The Baltimore Sun

A bus rider driven to drive

I just can't wait to fill up my tank again. Seventy bucks. Who cares?

I'm not wealthy by any means. I'm merely a young civil servant. But because the Maryland Transit Administration can't figure out a way to get me from my home in the city to my job in the county (at a certain government agency where I have more than 6,000 co-workers, the Social Security Administration headquarters in Woodlawn) in less than about 60 minutes (for a distance of 6 miles), driving is certainly better than the bus.

I love public transit, conservation, reducing my carbon footprint, bicycles and all of that green stuff.

When I moved to Baltimore to take this job in April, I was very pleased to learn that my employer provided subsidized public transit passes. Sweet.

But now I've had it. On Monday afternoon, after 50 fellow riders and I waited on a No. 22 bus for 90 minutes in 95-degree heat (four were supposed to have come and gone in that time), I reached my apartment a full 3 hours after I left work. Six miles in three hours equals 2 miles per hour.

That's when I decided to abandon my free transit and get back into my car. My car can do better.

This is just one of many MTA horror stories I've experienced in my three-plus months of dedicated ridership: Metro conductors forgetting to open doors at my stop, buses sailing right past me, late trains and late buses, late buses, late buses. I've seen it all in this short period of time.

I've been to Third World countries where the transit system makes Baltimore's system look, well, Fourth World.

I've lived in two cities - New York and Seattle - that have made transit a priority. They've made it easier to ride transit than drive. They are both first-class cities. Baltimore, much as I love it, is not.

This not a coincidence.

Baltimore will struggle until it implements a real transit system that serves all residents - not just the ones who have no other choice.

Jonathan Howard, Baltimore

Save open space in the city, too

The Sun's editorial "Shoreline savings" (July 22) did a great service by underscoring how crucial it is for Maryland to think innovatively and long term about how to preserve our precious open spaces.

Another effort to protect a threatened open space is being made right now in Baltimore.

The Baltimore Country Club is interested in selling 17 acres of open space to develop a large long-term care facility (with a 400-space parking lot) on that land ("Country club OKs sale to Keswick," July 15).

The community surrounding this club opposes this large development. It seeks instead to find a way to keep those 17 acres open as green space.

An innovative proposal is being developed by the community to purchase this land. The community's goal is to preserve it as open, green space for the long term.

Community groups are seeking support from organizations such as the Trust for Public Land and other generous conservation-groups to help in this effort.

I think this community effort to preserve open green space in the midst of our city merits the same kind of support from the city's political and civic leadership as the valuable initiatives to preserve Maryland's shoreline.

Tom Inglesby, Baltimore

Abortion a threat to women's health

I was deeply troubled to see that Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organization for Women, views Sen. Barack Obama as "head and shoulders above [Sen.] John McCain when it comes to issues that [affect] women's lives," largely because of Mr. Obama's support of abortion rights ("What to do NOW?" July 20).

But while some feminists may hold up support for abortion rights as the primary indicator of a candidate's support for women's rights, abortion remains dangerous to the mental and physical health of women.

Adolescent girls who have abortions are twice as likely to suffer depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation as girls who carry their children to term or who never become pregnant. The numbers for young adult women are less dramatic, but post-abortive women consistently remain more likely to suffer from these problems than their peers.

In spite of this, politicians such as Mr. Obama are often praised as pro-woman when they oppose laws that would require women to be informed about the risks of abortion.

Furthermore, even in this era of supposed "safe, legal abortions," the fact remains that women continue to die on the operating table. Since Roe vs. Wade, more than 120 women have died from complications from legal abortions.

Yet politicians are often lauded as champions of women's rights when they push for laws that deny mothers the right to know that their daughters are seeking this potentially deadly procedure or decried as anti-woman when they seek to regulate it.

As women, we deserve better leaders than those who would risk our physical and mental health in order to be known as "pro-choice."

Rachel Kolar, Baltimore

Police must spy to keep us safe

The uproar over the state police "spying" on various groups is another case of political correctness gone mad ("Congress looking at police spying," July 24).

Our great nation was shocked when a bunch of terrorists commandeered four aircraft and flew some of them into the twin towers and the Pentagon.

"Why didn't the authorities know about this plot?" was the cry. "Our government can't protect us," people said.

But in order for any intelligence agency to learn of criminal activities or plots against America, they must know what groups are planning what.

If it turns out that a group of Arab-Americans is planning only to have a picnic in Druid Hill Park next Sunday and, through gathering intelligence and infiltrating the group, the police learn about that plan, what harm has been done?

If, however, a group is planning to firebomb the state police headquarters and is stopped because of "spying" by the state police, everyone with good sense would be happy.

To answer the inevitable question, "How would I feel if the state police spied on my photographers club meeting?" I would say, well, if I wasn't doing anything wrong or breaking any laws, I really wouldn't care.

I'd be curious as to why the surveillance took place. But upset enough to demand investigations and lawsuits? Not hardly.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other activist groups should spend their time trying to fix problems rather than screaming for headlines, and let the police and intelligence agencies do their job.

Patrick M. Lynch, Glen Burnie

The writer is a former officer of the Maryland State Police.

Fear is no path to real security

As a peace activist, a strong promoter of anti-death penalty legislation, a member of a religious congregation of Catholic sisters and the executive director of the Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace, whose goals include peacemaking and anti-death penalty advocacy, I find it difficult to think of myself or any of my like-minded associates as terrorists or even possible terrorists.

But I would like to see the article "Spying uncovered" (July 18) serve as a conversation opener between law enforcement, peace activists and the general citizenry.

Government must not continue to promote a culture of fear through its covert actions.

Fear is the greatest terrorist. Our national security must come through solidarity with all, not fear of all.

If that is too big a first step, let's try solidarity with each other, seeing each other as human beings with the same needs and dreams, and start the conversation from there.

Sister Diane Bardol, Baltimore

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