The Baltimore Sun

Falling prices keep housing affordable

As a real estate agent in Baltimore, I intimately understand the effects of the recession on my business, my clients and the real estate market in our region ("The year of the slump," Jan. 12). And the news isn't great. However, I think some perspective is in order.

The 3 percent drop in average home sale price in this area over the last year cited by The Baltimore Sun is nothing compared with what has happened in many other cities. Although some may not want to hear this, I think we in this area ought to consider ourselves lucky.

In many cases, area homes that have been on the market for hundreds of days were not priced right from the beginning. But homes that are priced appropriately right now, and show well, can be sold in a reasonable period of time.

There are undoubtedly some hard lessons in the decline in the real estate market for us all. However, if homes had continued to appreciate at the rate housing prices were rising earlier this decade, eventually many people would not have been able to afford to be homeowners. First-time buyers would have been completely priced out of the market. And property tax bills would have skyrocketed, as indeed they already have in many city neighborhoods.

We all must keep in mind that this adjustment in home prices, as difficult it is to swallow, will keep homes and property taxes in an affordable range.

Tina Castronovo, Baltimore

Wrong to criticize city, county cooperation

In the editorial extolling the agreement between Baltimore and Baltimore County on the maintenance of Robert E. Lee Park, the editors ruined a perfect metropolitan moment when they noted how Mayor Sheila Dixon "has gotten off easy" and "owes" Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. for this one ("A dog's best friend," editorial, Jan. 9).

Baltimore has been maintaining this park for decades, primarily for county dog-walkers. The park is actually part of a city-owned water system that has always benefited the whole metropolitan area at city expense.

In reality, we should have one cost-effective government running this whole system.

The Baltimore Sun's criticism of this example of inter-jurisdictional cooperation helps sustain the competition among jurisdictions at a time when the governments of Baltimore and the counties should be merging their resources into one entity.

Carl Hyman, Baltimore

Obama must identify new path to peace

The editorial "Happy warrior Bush" (Jan. 13) correctly notes how out of touch with reality President George W. Bush is about his failed presidency.

Mr. Bush's pre-emptive invasion of Iraq was the worst military blunder and one of the worst economic disasters in our nation's history.

His blind support of Israel's war crimes and collective punishment against Lebanese civilians in 2006 and against Palestinian women and children in Gaza today added to our ruined reputation in the world.

I hope that the next administration can repair the damage, starting by bringing our troops home from the Middle East and ending our support for Israel's brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ray Gordon, Bel Air

Our crowded country must limit newcomers

Many people repeat the pro-illegal immigration mantra that "America was built by immigrants." And it's true that many of our ancestors were immigrants. But the country was not overpopulated when waves of immigrants arrived in the distant past.

The U.S. population is now more than 300 million. Forty years ago, it was less than 200 million. And we now have water shortages, power shortages, jammed highways, disappearing open spaces and more and more pollution and crime.

Now imagine if we were to add 100 million more people every 40 years. That would be unsustainable.

We need to work on serious population control overall, including for native-born citizens. But for people such as the writer of the recent letter "Nation of immigrants can't close its doors" (Jan. 12) to suggest that we should just let in anyone who wants to come is irrational.

If the nation is struggling with its current population, just imagine adding millions to the count every year.

Michelle Alston, Baltimore

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