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The Baltimore Sun

Budget cuts strain services families need

In her column on state budget cuts, Jean Marbella wonders what a 5 percent cut to child care and family support programs will look like ("Yes, they're paper cuts, but they can go deep," Oct. 16). I can tell her.

Picture a teenage mother in a Family Support Center learning parenting and job skills. Think of a working family getting help finding and evaluating child care. Imagine a classroom full of child care providers learning how to plan activities that enhance early learning and school readiness.

Now, picture fewer children, parents and child care providers receiving fewer services, maybe at fewer locations.

It will take a little time and a lot of consultation with stakeholders before the state decides exactly which services to curtail. But Ms. Marbella, as well as policymakers and the public, should know that there is no fat in the budgets for child care or family support.

A 5 percent budget reduction means we will have to make real cuts to real programs - programs that help families attain educational goals and self-sufficiency.

And we will all pay many times over - for remedial education, social services and criminal justice costs - if these goals are not achieved.

Steve Rohde, Baltimore

The writer is acting director of the Maryland Committee for Children.

Consider privatizing the medevac system

Del. Dan Morhaim has performed an important service in calling attention to the operational guidelines, performance and costs of Maryland's Medevac system ("Medevac under a microscope," Commentary, Oct. 14).

Since the system's inception, many physicians who practice in hospitals near the Baltimore Beltway have suspected that considerable "body snatching" was occurring; that is, that accident victims who could have been adequately treated at local hospitals were whisked off to Shock Trauma to inflate its use statistics to justify maintenance and expansion of the system.

There has been little criticism of the system, and there have been few calls for accountability.

In the future, in the interest of transparency, the Maryland State Police should be required to post on its Web site the operational statistics for the medevac system.

Furthermore, an independent study should be done to determine whether the system should be privatized before we spend millions to replace the current helicopters.

Reducing the amount we spend on unnecessary helicopter flights should make more funds available for other health care needs.

Dr. Kenneth B. Lewis, Baltimore

Dog owners deserve a park of their own

So it's a crazy time to spend thousands on a dog park ("A crazy time to spend thousands on dog park," letters, Oct. 13)? Let me remind those who think that way that dog owners throughout this country pour billions into the economy.

We buy dog food that comes with a sales tax. We pay for services provided by veterinary hospitals that employ many people.

We pay our dog-sitters and dog-walkers well and spend a lot on pet supplies, such as leashes, collars, beds, toys and flea powder, which also are taxed.

If San Diego can afford its dog beach and New York City the dog park next to the Museum of Natural History (one of many dog parks in New York), then Baltimore, with its high property taxes, should be able to give its residents dog parks for their dogs.

Luz Damron, Baltimore

If Iraqis make peace, U.S. troops will leave

After reading Sunday's article about how Iraqi Sadrist cleric Hazim al-Arraji wants "the invaders" to leave his country, and about how anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers are protesting a security pact, I have a small response ("Al-Sadr's followers protest security pact," Oct. 19).

Maybe if Mr. al-Sadr and his followers, and the rest of the Iraqi insurgents, would stop bombing things and shooting at our good soldiers - who are just trying to achieve peace for Iraq - we could leave.

The situation seems quite simple: If the insurgents would stop the violence and act like civilized human beings, our job would be complete and we would then be able to leave.

If the Iraqis want us out, rejecting a security pact is not a good start.

Damon M. Costantini, Catonsville

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