That Federal Hill Pylon
Editor: I want to correct some of the statements made in a letter to you by Richard Leitch concerning the pylon on the rooftop of 210 E. Montgomery Street. I share in the community efforts of the Federal Hill Association, and it is my belief that all neighborhood associations should devote their efforts to performing civic activities. I think it is very commendable that the association is living up to its responsibilities. However, this is part and parcel of the activities of a neighborhood association, and it should not require any special accolades. I think also that this is an irrelevant issue concerning the sculpture.
More important is the fact that only 22 voted against the pylon, which indicates that the association membership is very small or that a negligible number of persons participated in the vote considering the large number of residents in the area.
It would seem apparent to me that the entire city can benefit by the interesting contribution of the sculpture, especially since it has been made available by a private citizen. In my opinion, it is a part of Baltimore's history. History has no stopping point.
I am aware of very few objections by the Federal Hill Association to the many decks of absolute contemporary design in antennas, aerials and air conditioners in contradiction to the beauty of the art work on 210 E. Montgomery Street, which cannot even be seen unless you are aware that it is there. The pylon on 210 E. Montgomery is a model consistent with urban renewal while many of the facades are of unattractive, odd colors which adversely affect the facades of the properties.
I think that Mr. Leitch's innuendoes attributing collusions with city officials involving the Lane Berk case are not worthy of refuting. Mr. Leitch's suggestion that the owner of a property being rehabilitated live within the property and not elsewhere during the period of rehabilitation is certainly not realistic or practical. Ms. Lane, who is designing her home with an artistic concept, is to be a resident and not an investor. I urge that those of the Federal Hill Association who oppose the pylon review their posture.
The Challenges Facing the Pratt
Editor: I wish to applaud The Sun for the valuable public service your articles on the Pratt library represents. Your series exemplifies your commitment to the citizens of Baltimore and the state as you have used your pages to advance discussion on such an important public policy issue.
The articles provide the public vital information about the Pratt. By including the perspectives of library directors from the
Sunbelt, the Pacific Northwest and from the Midwest, you place our library within the wider perspective of other libraries. You are right to do this. Other perspectives of other libraries are useful and informative.
However, I believe a still broader perspective is needed, such as comments from library directors of other embattled Eastern cities more like Baltimore, such as Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia.
The challenges facing Pratt confront libraries across the country in varying degrees, depending upon the economic strength of the geographic region. I agree with your editorial conclusion that funding is the truly salient issue in analyzing the Pratt's problems.
Another issue that requires broader perspective and more analysis is regionalism as a solution to Pratt's problems. Pratt is already regionalized. Since 1971 it has served as the State Resource Library. This relieves the newer county systems of the need to create collections of the scope and depth of Pratt's 106-year-old collection. SInce by law their users have access to the Pratt collection, county systems are able to invest more heavily in books and serials for popular mass market collections.
As city funding in constant dollars declined, we sought additional funding sources. The trustees raised $3 million and won a $1 million ''challenge grant'' from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The city agreed to a $200,000 increase in its annual appropriation from interest income earned from Enoch Pratt's gift to the city. In 1987 we won a $2 million budget increase from the city.
Library efforts initiated while Gov. William Donald Schaefer was mayor of Baltimore led to his recommending in 1990 an extra $1.5 million in a three-phase state process to fund fully Pratt Central. The current budget crisis has interrupted this full funding plan.
In 1991, the Pratt received $500,000 in city funding to upgrade our computer system that provides Baltimore and state users greater electronic access to Pratt Central's books and materials. Finally, since 1986 we have spent more than $4 million to renovate our branch and central facilities.