advocacy organization, we've done our share.

But anyone who suggests that approach will work with farmers obviously hasn't spent a lot of time in a farming community.

Here on the Eastern Shore, the carrot works a lot better than the stick.

Bob Parks, Chestertown

The writer is executive director of the Chester River Association.

Honfest crowds no fun in Hampden

There's no fun about Honfest ("Hon-estly, hon, it's just fun," June 13).

As a resident of Hampden for the past 25 years, I'm really sick and tired of being called a poor sport by Honfest organizer Denise Whiting when it comes to the Honfest (and, while we are at it, a "Scrooge" by the Miracle of 34th Streeters for eight weeks at Christmastime).

It is difficult to find a parking space in Hampden on a good day. But becoming a prisoner in your own home for an entire weekend during Honfest doesn't tend to put one in a good mood.

Yet any suggestion that the city might offer provisional parking at the Poly-Western high school complex and run shuttle buses to The Avenue is shot down by area merchants at community meetings, who are not interested in any "negative feedback" from the neighborhood.

Kitty Deimel, Baltimore

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