Don't Spark Another L.A.Although the subsequent looting in...


May 16, 1992

Don't Spark Another L.A.

Although the subsequent looting in Los Angeles was undoubtedly done by opportunists, the beginning of the rioting was probably justified by anger over the jury decision and conditions in Watts, which are still the same, or worse, than in 1965.

George Bush is just throwing fuel on the fire. As The Sun headline states: (May 5) "White House turns partisan on L.A. riots," "Great Society's programs faulted; . . ."

Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and War on Poverty were not faulty; they just were never carried to completion.

An Associated Press article lists things which survive from the 1960s and 1970s, the era Marlin Fitzwater criticizes: Medicare, Medicaid, health care for the elderly and poor, Head Start, automatic Social Security increases.

But the many other programs that could help have fallen by the wayside: elimination of poverty and slums; aid for cities' infrastructure such as streets, bridges, water, etc; housing aid, including public housing construction, low- and middle-income home building for potential home-owners, as well as low-interest loan availability; aid for public transportation, police, fire, etc.; better health care; drug abuse eradication; jobs, jobs, good-paying jobs.

These programs were allowed to flounder during the administrations immediately following LBJ. And the Reagan-Bush administrations have made overt, and largely successful, efforts to reverse all previous progress and see to it that no more "liberal social welfare" programs are enacted. Perhaps the biggest problem-causer was the Reagan-era 80 percent decrease in public housing construction.

And now George Bush wants to throw even more fuel on the fire. Mr. Bush, a day or so late, vowed Justice Department investigation of the LAPD policemen on federal civil rights charges. Good. But now Mr. Bush wants to undo the good.

The Los Angeles County court system can and will take care of prosecuting the more than 10,000 rioters and looters; but Mr. Bush wants Justice Depatment prosecution of the rioters, event-screening videotapes "to find the lawbreakers" (The Sun, May 6). That's double jeopardy and overkill. Now, how's that for the healing process?

The problems of Watts 1965 are all still there in 1992; perhaps worse. And they reflect the other cities of the United States.

Now there will probably be a call for an investigation and a report on the causes of the rioting. I have just glanced through the pages of the Kerner Commission report of 1968. It's all there, all you needed to know in 1965 or 1992 about anger and causes of rioting. Its recommendations have been largely ignored, opposed or reversed. We don't need a new report; just read Kerner, apply it to today; and follow it this time.

"The only genuine, long-range solution for what has happened lies in an attack -- mounted at every level -- upon the conditions that breed despair and violence. All of us know what those conditions are: ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs.

"We should attack these conditions -- not because we are frighted by conflict, but because we are fired by conscience. We should attack them because there is simply no other way to achieve a decent and orderly society in America . . ."

That's President Lyndon B. Johnson, June 27, 1967, as quoted in the Kerner report. Can President George W. Bush, in true honesty, make that same statements in 1992?

Or is Mr. Bush still the disciple of divisiveness?

Harry E. Bennett Jr.


No Help to Howard Teachers

After reading your April 23 editorial, in which you rave about the Howard County budget presented last week by Chuck Ecker, I feel compelled to respond to what I see as a continuing effort on the part of The Sun to lambaste and belittle teachers in this state. Over the past year, the financial crunch in Howard County was basically put on the shoulders of teachers and county workers. Rather than raise property taxes another dime and look for some sort of contractual compromise, as Chuck Ecker's own appointed committee recommended, Mr. Ecker chose to ignore the teachers' contractual agreement with the county and make Howard County one of the only jurisdictions within the state to not provide a yearly pay increment last year.

In addition, county workers were furloughed five days, which in effect cut their salaries. All of this to save the average homeowner in Howard County about $200 a year. The cost to my family was nearly $7,000. Let's also keep in mind that Howard County now has the highest median income in the state -- nearly $55,000.

That accomplishment is largely a result of the outstanding education system this county has enjoyed, which is the main impetus for so many high salaries families moving to Howard County.

Yet, Chuck Ecker's budget proposed that 35 percent of the teachers in Howard County -- those largely responsible for making this county a prosperous one -- receive no pay raise at all for the second year in a row. Unbelievable.

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